Month: April 2017

Parashat Tazria - M'tzora • Leviticus 12:1-15:33

We are counting: one by one. 

The Jewish community this week continues to count the Omer, numbering the days between Passover and Shavuot. Counting the Omer might be thought of as counting down to reception of our moral responsibility and the core of our Jewish identity: the promise of freedom from slavery in Egypt, we are taught, is only realized through the performance of mitzvot presented in Torah.

Our ancestors brought a grain offering to the Temple to count the Omer. Not so applicable today! Our ritual now involves a blessing and recognition that each moment and each day that passes is important. As each day passes, we have the opportunity to think about how we are upholding our Jewish values. One by one, we number all of our days, hopefully emerging as better for our thoughtfulness and intentionality. 

Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer

Parashat Sh'mini • Leviticus 9:1−11:47

Watch the Rabcast for Rabbi Daniel Weiner's interpretation of this week's Torah portion, Parashat Sh'mini.

Chol HaMo-eid Pesach • Exodus 33:12−34:26

Straits of Possibility

In Hebrew, words often carry deeper, inter-connected meaning ripe for interpretation. The Hebrew word for Egypt, a nation much at issue in this season of our liberation and rebirth, is Mitzrayim. It is closely related to another Hebrew word: mitzrim, or straits, as in constraints or narrow places. Thus, our celebration of Pesach becomes an acknowledgment of our potential to overcome challenges both as a community and as individuals.

Culturally, historically and theologically, we as a Jewish people most fully celebrate our triumph over bondage, and thus express ultimate appreciation to God, by striving to attain the freedom for all who are currently shackled by recent forms of bondage: privation, racism, sexism, and all other pernicious “isms.”

And yet, this Festival of Afflicted Bread also compels us to address our individual bindings: obsessions and addictions; ignorance, apathy and negligence; the failure to realize our God-given opportunities. In many ways, Pesach is a mini-Yom Kippur for the Jewish individual, a mid-year check up of our progress in living out the teshuvah/repentance we vowed six months earlier. And so, we are doubly-commanded, doubly-compelled, and doubly-inspired to liberate all qualities, characteristics and experiences that prevent humanity from achieving that which God intends for us.

Chag Sameach

Rabbi Daniel Weiner

Parashat Tzav • Leviticus 6:1-8:36

With our Passover narrative so focused on the sacrifice of a lamb, it seems strange that the only kosher meat we are forbidden to eat on Passover is… lamb! The Shulchan Aruch, a Jewish legal code dating to the 1500s, forbids the consumption of lamb on Passover. As a more popular Jewish resource, the New York Times, reported in 1988: "The ancient custom of sacrificing lambs on the eve of Passover and eating the meat to begin the festival ended with the destruction of the Second Temple in A.D. 70. As a mark of respect for the memory of the temple sacrifices, the eating of a whole roasted lamb on Passover is forbidden by the code of Jewish law called Shulchan Aruch."

While it is no longer custom to eat lamb on Passover, their importance to ancient Jewish practice cannot be overstated: we hear about them not only in this week’s reading of the Haggadah but also the Torah portion. Parashat Tzav, Leviticus 6:1 - 8:36, offers instructions to the high priests about the sacrifices they were to offer on behalf of the community. In times gone by, we believed we did right by God by sacrificing and eating lamb. In modern time, we honor God by doing the exact opposite. May our Passover s'darim, their traditions and discussions, leave us open to new ways of honoring God and our peers as we internalize the lessons of the Exodus!

Rabbi Aaron C. Meyer