The Deathly Power of the Holy

The Deathly Power of the Holy

Mar 25, 2022 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Commentary | Shemini | Shabbat Parah

Finding the right words after loss is hard, but Moses’s comments to Aaron in this week’s parashah are unusually difficult. At the moment that God fills Aaron’s hands with abundance, appointing him as high-priest and his descendants as an eternal priesthood, his two eldest die when they attempt to offer incense with a flame brought from outside the newly dedicated sanctuary—a strange, uncommanded offering. “And fire came forth from the LORD and consumed them . . .”

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The Seed of the Rabbinic Revolution

The Seed of the Rabbinic Revolution

Apr 9, 2021 By Jason Rogoff | Commentary | Shemini

How important is intention in Jewish law? Do I need to be mentally present when performing commandments, or is it enough to go through the motions and get it done? How often does the Torah care about what I’m thinking? For many of us the answers to these questions would seem obvious: Of course, God demands active engagement with the commandments! Why are mitzvot worth doing if I’m not going to be mindful in their performance? In reality, these answers are a product of the revolutionary interpretations of the Torah by the early rabbinic sages.

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How Do We Mourn?

How Do We Mourn?

Apr 17, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Shemini

In these dark times, we are faced not for the first time with the question: how do we deal with unbearable pain? There are no easy answers. For some, the solution is to find a way not to feel it, and one way to do that is to drink oneself into oblivion.  

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The Promise of a New Heart and a New Spirit: <em>Lev Hadash Veruah Hadashah</EM>

The Promise of a New Heart and a New Spirit: Lev Hadash Veruah Hadashah

Mar 29, 2019 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Shemini | Shabbat Parah

This Shabbat is Shabbat Parah, the Shabbat of the Red Heifer. The special Torah reading for this Shabbat, in Numbers 19, addresses the defilement of coming into contact with the dead. The Parah Adumah section makes clear that contact with the dead disrupts our ability to function, and that we must engage in a ritual in order to be restored into society and into proper relationship with God. And anyone who is involved with the ritual that purifies others will become impure in the process; there is no way to eradicate the impurity absolutely.

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Six Takes on a Leader’s Attributes

Six Takes on a Leader’s Attributes

Apr 13, 2018 By Walter Herzberg | Commentary | Shemini

In chapter eight of Leviticus, Moses is essentially serving as temporary kohen gadol, high priest, during the dedication of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. On the eighth day, according to Rashi, Aaron and his sons are officially inaugurated into the priesthood. Moses transfers the position to his brother Aaron, who along with his descendants will officially serve as priests and high priest. 

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A Love That Transforms

A Love That Transforms

Apr 21, 2017 By Leonard A. Sharzer | Commentary | Shemini

This week’s parashah includes the tragic story of Nadav and Avihu, Aaron’s two eldest sons, who died, consumed by divine fire, after bringing an offering of alien fire within the sacred precincts of the Mishkan. Considering the dramatic nature of the narrative, and its compelling pathos, the story is told with remarkable terseness.

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Making Meat

Making Meat

Apr 21, 2017 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Shemini

Dr. Mark Post of the University of Maastricht stunned the world several summers ago by producing the most expensive burger in history. Working from stem cells taken from a live cow, his team cultured muscle tissue that they then turned into an edible product resembling ground beef. Amongst all the specifications for kosher animals in this week’s parashah, lab-grown meat is unsurprisingly absent. Jews therefore want to know—is it kosher? Could it even be pareve?

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Silence Speaks Volumes

Silence Speaks Volumes

Mar 26, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Shemini

We’ve all been on both sides of this story. Sometimes we find ourselves as the one in mourning or going through a particularly hard time, having to put up with the well-intentioned words of friends and acquaintances that inadvertently rub salt in our wounds; and at other times, we find ourselves trying to offer words of comfort, and speaking banalities that—even as they come out of our mouths—we realize are of no help.

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