Recent Issues By: Rabbi Neal Borovitz, Temple Avodat Shalom , River Edge, New Jersey, USA On Thursday May 5th, Jews around the world will stop and remember the six million Jews who perished during the ‘Kingdom of Night’* that we have come to call the Holocaust. While every day is a Yahrzeit for unimaginable numbers […]
Recent Issues In this week’s double Torah portion, Acharey Mot-K’doshim , which spans Leviticus chapter 16 through 20, we find an intriguing ‘sandwich’ of teachings. While Leviticus chapters 18 and 20 focus on a litany of sexual prohibitions, Leviticus 19, the chapter in between, outlines social justice legislation. What is even more intriguing about this […]
Recent Issues by Rabbi Mark Leonard Winer MBE, former senior rabbi at the West London Synagogue , and chair of the World Union International Interfaith Task Force We Jews have often become the scapegoat for whatever crisis arises. In the recent Ukrainian conflict, Vladimir Putin justified his policies toward the Ukraine with his claim that […]
Recently a former student of mine who I am particularly fond of wrote me a letter asking my opinion about a discussion she had with other Jewish friends. The discussion was about conversion to Judaism and whether or not belief in God was mandatory for the candidate to be accepted by the Beit Din to become a Jew. Some felt that as long as the Jew by Choice followed the rules (mitzvot), led a Jewish life, and did not practice another religion, he/she could become Jewish. Others felt that faith and practice were inseparable and that belief in the God of the Jewish People was a pillar of being a Jew.
“You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2)This is how Parashat Kedoshim begins, and it concludes echoing the same theme from the beginning: “You shall be holy to Me; for I the Lord am holy, and I have set you apart from other peoples, to be Mine” (Leviticus 20:26). In between these verses appear no less than fifty one commandments – counted in rapid succession and in order which is seemingly random.
These instructions to the Israelite nation while still in the dessert and while still a “society” in formation, established a clear cut norm which we as a Jewish community are commanded to follow: we are to keep away from the practices of the non-Jews with whom we live. We, the covenanted people to Adonai, have our own set of rules and practices which must guide our actions. We must stay away from the “others” and not copy what they do.
This coming Shabbat we read a double portion: Achrei Mot-Kedoshim. The last parsha is also called ‘The Holiness Codex’. It starts by commanding us to be holy. Or does it? God says to Moses: “Instruct the community of Israel: kedoshim t’yehiyu, be holy, because I the Lord your God am holy” (Vayikra 19:2). How can we human beings be holy like God, Him/Herself? We are created in God’s image as stated in the first book of the Torah, but we are not God!
It is easy to consider the sidra Metzora as somehow ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘unpleasant’. A taboo subject. I have even experienced distraught Bar Mitzvah families asking if their sons could instead read something ‘more relevant’ – as though their children were not about to enter a phase in their lives when dermatology would be more important than theology, when spots and pimples and greasy skin and dandruff and pustules and scab tissue were not going constantly to occupy their thoughts.
A few months ago my wife and I boarded an old ship leaving Lahaina harbor in Maui headed towards the island of Molokai. This island is famous in Hawaiian tradition for many of the now famous rituals and lore of Hawaiian culture that originated on Molokai. Yet, most tourists to Molokai know about it from the story of a Belgian Catholic priest, Father Damien, who came in the latter part of the 19th century to minister to the colony of lepers.
by Rabbi Dr. Walter Rothschild, Landesrabbiner of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany There are many forces that we cannot see and cannot really understand – but we know they are there and we notice it when things go wrong. A person who says “I will only believe in what I can see” is effectively cutting himself off from all […]