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Posted October 17, 2016 - 8:28am

In response to a question asking “Who is my neighbor?” Yeshua told the following parable:

A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:30–32)

When Yeshua told the parable of the Good Samaritan, he used the imagery of a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho falling into the hands of bandits. Left for dead, his only hope was for a fellow traveler to notice and have pity on him. His first hope was from a Kohen (priest), whose duty was to minister to the LORD on behalf of the children of Israel. His piety would have been assumed by Yeshua’s audience, and he would have been the naturally anticipated hero to the story. However, as we know, the Kohen passes him by without stopping. 

Yeshua next introduces a Levite, one whose duty was similar to the Kohen, but functioned more like an assistant to the Kohanim (priests) in the Temple. Surely, he would stop and help this man who was struggling for his life. But no, the Levite passes him by and continues on his way just as the Kohen. At this point, Yeshua’s audience was surely shocked that neither the Kohen nor the Levite turned out to be the hero of the story. But before we discuss Yeshua’s surprise ending to his parable, we need to try and understand why Yeshua would have had both the Kohen and the Levite pass up this poor man struggling for his life. Why did both the Kohen and the Levite pass up the dying man?

Our answer begins with the regulations for the priesthood found in Leviticus 21:

Posted October 14, 2016 - 8:00am

This week’s Torah portion is only a single chapter long. The Ha’azinu, the Song of Moses, spans all fifty-two verses of our Torah portion. When reading this parashah, there are several questions that come up. We will only have time to answer a few at this time. 

First, in a Torah scroll the Song of Moses is written in two columns, rather than one. Why does this passage merit this unique rendering? The song opens with the words:

Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. (Deuteronomy 32:1)

Moses introduces this song by calling upon two witnesses: the heavens and the earth. The Torah sets a precedent that a matter is only established by the testimony of two witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15). By calling on both the heavens and the earth, Moses establishes his two witnesses against the Children of Israel to hold them accountable for their actions. The two columns of the Torah scroll are a reminder of this fact: two witness are being called to the stand; two witnesses are watching the Children of the Most High at all times.

Second, why does Moses ask both the heavens and the earth to listen to him? Why are the heavens and the earth called to be witnesses against humans? Just before giving us the details of the creation of man in Genesis 2, the Torah tells us that man is the combined product of both heaven and earth:

These are the generations [toldot] of the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 2:4)

The word toldot can mean generations, offspring, genealogy, etc. Man was made as a combination of both heaven and earth when the Creator breathed a small portion of Himself into the dust of the earth. Heaven and earth, therefore, are partially responsible to oversee the actions of mankind.

Posted October 10, 2016 - 8:27am

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27)

What did Yeshua mean when he criticized the scribes and Pharisees saying they were “like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness”? Why did he use the imagery of whitewashed tombs? How would his listeners have understood this?

In Temple times, ritual impurity was extremely important, especially in and around Jerusalem. The Torah warns that a person who is ritually contaminated “and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from Israel” (Numbers 19:13). Therefore, it became critical that a person know if there was a potential of becoming ritually contaminated or not, so that he could take steps to avoid it. 

But can ritual impurity actually be contracted through merely walking on or too near a grave? Or is this just a Pharisaic invention? The book of Numbers makes it clear, ritual impurity is not just transmitted through the touching of a corpse, but can even be transmitted through contact with a grave as well:

Whoever in the open field touches someone who was killed with a sword or who died naturally, or touches a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. (Numbers 19:16)

A grave has the potential to transmit the highest level of ritual impurity, the same as if a person touched the corpse itself. The steps involved in the “decontamination” process were lengthy. It was a seven day process that involved the sprinkling of the water that contained the ashes of the red heifer:

Posted October 7, 2016 - 8:36am

How To Become Rebellious And Love it

For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD. How much more after my death! (Deuteronomy 31:27)

This passage is written as a kal vachomer, an argument going from the light to the heavy: If A is true, then how much more so is B also true. Moses recognized that if the Children of Israel rebelled and strayed against the Torah’s instruction while he was with them to take them by the hand and guide them in its requirements, how much more would they stray from it after his death. But who rebels against God’s commands and why?

There are generally two types of rebels. The first is the one who simply denies the truth and the authority of the Scripture and walks in outright rebellion against it. There’s nothing spectacular about this. There will be those in every generation who follow this path. The second type, however, is one who claims that Scripture is still authoritative, yet rationalizes his behavior based on his own interpretations, rather than following the mesorah, the accepted interpretations and traditions. This is the more deceptive road to a wayward life. Let’s explore the implications of this.


Latest Book Review

The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

The Koren Ani Tefilla Siddur is one of the latest in Koren’s growing collection of siddurim (prayer books) geared towards a specific demographic. Koren describes Ani Tefilla as “an engaging and thought-provoking siddur for the inquiring high school student and thoughtful adult.” Koren says that Ani Tefillah has been developed in order “to help the user create their own meaning and connection during the Tefilla [prayer] experience.” The name of the siddur is connected with its objective. Ani Tefilla means “I pray.” 


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