Posted on May 22nd, 2017

NUMBERS 1:1−4:20 

By Rabbi Zalman Kastel, National Director of the Multi-Faith based Together for Humanity Foundation. 

Ambiguity and Mystery vs. Clarity & Display 

We crave clarity in an ambiguous world. In the early 90′s I struggled to decide on a vocation. Did I want to join the Chabad movement’s team of “Shluchim” agents of the Rebbe to try to bring Jews back to observance or undertake some other path? As I sat at a tribute dinner to my grandfather Rabbi Joshua T. Kastel in Boston shortly after he passed away and heard how much he was loved and how he contributed as dean of the Lubavitch school there, I decided that I did not need to decide because the decision had already been made for me. I had to try to fill his shoes, this was my destiny and life’s work. Except that it wasn’t. Since 2006 my full-time occupation is focused on the needs of the wider community and 
diversity education work.

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Posted on May 15th, 2017

Leviticus 25:1-26:2 / 26:3-27:34 

by Rori Picker Neiss, Yeshivat Maharat 

Thousands of people who visit the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia each year are struck by the iconic symbol of American independence. They admire the majesty of the aged metal. Their eyes trace the jagged line of the prominent crack. And they read the inscription encircling its top, giving the bell its illustrious name: "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof" (Leviticus 25:10).

What few people may realize as their eyes scan the inscribed words is that this verse comes not from the story from the Exodus, but from this week's Torah portion, and refers, surprisingly, to the laws of yovel, of the Jubilee year.

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Posted on May 8th, 2017

Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23 


Jewish Priests (Kohanim) and Caring for the Dead

Although priests cannot have any contact with death, exceptions are made for their immediate relatives.

Parashat Emor recounts the ritual laws that govern priests‘ behavior toward the dead. Priests are not to have any contact with death. Priests do not touch corpses nor can they be in the immediate presence of the dead. This means that priests do not attend funerals, go to the cemetery or care for the dead. The only exception is for their closest relations (parents, siblings, wives, and children).

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik teaches that for Judaism, the world is the scene of a cosmic battle of life against death. God creates life and loves it. Death is the enemy, the antithesis of God. The Temple, representing perfection and the pure presence of God, is totally devoted to life. Therefore, no form of death can enter the Temple. Human beings who come in contact with the dead can enter into the Temple only after they are purified, i.e., they are born again to life.

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Posted on May 1st, 2017

LEVITICUS 16:1-20:27 

By Rabbi Moshe Morduchowitz, The following article is reprinted with permission from the Orthodox Union for

The Limits Of Spirituality


Nadav and Avihu died in an act of sanctification; our goal should be to sanctify God through our lives, not our deaths.

Nadav and Avihu, two of Aaron‘s four sons, were killed, the Torah states, “when they came close before God.” The Torah then goes on to describe the service performed by Aaron on Yom Kippur.

Who were Nadav and Avihu, and what do their deaths have to do with Yom Kippur ?

Furthermore, why were they killed? Is it not the duty of every Jew to strive to come close to God?

Nadav and Avihu died during the sanctification of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). “They offered before the Lord an alien fire, which He had not commanded… and a fire came forth and consumed them.”

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Posted on April 24th, 2017

Leviticus 12:1-15:33 

Rabbi Bernie Fox, OU

Speak to Bnai Yisrael saying: When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male she, shall be impure for seven days as she is impure in (the case) of her separation occasioned by menstruation. (Sefer VaYikra 12:2)

1. An overview of the content of Parshat Tazria

Parshat Tazria deals with two topics. First, it discusses the laws regarding a woman who gives birth. The Torah explains that following the birth of a male child, a woman is impure for seven days. During this period, it is prohibited for her to be intimate with her husband. This is followed by a periods of thirty-three days during which intimacy is permitted. However, for the entire period of forty days she is disqualified from consuming foods that are sanctified. For example, she may not eat any portion of a sacrifice. She is also excluded from entry into the Mikdash – the Temple. At the end of the forty days, she brings a pair of sacrifices and is restored to a state of purity. The same basic law applies when a female child is born. However, the periods are doubled. She initially enters into a fourteen day period of impurity followed by a sixty-six day period during which intimacy is permitted, but she is restricted from eating consecrated foods and from entry into the Mikdash. She then brings a pair of sacrifices and is restored to complete purity.

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