Who is the Stranger?

Who is the Stranger?

Apr 29, 2022 By Linda S. Golding | Commentary | Aharei Mot

What a great invitation, I thought, to write a d’var Torah on Aharei Mot!  The opening verses that include “Tell your brother Aaron that he is not to come at will into the Shrine behind the curtain . . . lest he die” came immediately to mind. The directive to be mindful and thoughtful when entering God’s presence and the presence of others certainly aligns with a chaplain’s way of being. When entering a hospital room, for example, I know that the Shekhinah, God’s healing presence, is at the head of the patient’s bed. Holiness is already in the room, and I must be prepared to pay attention. 

Read More
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. 

Read More
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.

Read More
The Great Escape

The Great Escape

May 3, 2019 By Marc Gary | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Yom Kippur

Last year, the eminent Bible scholar Robert Alter completed a project that only a handful of people have ever even attempted: a brand-new translation of and commentary on the entire Tanakh (Hebrew Bible). The work comprises more than 3,000 pages and took him almost 25 years to complete. Professor Alter is rightfully the subject of much admiration for this outstanding achievement, but one of his predecessors did not fare as well.

Read More
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.

Read More
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.

Read More
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?

Read More
Where Is Authority Found?

Where Is Authority Found?

May 6, 2016 By Benjamin D. Sommer | Commentary | Aharei Mot

People familiar with the dietary laws of Judaism know that meat from an animal that died a natural death or was torn apart by wild beasts is not kosher. This is stated explicitly in the Torah. Exodus 22:30 reads, “You shall be my holy people: you may not eat meat torn by beasts in the field; you should throw it to dogs.” (The Hebrew word for “torn by beasts”—terefah—refers specifically to torn flesh in biblical Hebrew.)

Read More
Songs of Joy, Counterpoints of Tragedy

Songs of Joy, Counterpoints of Tragedy

May 6, 2016 By Jonathan Lipnick | Commentary | Aharei Mot

Perhaps the Torah speaks now, in the spring of atonement, because we know so well our songs of joy carry with them counterpoints of tragedy. 

Why should we be reading about Yom Kippur around the time Pesah is celebrated? These two holidays seem so different, and yet, in her poem “Aharei Mot,” Ruth Brin was on to something, leading me to wonder: How was I to understand the interrelationship between Yom Kippur and Pesah? How was I to take Ruth Brin’s instructive words to heart? 

Read More
A Holy Tongue: Kedushah and the Ethics of Speech

A Holy Tongue: Kedushah and the Ethics of Speech

May 1, 2015 By Marc Gary | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

A few years ago, my wife and I attended a retreat at Camp Ramah Darom in northern Georgia. The scholar-in-residence for the Shabbat was Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, a widely respected author of popular books on Jewish literacy and Jewish ethics. He suggested that all of us in attendance—approximately 100 adults—commit to one of the most difficult challenges we had ever faced: refrain from talking about other people for the duration of Shabbat. That is to say, for an entire day, we should speak not a word of gossip. I will not tell you whether we succeeded or failed in that challenge, but I will tell you that it was a very long 25 hours indeed.

Read More
The Saint and the Zohar

The Saint and the Zohar

May 1, 2015 By Vivian B. Mann <em>z”l</em> | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

We often think of Jewish life in Spain in terms of the massacres of 1391 and the Spanish Expulsion in 1492. But the art made for the Church between those two dates presents a more nuanced view of Christian–Jewish relations.

Read More
Sacrifice and Humility

Sacrifice and Humility

Apr 11, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Aharei Mot

The Torah reading opens with God speaking to Moses in the aftermath of the death of Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, who “drew too close to the presence of the Lord” (Lev. 16:1). But most immediately, as is the case in the aftermath of any trauma, we want to learn how to avoid another tragic “accident.”

Read More
Embracing Life in the Face of Death

Embracing Life in the Face of Death

Apr 17, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim | Yom Hazikaron-Yom Ha'atzma'ut

This past week, we commemorated State of Israel Memorial Day (Yom Hazikkaron) and State of Israel Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzma’ut). The juxtaposition of these two observances is jarring. Living in Israel, one feels how mourning permeates every moment of Yom Hazikkaron: from the piercing siren that sounds around the entire country at 8:00 p.m. to the mournful songs played on Israeli radio; from the Yizkor (memorial service) stickers with the Israeli plant known as dam hamakabim (the blood of the Maccabees) to the throngs of Israeli citizens flooding Mount Herzl Cemetery. At the close of this sobering day, transition ceremonies give way to the festivities of Yom Ha’azma’ut: fireworks decorate the night sky and festive barbeques fill the landscape of every square meter of Israeli parks.

Read More
Getting Out of Your Own Way

Getting Out of Your Own Way

Apr 16, 2013 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

“You shall not . . . place a stumbling block before the blind. You shall fear your God. I am the Lord.” Taken literally, this is a verse about respecting the disabled. Taken figuratively—as the Rabbis give us ample precedent and license to do—it is about all of us.

Read More
Filling Life with Life

Filling Life with Life

May 5, 2012 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

“The deeds of the ancestors are a sign for their descendants,” said the medieval commentator Nahmanides. Sometimes it seems that the weekly Torah portion captures the situation of our generation with remarkable prescience. So it is with Aharei Mot-Kedoshim.

Read More
The Treasure of Inner Wisdom

The Treasure of Inner Wisdom

May 5, 2012 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

The very sage pediatrician who examined my newborn son, my firstborn, asked me what his temperament is like. My husband and I exchanged looks, and out poured our utter dismay at how to handle our colicky little treasure. I will never forget the doctor’s words of advice: You know what to do. Listen to your gut instincts. You are already wise.

Read More
Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat

Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat

Apr 16, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Aharei Mot | Shabbat Hagadol

One of my favorite customs for Shabbat Hagadol is to read the Maggid section of the Passover Haggadah in advance of the first seder.

Read More
Healthy (and Maybe Even Holy) Ambivalence

Healthy (and Maybe Even Holy) Ambivalence

Apr 24, 2010 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

Building identity is complicated and sometimes painful work. This is true both on an individual level and when it comes to nations. What makes thinking about identity even more complicated is the fact that identity is really never completely “formed.” Sure, a national identity should have core commitments. But I would suggest that we shift our understanding of identity from something that is fixed to a subjective process by which one group comes to recognize itself as being different from other groups. Understood in these terms, identity is dynamic—always emerging and continually being transformed over time.

Read More
Caring for Our Parents

Caring for Our Parents

May 9, 2009 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

The third verse of Parashat K’doshim says, “Ish imo v’aviv tira’u” (One should revere his mother and father) (Lev. 19:3). The same mandate appears twice as the fifth commandment, “Kabed et avikha v’et imekha” (Honor your father and your mother) (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:16). Honoring parents was considered a virtue in the Roman world. Parents took care of their children, and children were expected to return the favor when parents grew old. But Rome did not create a legal obligation to care for parents, and a child who refused to do so could not be compelled by the courts.

Read More
The Four Children

The Four Children

Apr 19, 2008 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Pesah

We are told to probe the narrative of the redemption from Egypt for insights about what is blocking redemption in our own day and how we can work to bring ultimate redemption into being. The question facing us as we approach the seder, then, is this: What shall we tell our children and grandchildren at Passover—particularly the teenagers, college students, and twenty-somethings who are gathered at the seder table?

Read More
Reset Search

SUBSCRIBE TO TORAH FROM JTS

Our regular commentaries and videos are a great way to stay intellectually and spiritually engaged with Jewish thought and wisdom.