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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How Do We Mourn?

How Do We Mourn?

Apr 17, 2020 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Shemini

In these dark times, we are faced not for the first time with the question: how do we deal with unbearable pain? There are no easy answers. For some, the solution is to find a way not to feel it, and one way to do that is to drink oneself into oblivion.  

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The Promise of a New Heart and a New Spirit: <em>Lev Hadash Veruah Hadashah</EM>

The Promise of a New Heart and a New Spirit: Lev Hadash Veruah Hadashah

Mar 29, 2019 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Shemini | Shabbat Parah

This Shabbat is Shabbat Parah, the Shabbat of the Red Heifer. The special Torah reading for this Shabbat, in Numbers 19, addresses the defilement of coming into contact with the dead. The Parah Adumah section makes clear that contact with the dead disrupts our ability to function, and that we must engage in a ritual in order to be restored into society and into proper relationship with God. And anyone who is involved with the ritual that purifies others will become impure in the process; there is no way to eradicate the impurity absolutely.

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Six Takes on a Leader’s Attributes

Six Takes on a Leader’s Attributes

Apr 13, 2018 By Walter Herzberg | Commentary | Shemini

In chapter eight of Leviticus, Moses is essentially serving as temporary kohen gadol, high priest, during the dedication of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. On the eighth day, according to Rashi, Aaron and his sons are officially inaugurated into the priesthood. Moses transfers the position to his brother Aaron, who along with his descendants will officially serve as priests and high priest. 

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A Love That Transforms

A Love That Transforms

Apr 21, 2017 By Leonard A. Sharzer | Commentary | Shemini

This week’s parashah includes the tragic story of Nadav and Avihu, Aaron’s two eldest sons, who died, consumed by divine fire, after bringing an offering of alien fire within the sacred precincts of the Mishkan. Considering the dramatic nature of the narrative, and its compelling pathos, the story is told with remarkable terseness.

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Making Meat

Making Meat

Apr 21, 2017 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Shemini

Dr. Mark Post of the University of Maastricht stunned the world several summers ago by producing the most expensive burger in history. Working from stem cells taken from a live cow, his team cultured muscle tissue that they then turned into an edible product resembling ground beef. Amongst all the specifications for kosher animals in this week’s parashah, lab-grown meat is unsurprisingly absent. Jews therefore want to know—is it kosher? Could it even be pareve?

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Silence Speaks Volumes

Silence Speaks Volumes

Mar 26, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Shemini

We’ve all been on both sides of this story. Sometimes we find ourselves as the one in mourning or going through a particularly hard time, having to put up with the well-intentioned words of friends and acquaintances that inadvertently rub salt in our wounds; and at other times, we find ourselves trying to offer words of comfort, and speaking banalities that—even as they come out of our mouths—we realize are of no help.

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Easing the Transition From Shabbat

Easing the Transition From Shabbat

Apr 1, 2016 By Shira D. Epstein | Commentary | Shemini

The parashah delineates several distinctions between holy and unholy: what constitutes an acceptable sacrifice; which animals fall within the category of kosher; the actions that might transition a vessel, oven, or garment to the status of unclean.

At the end of Shabbat, we invoke these same words during havdalah, praising God “who makes a distinction between holy and profane.”

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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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Fiery Zeal

Fiery Zeal

Apr 17, 2004 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Shemini

The Bible presents an idealized picture of life – how good it could be – but tempers that picture with frequent intrusions of tragedy. The creation story itself sets that pattern. The Garden of Eden is perfect, but human beings do not live there for long. Adam and Eve disobey God, and are banished into a world increasingly gripped by cruelty.

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