Fruit Trees and Foreskins

Fruit Trees and Foreskins

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?

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The Palace of Torah Expanded: 15 Years Later

The Palace of Torah Expanded: 15 Years Later

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. 

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Holiness Through Restraint

Holiness Through Restraint

May 1, 2020 By Joshua Rabin | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

I am a rabbi who works with teenagers, and you cannot talk to adults about teenagers without the conversation quickly focusing on smartphones and social media. And it quickly turns depressing.

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To Whom is Honor Due?

To Whom is Honor Due?

May 10, 2019 By Jeremy Tabick | Commentary | Kedoshim

Who deserves our respect and why? This vital question is encoded in the verse:

Before grey hair you should stand;
You should honor the face of an elder;
You should fear your God;
I am YHVH. (Lev. 19:32)

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How to Be Holy

How to Be Holy

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.

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Leftover Scraps

Leftover Scraps

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?

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Separation and Union: The Poles of Holiness

Separation and Union: The Poles of Holiness

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.

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<em>Kedushah</em> in the Choir

Kedushah in the Choir

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.

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