Purim used to be all about carnival: makeup, masquerade, cheering the heroes (with whom we identified ourselves), booing the villains (who were obligingly already dead) and overindulging (which we hardly ever permitted at any other time). It has in more recent years become more problematic.
Parshat Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)
The good news is that God acknowledges our quest for certainty, even allowing God's holy name to be erased in the Sotah potion to help reconcile this husband and this wife
Parshat Tzav (Leviticus 6:1-8:36)
Where shall we leave our precious emotional and spiritual possessions that don't work anymore? Maimonides says this about the ashes of the sacrifice: "Even though removing the ashes is not formally worship, they should not be carried by a person who is ineligible to serve. They should be taken outside ...
It is late in the game for Pharaoh. Mitzrayim has just endured the penultimate plague: Dark. Pharaoh now knows he has little time left: It is, for him, the bottom of the ninth.
He summons Moshe, as he has done so many times before, and for the first time conducts an earnest negotiation. The king of Egypt now concedes the demand Moshe had made earlier -- everyone may go, even the women and children. Only, says the Pharaoh, you must leave your cattle behind. Moshe declines the offer, and ups the ante. Not only are we going to take our cattle with us, he insists, but you must supplement the herd with some of your own.
"Judges and officers shall you place at all your gates."
Thus begins our parsha, which is one of the richest in rulings, teachings and commandments, and which is therefore concerned about enforcement.
There is a scribal tradition, maintained in every Torah scroll, that testifies to the problematic nature of Pinchas' reward. "I give him my covenant of peace," God tells Moses regarding the young priest. But the word for peace, shalom, is defective. The letter vav is inscribed hollow. It is a broken letter, a broken shalom, a peace that can't endure.