May 6, 2022 By Naama Weiss | Commentary | Kedoshim
In Parashat Kedoshim, the Torah introduces the commandment of orlah (עָרְלָה), where one is forbidden from eating fruit that grows in the first three years after a tree’s planting.
But the use of the word orlah here has puzzled generations of commentators, for though it appears frequently in the Torah, it is not typically connected to trees. Indeed we primarily associate the term with circumcision. How are the two uses of orlah related? And can tracing this relationship reveal something new about the rite of circumcision itself?
Apr 23, 2021 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim
For many modern readers, engaging with Torah presents a paradox. Biblical and rabbinic voices reaching us from the distant past are like starlight emitted millennia ago—brilliant and often shockingly current, but also artifacts from light sources that may have dimmed or even expired. This paradox can be constructive, drawing modern readers out of our own cultural assumptions, challenging us to notice wonders that we might otherwise miss. The Torah’s poetry, its stirring demands for justice, and its vast system of devotional rites prime us for faith and sanctity. And when we encounter a Torah text that rings false or hurtful, we may use that encounter to clarify our own understanding, to articulate our community’s sacred values.Read More
Apr 27, 2018 By Raymond Scheindlin | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim
This week, we read two parashiyot from Leviticus: Aharei Mot and Kedoshim. Taken together, they cover five clearly defined topics. Aharei Mot deals with the rituals of the high priest on Yom Kippur; regulations governing the slaughter of animals for food and sacrifice; and the prohibition of various sexual relations, especially incest. This last subject is resumed at the end of Kedoshim. Between the two discussions of sexual relations is the famous Chapter 19, which opens Kedoshim.Read More
May 5, 2017 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim | Shavuot
The Torah exhorts us in this week’s parashah: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest…you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger” (Lev. 19:9-10). This mitzvah plays out in beautiful narrative form in the Book of Ruth, read on the upcoming holiday of Shavuot. But Ruth is the exception; she is rescued from her destitute state by Boaz, the owner of the field where she gleans, who marries her. What of all those who remained gleaners—whose survival depended on the daily toil of gathering other people’s leftovers?Read More
May 5, 2017 By Stephen A. Geller | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim
These combined parashiyot are complex in their structure and content, yet a careful examination of these chapters reveals a striking and powerful theological insight. In terms of Bible scholarship, they extend across a major divide in the priestly literature: Leviticus 16 describes the detailed rites of yearly atonement that eliminated the taint of sinfulness from the priesthood, shrine, and people. In essence, it is a kind of re-creation of the initial state of purity of the Tabernacle on the day it was dedicated, as described in Leviticus 9-10. The link between atonement and dedication is made subtly, by the reference at the beginning of Leviticus 16 to the tragic deaths of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, at the dedication of the Tabernacle, as recounted in Leviticus 10.Read More
May 13, 2016 By Nancy Abramson | Commentary | Kedoshim
This week’s parashah opens with a statement on holiness: “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:2). In the original Hebrew, the word “you” in this verse is in the plural form, implying that anyone can attain holiness the capacity for holiness is not only for those who are spiritually gifted. The plural “you” might also suggest that holiness is best achieved in the context of a community, rather than as a solo effort.Read More