5 Minute Torah

Parashat Pinchas - Numbers 25:10-30:1

The Price of Peace

In last week’s portion we learned about the prophet Balaam and how he was not able to curse Israel in a direct manner. Every time he opened his mouth to curse Israel, it would be filled with blessings instead. Nevertheless, at the end of last week’s Torah portion we learned that Moab was somehow able to have a destructive impact on the Children of Israel:

Parashat Balak - Numbers 22:2 - 25:9

What Is Your Super Power?

Parashat Balak introduces us to one of the most enigmatic figures of the entire Bible—the prophet Balaam. What can we learn from him? Let’s revisit his story and then draw some practical application from it.

Parashat Chukat - Numbers 19:1-22:1

Unreasonable Reason

This week’s Torah portion is called Chukat, because it opens by describing the chok (statute or ordinance) of the parah adumah (the red heifer), a critical element used to cleanse a person from corpse contamination. Our parashah begins:

Now the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “This is the statute of the law that the LORD has commanded: Tell the people of Israel to bring you a red heifer without defect.” (Numbers 19:1–2)

Parashat Korach - Numbers 16:1-18:32

Follow Your Heart?

“Korach took.” These are the opening words of our parashah. With these words, the lid to Pandora’s Box was lifted and the seeds of Korach’s uprising sprouted forth to begin bearing their twisted fruit. Korach took something that didn’t belong to him. But what did Korach actually take? 

Parashat Shelach - Numbers 13:1-15:41

As most people know, James Bond—agent 007—is the flamboyant hero created by Ian Fleming in the 1950’s. This parashah is not about him, but one might think so, given the introductory subject of this week’s Torah portion. This week’s reading begins with the story of the twelve spies who are sent into the land of Canaan ahead of the Children of Israel. When many people think of spies and espionage, they imagine someone in the likes of Fleming’s popular fictional character. But the leaders of the tribes of Israel sent out to Canaan were not spies in the same sense as this British secret agent.

Parashat Beha'alotcha - Numbers 8:1-12:15

God of Second Chances

In this week’s Torah portion, one of the things we learn about is how the Children of Israel offered the Passover for the very first time since their departure from Egypt (Numbers 9:1–14). It had been a full year since they left Egypt and it was time to fulfill the instructions they had previously been given: “You shall therefore keep this statute at its appointed time from year to year” (Exodus 13:10). Therefore, Moses instructed the Israelites to offer up the Passover at the appropriate time in the second year:

Parashat Bamidbar - Numbers 1:1-4:20

Parashat Bamidbar, the first portion of the book of Bamidbar, often gets a bad rap. The bulk of it is filled will the results of a national census, the arrangements of the tribal encampments, and the duties of the Levites and Kohanim. For many people this material doesn’t hold their attention. They are looking for something they can “sink their teeth into.” But reading the Torah and understanding its principles takes more than a casual reading. Parashat Bamidbar is one of these portions that beg us to peer deeper into it to see meaning and application.

Parashat Behar-Bechukotai - Leviticus 25:1-27:34

The double parashah Behar-Bechukotai is filled primarily with the laws concerning the Shemitah (the Sabbath year), the Yovel (Jubilee), and the laws of redemption, although many other topics are covered as well. While detailing the laws of the Yovel (25:8–22), the Torah gives us a broad commandment:

You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 25:17)

Parashat Emor - Leviticus 21:1-24:23

Parashat Emor is a continuation of Parashat Kedoshim in that it resumes outlining the parameters of holiness, but this time it is directed toward the priestly service. Chapter twenty-two begins to detail the laws pertaining to voluntary offerings. In this section we have a few interesting laws describing restrictions for these sacrifices. And although they are specifically in regard to voluntary or freewill offerings, the principles are applied to any and all offerings. The first principle is that an unfit animal may not be used as a sacrifice.

Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim - Leviticus 16:1-20:27

This week’s double portion of Acharei Mot and Kedoshim covers a lot of ground in a small amount of space. It covers the ritual of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), restrictions on where and how sacrifices can be made, proscriptions for the resident alien, a list of prohibited sexual relations, a stern reminder about honoring one’s parents, issues of social justice, a detailed explanation of how to love one’s neighbor, and a miscellaneous list of other commandments ranging from agricultural laws to prohibitions against sorcery and child sacrifice.

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