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Tzav - Shabbat Hagadol

Posted on March 19th, 2018

Leviticus 6:1−8:36; Special Haftarah: Malachi 3:4 - 3:24 

D'VAR TORAH BY:  RICHARD N. LEVY for ReformJudaism.org

Unlikely Holiness: Pancakes, Trash, and the Priest's Big Toe

This week's portion continues the outline of the korbanot, "sacrifices," begun last week in Parashat Vayikra. Its title,Tzav, is an imperative meaning "command," and while the previous portion was addressed to the person bringing the offering, this week's parashah is addressed to the priest assisting with the offering. The priest is God's agent making sure that the "layperson's" offering is presented in the way God desires.

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Shabbat HaChodesh - Vayikra

Posted on March 12th, 2018

Leviticus 1:1−5:26


Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Navigating the Book of Leviticus

If we were to compare the Book of Exodus to a “rock” (as in Mt. Sinai) and the Book of Numbers to a “hard place” (as in the “wilderness”), then the Book of Leviticus would be somewhere “between a rock and a hard place.” My sense is that for most Reform Jews, reading the third book of the Torah, Leviticus, is more a function of calendar than choice: a tough, unavoidable literary landscape with only a few rest stops or scenic overlooks. It’s just a territory we must traverse in order to get to the next major site on our annual pilgrimage through the Five Books of Moses.

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Vayakhel-Pekudei / Shabbat Parah

Posted on March 5th, 2018

Exodus 35:1–40:38


BY:  RABBI ANA BONNHEIM for ReformJudaism.org

The Formation of a People

Parashat Vayak’heil/P’kudei is a double Torah portion that concludes the Book of Exodus. The paired Torah portions describe the building of the Tabernacle and the anointing of the priests. The parashiyot are primarily composed of many verses of detailed plans and descriptions of rituals, some of which are hard to visualize sitting in such a different world today.

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Ki Tisa

Posted on February 26th, 2018

EXODUS 30:11−34:35

D'VAR TORAH BY:  DAVID S. LIEB For ReformJudaism.org

Rearranging the Golden Calf

A case can be made that the second half of the Book of Exodus is out of order, especially the incident of the golden calf in this week's parashah, Ki Tisa.

In Exodus 24:18 we read: "Moses went inside the cloud and ascended the mountain; and Moses remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights." At the beginning of the story of the golden calf in Exodus 32:1, we read: "When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain...." Almost everything between these two verses (Exodus chapters 25 through 31 of Parashat Ki Tisa) is about the building of the Sanctuary and the priestly garments and, with some editorial creativity, can be understood as a response to the Torah's most infamous idolatrous incident; therefore, it should follow that story.

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Posted on February 19th, 2018

Exodus 27:20 - 30:10; Maftir:  Deuteronomy 25:17-19 

BY:  RABBI ANA BONNHEIM for ReformJudaism.org

Each of Us Can Kindle the Light Within

There’s something incredibly powerful about the ner tamid, usually translated as the “eternal light.” Most often, it hangs elegantly in a synagogue just before the ark, right at the front of the sanctuary. (As an interesting aside, the ner tamid was historically placed on the western wall of the synagogue as a reminder that the Holy of Holies was to its west.1) The constancy of the ner tamid was a source of great interest to me as a child. I don’t think I am unique in remembering sitting through services, gazing at the lamp, and wondering whether it really burned all the time, when was it lit for the first time, and who made sure it didn’t go out.

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