Pesach

Pesach

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

Metzora

PRAYING FOR THOSE WHO ARE UNWELL The Torah goes into great detail in last week’s and this week’s portion describing an affliction knows as tzara’at. This came upon a person as a result of transgressions such as slander. The practical application of these laws with the different kinds of sores and scabs and burns have ceased to have had relevance for thousands of years. Nevertheless, a profound and pertinent detail emerges from the way the sufferer was to conduct himself. The Torah writes: “The afflicted person…shall cloak himself up to the lips and he is to call out: Contaminated, contaminated.”...

Tazria

Tazria

QUITE WHITE? The intricate details of the laws of tzaraat that are described in this week’s sidrot are understood by our commentators to refer to diseases that are brought on by spiritual pathology rather than physical malignancy. The symbolic significance of the symptoms and treatment of the metzora are therefore legitimate areas for moral lessons and guidance. It comes as somewhat of a surprise to learn that the colour white is seen in these laws as an indicator of impurity. “And if the hair in the affliction had turned white…the Cohen shall pronounce him tamei, impure.” (Vayikra 13:3) Surely white...

Lessons from our Portion by Rabbi Yoni Golker

Lessons from our Portion by Rabbi Yoni Golker

There is a very sweet story told in the Reader’s Digest.  A lady is doing her shopping and was in the process of unloading a full trolley to pay.  Once the shop assistant tallied up the groceries, the total bill came to £12 over what she had on her. The lady began to remove items from the trolley, when another shopper handed the cashier a £20 note to the cashier.  The lady was embarrassed and said, “Please don’t put yourself out,”  The man as adamant.  “It’s a pleasure”. “Let me tell you a story,” he said.  “My mother is in...

Tzav

Tzav

ETERNAL FIRE In this sidra we are introduced to the mitzvah that the fire on the altar was kept alight at all times. It was forbidden to put it out. “A continuous fire shall burn upon the altar; it shall not go out.” (Vayikra 6:6) Wood was added to the pyre every morning and evening. Although the pyre was in the open, vulnerable to all weathers, the Misha (Ethics of the Fathers 5:8, NS 555) states that it was one of the miracles of the Temple that the fire never went out. However, we were not allowed to rely on...

Vayikra

Vayikra

REMEMERING AMALEK This week, in addition to the sidra of Vayikra, we read a special portion from a second Sefer Torah – the Maftir of Parshat Zachor. We read the passage at the end of the sidra of Ki Teitzei, which describes how Amalek attacked the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. In three concise verses we are told: “Remember what Amalek did…erase the memory of Amalek…do not forget.” It seems that on the one hand, we are being told to remember in order to forget – so that the memory of Amalek is blotted out from beneath the...

Pekudei

Pekudei

TEMPLE AND TABERNACLE The Tabernacle, which is completed and erected in this week’s portion, was essentially a simple structure.  King Solomon’s Temple, built 480 years later was a much more lavish and ornate building. Which one was superior? One would expect that the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem should top the bill.  Yet, on closer examination, this is not necessarily the case. When donations were needed to build the Tabernacle the gifts came so readily that more than enough was provided in a short time and the people had to be told to stop giving.  By contrast King Solomon had to...

Vayakhel

Vayakhel

SHABBAT AND THE TABERNACLE This week, Jews around the UK are celebrating Shabbat UK. Our weekly portion lends itself very readily to this occasion as it is one of the four places in the Torah where Shabbat is mentioned in the context of the Tabernacle. (Bonus question: Can you find the other three?) Why do we have these intertwined concepts? The answer is that both constitute sanctuaries. The Tabernacle (Temple) is a sanctuary in space and the Shabbat is a sanctuary in time. Rabbi JB Soloveitchik (1903-1993) explains that G-d, who is infinite, beyond space and time, wants us to...

Ki Tissa

Ki Tissa

AROMA THERAPY Pierre Wertheimer and Estee Lauder are two Jews that made names for themselves in the fragrance industry in the twentieth century. Fragrance for religious purposes has its origin in this week’s portion in the ketoret or Incense that was used every day in the Tabernacle, and later, in the Temple. The recipe is described as follows: And the L-d said to Moses: “Take for yourself aromatics, [namely] balsam sap, onycha and galbanum, aromatics and pure frankincense; they shall be of equal weight. And you shall make it into incense, a compound according to the art of the perfumer,...

Tetzaveh

Tetzaveh

FOUR FACETS OF LEADERSHIP Moses enjoyed a privilege above all other prophets and sages in our history: G-d spoke directly to him. Although Moses’ name is absent from this week’s parsha, the reading begins with G-d addressing him personally as ve’atah tetzaveh, “and you shall command” with the pronoun atah, ‘you’, standing alone as a separate word for emphasis, rather than just being incorporated into the usual verbal form tetzaveh, ‘you shall command.’ The Zohar on this week’s sidra points out that this peculiarity is employed three times more in our readings of the Tabernacle. In chapter 28:1, we read...

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