Tazria-Metzora. Have You ever Been Excluded?

To discuss at the table. Have you ever been excluded? How did it feel? Do you ever look askance at anyone in your community, in your school, your summer camp? Have you ever exluded someone from your group of friends, showing them the cold shoulder in a conversation, or not inviting them for an evening out? When we exclude people, how do they feel? In a social, communal or religious setting, why do we sometimes feel superior to others? When do we feel inferior? What makes us act in these ways? Our parsha speaks a mysterious disease – Tzaraat. It may affect skin, clothing or the walls of a home. If clothing is afflicted, it is burnt; if a home is affected, the stones or wood are replaced and i

Shemini. Death in the Sanctuary

This week’s parsha depicts the excitement of the Mishkan inauguration and the shock of the deaths of the new priests, Nadav and Avihu, as “each took his fire pan, put fire in it, and laid incense on it; and they offered before the Lord alien fire, which He had not commanded them. And fire came forth from the Lord and consumed them” (Vayikra/Leviticus 10:1-2) What did Nadav and Avihu do wrong? Some say they were drunk (Rashi) on the basis of the warning, a few verses ahead: “Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink, neither you nor your sons, when you enter the sanctuary and you will not die.” (10:9) Other opinions are offered by the Midrash (see Vayikra Rabba 20:6-11) drawing on the language

Tzav. Fires of Renewal

The parsha opens with a peculiar Mitzva. It a simple daily Temple ritual called Terumat Hadeshen. Every morning, a priest ascends the altar to the burning pyre that sits on its top, and removes a small volume of ash. He then descends and carefully places the ash in a designated spot alongside the altar. The ash is then disposed of outside the camp. When the Torah instructs this symbolic action of disposal, it adds an additional note: "Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire … The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.!" (Lev 6:5-6) What is this Mitzva all about? Why the symbolic removal of the ash, each and eve

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