Student Teaching in the New Millenium

Archive for the ‘Leviticus’ Category

How do we Sacrifice? (5772 Yom Kippur)

In Leviticus on October 7, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Remove obstructions
From all paths, make easy
The hard way and heart way.

Isaiah 57:14-58:14
Jonah 1:1-4:11
Leviticus 16:1-34
Numbers 29:7-11

Remove all obstacles from the road of My people!  For thus said He who high aloft forever dwells, proclaims Isaiah (57:14-15).  Why does Jonah follow Isaiah on Yom Kippur, when he runs in the opposite direction? Do his legs carry him, or does he go where the wind blows?

Why does Leviticus focus on redeeming the altar from the people, and not redeeming the people from their sins? This is the lot of the goat of sin offering, who is released into the wilderness. Or is it? Do our sins go with the goat, or does the goat go with our sins? Is the goat the ass in the wilderness, or are we?

Is this the human condition, following our hearts’ desires, running away from our hearts’ way?

Torah says to purify the altar. What is the altar? Is it on the bimah or among the people? Is it in the church or temple, or out in the world?

Aaron is instructed to sprinkle blood on the altar to purify it. Torah teaches that blood is life. Did the Israelites’ altar take on this holy aspect? Then, is life the altar?

If the altar is life, how do we purify life? Aaron is told to kill cows. What does this mean for us? What do we have to sacrifice? We can’t kill living cows in our homes for a variety of sanitary and practical reasons. What about golden ones?

Aaron sacrifices life on the altar of life. Torah describes providing the sacrifice, performing the sacrifice, and finally doing the sacrifice. The cows are owned by members of the congregation, not captured or stolen for the purpose. So what does the repetition mean?

Does the repetition tell us to contemplate our sacrifices before we blindly perform them?

Are materialism and ownership idolatries?

Is the modern sacrifice to put aside our idols and live life to the fullest? Is living the sacrifice?

A peaceful fast.


5771 B’chukottai V

In Leviticus on May 20, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Why is merit treated like currency?  If, as Rabbi Pinchas Winston asserts, the Israelites used up the patriarchs’ merit before they left Egypt, why bother?

What is religion?

5771 B’hukkotai IV

In Leviticus on May 20, 2011 at 1:01 am

What does it mean to be “in” a statute? Is it significant that both Hebrew words for statute and covenant are both preceded by the ‘bet’ for “in” or “with”, but ordinances and commandments are usually not?

How are we supposed to do all of these commandments?

Why would someone make a vow to give according to an estimation of a person? Where did the prescribed assessments come from? Are these taxes?

5771 B’hukkotai III

In Leviticus on May 18, 2011 at 3:35 am

Is God the wounded bride?

Does the Torah ask “who? us?”

Why One God? Who is to say that these actions weren’t spoken by some other god?

Why is God or god such a weird word?

5771 B’hukkotai II

In Leviticus on May 17, 2011 at 2:21 am

Why is this Parsha named “statutes” when the onus is on reward and punishment for carrying out the “commandments”?

Does the Prophet warn against idolizing the activities described here? Is the Prophet warning against worship of the state here?

There are patterns in the language that translations obscure, aren’t there? Is the passage more accurately translated “And chase you of you the five, a hundred. And a hundred of you ten-thousand will chase”? Poetry? Who is being chased? What does this mean?

Why is the word translated “remove” look so much like Shabbat? (vih-heesh-bah-tee) What does this mean?

Was there tension with monastic or seclusive inclinations among the traditions in Jeremiah’s time? Verses 5 and 6 read like indictments of Buddhist culture. The funny thing is, I’m not sure the Buddhists would take any issue.

5771 B’hukkotai I

In Leviticus on May 15, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Why is this the only parsha in Leviticus that begins with something other than commands or narrative?

What is the difference between “walk, keep, do” and “following and observing”? Why do modern translations condense (or obscure?) these sentiments?

How does the second interpretation honor the “spirit” of the text over the first?

Why specify “walk, keep, do”? Are these different ways of saying the same thing? The commentators offer their own interpretations. What about this one?

Explore my statutes, Love my commandments, and You will act on them.

Or this one”

Walk in Love, Keep in Mind, Do with All.


What does this statement declare? Does it declare that by “walking, keeping, and doing” we will benefit? Or does it declare that by “walking and keeping” we will “act”? Does the Torah ask “what is the point here? The act? Or the benefit?”

What is the difference between a statute and a commandment? What are the implications of acting on a statute versus acting on a commandment?

Does the Hebrew underlying “the land shall yield it’s produce and the tree shall yield it’s fruit” cleave to the English? Or is it more accurately “the land shall produce it’s yield and the tree shall yield it’s fruit”?

Does a yud suffix denote the possessive determiner for God?

5771 B’har VII

In Leviticus on May 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm

A friend at Torah study made the point that being willing to part with your land is like being willing to let go of attachments. Rashi says you should be willing to sell some of your possession if necessary, but to always retain a portion for yourself. Do we fulfill the commandment by being willing to buy and sell the physical, but retaining ourselves, as it is written, you will not be cruel to one another? Is it just as wrong to be willing to sell your soul, as it is wrong for others to bid on it?

Does the Torah then ask “why should we worry so much about the land anyway? What’s the point?”

Its appropriate for the Torah to remind us of our commitment to Shabbat in the final passage of the parsha. We return the land to its ancestral mortal caretakers during the jubilee year. We return the land to The ancestral caretaker on Shabbat.

Does the Torah then ask “is the land to us as we are to God?”

Good Shabbos

5771 B’har VI

In Leviticus on May 12, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Why distinguish between kinsman and alien slaves? Why allow slavery at all? Does this mean something different in the context of the time? How do you love your neighbor if “such you may treat as slaves”?

What does it mean to “treat as a slave?”

Does slaves’ status as property imply the owner’s responsibility for the well being of the slave? If we are to enjoy houses, fields, and vineyards again, shouldn’t we keep them in good condition?

5771 B’har V

In Leviticus on May 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm

Why shouldn’t I allow house in a walled city to be redeemed after a year? What is the difference between houses in a walled city, and open country?

Why would I hold a kinsman as a resident alien? What does this mean?

5771 B’har IV

In Leviticus on May 10, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Is the parsha talking about time?