Posted on May 21st, 2018

NUMBERS 4:21−7:89 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

The Pursuit of Peace

The parsha of Naso seems, on the face of it, to be a heterogeneous collection of utterly unrelated items. First there is the account of the Levitical families of Gershon and Merari and their tasks in carrying parts of the Tabernacle when the Israelites journeyed. Then, after two brief laws about removing unclean people from the camp and about restitution, there comes the strange ordeal of the Sotah, the woman suspected by her husband of adultery.

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Posted on May 14th, 2018

Numbers 1:1−4:20 

By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on

The Sound of Silence

Bemidbar is usually read on the Shabbat before Shavuot. So the sages connected the two. Shavuot is the time of the giving of the Torah. Bemibar means, "In the desert." What then is the connection between the desert and the Torah, the wilderness and God's word?

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Posted on May 7th, 2018

Leviticus 25:1-27:34 

Rabbi Saul F. Oresky from Mishkan Torah

This week we conclude the book of Leviticus with the double portion of Behar and Bechukotai. Behar, meaning "on the mountain," refers to Mount Sinai, the place where the Torah was given to Moses. In this parashawe learn about the laws of the Sabbatical (Shmita) and Jubilee (Yovel) years. According to the law of Shmita, every seventh year is to be a Shabbat of complete rest for the land. Although the people were allowed to gather and eat whatever the land produced on its own, they were forbidden to plow, plant, or harvest the land. God guaranteed that in the sixth year of the seven-year cycle the harvest would be so bountiful that the people would have enough to eat until the harvest of the eighth year. (During the first year of the new cycle, they would have planted but not yet been able to reap.) The Torah notes that the land is God's; we are merely tenants on it, and the land has rights.

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Posted on April 30th, 2018

Leviticus 21:1−24:23 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

The Duality of Jewish Time

Alongside the holiness of place and person is the holiness of time, something parshat Emor charts in its deceptively simple list of festivals and holy days (Lev. 23:1-44).

Time plays an enormous part in Judaism. The first thing God declared holy was a day: Shabbat, at the conclusion of creation.

The first mitzvah given to the Jewish people as a whole, prior to the Exodus, was the command to sanctify time, by determining and applying the Jewish calendar (Ex. 12:1-2).

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Posted on April 23rd, 2018

Leviticus 16:1-20:27 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Judaism’s Three Voices

The nineteenth chapter of Vayikra, with which our parsha begins, is one of the supreme statements of the ethics of the Torah. It’s about the right, the good and the holy, and it contains some of Judaism’s greatest moral commands: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself,” and “Let the stranger who lives among you be like your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt.”

But the chapter is also surpassingly strange. It contains what looks like a random jumble of commands, many of which have nothing whatever to do with ethics and only the most tenuous connection with holiness:

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