Wednesday, April 30, 2008



This week's portion is Kedoshim.

Kedoshim begins with various laws subsumed under the heading of "laws of holiness."

Nachmanides explains that this ‘holiness’ refers to transcending the letter of the law and imbuing day-to-day decisions with spirituality.
Seforno, on the other hand, identifies 'holiness' with 'being Gd-like,' imitating the acts of HaShem described in the Torah and drawing closer to HaShem in general.

In this context, we are given a series of financial laws mandating meticulous honesty in our transactions, respect and love for others, and generosity toward those in need. We are taught to love even the stranger who has come to us from the outside, and to take care not to harm him.

The latter part of the portion reiterates a constant biblical message, warning the Jews not to imitate the Egyptians and Canaanites. Various activities associated with idol worship and sexual immorality are forbidden, as the Jews are supposed to develop a lifestyle which will reflect the Torah and its values.

Have a great day,

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Acharei Mot


This week's portion is Acharei Mot.

Our portion begins where Sh'mini, the portion from three weeks ago, left off. [The intervening two portions, Tazria and Metzora, listed ritual purity-related instructions Gd gave to Aharon (Aaron) during the events that occurred during the Sh'mini portion.]

Now, having dedicated the Mishkan in Sh'mini, the Jews learn about the Mishkan's greatest day of the year, Yom Kippur. Specifically, they learn about the offerings of Yom Kippur and that day's special capacity for purification.

After this section the Torah provides general rules related to offerings. Among the benefits of these rules, such as the laws prohibiting consuming blood and bringing offerings outside the Mishkan, is that they help keep people away from idolatry.

The portion concludes with the laws prohibiting immoral relationships; these laws are mentioned here because the prohibited relationships were actually part of the practices of the idolatrous Egyptian and Canaanite cults that Gd wanted the Jews to reject.

Note that there will be no Torah Portion Outline next week, since the Shabbat reading will be a Pesach reading (from the portion of B'shalach).

Have a great day,

Wednesday, April 9, 2008



This week's portion is Metzora.

The portion of Metzora defines the process of repair for a person with Tzaraat. Our sages teach that even when Tzaraat manifests itself as a skin disease (as opposed to the clearly supernatural marks on clothes or walls), it represents an internal, spiritual disease related to slandering other people.

The treatment process for Tzaraat begins with inspection by a Kohen to determine whether one truly has Tzaraat, and to determine the end of the Tzaraat infection. One then immerses in a Mikvah, and brings offerings in the Beit haMikdash (Temple).

The portion then continues to discuss the appearance of Tzaraat marks on a person’s home, and what one should do if he sees such marks.

The portion concludes by discussing Tumah - ritual impurity - associated with male and female discharges. As some explain it, Tumah is associated with the loss of potential for life. Thus men with genital discharge, or women who lose an egg, go through a period of Tumah and then purify themselves in a Mikvah.

Have a great day,

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tazria and HaChodesh


This week we read two portions: Tazria, and an additional segment called HaChodesh.

The end of the previous Torah portion, Sh'mini, dealt with laws of ritual purity, and that theme continues into this Torah portion, Tazria.

The Torah portion describes a rite of purification and a set of offerings brought by a woman after giving birth. According to one explanation of the Torah portion, one must go through a rite of purification after any experience involving creation or destruction of life. Thus one who comes into contact with the dead requires such a rite, and a woman who loses an egg goes through such a rite - and so does a woman who had been carrying an extra life as part of her, and now no longer is.

The Torah portion then describes Tzaraat, which is usually mis-translated as ‘leprosy.’ Tzaraat is not the same as the modern skin ailment called ‘leprosy.’ Tzaraat is a spiritual malady which manifests itself physically as marks on one’s skin. The marks are shown to a Kohen, who determines whether they are leprous or not. (For proof that this is not the same as any physical ailment, realize that this phenomenon may appear on clothing or homes!)

This disease is usually understood as punishment for slander against others – if a person publicly maligns others, that person finds himself publicly maligned, by his own skin. The marks may also appear on one’s skin, or even one’s home.

Each year we add a special reading on the week before the start of the month of Nisan. This reading, called "HaChodesh," includes Gd’s declaration to Moshe in Egypt that the Jewish annual calendar should start with the 1st of Nisan, and Gd’s initial instructions to the Jews regarding preparations for the first Pesach.

Have a great day,