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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How Can People Be Holy?

How Can People Be Holy?

Apr 1, 2016 By Stephen A. Geller | Commentary | Shemini

Shemini (Lev. 9–11) contains two main topics: the elaborate sacrificial rites performed on the eighth day of the dedication of the Tabernacle, and the laws regarding kosher and nonkosher animals. The first topic details the numerous sacrifices accompanying the last stages of the dedication of the shrine, which reach an intensity matched only by the yearly rites of the Day of Atonement. This is no accident, because the annual event is meant to restore the shrine to the purity it possessed on the day it was dedicated.

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Gold and Incense: For Better and for Worse

Gold and Incense: For Better and for Worse

Feb 20, 2015 By Stephen A. Geller | Commentary | Terumah

Parashat Terumah begins the long section of the Book of Exodus that deals with the Tabernacle, its furniture and vessels, and the garments of the high priest. The only interruption in this mass of cultic detail is the narrative of the sin of worshipping the Golden Calf and its aftermath in Exodus 32–34. The ritual details continue into Vayikra with the list of sacrifices in the cult. The climax of the entire cultic section is Leviticus 9 and 10, where the Tabernacle is dedicated with elaborate rites.

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Offerings As Devotion and Redemption

Offerings As Devotion and Redemption

Feb 25, 2014 By Stephen A. Geller | Commentary | Pekudei

Parashat Pekudei ends with a tremendous scene, one of the highlights of the Bible: the divine Glory, the kavod, comes down from heaven and settles into the newly completed Tabernacle so that Moses cannot enter it.

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Translating Psalms

Translating Psalms

Oct 5, 2012 By Stephen A. Geller | Public Event video

Translating Psalms: A Reading and Reflection. A discussion with translator Pamela Greenberg

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The Golden Calf and the Tabernacle

The Golden Calf and the Tabernacle

Feb 20, 2010 By Stephen A. Geller | Commentary | Terumah

Just before Parashat T’rumah begins, the divine Glory descends on Mount Sinai for six days, covering it with a cloud. On the seventh day God summons Moses, who enters the cloud, ascends the mountain and remains there for forty days and nights. The parashah itself begins with a divine command to take offerings (t’rumah) of precious metals, rare cloths, and other items to construct a mishkan, a tenting place (“tabernacle”) in the midst of Israel, together with all its sacred objects and vessels.

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