Sh'mini - Shabbat Parah
By Matthew Berkowitz, JTS
Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47; maf: Numbers 19:1-22
Parashat Shemini's Lessons of Leadership
This past week, Jewish communities the world over rejoiced in the celebration of Purim. At the core of our commemoration of this holiday stands the scroll of Esther, the plot of which revolves around the evil designs of Haman to wreak havoc on the Jewish people living in the 127 provinces of the Persian monarch Ahashverosh. Through the downfall of Queen Vashti, the cunning strategy of Mordechai, and the beauty and wit of Esther, as well as other twists and turns, the Jews are saved from what appears to be certain destruction. "The very day on which the enemies of the Jews had expected to get them in their power, the opposite happened, and the Jews got their enemies in their power" (Esther 9:1). More than that, we read, "grief and mourning was transformed to happiness and feasting" (Esther 9:22). The proverbial tables are turned for the good of the Jewish people. In contrast, we encounter this week's parashah, Parashat Shemini, which provides a stark example of celebration suddenly transformed into mourning. Having completed the building of the Tabernacle and set the foundation for divinely ordained sacrifices, the Israelites are ready to offer the first sacrifice celebrating the inauguration of Israel's priesthood.
Tzav - Shushan Purim
Rabbi Bradley Artson for MyJewishLearning
Ears, Thumbs And Toes
The ceremony installing the priests teaches the importance of consecrating the entire body for sacred service.
Traditionally, the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus) was known as Torat Kohanim, “the Teachings of the Priests.” Its contents are directed to people who would be ministering in the Temple in Jerusalem, and its topics pertain to priestly sacrifice, ritual and purity.
Vayikra - Shabbat Zachor
By Arnold M. Eisen, JTS
Leviticus on Love
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?”
By Mark Young, JTS
Exodus 38:21 - 40:38
The Call to Find a Mentor and to Mentor Others
In parashat Pekudei, the Israelites are on a journey to a new life, having escaped the Egyptians, experienced the revelation at Sinai, and completed the building of the Tabernacle. They are now in the wilderness, sometimes unclear about their direction, sometimes filled with fear, and in need of guidance. However, they had mentors to guide them. They had the cloud that indicated the Presence of God, and they had Moses on their side.
Vayakhel - Shabbat Shekalim
By Arnold M. Eisen for JTS
Imagining Community, Then and Now
Anyone who has mounted a fund-raising campaign, or sought volunteers for an institution or organization, will immediately recognize the account of the Tabernacle’s construction in this week’s Torah portion as utopian in the extreme. “All the artisans . . . said to Moses, ‘The people are bringing more than is needed for the task entailed in the work that the Lord has commanded to be done.’ Moses thereupon had this proclamation made throughout the camp: ‘Let no man or woman make further efforts toward gifts for the sanctuary!’ Their efforts had been more than enough for all the tasks to be done” (Exod. 36:5–7).