Why circumcision overrides Shabbat

This week’s Torah portion is Tazria-Metzora, Leviticus 12:1-15:33. “And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” (Leviticus 12:3). The mitzvah of circumcision in the portion of Tazria appears amidst the discussion of the impure and pure periods immediately following childbirth. Furthermore, our sages specifically derive from this ordinance that the… Read More

Strange fire of substance abuse

Special to WJW This week’s Torah portion is Shemini, Leviticus 9:1-11:47. This week’s Torah portion contains one of only two stories in the entire book of Leviticus. Leviticus opens by describing the ritual of sacrifice, which was to be conducted by Aaron and his sons. Moses initially was given authority to demonstrate the sacrificial service,… Read More

Silence is more than golden

The last days of the festival of Passover are dedicated to the splitting of the Reed Sea, one of the most dramatic and cataclysmic events in the Bible. The Israelites have left Egypt and believe they are home free. However, the Egyptian hordes begin to chase after the newly formed free people. The Israelites, faced… Read More

Elijah and the Technicolor dreamcoat

This week’s Torah portion is Tzav, Leviticus 6:1 – 8:36. The Shabbat before Passover is called Shabbat Hagadol (the Great Sabbath), a phrase derived from the last verse of the prophetic portion read on that day which declares that God will send Elijah the Prophet on the “great day” of the Lord right before the… Read More

Drawing close to holiness

This week’s Torah portion is Vayikra, Leviticus 1:1-5:26. This week, we begin the book of Vayikra. Its English title, Leviticus, comes from its Greek name, which was based on the fact that much of the book concerns rituals performed by the Levites. Since this the third of the five books, it traditionally was the first… Read More

The wise-heartedness of art

This week’s Torah portion is Vayakhel-Pekudei, Exodus 35:1-40:38. What is the value of art? This week’s Torah portion implies that Israel is not only a nation of priests, but also a nation of artisans. Vayakhel- Pekudei seems to be a reiteration of the portions of Terumah and Tetzaveh, lovingly repeating the details of the construction… Read More

God’s mercy through a magnifying glass

This week’s Torah portion is Ki Tisa, Exodus 30:11-34:35. The generation of Israelites that left Egypt and sojourned in the desert for 40 years has a notorious reputation. Though they were privileged to be redeemed from centuries of bondage, though they received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, they are known as Dor Hamidbar, the Generation… Read More

Notes from the inner sanctuary

This week’s Torah portion is Tetzaveh, Exodus 27:20-30:10. I’d like to challenge you to a little quiz. Which narrative in the Torah gets the most coverage? To be more specific, which narrative has the most verses devoted to it? Here are the obvious contenders: The Abraham saga The Joseph saga The Exodus story, from slave… Read More

The ancient discomfort of ‘the ask’

This week’s Torah portion is Terumah, Exodus 25:1-27:19. A number of years back at a seminar with American Jewish World Service, I attended a 30-minute session on fundraising. “What can you possibly learn about fundraising in 30 minutes?” I thought to myself. As it turned out, in that amount of time you can learn two… Read More