Taming the Beast of Extremism

Taming the Beast of Extremism

Mar 12, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Pekudei | Purim | Shabbat Hahodesh

Bred in the hothouse of militant Orthodox Zionism, Dr. Baruch Goldstein knew the sacred texts of Judaism. His premeditated murder of dozens of Palestinian men kneeling in prayer in the Hebron mosque on the Friday of Purim was clearly triggered by the scriptural readings of the festival. On the sabbath before, Shabbat Zakhor, he had heard in the synagogue once again the ancient injunction never to forget what Amalek did to Israel in the wilderness (Deut. 25:17-19). The haftarah for the day (I Sam. 15) vividly recalls the failure of Saul, Israel’s first king, to follow up his victory over Amalek with total destruction. His indecision in the face of popular demand for the spoils of war cost him God’s confidence and eventually his throne. The imprecation of the prophet Samuel as he belatedly executed Agag, Amalek’s captured king, must have continued to ring in Goldstein’s ear: “As your sword has bereaved women, so shall your mother be bereaved among women (15:33).”

Read More
The Theology of the Jewish Calendar

The Theology of the Jewish Calendar

Apr 9, 2005 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Pesah | Shabbat Hahodesh

With Shabbat ha-Hodesh, we are just two weeks away from the first seder. Passover does not usually fall this late in April. A leap year accounts for its delay. In the Jewish calendar, unlike the secular one, a leap year consists of adding an extra month, and there are seven such leap years within every cycle of nineteen years. The month that is doubled is Adar, the last month of the year, the one in which we celebrate Purim. Hence, in a leap year, Purim comes in the second Adar (adar sheni) and Passover, thirty one-days later.

Read More
The Sanctity of the Torah

The Sanctity of the Torah

Apr 1, 1995 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Tazria | Shabbat Hahodesh

It is not often that we read from three sifrei Torah on one Shabbat. But this week Shabbat displays a bit of the pageantry we associate with Simhat Torah because of the convergence of three sacred moments: the regular parasha for the week, Tazri·a; the first day of the new month of Nisan (Rosh Hodesh); and the fourth of the four special Sabbaths before Passover, Shabbat ha-Hodesh. So in addition to the sefer Torah forTazri·a, we take out two other scrolls for the readings from Numbers (28:9-15) and Exodus (12:1-20) appropriate for the occasions. To read from three books of the Torah out of the same scroll would be unwieldy and time-consuming (a lot of holy rolling!). Hence three scrolls, to avoid burdening the congregation with distracting delays.

Read More
Greeting God’s Presence in Our Lives

Greeting God’s Presence in Our Lives

Mar 13, 2010 By Barry Holtz | Commentary | Shabbat Hahodesh

This week’s double parashah brings the Bible’s second book to a dramatic close. Think how far this people has come in these forty chapters: from an oppressed minority enslaved to a capricious and dangerous Pharaoh, they have become the free followers of the Almighty One, and the recipients of God’s greatest gift, the Torah.

Read More
Between Tum’ah and Tohorah

Between Tum’ah and Tohorah

Apr 2, 2011 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Tazria | Shabbat Hahodesh

It seems more than kismet that Passover falls when it does, following on the heels of the parashiyot of Leviticus in which we discuss the most base of subjects. In fact, rabbis and commentators through the ages have found the laws of tum’ah and tohorah (ritual impurity and purity) covered in these weeks before Passover so unsettling that, presumably in reaction, they have enthusiastically embraced the following statement from the Talmud: “Questions are asked and lectures are given on the laws of Passover beginning thirty days before” (BT Pesachim 6a). Surely, this is an avoidance tactic on the part of rabbis, but maybe it is also for the sake of the community—to save them from many discussions that would make them lose their appetites for the kiddush that follows services.

Read More
Crackers for God

Crackers for God

Mar 16, 2015 By William Friedman | Commentary | Vayikra | Pesah | Shabbat Hahodesh

What kind of gift would you give a king? In the interests of both respect and self-preservation, probably the nicest thing you could afford! And if you’d give this to a human king, how much more would you give to the King of Kings of Kings? And yet the Torah prescribes that any grain offered in the Temple cannot contain either yeast or honey. That’s right: the only appropriate grain offering for God is matzah—the tasteless cracker that is about to become the source of so much complaining on Passover! Why would the Torah tell us to do such a thing?

Read More
Shabbat Hahodesh

Shabbat Hahodesh

Jan 1, 1980

1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: 2 This month shall mark for you the beginning of the months; it shall be the first of the months of the year for you.

Read More