Parshiyot Aharei Mot-Kedoshim 5783

April 24, 2023

Rabbi Rob Scheinberg

“Hokheiah tokhiah et amitekha.” “You shall surely reprove your fellow.” (Leviticus 19:17) Giving critical feedback, or tokhehah (often translated as “reproof” or “rebuke”), is a positive mitzvah in the Torah. Perhaps this shouldn’t surprise us, as constructive critique and feedback is a primary way that we learn and grow. And yet, already in the time of the Talmud, two of the greatest sages of their generation indicated that almost everyone who attempts to fulfill this mitzvah is doing it wrong. In the Babylonian Talmud, Arakhin 16b, Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah differ about why the system of tokhehah seems to be broken. According to Rabbi Tarfon, “I would be surprised if there is anyone in this generation who can receive rebuke. If the one rebuking says ‘Remove the splinter from between your eyes,’ the other responds: ‘Remove the beam from between your eyes!’” In other words, the experience of receiving criticism, even when generously offered, tends to activate the hearer’s defensiveness, which in turn makes the...

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Parashat Aharei Mot 5782

April 29, 2022

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah A D’var Torah for Parashat Aharei Mot By Rabbi Michael Rothbaum (’06) In an instantly-classic scene from Fiddler, Tevye the dairyman comes to an agreement to marry off his daughter Tzeitl to the butcher Lazar Wolf. The two men celebrate by singing the rousing anthem L’Hayim — “To Life!” The lyrics report that: Life has a way of confusing us, Blessing and bruising us. Drink, l’chaim, to life! This modern Jewish sacred text reflects an elemental hasidishe teaching — namely, that that even when the material conditions of existence are meager, we raise up the sparks of holiness that surround us. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, we can lift a glass of shnapps “to life.” The toast l’hayim stretches much farther back than Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics, of course, no matter how much we revere them. Some scholars trace the custom all the way back to Talmudic times, as illustrated in this text from tractate Shabbat:...

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Parashiot Aharei Mot / Kedoshim 5781

April 23, 2021

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah A D’var Torah for Parashiot Aharei Mot / Kedoshim By Rabbi Jill Hackell (’13) You shall rise before the aged and respect the elderly; you shall fear your God, I am the Lord.” [Leviticus 19:32] This verse is found in parashat Kedoshim, a parashah which begins with Moses transmitting these words of God to the community of Israel: “You shall be holy , for I, the Lord God, am holy.” [19:1-2] What does it mean to be holy? What does God ask of us? Let’s look at our verse as an example. At one time, Israeli buses displayed the first part of this verse – mip’nei siva takum – literally, ‘Rise before the gray-hairs’, on signs, to remind younger riders that society expects them to give up their seats to their elders. What a wonderful way to create a society which teaches the...

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Parashat Aharei Mot Kedoshim

May 1, 2020

A D’var Torah for Parashat Aharei Mot Kedoshim By Cantor Sandy Horowitz (’14) Parashat Kedoshim consists of a series of commandments which God wants Moses to convey to the Israelite people. As is God’s wont, God has a lot to say as the verses in this parashah jump from one topic to another– keep My sabbaths; when you reap your harvest, leave the corners of your field for the poor and stranger; do not curse the deaf; do not cross-breed your cattle; and so on. These are a few of the laws which appear just in the first two aliyot of the Torah reading. Imagine how the Israelites might have listened to this series of commandments while trying to remember it all; it must have felt overwhelming, and perhaps a bit confusing. What harvest? What stranger? Then we arrive at the beginning of the third aliyah: “When you come into the...

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Parashat Acharei Mot – 5779

May 1, 2019

Yom Kippur Asks “Answers” – Not Just “Afflictions” A D’var Torah for Parashat Acharei Mot By Rabbi David Markus This week’s parashah (Acharei Mot) brings Torah’s first mention of Yom Kippur (#sorry), so each year this parashah starts me thinking about the High Holy Days (#notsorry). Each year, I recall how three words in this parashah once drove me from Judaism. So each year, I renew my commitment to wrestle these words that challenge me. This parashah’s three challenging words are: “afflict your souls.” Torah “sets a law for all time that you will afflict your souls (t’anu et nafshoteikhem) and do no work” (Lev. 16:29). That day is to be a “complete shabbat (shabbat shabbaton) you will afflict your souls (v’initem et nafshoteikhem)” (Lev. 16:31). For Yom Kippur, one mention of “afflict” didn’t suffice: Torah had to say it twice. From “afflict your souls” evolved Yom Kippur’s fasting, abstinence, and...

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