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Posted March 10, 2017 - 2:12pm

After giving instructions for making the oil for the Temple menorah, parashat Tetzave is primarily focused on the consecration of the kohanim (priests). This consecration includes how the priestly garments, particularly those of the Kohen Gadol (high priest), are to be tailored. The garments of the Kohan Gadol were to be unique in every way. One garment in particular, the ephod, was to be made of a special combination of various materials:

And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. (Exodus 28:6)

These components—gold (thread), blue (yarn), purple (yarn), scarlet yarn, and fine linen—were all to be woven together by an expert craftsman to create something beautiful and unique for the man who would serve in the most holy position on earth. Since the gold was to be used as in the fabric itself, creating this gold thread would have been a challenging endeavor. The blue, purple, and scarlet yarn would have been made from the wool of sheep or goats that had been dyed to a rich and vibrant color. The linen (made from the fibers of flax stalks), however, would have been either left in its natural color or bleached to appear a pure white. Once all of these materials were woven together, the ephod would have taken on a color, texture, and pattern that would set the Kohen Gadol apart from all of the other kohanim (priests) designated to serve Hashem. 

Posted March 3, 2017 - 6:49am

The Bridge

Up until Parashat Terumah we hear nothing mentioned about a plan to build a Mishkan, a Tabernacle. God had delivered the Children of Israel from Egypt, taken them to be his Am Segulah (Treasured People), and given them His Torah. It seemed like a finished product, with the exception of taking them to their land. Now, however, Moses comes back down Mt. Sinai and begins communicating the plans Hashem has given him to build a portable structure that they would set up and tear down at each of their encampments. The Mishkan would become a holy edifice that will allow interaction between God and man. It would be something like a portal by which the priesthood will be able to enter the presence of the Almighty, similar to what only Moses was allowed to do thus far. But in order to accomplish this momentous task, the Children of Israel would have to work together for this common cause. The Torah records for us Hashem’s request:

The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me.” (Exodus 25:1–2)

What was the goal? Was it so that God could dwell in a structure? Was it so that they could rival pagan religious practices? No. He gives Moses the reason. He said, “And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:8). It was for this singular reason that Hashem desired the Tabernacle to be built. He wanted to create a bridge between God and man, an edifice that could cross over both time and space to bring man into union with his Creator. But in order for this structure to fulfill its purpose, it couldn’t just be a structure. It had to be built in such a way that it was a miniature copy of the Divine Tabernacle that already existed in the heavenly realm. Hashem told Moses:

Posted February 24, 2017 - 3:56pm

Although Parashat Mishpatim is just over three chapters in length, it contains over fifty of the six hundred and thirteen commandments. It is densely packed with various commandments, particularly those involving civil issues. There’s a problem, however, with the application of these commandments if we are attempting to follow a literal reading of the text. Here is an example:

For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor. (Exodus 22:9)

There are numerous problems with reading this passage literally, however. For instance: How do disputing parties “come before God?” Where is this to take place? Also, according to this passage, “the one whom God condemns” is liable to the financial penalty. But how do they know the verdict? What if both parties believe that God has judged in their favor? How is this resolved?

The problems with this passage revolves around translation. In this passage, both parties are to be brought before אלהים, elohim. The problem is that this Hebrew word has a wide variety of meanings. It literally means god(s), but can also mean God, powers, judges, mighty ones, etc. Although it use used frequently throughout the Hebrew Scriptures to refer to the Creator, it also has numerous other uses. Psalm 82 begins:

God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah (Psalm 82:1–2)

Posted February 24, 2017 - 4:47am

Rabbi Chananiah ben Teradion said: If two sit together and no words of Torah are interchanged between them, theirs is the session of the scornful, as it is written (Psalm 1:1) “Nor sit in the seat of scoffers.” But when two sit together and words of Torah pass between them, the Divine Presence rests between them, as it is written (Malachi 3:16) “Then those who revered the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD took note and listened, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who revered the Lord and thought on his name.” (m.Avot 3:3)

Some will scoff at Rabbi Chananiah ben Teradion’s directive and say that he is an extremist. They will claim that his expectations are unrealistic. They believe that conversations like Rabbi Chananiah suggest are the tell-tale signs of a religious fanatic. However, conversations along these lines should probably be the norm for followers of Yeshua, rather than the extreme. And it may be easier than one may think. Here is why.

It is easy to peer inside a person’s heart. Just listen to the topics of their conversations. What do they normally talk about? Yeshua said, “Out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). If a person’s conversations always gravitate towards a particular topic, then that is what fills his heart. Our conversations naturally echo our hearts. The words of Rabbi Chananiah are a constant reminder to examine our conversations in order to truly know what is in our hearts, and begin steering our conversations in the proper direction.

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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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