Standing at the Gates

Standing at the Gates

Mar 19, 2021 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayikra

In Kafka’s cryptic parable “Before the Law,” a man stands before a gate seeking entry into the Law. The gate is open, but at its side is a gatekeeper who refuses his request to enter. The man uses every stratagem that he can think of to gain the gatekeeper’s permission, but every attempt fails. This stalemate continues until the moment of death arrives. 

Read More
A Covenant of Salt

A Covenant of Salt

Mar 27, 2020 By Tim Daniel Bernard | Commentary | Vayikra

Covenant is a central concept in Judaism. The Torah and later tradition make clear that the people Israel have a special relationship with God, and Jews have acquired the epithet “the chosen people” (though Jewish particularism need not preclude other peoples having their own unique relationships with God). Rabbi David Hartman, z”l, titled his exposition of Jewish theology A Living Covenant. Rabbi David Wolpe, in a speech at JTS, proposed highlighting the mainstream ideological approach of Conservative Judaism by rebranding it as “Covenantal Judaism.”

Read More
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.

Read More
Leviticus on Love

Leviticus on Love

Mar 16, 2018 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Vayikra

I was on a small cruise ship with my family in Alaska this summer, when a couple whom I had come to like and admire asked me with great respect a question that Jews have been been hearing from Christians for many centuries, one that had been put to me more than once by students at Stanford: “How can Jews worship the God of the Old Testament, so full of harsh judgment and wrath, and so unlike the God of the New Testament, who calls to human beings in love?”

Read More
The Rituals that Make a Nation

The Rituals that Make a Nation

Mar 31, 2017 By Hillel Gruenberg | Commentary | Vayikra

I must confess that as someone who has spent most of my adult life studying and teaching modern history, Vayikra—both the parashah and the sefer—is not my favorite portion of the Torah or the Tanakh. We lovers of narrative are in for something of a letdown as we enter a biblical book that, aside from a few brief interludes, seems to be a long list of injunctions relating to priestly service and ritual purity. Indeed, there will be no more sea-splitting or plague-wreaking; the tablets have been given; the golden calf has been wrought and unwrought; and the Mishkan has been planned, plotted, and built. The fun is over, and now it’s time to talk about the particulars of sacrifice, ceremony, and the sacred.

Read More
The Freshest Grain

The Freshest Grain

Mar 31, 2017 By Ofra Backenroth | Commentary | Vayikra | Shavuot

In a long narrative dedicated to sacrifices we find one hidden command to offer only the freshest and best grains, mixed with oils and scents. Through a multi sensory description the reader can sense the heavy kernels of grains, smell the scents, and vicariously participate in the powerful event of giving thanks to God with the offering of the first fruit.

Read More
To Be Heard Is to Be Helped

To Be Heard Is to Be Helped

Mar 23, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayikra

Translations conceal as much as they convey.

Read More
Leadership in Revelation

Leadership in Revelation

Mar 19, 2005 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayikra

Modernity erupted in Jewish history in 1782 in the garb of midrash.

Read More
The Ancestral Roots of our Morals

The Ancestral Roots of our Morals

May 21, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Vayikra

How wonderful to derive a great lesson from such a simple turn of phrase.

Read More
Calling Out

Calling Out

Mar 24, 2007 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayikra

This week represents new beginnings in the Jewish calendar. We welcomed the month of Nisan in which we celebrate our birth as a people and a nation; and this week we begin a new book of Torah, Leviticus, or in Hebrew, Va–yikra.. More than the significance of this liminal moment is the extent to which the notion of relationship locates itself at the core of both of these events. In so many ways, Nisan celebrates the relationship of God and Israel — God’s act of covenantal fulfillment and hesed in taking the Israelites out of the land of Egypt. And similarly, the Book of Leviticus opens with a curious commentary on relationships — specifically, the relationship between God and Moses.

Read More