Emor

Emor

A MEETING OF MOADIM Look carefully at the Sefer Torah when it is being lifted up in shul this Shabbat. You will see that the parchment is slightly more worn. Why? Because the scroll is being opened more frequently to this section. This week’s parasha contains the readings for the second day of Pesach and the first two days of Succot. The special times of the year, beginning with Shabbat and continuing with Pesach, Omer, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot and Shemini Atzeret, are listed and described. The key word used to introduce this section is Moed, which is...

Kedoshim

Kedoshim

SELF HELP Tzeddaka or Charity is a cornerstone of Judaism. But equally important, is how it is administered. In this week’s parasha we learn that when a farmer harvested his crop, he was obliged to leave a corner of the field (pe’ah) for the poor. When he came to reap the grain, if one or two stalks fell to the ground, they had to be were left for the poor. That was called leket. And stray sheaves that were forgotten and left in the field were also the property of the poor (shichecha.) In times when agriculture was the mainstay...

Acharei Mot

Acharei Mot

WEARING TWO HATS The high point of the year for the High Priest was Yom Kippur. On that day, he would perform the entire Temple service. In fact, he would change, no less than five times, from his elaborate gold garments to simple white garments made from linen. Why? Rav Hisda in the Talmud (Rosh Hashana 26a) quotes the proverb, ein kategor na’aseh saneygor, “the accuser cannot become the defender.” Gold is a reminder of the sin of the golden calf. When the High Priest enters the Holy of Holies it would not be appropriate for him to wear items...

Thoughts on the Haggada

Thoughts on the Haggada

THOUGHTS ON THE HAGGADA “And G-d will pass over the opening” (Exodus 12:23) We are told in the Haggadah that in every generation we should try and picture ourselves as if we are leaving Egypt. The Chassidic writers point out that this is not simply an exercise in imagination. We too, can benefit in some ways from the blessings of the Exodus in the same way as our ancestors did. According to the Midrash, the Jews of the Exodus were not especially spiritual. Indeed, some of them were as involved in idolatrous practices as their Egyptian hosts. Yet, G-d took...

Metzora & Shabbat Hagadol

Metzora & Shabbat Hagadol

WHY IS TODAY CALLED SHABBAT HAGADOL – ‘THE GREAT SHABBAT?’ The first reference to this name is found in Siddur Rashi (p.171.) The calculation is made that the Exodus took place on a Thursday. Hence, the 10th Nisan that year would have been a Shabbat. This was the time that the Israelites were commanded to take a lamb, the deity of the Egyptians, keep it in their homes for four days and slaughter it. Siddur Rashi cites Midrashim that the Egyptians were seething with rage at the action of the Israelites. However, they became smitten with sickness and afflictions and...

Shemini

Shemini

KOSHER BACON? Probably the most famous – or infamous – non-kosher item is the pig. In Yiddish, if you wanted to call something completely non-kosher you would say it is chazer-treif – “as non-kosher as a pig!” On the list of the kosher and non-kosher animals in this week’s parasha, the pig is mentioned as having cloven hoofs but not chewing the cud. Both signs are needed for an animal to be kosher. The camel does it the other way round. It chews the cud but doesn’t have a cloven hoof. It is just as non-kosher as the pig. Why...

Tzav

Tzav

TEMPLE WASTE DISPOSAL A number of households in St John’s Wood have recently been given new food waste bins. We are now required to separate food waste, mixed recycling and regular household rubbish for the weekly collection. Disposal of waste was a matter of practical concern in the Temple and Tabernacle. Every evening, offerings were burned on the altar, which generated ashes that need to be cleared. At the beginning of this week’s parasha we read that the first mitzva of the day for the Kohen in the Temple was Terumat HaDeshen, clearing away the ashes from the previous day....