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
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
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
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
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
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
Explaining the Inexplicable?

Explaining the Inexplicable?

Apr 20, 2002 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Aharei Mot | Kedoshim

In speaking of the legal corpus which dominates this week’s double parashah, the Torah makes use of two terms, mishpatim and hukkim, translated as “rules” and “laws.” Technically, as Baruch A. Levine makes clear in his commentary, they reflect two sources of legal practice. The word mishpatim deriving from the root sh-f-t, “to judge,” embodies rules articulated in a judicial setting. Hukkim from the root h-k-k “to engrave” or “inscribe” suggests laws promulgated by decree. In our parashah the terms seem to be synonymous, because God is the only lawgiver: “My rules (mishpatim) alone shall you observe, and faithfully follow My laws (hukkim): I the Lord am your God” (18:4).

Read More