Tzav - Shushan Purim

Posted on March 18th, 2019

Leviticus 6:1−8:36

By Rabbi Nancy Kreimer for MyJewishLearning

Finding Meaning in Ancient Rituals


How the sacrificial system lives on.

Elizabeth Ehrlich was once a comfortable “cultural Jew.” The practice of Jewish religion held little attraction for her. Miriam’s Kitchen: A Memoir (1997) is Ehrlich’s report on a year spent learning from her mother-in-law, Miriam, a Polish Holocaust survivor, the details of domestic religion-the laws and the lore. As the year passed, Ehrlich grew increasingly interested in becoming a ritual specialist in her home.

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Vayikra - Shabbat Zachor

Posted on March 11th, 2019

Leviticus 1:1−5:26

By Rabbi Jeffrey Schein for Reconstructing Judaism


Where Does the Spirit of Sacrifice Take Us?

As we now begin our study of the book of Vayikra (Leviticus), we start with two observations:

Even some fairly dedicated Torah learners find this the most difficult book of the Hamisha Humshei Torah (Five Books of Moses). As anyone who has worked with b'nai mitzvah students on writing divrei Torah (explanations of Torah) can attest, the focus of Vayikra on the sacrificial system leads to some quite canned and predictable b'nai mitzvah sermons in March and April. Typically they begin: “Our ancestors used to sacrifice their animals. We are not farmers or herdsman. Still everyone is called upon to sacrifice in their life…”

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Posted on March 4th, 2019

By Rabbi Jeffrey Schein for Reconstructing Judaism

Exodus 38:21 - 40:38


The Importance of Vision

Traditionally, as we end a book of Torah, we both congratulate ourselves and resolve to study even more diligently in the future. We say hazak, hazak, v'nitkhazek: be strong, be strong, and strengthen one another.
This seems like a particularly fitting ending to the book of Shemot in which we the Jewish people began as homeless slaves. In Pekudey, the concluding parasha of Exodus, we witness the formal dedication of the Mishkan (Ark) and the installation of Aaron and his sons as priests. Even if it will be left to future books of the Bible for the Israelites to reach their promised land, they now have a spiritual home that will accompany them throughout their journeys.

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Vayakhel - Shabbat Shekalim

Posted on February 25th, 2019

Exodus 35:1–38:20


By Rabbi James Greene for Reconstructing Judaism


Journeying from the Personal to the Communal

Up until this week's portion, the Israelites are generally referred to as “bnai Yisrael,” the Children of Israel. Only once had we been called, “beit Yisrael,” the House of Israel. It is with the completion of the Mishkan, the traveling sanctuary, that the people are generally called beit Yisrael, the House of Israel. We have been transformed from a people who share a common history, to a group of people who now share a common destiny. While we may disagree on things, even important things such as the building of the Golden Calf, or whether or not to follow a rebellion (stayed tuned for parshat Korakh), we are tied by a bond of community.

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Ki Tisa

Posted on February 18th, 2019

Exodus 30:11−34:35

By Rabbi Lewis Eron for Reconstructing Judaism


Trying to Limit the Divine


The overriding concern of the last portion of the Book of Exodus: how can one relate to God without shrinking God to the limitations of human insight and imagination? The bulk of the material, which begins with the Torah portion Terumah, deals with the intricate description of the construction of the Mishkan, the portable, tent-like sanctuary that was to be the spiritual center of Israelite life during the forty years of desert wandering. Exodus relates the detailed specifications of the Mishkan, its contents and the dress of its priests as revealed to Moses followed by an equally detailed description of how the plans were executed by the skilled Israelite artisans. By building the Mishkan, the Israelites created a place in which God’s presence could rest. But the difficult spiritual issue of what it means to be in an intimate relationship with God is not addressed.

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