Wednesday, May 28, 2008



This week's portion, the first in the book of BiMidbar (Numbers), is called "BiMidbar."

Some people pronounce this "BaMidbar." "Bimidbar" means "in the desert of," and is the way the word appears in the Torah's text.

The book of Shemot (Exodus) described the Jews’ journey from a life of slavery toward becoming a nation of Torah and of communication with Gd.
The book of Vayyikra (Leviticus) listed the laws of holiness, and the laws governing service in the Mishkan, where the Jews communicated with Gd.
The book of Bimidbar (Numbers), which begins with this week’s reading, tells of the Jews’ travels through the desert, toward Israel.

The first three portions of the book of Bimidbar deal with preparations for that journey.

Our portion of Bimidbar begins with a census, before the Jews begin to travel. Gd counts the Jews several times during their recorded trips through the desert; one explanation for the constant counting is that Gd does this to demonstrate His love for, and attention to, the Jewish people. We shower attention on the objects of our love.

The Jews are then instructed in their travel formations and in the flags each tribe will carry. The tribe of Levi is taught how to dismantle and transport the Mishkan, the Temple which will travel with the Jews, through the desert.

Have a great day,

Wednesday, May 21, 2008



This week's parshah is Bechukotai, the concluding portion of the book of Vayyikra (Leviticus).

Bechukotai begins with a promise of great national reward for fullfilling Gd’s commandments.

The portion continues with a warning of devastating national punishment for failure to perform the commandments. This warning, which appears twice in the Torah, is called the "Tochacha," the "Rebuke." It is traditionally read in a slightly lower, slightly faster voice than is used for the regular Torah reading, to demonstrate our desire to avoid the warning’s horrible punishments. (For more on this practice, see Megilah 25b.)

The Torah portion, concluding a book that focussed on holiness, ends with a discussion of the highest holiness – holiness which emanates from us, when we dedicate items or money for service of Gd in the Beit haMikdash (Temple).

Have a great day,

Wednesday, May 14, 2008



This week's portion is Behar (pronounced Bi-har).

The previous Torah portions expressed holiness-centered themes – the holiness of the people, and the holiness of the Kohanim and Temple service. B’har teaches about the holiness of the land of Israel.

Behar instructs the Jews to let the land rest every seventh year, a year which is called "Sh'mitah" in Hebrew, Sabbatical in English. Further, in every fiftieth year the Jews should return ancestral fields to their families; this year is called "Yovel" in Hebrew, Jubilee in English.

The Jews are also instructed that if an impoverished person sells his ancestral land, his family must be allowed to buy back that field at the rate paid for it initially. One who sells a home in a walled, established city, must be allowed to buy it back by refunding the purchase price within the first year after the sale.

Once the Torah discusses poverty and the possibility of selling an ancestral plot, the Torah discusses other situations in which people get into financial trouble and need to be helped out. The portion thus instructs us to extend interest-free loans, and to treat slaves well. If a Jew is sold to a non-Jew as a slave, other Jews should redeem him.

The portion sums up the issues of sanctity by tying it back to Gd as the root of all holiness – of individuals, of communities, and of land.

Have a great day,

Wednesday, May 7, 2008



This week's portion is Emor.

The previous Torah portion (Kedoshim) dealt with laws of sanctity for the general Jewish population. Emor begins with laws of sanctity for Kohanim, the 'priests' who served in the Mishkan and Beit haMikdash (Central Temple).

The Kohanim are taught that as priests of life, they must stay away from any association with death other than to take care of the burial of an immediate family member. They are also instructed that they may not marry divorcees; we are given no reason for this law, but some explain that it is meant to prevent any potential animosity or scandal from tainting the public view of the Beit haMikdash.

The Kohen Gadol (Head Kohen) is not even allowed to come in contact with death to bury a family member, and has even greater restrictions on whom he may marry.

The portion then presents laws governing offerings, as well as consumption of animals which are not offerings. The portion then lists the various holidays of the year, starting with Shabbat as the foundation of Creation and then moving through the calendar.

Moshe’s brother Aharon is then told to bring the oil for the Menorah, as well as the flour for the bread which would be on display in the Temple during the week.

The Torah portion concludes with the story of a man who blasphemed Gd. Blaspheming against Gd, invoking the Divine Name, involves a rejection of Gd’s existence and power, and so he was harshly punished.

Have a great day,