Parashat Shemini 5783

April 10, 2023

The Bitter and the Sweet A D’var Torah for Parashat Shemini By Rabbi Greg Schindler (’09) Most of us are familiar with the concept of a hyperlink. Case in point: hyperlink. When you click on a hyperlink, you begin a journey connecting the idea on the page to a related concept. Quite the innovation, right? Yes, indeed. The hyperlinks embedded in the Torah were quite the innovation. Wait, what? The Torah? In Jewish tradition, a hyperlink is called a gezerah shaveh – where the same words are used in two different cases in order to shed light upon each case. In this way, the Torah comments upon itself.  For example, in Num. 28:2 we read that the daily burnt offering is to be brought “בְּמוֹעֲדוֹ ” (bimoado) – “at its appointed time”, meaning even on Shabbat. In Num. 9:2, we similarly read that the Passover offering is to be brought “בְּמוֹעֲדוֹ” (bimoado). From this, the rabbis determined that, just as the daily offering is brought even on Shabbat, so...

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Parashat Shemini 5782

March 24, 2022

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah Three Lessons in Spiritual Leadership A D’var Torah for Parashat Shemini By Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman Parashat Shemini establishes Aaron as the Kohein Gadol, the spiritual leader of the Jewish people. From Aaron we might learn positive lessons about how we grow as spiritual leaders. The parasha also tells a story of Moses from which we might also learn a lesson of spiritual leadership – albeit a negative one.  And then there is the lesson of spiritual leadership which we learn from the pig. Moses said to Aaron, “Come near to the altar and perform your service…” (Lev. 9:7) Rashi points out that Moses had to tell Aaron to ‘come near’ because Aaron was reluctant, embarrassed. He still had the image of the Golden Calf and his role in that scene. He felt unworthy. Yet Moses encouraged his brother, telling him that this spiritual leadership was his true calling. Aaron approaches the altar, completes...

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Parashat Shemini 5781

April 9, 2021

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah A D’var Torah for Parashat Shemini By Rabbi Enid Lader (’10) Our Torah portion’s opening chapters recount the celebration of Aaron’s and his son’s installation as Kohanim (Priests) and conclude with tragic loss, the punishment by a fiery death of Aaron’s oldest sons, Nadav and Avihu, who “…offered before the Eternal alien fire, which He had not enjoined upon them,” and who were then consumed by fire that “came forth from God.” (Leviticus 10:1-2). Moses makes an attempt to explain God’s actions: “Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Eternal meant when He said: Through those near to Me I show Myself holy, and gain glory before all the people.’” In response, “…Aaron was silent” (Leviticus 10:3). Our Haftarah portion shares a similar story of celebration turning to tragic loss as King David is moving the Ark of the...

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Parashat Shemini 5780

April 17, 2020

“Silent” Tribute to the Dead of Covid-19 A D’var Torah for Parashat Shemini By Rabbi David Markus Spiritually speaking, what should we say amidst 120,000 covid-19 deaths? Surely there must be something we should say, some right response – right? If these questions land a gut punch, if they rouse gnawing emptiness, if they jumble emotions and singe the soul, then we might just barely begin to imagine Aaron in this week’s paresha (Shemini). How could the High Priest of Israel lose his sons Nadav and Avihu to divine fire, and then respond with silence – vayidom Aharon (Leviticus 10:3)? This timely question, about one of Torah’s most difficult texts, touches our core both as individuals and as spiritual leaders – especially now. But let’s be clear: our question’s covid-19 context isn’t so unusual in a global sense. According to the United Nations, over 165,000 people die every day from all causes (e.g. age,...

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Parashat Shemini

March 29, 2019

The Center of the Torah A D’var Torah for Parashat Shemini By Rabbi Len Levin “The Masoret (textual tradition) is a safeguarding fence around the Torah.” (Avot 3:13) What is the core of the Torah? At several places in this week’s Torah reading and in adjacent readings, the astute reader will see notes indicating that this or that verse is the center of the Torah counting by verses, by words, or by letters. What is this about? The Talmud relates: “The earlier authorities were called soferim because they counted [soferim] all the letters of the Torah” (Kiddushin 30a). From this they concluded that the center of the Torah, counting by letters, is the vav in the word gahon (belly) in the verse, “You shall not eat anything that crawls on its belly” (Lev. 11:42). Counting by verses, it is the verse “ shall shave himself” (Lev. 13.33). And counting by...

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