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Parashat Shemini - Leviticus 9:1-11:47

Parashat Shemini covers the inauguration procedures for the service of the Tabernacle, as well as the dietary laws that spell out which animals are fit for consumption. Sandwiched between these topics we learn about a tragic event that results in the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu. They attempt to approach Hashem on their own terms by bringing “unauthorized fire” into the presence of the Holy One of Israel. The event that follows is horrific. The Torah tells us, “Fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD” (Leviticus 10:2).

Parashat Tzav - Leviticus 6:1[8]-8:36

In our second week of learning about the sacrificial system, we read about the laws of what is known as the korban tamid, or the daily offering. Our portion begins by telling us, “This is the law of the burnt offering” (Leviticus 6:2[9]). The burnt offerings in this passage are not voluntary burnt offerings brought by petitioners, but rather the continual (tamid) or daily offerings required to be brought at the beginning and end of every single day: “One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer toward the evening” (Exodus 29:39).

Parashat Vayikra - Leviticus 1:1-5:26

As we finish the book of Shemot (Exodus) we now turn to the book of Vayikra (Leviticus). When most people begin a study of the book of Leviticus, they probably don’t get that excited. It’s almost entirely focused on animal sacrifices, various sprinklings of blood, bodily discharges, and purification rituals. The modern reader finds a study of Leviticus more repulsive than edifying. This is because these rituals are foreign to the modern reader in a time when animal sacrifice is considered more barbaric than spiritual. 

The Holy Altar of Table Fellowship

Rabbi Shimon said: If three have eaten at one table and have not spoken over it words of Torah, it is as though they had eaten of the sacrifices of the dead, for it is written (Isaiah 28:8) “All tables are covered with filthy vomit; no place is clean.” But if three have eaten at one table and have spoken over it words of Torah, it is as if they had eaten from the table of God, for it is written (Ezekiel 41:22) “He said to me, ‘This is the table that stands before the LORD.’ ” (m.Avot 3:4)

Earliest Recorded Corporate Jewish Prayer

I was recently listening to a lecture on "The Origins of Jewish Prayer" by Rabbi Adam Mintz, and it was amazing to hear him work to piece together multiple rabbinic texts such as the Mishnah, Talmud, and even Ben Sira in an attempt to build a case that corporate Jewish prayer (particularly liturgical prayer) existed prior to the Middle Ages when the first siddurim were made available.

Parashat Tetzave - Exodus 27:20-30:10

After giving instructions for making the oil for the Temple menorah, parashat Tetzave is primarily focused on the consecration of the kohanim (priests). This consecration includes how the priestly garments, particularly those of the Kohen Gadol (high priest), are to be tailored. The garments of the Kohan Gadol were to be unique in every way. One garment in particular, the ephod, was to be made of a special combination of various materials:

Parashat Mishpatim - Exodus 21:1-24:18

Although Parashat Mishpatim is just over three chapters in length, it contains over fifty of the six hundred and thirteen commandments. It is densely packed with various commandments, particularly those involving civil issues. There’s a problem, however, with the application of these commandments if we are attempting to follow a literal reading of the text. Here is an example:

Echoes Of The Heart

Rabbi Chananiah ben Teradion said: If two sit together and no words of Torah are interchanged between them, theirs is the session of the scornful, as it is written (Psalm 1:1) “Nor sit in the seat of scoffers.” But when two sit together and words of Torah pass between them, the Divine Presence rests between them, as it is written (Malachi 3:16) “Then those who revered the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name.” (m.Avot 3:3)

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