The Primacy of Questions
Mar 31, 2023 By Rabbi Joel Seltzer | Commentary | Tzav | Pesah | Shabbat Hagadol
The truth is, of all the Jewish holidays of the year, Pesah, requires the most forethought, the most planning, the most cleaning, and yes, the most questions! The Jewish tradition understands deeply that ritual does not simply “occur,” instead it is the result of painstaking preparation and “beginning with the end in mind.”Read More
What Does It Mean to Be Called?
Mar 24, 2023 By Burton L. Visotzky | Commentary | Vayikra
This week we begin reading the middle book of the Five Books of Moses, Leviticus. Its position in the Torah scroll is not just coincidental; the laws of Leviticus are central to the earliest rabbis’ understanding of Judaism. The rules in the book are indicated by its name in English (Latin, actually): Leviticus. These are the detailed regulations for the tribe of Levi, particularly that branch of the clan known as the kohanim, the priesthood.Read More
Making Space for God’s Presence
Mar 17, 2023 By Rabbi Kara L. Tav | Commentary | Pekudei | Vayak-hel | Shabbat Hahodesh
Our rededication of the hospital’s ICU echoed for me the original Jewish sacred space described in the Book of Exodus. The double Torah reading for Vayak-hel and Pekudei provides God’s blueprint for a traveling sacred space that the Israelites would build during their journey through the wilderness. As they travelled, they would carry a place for the presence of God and for revelatory encounters between God and the high priests on behalf of the people. It would be a space for doing sacred work and for being with God.Read More
When Is Humility Not a Virtue?
Mar 10, 2023 By Walter Herzberg | Commentary | Ki Tissa | Shabbat Parah
Moses’s actions are puzzling and confront us with two related questions: On the one hand, why did Moses need to place the veil on his face? And on the other, why did Moses remove the veil when going before God and when relaying God’s words to the people—only to replace it as described above? Biblical commentators offer some fascinating insights.Read More
The Meaning of Aaron’s Holy Garments
Mar 3, 2023 By Robert Harris | Tetzavveh | Shabbat Zakhor
In this commentary, I would like to focus on some of the vestments of Aaron that he wore in his capacity as kohen gadol (High Priest). At the beginning of Exodus 28, the Torah commands that the Israelites who are skilled artisans should prepare a specific list of items for Aaron and the priests to wear. These include the breastpiece, ephod, robe, fringed tunic, headdress, and sash.Read More
Gold and Incense: For Better and for Worse
Feb 24, 2023 By Stephen A. Geller | Commentary | Terumah
Parashat Terumah begins the long section of the Book of Exodus that deals with the Tabernacle, its furniture and vessels, and the garments of the high priest. The only interruption in this mass of cultic detail is the narrative of the sin of worshipping the Golden Calf and its aftermath in Exodus 32–34. The ritual details continue into Vayikra with the list of sacrifices in the cult.Read More
Why Does the Torah Care About Returning Lost Property?
Feb 17, 2023 By Yael Landman | Commentary | Mishpatim | Shabbat Shekalim
There is no obligation in the common law to retrieve someone’s lost property and return it. So why does the Torah make a point of establishing such a requirement? Why does the Torah specify that the owner of the lost animal is the finder’s enemy, and what is the scope of the finder’s responsibilities?Read More
How Do We Meet At Sinai?
Feb 10, 2023 By Amelia Wolf | Commentary | Yitro
At the moment God initiates a new covenant with the People of Israel, they must learn to demarcate the spaces of their new relationship. Some of these boundaries are lines drawn by God. Others are fences maintained by human beings. How can humanity and the Divine exist in the same space and time? And what can we learn about how humans can exist in relationship with each other from that encounter?Read More