Parsha Thoughts: Rabbi Jay Kelman

Metzora: Covering the Lips

Judaism teaches that everything has the potential for holiness; after all everything in this world was created by G-d. But it is up to man to actualize that potential and imbue the world with holiness. Eating, marital relations, and earning a livelihood are not only a means to an end, but if done properly are acts that are instinctively holy and the fulfilment of a divine mitzvah. The physical and spiritual worlds are not meant to be in conflict but rather are meant to complement each other.

Shmini: Seek the Middle

“Moshe then inquired, darosh darash, about the goat of the sin offering, and it had been burned” (Vayikra 10:16). Judaism has always stressed the importance of the middle position. Ideologically, the Rambam teaches, we should seek the middle ground (the golden mean). We lain with the sefer Torah in the middle surrounded by two people, and a Torah scholar walks in the middle of his entourage. Rosh Hashanah is the first day of the seventh month—the middle of the year—and thus, the most appropriate time for introspection.

Tzav: Time to Change?

Excitement and consistency: We tend to view these terms as contradictory. Man gets excited over discovering new things and views variety as the spice of life. Modern man is bored with a consistent routine and eschews the seeming monotony that accompanies lack of change. It is the new and exciting that we seek. Even investors find the “old economy” boring and are willing to pour billions of dollars into new and untested, but “exciting” companies.

Vayikra-Zachor: Remembering Sacrifices

One of the fiercest debates amongst Biblical commentators of the medieval period was to what extent, if at all, parts of the Torah may be seen as allegorical. No less a personage than the Rambam claimed that stories such as the three angels visiting Avraham, or Yaakov’s struggle with an angel, were prophetic visions that did not actually occur. As one can imagine, views such as these—and more radical ones, which allegorized such mitzvot as the “sign on our arm”, i.e., tefillin—met with vociferous opposition.

Pekudei: Remember the Count

"These are the accounts, pekudei, of the tabernacle, the tabernacle of testimony, as they were pukad, rendered, according the commandment of Moshe, through the service of the Levites, by the hand of Itamar the son of Aharon the high priest" (Shemot 35:1). The word pekudei, from the root pkd, seems a rather odd choice. Words such as meispar, number, or minyan, count, would seem more readily to convey the idea of counting.

Vayakhel: Building the Shabbat

“The laws of Shabbat…are like a mountain being held up by a thread” (Chagigah 10a). Shabbat is the pivot around which Jewish life revolves. Its laws are vast and detailed, and are applicable week in and week out. Yet beyond the mitzvah to “remember” and “guard” the Shabbat, we are told next to nothing about how to observe it. One little verse—“Do not light a fire in all your dwelling places on Shabbat” (Shemot 35:3)—and that is about all we are told[1].

Tetzaveh: Clothes Make the Man

The billions of dollars spent by the fashion industry, not to mention the celebrity status of fashion gurus, testify to the importance attached to proper dress by modern society. It may come as a surprise that Judaism also stresses the importance of clothing, well beyond aspects of modesty. The Rambam (Hilchot Deot 5:9) stresses the importance of wearing clean, even fashionable clothing, and warns against wearing dirty or unkempt clothing.

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