The Jewish Duty of Taking Good Care of our Bodies
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
This week we are going to read two parashot, Acharei Mot and Kedoshim. The second parasha, Kedoshim, starts with these words: “Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the LORD your God, am holy.” (Vayikra 19:1).
How can we be holy? The Torah enumerates a long list of laws that enable us to become holy people. There are laws related to different aspects of daily life. They deal with ritual, with business ethics, with proper behavior toward needy and afflicted people, and with family and social relations. They are very meaningful and important laws.
In this opportunity, I would like to focus on one of these laws: “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.” (Vayikra 19:28) It means that we shouldn’t injure or damage our body.
Torah Sparks April 25
Judaism is a Combination of Ethics and Ritual
Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
Last week’s parasha, Shemini, ended with many of the laws of kashrut. Specifically, it contained a long list of animals that are permitted or forbidden to eat. The first parasha we read this week, Tazria (this week we read two parashot, Tazria and Metzora), deals with the laws of negayim, different health conditions that could affect people. Most notably, the disease called tzaraat (sometimes understood as leprosy), is described.
As usual, the rabbis try to learn a lesson from the fact that one topic in the Torah comes right after a very different one. In our case, why would the Torah set the rules for eating kosher right before the rules about the Biblical diseases called negayim? I would like to share with you an explanation provided by Rabbi Israel Lipkin from Salant (also known as Israel Salanter, 1809, Zhagory – 1883, Königsberg; he was the father of the Musar movement).
“The Counting of the Omer, the plague which hit Rabbi Akiva’s students and the hope for the upcoming Lag BaOmer in our time”
From the second night of Passover until the eve of Shavuot we count the Omer for forty-nine days. Every night we stand, we recite the blessing and we count one more day.
It is written in the Torah: “And you shall count from the day following the holiday: from the day that you brought the Omer for rocking it, seven full weeks, will be. Until the day after the seventh week, you shall count fifty days and then offer a new offering to Adonai ” (Vayikra 23: 15-16).
In the Biblical time, this period marked the beginning of the barley harvest when Jews would bring the first sheaves to the Temple as a means of thanking God for the harvest. The word Omer literally means “sheaf” and refers to these early offerings.
Torah Thoughts Pesach 5780
By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
The Passover Seder, the greatest gathering of the Jewish year, is nearly upon us, and this year it will be celebrated like no other. One of the most well-known texts we read (and sing!) during the Seder is Mah nishtanah ha-leila ha-zeh, “How different is this night from all other nights.” Indeed, in this year of the Coronavirus crisis, there is no question our Seder, and Passover in general, will be different.