Torah Portion - Conservative
BY MATTHEW BERKOWITZ, JTSA.edu
A Slow Walk to Freedom
With this coming Shabbat, we begin the fourth book of Torah known as the book of Numbers or Bemidbar. Having occupied ourselves with the details of the priests, purity, and ritual, we now turn our attention to the Israelite wanderings in the desert. Notably, Parashat Bemidbar is obsessed with order: a census, Levitical duties, and the spatial arrangement of the Israelite encampment. We read the extensive list of names, exact numbers of those belonging to each tribe, and the precise location of each tribe in relation to the Tabernacle. How are we to understand and grasp this obsession with order in the desert?
Rabbi Shmuel Avidor HaCohen explains:
Academy for Jewish Religion
“G’d’s Nearness is a Promise”
By Rabbi Elisheva Beyer, RN, MS, JD, ’06
Bechukotai tells us of G-d’s promises for following His commandments and consequences for failing to do so. The parsha opens with, “Bechukotai tale’chu,” which translates as, “If you go in My chukim….” “Chukim” (plural) or “chok” (singular) has several meanings.
BY LAUREN EICHLER BERKUN for JTS
As we stand in the midst of Sefirat Ha-Omer, the period of counting 49 days from Pesach to Shavuot, we read the very parashah which contains the instructions for this count. Parashat Emor teaches:
"From the day on which you bring the sheaf of elevation offering–the day after the sabbath–you shall count off seven weeks. They must be complete: you must count until the day after the seventh week–fifty days; then you shall bring an offering of new grain to the Lord" (Lev. 23:15).
This selection from parashat Emor is traditionally recited each night of the Omer before the ritual counting. However, while the biblical text is explicit about our need to count, the reason for counting is a mystery. The rabbis of the Talmud understood this period as a countdown to Matan Torah, God's gift of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
BY STEPHEN A. GELLER, from JTS
Separation and Union: The Poles of Holiness
These combined parashiyot are complex in their structure and content, yet a careful examination of these chapters reveals a striking and powerful theological insight. In terms of Bible scholarship, they extend across a major divide in the priestly literature: Leviticus 16 describes the detailed rites of yearly atonement that eliminated the taint of sinfulness from the priesthood, shrine, and people. In essence, it is a kind of re-creation of the initial state of purity of the Tabernacle on the day it was dedicated, as described in Leviticus 9-10. The link between atonement and dedication is made subtly, by the reference at the beginning of Leviticus 16 to the tragic deaths of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, at the dedication of the Tabernacle, as recounted in Leviticus 10. The first part of the parashah therefore should be read as a continuation of the first half of Leviticus, chapters 1-15, which describe the establishment of sacrifice and cult. The dominant themes are purity and forgiveness, which are given as the purpose of all the types of sacrifice.
BY RACHEL AIN for JTS
Abracadabra! These words, recited by magicians all over the world, when broken down into smaller words introduce us to the truest mystery-the creation of the world. A'bara K'adabra - I will create as I have spoken. Just as magicians claim to have the power to change the reality that is in front of them with words, so too, when God created the world it was done not with hands, not with tools, but with speech. In Genesis 1:3 the first thing that God does is to speak. This verse reads, "And God said: 'Let there be light'; And there was light." What is it about the power of the spoken word that causes it to transform worlds?
Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47
BY MATTHEW BERKOWITZ, DIRECTOR OF ISRAEL PROGRAMS for JTS
Silence and Loss
One of the most enigmatic and painful moments of all of Tanakh occurs in Parashat Shemini. Nadav and Avihu, Aaron’s sons, come before the altar and offer what Torah describes as an “alien fire.” Without any sense of deliberation or warning, a divine fire issues forth and consumes Aaron’s progeny. Clearly shocked by the mystery of their deaths, Leviticus tells us that “Aaron was silent” (Lev. 10:1–3). Though I have often pointed to Aaron and his response as a powerful example of mourning the inexplicable loss of loved ones, Nahmanides gives us pause to reconsider the peshat(Torah’s literal meaning) of this verse. I, and many others, have always understood Aaron’s reaction as a deep, impenetrable silence reflecting the most genuine and profound reaction to tragedy. Ramban is far more nuanced in his reading.
This Saturday, April 7, 2018, is the last day of Passover for Jews in the Diaspora
Deuteronomy 14:22 - 16:17 & Numbers 28:19 - 28:25
Like the reading for the second day, it catalogs the annual cycle of festivals, their special observances, and the offerings brought on these occasions to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Eighth Day's special connection with the Future Redemption is reflected in the Haftorah (reading from the Prophets) for this day (Isaiah 10:32-12:6).
Morning service. Half-Hallel is recited. Two Torah scrolls are taken out of the ark. The Yizkor memorial service is recited following the Torah reading.
On the FIRST DAY OF PASSOVER we read from the book of Exodus (12:21-51) & Numbers (28:16 - 28:25) of the bringing of the Passover Offering in Egypt, the Plague of the Firstborn at the stroke of midnight, and how "On this very day, G‑d took the Children of Israel out of Egypt."
Chag Sameach!/Happy Holiday!
Want more information on Passover? Check out Jvillage Network's Passover Guide.