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Posted April 27, 2018 - 8:30am

The Four Prohibitions

After detailing the instructions for the Yom Kippur service, the parashot of Acharei Mot and Kedoshim then hit a series of seemingly unrelated topics concerning a number of different things. For the contemporary reader, particularly to those of us from among the nations, these strange regulations seem completely out of the realm our modern lives. Outside of the obvious ethical principles of forbidden sexual relationships, what possible relevance do these seemingly antiquated ritual concerns have for us today?

In the days of the Apostles, something happened that had really never happened before, especially on the scale that the Apostles began to see. Because of the message of Yeshua going forth to the nations, particularly due to the ministry of the Apostle Paul, Gentiles began flocking to Judaism by the droves. Although this was a Yeshua-centric form of Judaism, nonetheless, it was an expression of Judaism that still found its identity in the Torah, the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and in the local synagogues. It was expressly Jewish. Now, however, a great number of Gentiles had begun attaching themselves to the God of Israel through faith in the Jewish Messiah. Prior to this point of time, Gentiles who came near to the God of Israel were expected to undergo a formal conversion to become Jewish in order to complete their journey of faith. After all, how does a person explain that their religion is Jewish if they are not?

In Acts 15, the Apostles wrestled through this identity crisis for Gentile disciples of Yeshua. Did these Gentiles need to fully convert and become Jewish in order to be a part of this Jewish religion or not? They definitely could not remain like they were, because the pagan practices of their previous lives would surely lure them away from the new life they had found in Messiah.

Posted April 20, 2018 - 6:24am

The Leper Messiah

Parashat Tazria begins by discussing the purification rituals of childbirth and then quickly moves into the complicated laws of biblical leprosy. As we have discussed previously, biblical leprosy is not your standard pathological disorder, but rather an affliction that is spiritual in nature. This ancient malady does not exist today, but we read about cases of its appearance during the biblical period. And although it wasn’t contagious in the manner of a bacterial or viral infection, it could be transmitted from one person to another. The leper was to remain isolated the entire duration of his affliction:

The leprous person who has the disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head hang loose, and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, “Unclean, unclean.” He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease. He is unclean. He shall live alone. His dwelling shall be outside the camp. (Leviticus 13:45–46)

At the end of Parashat Metzora we have a series of laws dealing with bodily discharges and the ramifications of ritual impurity they create. One such issue is a woman who has a discharge of blood outside of her normal cycle:

Posted April 13, 2018 - 7:08am

Parashat Shemini contains the primary passages in the Torah that spell out the laws of kashrut, laws pertaining to clean and unclean foods. It is entirely in regard to animals. It defines which animals may be eaten by the Children of Israel and which animals may not be eaten. Many modern-day readers quickly dismiss these laws as antiquated, irrelevant, and having been repealed in the New Testament. However, these attitudes do not reflect those of Yeshua or the Apostles. Let’s briefly review what the Torah says about food and then look at one implication for us today.

The Torah begins its food laws with land animals. It tells us that in order for a land animal to be fit for consumption it needs to have two qualifications: It needs to have a completely split hoof, and it needs to “chew the cud” (Leviticus 11:3). Animals that have one trait, but not the other, are forbidden for consumption. The Torah gives the example of the hare who chews the cud but does not have split hoofs, and the pig who has split hoofs, but does not chew the cud. Animals such as these are off limits.

Water-dwelling creatures, however, have other criteria. They have to have both fins and scales. So, for example, catfish would be off limits. Although they have fins, they do not have scales. Other water-dwelling animals that would be off limits would be things like shrimp, lobster, crab, sharks, eels, shellfish, etc.

Winged creatures, however, have no classification, per se. The Torah simply gives a list of winged creatures that may not be eaten. And to complicate matters, many of the creatures listed in the original Hebrew cannot be identified with absolute certainty. Therefore, oral tradition plays a large part in determining what kinds of foul are considered permissible and which are not.

Posted April 3, 2018 - 8:40pm

Omer chart thumbnailOmer stickers thumbnail

Counting the days between Passover and Pentecost is a biblical mandate! Here is a free activity download for 5778/2018 to help your family both remember to count the omer between Passover/Pesach and Pentecost/Shavuot, as well as make it fun (see link below). We have created a calendar sheet and cut-n-paste “stickers” (bring your own glue stick -or- print onto some crack-n-peel) to count the omer all the way to Shavuot. Why do we count the omer? Read up on it here.

Feel free to download these, print them out and use them for your family or congregation. Be sure to share this page on your Facebook timeline as well as Tweet it to your friends so they will be able to enjoy it as well. Enjoy! Chag Sameach!

Download now:


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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