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...

Terumah

Terumah

GOLDEN AGE, SILVER AGE, BRONZE AGE The building of the Mishkan or Tabernacle that forms the subject of our Torah reading for the next five weeks, required the use of three kinds of metal: zahav, kesef, unechoshet, gold, silver and bronze (copper)[i] (Shemot 25:3). Recognising the underlying idea, that the Tabernacle represented, ultimately, the home we build for G-d within ourselves, the Baalei Hatosaphot give a beautiful interpretation that links these metals to the phases in a person’s life: our golden age, our silver age, and our bronze age. Our golden age is when we are in our prime. Our...

Mishpatim

Mishpatim

OUR INTERCONNECTED WORLD The laws of charity are introduced in this week’s portion. The rabbis in the Midrash make use of what appears to be a strange homily to explain these laws: Come and see how all of G-d’s creatures borrow from one another. The day borrows from the night and the night borrows from the day…the moon borrows from the stars and the stars borrow from the moon…the light borrows from the sun and the sun borrows from the light…Wisdom borrows from Understanding and Understanding borrows from wisdom…Heaven borrows from earth and earth borrows from heaven…kindness borrows from righteousness...

Yitro

Yitro

COMBATTING LONELINESS “It was on the next day that Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood before Moses from morning to night. Moses’ father-in-law saw everything he was doing for the people, and said, ‘What is this you are doing, sitting alone, and the people stand over you from morning till night…You will surely wear yourself out.’” (Shemot 18:13-14, 18) Reports this week of the English court system struggling with poor IT, remind us of the enduring relevance of Jethro’s advice to Moses, in this week’s parsha, in ensuring that he had adequate support to properly administer...

Shabbat Shira

Shabbat Shira

Some trees only grow in warm climates like the Mediterranean; the olive tree is one of them. Scientists and archeologists believe it was likely on the Syrian-Turkish border that they were first cultivated. Its oleurpein compound makes it so bitter it is inedible. Yet once cured, its oils have such rich flavour. We don’t have many olive trees here in London, although there is one in West Ham Park walking trail planted by Lady Mayoress in 2007, and they are readily available in pots all year round, down the road in Clifton Greens, Little Venice. This week we read how the...