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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Living Outside the Camp

Living Outside the Camp

Apr 24, 2020 By Jason Rogoff | Commentary | Metzora | Tazria

For many of us, the Torah portions of Tazria and Metzora have never felt so relevant. While in years past there was a great sense of distance from the confusing descriptions of biblical skin afflictions, the quarantine of afflicted Israelites, and the complex post-illness purification process, it feels difficult to escape their prescience during our current global pandemic. As we all struggle with the challenges of social distancing and the uncertainty of the future, I believe that insights into the details of our parshiyot can provide us with points of reflection for our present reality.

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Sacrificing Identities

Sacrificing Identities

Mar 15, 2019 By Jason Rogoff | Commentary | Vayikra

The early rabbinic midrash on the Book of Leviticus (Sifra) begins its interpretation of our parashah by asking the critical question: Who is a Jew? The Rabbis seek to clearly define who can participate in Temple worship and who cannot because the sacrifices are a key piece of the covenantal relationship with God. That means that participation in the sacrificial cult is emblematic of full Jewish citizenship and demarcates the borderlines between Jews and others.

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Our Very Life

Our Very Life

Oct 4, 2017 By Jason Rogoff | Commentary | Sukkot

One time it happened that a priest poured the libation on his feet, and all the people pelted him with their etrogim. (M. Sukkah 4:9)

The above Mishnah describes a scandalous episode set on the festival of Sukkot during the Second Temple period. The previous mishnah explains that on each day of the festival there was a ceremony where the priests would fill a golden flask with water from the Shiloah spring and bring it to the Temple to offer as a sacrifice on the altar. The special sacrifice of water was only offered on Sukkot. All other days of the year wine would be poured on the altar.

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