What is a dedicated vegetarian, who is also a believing, contemporary Jew, to make of the book of Leviticus, specifically this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra? From the very beginning of the portion, we are confronted with animal sacrifice, with grisly descriptions of blood and torn...
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March 5, 2014 | 11:05 am
April 18, 2013 | 8:23 am
Exalted One –
You call us to holiness,
To climb the ladder,
Higher and higher,
To reach as far as we might,
But never to rise above the angels.
You call us to purity,
To be as priests,
In this world,
Separate and apart,
Between our flawed humanness...
April 12, 2013 | 7:11 am
April 4, 2013 | 4:07 am
The most elaborate, comprehensive and effective system for the prevention of animal cruelty was not invented by the FDA or even PETA; it was devised by the Book of Leviticus. This may seem a strange idea. Without question, it swims rather roughly against that trusty river of...
May 9, 2012 | 12:04 pm
March 29, 2012 | 5:54 pm
Growing up, I related to the book of Leviticus and its sacrificial cult with indifference (what’s this got to do with me?) or embarrassment (does God really need us to kill animals, sprinkle their blood and burn their carcasses for ritual purposes?). But over time, I’ve learned...
March 21, 2012 | 1:50 pm
At the ripe age of 8, I learned the Peter Allen song “Everything Old Is New Again.” It may have been an unusual choice for an 8-year-old to crave hearing over and over. But for me, this song was synonymous with dance class, doing the soft shoe that landed me on stage for the...
May 17, 2011 | 5:55 pm
In 2008, the Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed written by Marisol Leon, a young woman who graduated from Yale in 2007 and returned to teach in the same public middle school she had attended:
“‘Think Ivy League,’ pleaded Mrs. Anderson, my English teacher. ‘Ivy League? What is...
April 5, 2011 | 6:09 pm
Author Hillel Halkin, reviewing the Koren Sacks Siddur in the spring 2010 Jewish Review of Books, recounts a charming story that he heard from his father:
“My father, who prayed with great kavanah [concentration] yet was adamant about having no religious beliefs whatsoever …...
March 8, 2011 | 5:35 pm
Jewish tradition instructs that young children should begin their Jewish education by studying the book of Leviticus. Even a cursory reading of the blood and gore that make up the sacrificial rites described in the third book of the Torah would lead most teachers to conclude that...
April 22, 2009 | 2:02 am
A number of years ago, when my two daughters were 8 and 6, we had the pleasure of spending a family summer vacation in Israel. We stayed at my mother-in-law’s home right near Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan. One day while eating breakfast we heard a truck pass outside with a...
April 1, 2009 | 11:12 pm
The theme of Parshat Tzav is korbanot, the animal sacrifices brought in the Tabernacle and, later, in the Temple.
The Rambam, in his “Guide For the Perplexed,” writes, “The purpose of sacrifices being incorporated into the Divine service of the Jewish people was to accommodate...
March 25, 2009 | 3:59 am
My wife met a pastor’s wife on a plane. Every few months now, we have Darren, an evangelical pastor, and his wife, Amy, over to our Shabbat lunch table.
I talk about how our Shabbat sometimes feels too regulated, and he talks about how their Sabbath sometimes lacks enough...
October 28, 2008 | 8:59 pm"My Christian friends say homosexuality is a sin. Isn't Judaism based on the same Old Testament bible? How does our synagogue welcome homosexuals with acceptance and equality?"
I was substituting for our rabbi in our 10th grade confirmation class. Homosexuality is not a...
July 29, 2008 | 5:48 pm
When I read A.J. Jacob’s “The Year of Living Biblically,” I wished I had thought of spending a year living like an ancient Israelite. But the book had already been written, and I didn’t know an adulterer to stone, so I moved on to other odd makeovers, like growing a mustache. What then does Daniel Harrell hope to gain from his 30-day Leviticus challenge?
May 10, 2007 | 8:00 pmFact: 54 percent of Americans worry about their daily stress levels.
Stress instigates anxiety disorders. Medically categorized as "neuroses," these nonpsychotic mental illnesses trigger feelings of uncomfortable inner emotional apprehension that dominate perception and impair...
May 3, 2007 | 8:00 pmNot all of us realize it, but Parshat Emor is one of the most frequently read Torah portions we encounter. We typically read it in May, and again on Passover's second day and on the first two days of Sukkot. It is read on these two festivals because, like D'varim (Deuteronomy)...
April 26, 2007 | 8:00 pm
Oh, deep in my heartThose lyrics, known for inspiring so many movements for justice and righteousness, are at the core of what I am thinking about these days. Is it truly possible to overcome?
I do believe
That we shall overcome, someday!
From what great wellspring did this...
April 19, 2007 | 8:00 pmI just love newborn babies, especially at around 3 months old. As I brush my face along theirs, I love their baby smell, their soft, smooth skin and their facial expressions. The fact is it's a joy caring for babies. They don't talk back, they don't miss curfews, and they don't...
April 12, 2007 | 8:00 pmReligious zeal is on the rise around the world. It can be a wonderful blessing, and it can be a horrible curse. It all depends on how humans with free will manage it.
When God allows a Divine Flame to be ignited within the soul of an individual or within the collective soul of a...
March 29, 2007 | 8:00 pmA few years ago I invited a Mormon family to our seder. The presence of non-Jewish guests in our home changed the dynamic in many ways, not the least of which was our newfound enthusiasm for giving clear and thorough explanations of the rituals we observe each year. This Mormon...
November 2, 2006 | 7:00 pm
April 27, 2006 | 8:00 pm
I recently visited a congregant in the hospital and was surprised to find a doctor crying in the hallway. I told her I was a rabbi and asked if I could help. The doctor immediately apologized for her tears.
"It's been a hard week," she said, "I'll be OK."
She told me she had just...
April 20, 2006 | 8:00 pm
The Torah sometimes gives us verses that shock us. You know, the kind that wake us up, make sure we are paying attention. This week, in Parshat Sh'mini, we find such a verse. The story of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron who die a tragic death at the hand of God for supposedly...
May 12, 2005 | 8:00 pm
I remember visiting Harvard Square in Cambridge 30 years ago when I was a rabbi in Brookline, Mass. Among all the curious-looking people, myriad bookstores and Harvard University buildings was a huge bin of clothes, furniture cast-offs and other items. The sign in front said...
April 14, 2005 | 8:00 pm
One day, Rabbi Shimon Ben Elazar was riding his donkey along the coastal road. He was enjoying the beautiful scenery and reviewing in his mind the wonderful study session he had with his rabbi at Migdal Eder, when he encountered a man who was extremely ugly.
"How ugly you are,"...
March 24, 2005 | 7:00 pm
On a rabbinic mission to Israel in 1998, Natan Sharansky, then Israel's minister of industry and trade, addressed our group.
Sharansky recounted to us how he was invited to visit Russia a year after his election to the Knesset. It was the first time in history that a past prisoner...
May 20, 2004 | 8:00 pm
March 25, 2004 | 7:00 pm
In the Wrong
In the third book of the Torah, Leviticus, we learn a lot about the Levites, who were the priests in the Tabernacle; we also learn about the different sacrifices for different types of sins. If you committed a sin on purpose, you brought one kind of sacrifice; if you did...
March 25, 2004 | 7:00 pm
Once, on a mission to Israel, we needed a minyan for a prayer service during the airplane flight. We were a total of six men in our group, so we began to scan the plane for the remaining four for the requisite 10 men.
As I went up and down the aisles, one fellow turned to me and...