Explaining the Inexplicable?

Explaining the Inexplicable?

Apr 20, 2002 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

In speaking of the legal corpus which dominates this week’s double parashah, the Torah makes use of two terms, mishpatim and hukkim, translated as “rules” and “laws.” Technically, as Baruch A. Levine makes clear in his commentary, they reflect two sources of legal practice. The word mishpatim deriving from the root sh-f-t, “to judge,” embodies rules articulated in a judicial setting. Hukkim from the root h-k-k “to engrave” or “inscribe” suggests laws promulgated by decree. In our parashah the terms seem to be synonymous, because God is the only lawgiver: “My rules (mishpatim) alone shall you observe, and faithfully follow My laws (hukkim): I the Lord am your God” (18:4).

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Mitzvah vs. Mitzvah

Mitzvah vs. Mitzvah

May 5, 2001 By Joshua Heller | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

Sometimes in the Biblical text, the first half and second half of a verse seem to be talking past each other. The first half addresses one commandment or concept, and the second half seems to go off on a tangent. This strange type of juxtaposition appears a number of times in K’doshim , the second half of our double portion for the week.

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Love for All

Love for All

May 9, 1998 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

This Shabbat we will read two Torah portions, Aharei Mot and K’doshim . The topics covered in these parashiyot range from the ritual requirement of sending a scapegoat out to the desert on Yom Kippur, to a list of forbidden sexual relationships, to fundamental social legislation, reminiscent somewhat of the Ten Commandments.

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Our Neighbor’s Blood

Our Neighbor’s Blood

May 1, 2004 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Aharei Mot

What’s in a translation? When the translation is of a verse in the Torah – there is potentially quite a lot. Therefore, in reading the Etz Hayim Humash’s translation of Leviticus 19:16, I was struck by its rather non-literal translation of Lo ta-a-mod al dam ray-ekha. In the context of surrounding verses concerning fair and just treatment of others, Etz Hayim translates our verse: “Do not profit by the blood of your fellow”, and the commentary on the verse tells us that, in context, the verse seems to mean: “Do not pursue [your] livelihood in a way that endangers another or at the expense of another’s well-being.” (p. 696) This translation and commentary do seem to fit the context of the surrounding verses.

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“All beginnings are difficult”

“All beginnings are difficult”

Apr 26, 2003 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Pesah | Yom Kippur

All beginnings are difficult.” This rabbinic maxim resonates with us on many levels. As individuals, we experience the challenge of beginning a new job, a new phase of life, a new relationship or a new place of residence. As a Jewish people, we also recognize and ritualize this truism. We have just concluded our Passover celebration, in which we commemorate and reenact the difficult beginnings of our national identity. The Mishnah instructs us to organize our Seder with the awareness of the difficulty of beginnings: “One begins with disgrace and concludes with glory” (Mishnah Pesahim 10:4).

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“After the Death…”

“After the Death…”

Apr 29, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Aharei Mot

The name of this week’s parasha, “After the Death,” captures our state of mind as Americans. In the wake of the carnage in Oklahoma City we fear acts of terrorism more than acts of nature. An earthquake or hurricane can be devastating, but never vicious. As it smashes our pride, an act of nature fills us with awe, not loathing or revulsion. In one horrifying episode, we realize again the stark truth that for all of humanity’s daunting conquests of nature, we have barely begun to conquer ourselves. Americans are as vulnerable to the demented fury of the allegedly aggrieved as anyone else.

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Good in the Face of Evil

Good in the Face of Evil

Sep 27, 2001 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Pinehas | Yom Kippur

Recent events infuse words long cherished with unexpected meaning. In the days of the Temple, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies but once a year on Yom Kippur. As the repository for the Torah, it precluded easy access.

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Passover in the Light of Yom Kippur

Passover in the Light of Yom Kippur

May 1, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim | Pesah | Yom Kippur

If the first half of this week’s double parasha reminds you of Yom Kippur, despite our proximity to Passover, you are not in error. The two Torah readings for that solemn day are both drawn from Aharei Mot. Chapter 16, which we read at Shaharit on Yom Kippur morning, depicts the annual ceremony on the tenth day of the seventh month for cleansing the tabernacle of its impurities and the people of their sins. The English word “scapegoat” preserves a verbal relic of the day’s most memorable feature – the goat destined to carry off symbolically the collective guilt of the nation into the wilderness. Chapter 18, reserved for Minhah in the afternoon, defines the sexual practices which were to govern the domestic life of Israelite society.

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Pesah: The Great Redemption

Pesah: The Great Redemption

Apr 23, 2005 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Shabbat Hagadol

The Shabbat just prior to Passover is known as the Great Sabbath, Shabbat HaGadol.

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Proclaiming Freedom

Proclaiming Freedom

May 15, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

On our way to Shavuot from Pesach, we read three Torah portions that epitomize the deep structure of Judaism. The challenge of freedom is to make it a blessing. How can we avoid frittering it away in dissipation, keeping it from morphing into a curse? The Hebrew names of these parshiyot bear the message: mountain, laws and wilderness. The Torah forges a religion designed to get us through the chaos of an engulfing wilderness with a ramified system of legal prescriptions whose inspiration is rooted in the revelation at Mount Sinai. A faith-based community is the matrix of individual survival in a hostile environment.

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