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Posted April 28, 2017 - 3:21pm

This week’s Torah portion discusses two topics largely skipped over by Bibles students today: the laws of purification after child birth and biblical leprosy. These two topics are a typical cross-section of the various topics covered by the book of Leviticus and why it is largely avoided by even the most serious students of the Scriptures. However, since the LORD considered these topics important enough to populate the Holy Scriptures, we would do well to at least familiarize ourselves with them. Let’s take a brief look at the topic of biblical leprosy.

When the Torah speaks of biblical leprosy, we must keep in mind that this is not the same as modern leprosy. Modern leprosy is a bacterial infection also known as Hansen’s disease. Although it can be a debilitating disease, it is completely treatable if caught in time. Biblical leprosy, known in the Hebrew Scriptures as tzara’at, is not caused by a bacterial or viral infection, and it has no known prescriptive cure. However, it only affected one’s status of ritual purity and communal participation. Let’s take a brief look at tzara’at and a few of its appearances in the Torah.

Posted April 28, 2017 - 5:44am

Rabbi Chaninah ben Chachinai said: He who stays awake at night and goes on his way alone and turns his heart to idle thoughts is liable for his life. (m.Avot 3:5)

In our modern culture it is easy to extend our days well into the night. We have electricity that allows us to illuminate the night just as if it were the daytime, and do just about anything in the night that we would normally do in the day. In theory, we could be much more productive than those in previous generations. But we also have a number of ways we can waste away the hours of the night. We have television, internet, and a host of other distractions that can occupy our evenings well into the wee hours of the morning if we allow them. But what if we were to use the hours we spent binging out on the latest Netflix series to study Torah or do something for the Kingdom instead?

This is the problem Rabbi Chaninah alludes to. Although his generation didn’t have all of the electronic and technological distractions that we have in our day, he understood that humans will find ways to waste time. And when we waste time that could be dedicated to Torah or mitzvot, we are throwing away a precious commodity that we can never retrieve. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, of blessed memory, understood this principle more than most people. In his lifetime he was able to accomplish what most would simply label as impossible. However, he kept his hand to the plow and did not look back. And through this dedication he was able to affect the lives of millions of people across the globe.

Yeshua understood this principle even more so. Yeshua explains this principle while in the process of healing a man blind from birth:

We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:4–5)

Posted April 21, 2017 - 4:14pm

Parashat Shemini covers the inauguration procedures for the service of the Tabernacle, as well as the dietary laws that spell out which animals are fit for consumption. Sandwiched between these topics we learn about a tragic event that results in the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu. They attempt to approach Hashem on their own terms by bringing “unauthorized fire” into the presence of the Holy One of Israel. The event that follows is horrific. The Torah tells us, “Fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD” (Leviticus 10:2).

After this tragedy, Moses instructed Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar (Aaron’s two surviving sons) on the details of eating the various offerings that were used for the service. But when the service was complete Moses realized that one of the offerings was not eaten, but entirely consumed on the fire. He became angry at Eleazar and Ithamar for not eating of it and began chastising them for this. Immediately, Aaron responded to his accusations and justified the actions of his sons. Who was right? Aaron or Moses?

Before we look to the answer, we need to understand what Moses did in this situation. Most Bible translations will say something like, “Moses searched diligently” for an answer to this dilemma. However, the Hebrew is a little more interesting. It uses the phrase, “darosh darash.” These are both two forms of the same Hebrew word, whose root means “to search out.” What is even more significant about this phrase describing Moses’ intense inquiry is that these two words are believed to be at very center—the very heart—of the Torah.

Posted April 7, 2017 - 7:23am

In our second week of learning about the sacrificial system, we read about the laws of what is known as the korban tamid, or the daily offering. Our portion begins by telling us, “This is the law of the burnt offering” (Leviticus 6:2[9]). The burnt offerings in this passage are not voluntary burnt offerings brought by petitioners, but rather the continual (tamid) or daily offerings required to be brought at the beginning and end of every single day: “One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer toward the evening” (Exodus 29:39). These two offerings serve as bookends to the daily services of the Holy House. They also serve as the basis for the daily prayer times. The morning prayers (shacharit) and the afternoon prayers (minchah) correspond to these two daily offerings.

When discussing these particular korbanot (offerings), the Torah specifies that the fire that burns on the altar should never be allowed to be extinguished. It emphasizes this point three times in our portion:

The fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it. (Leviticus 6:2[9])

The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. (Leviticus 6:5[12])

Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out. (Leviticus 6:6[13])

From this repetition we learn that there were at least three fires burning on the altar: one for burning the offerings, one for the coals required to be used while burning the incense on the Golden Altar, and one simply to ensure that there is a continual flame on the altar in the event the others should ever fail. It is this last one that we will now draw our attention to.

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Latest Book Review

The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

The Koren Ani Tefilla Siddur is one of the latest in Koren’s growing collection of siddurim (prayer books) geared towards a specific demographic. Koren describes Ani Tefilla as “an engaging and thought-provoking siddur for the inquiring high school student and thoughtful adult.” Koren says that Ani Tefillah has been developed in order “to help the user create their own meaning and connection during the Tefilla [prayer] experience.” The name of the siddur is connected with its objective. Ani Tefilla means “I pray.” 

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