Torah Thoughts: Parashat Bechukotai 5782

Torah Thoughts on Parashat Bechukotai 5782 By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky This week we read parashat Bechukotai, the last section of the Book of Leviticus. It contains a famous and long paragraph, known in Hebrew as the tochecha, literally admonition or reproof. This paragraph highlights the negative consequence of a failure by the people of Israel to follow God’s laws and keep his commandments.  Because of the disturbing nature of the

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Behar 5782

The Connection between Mount Sinai and the Land of Israel B”H Rabbi Daniela Szuster The event at Mount Sinai is well behind us. After that event, the Torah told us about the building of the tabernacle and its dedication, and several laws were introduced in detail. Now, quite unexpectedly, the Torah brings us back to Mount Sinai. It is written at the beginning of this week’s parashah: “Adonai spoke to

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Emor 5782

Torah Thoughts on Parashat Emor 5782 By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky We find the following verse in our parasha, “You shall not profane My holy name, and I shall be sanctified in the midst of the children Israel—I Adonai who sanctify you” (Leviticus 22:32). Regarding this concept of God being “sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people” we find an interesting comment in the Talmud, “From where is it derived

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat K’doshim 5782

Transforming Hate into Love B”H Rabbi Daniela Szuster This week’s parashah, parashat K’doshim, deals with many rules related to ethical and good relationships with our fellows. This is one of the precepts: “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Acharei Mot 5782

On the Modern Jewish Holidays B”H By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky This Shabbat we read from the Torah Parashat Acharei Mot.  We are told about the ritual that took place in the Tabernacle during the most sacred day of the year, Yom Kippur. This festival is one of many that are listed in the Torah, together with Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah and, of course, Shabbat.  In fact, we will be

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Torah Thoughts: 8th Day of Pesach – Shabbat 5782

The Steps of the Seder as Accomplishments for our Lives B”H Rabbi Daniela Szuster Some days or even weeks before Pesach we are very excited about getting ready for the Sedarim. We need to think about guests, meals, the cleaning, the shopping, the cooking, etc. In contrast to other Jewish festivals, we are very busy the days before Pesach. All of a sudden, we celebrate the two Sedarim and all

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Torah Thoughts: Pesach 5782

Is Matzah a Symbol of Freedom or Slavery? By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky The Torah refers to the matzah as the “bread of affliction.” It is written, “You shall not eat anything leavened with it; for seven days thereafter, you shall eat unleavened bread, bread of affliction—for you departed from the land of Egypt hurriedly—so that you may remember the day of your departure from the land of Egypt as long

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Metzora – Shabbat Hagadol 5782

The Importance of Having Ways to Reintegrate to the Community B”H Rabbi Daniela Szuster This week’s parashah, Parashat Metzora, deals mainly with the rules concerning Tzaraat, leprosy, and describes the ritual of purifying and reintegrating the person who was ill with that disease back into the society. A Metzora is the person afflicted with a condition that the Torah calls Nega Tzaraat. A priest declares the affected person impure, and

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Tazria 5782

Our Responsibilities to Our Children By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky This week we read parashat Tazria. Among others mitzvot, we find in this Torah section the commandment of Brit Milah, the ritual circumcision. Although this mitzvah had already been conveyed to Abraham in the Book of Genesis, the sages explain that it is repeated here in order to teach that a Brit Milah should be performed even on Shabbat, if the

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Shmini 5782

Silence as a Path to Heal our Souls B”H Rabbi Daniela Szuster In this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Sh’mini, we read about an immense tragedy that befell Aaron. Two of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, brought an unauthorized offering. Consequently, they were slain by a fire that issued forth from heaven. We are told that when Aaron was informed of his sons’ death, he said nothing: “And Aaron was silent.” (Vayikra

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Torah Thoughts: Purim 5782

You Can’t Please Everyone By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky This week we celebrate Purim, so I would like to say a few words about it.  One of the most important laws of Purim is the reading of the Megillah, the Scroll of Esther. Thinking about the main characters of the book, Mordechai appears like a beloved leader. He is the savior of the Jews, a pious and righteous man, a model

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayikra 5782

Rituals are a Meaningful and Powerful way to Express our Deep Feelings B”H Rabbi Daniela Szuster This Shabbat we are beginning to read the third book of the Torah, the book of Vayikra, also called “Torat Cohanim”: Torah, laws of the Cohanim. This name is because much of the book contains a guide to the priests about sacrifices, different types of impurities and ways to purify and work in the

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Pekudei 5782

Where Do We Find Holiness? By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky This week we read parashat Pekudei, the last Torah section of the Book of Exodus. The first verse of this parasha says, “These are the records of the Tabernacle, the Tabernacle of the Testimony/Pact, which were drawn up at Moses’ bidding—the work of the Levites under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron the priest (Exodus 38:21). It is interesting here

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vaykhel 5782

All Together By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky In parashat Vayakhel, Moses assembles the people of Israel and reiterates to them the commandment to observe the Shabbat. He then reminds the Children of Israel of God’s instructions regarding the building of the Tabernacle. The people donate the required materials in abundance. In fact, Moses has to tell them to stop giving. Later, a team of skilled artisans builds the Tabernacle and its

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Tetzave 5782

Correct Yourself before Correcting Others  By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky This week we read Parashat Tetzave. It begins with God’s order to Moses to light and take care of the Menorah, the seven-armed candelabrum that was located in the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. God says, And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle the lamps continually (Exodus 27:20).

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Yitro 5782

Amalek and Yitro: Two different experiences with non-Jewish People B”H Rabbi Daniela Szuster This week’s parashah, parashat Yitro, begins by telling us that Yitro “heard all that God had done for Moses and for Israel His people, how the LORD had brought Israel out from Egypt.” (Exodus 18:1). Yitro heard about the miracles God had performed for the people of Israel, and took off for the desert, going to meet

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Beshalach 5782

Taking the Hard Way By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky This week we read Parashat Beshalach, which describes the moment when the Children of Israel left Egypt. After that moment the Torah says, When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them [by] way of the land of the Philistines for it was near, because God said, lest the people reconsider when they see war and return to Egypt (Exodus

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Bo 5782

On Generalizing Social Groups B”H Rabbi Daniela Szuster In Parashat Bo, we learn of the last plagues that God cast on the Egyptians in order to attain the liberation of the Hebrew people. It was especially the final plague, the death of the firstborn, that convinced Pharaoh to allow the Hebrews to leave the land of Egypt. At the most anticipated time, the Torah tells us that the people, following

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vaera

What is your name? B”H By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky The parasha of this week begins with these two verses, “God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name Adonai’” (Exodus 6:2-3). We can see here how God is known by different names, and He actually uses

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Sh’mot 5782

Appreciating the Courage of the People Who are Behind the Scenes B”H Rabbi Daniela Szuster This week, we are starting to read the book of Sh’mot, the book of Exodus. From family stories of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs in the book of Bereshit (Genesis), now we begin reading about the people of Israel as a group. Pharaoh was the first to see them as a people: “And Pharaoh said to

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