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Torah Parshiyot

Parashat Shemini

April 18, 2015 – 29 Nisan 5775

On the eighth day of the consecration of Aaron and his sons, Moses instructs Aaron to take a calf for a sin offering and an unblemished ram for a burnt offering, and to tell the Israelites to bring several other offerings, since this would be the day that God would “appear” before Israel. After Aaron blesses the Israelites, a fire emerges from God and consumes the burnt offering and fats that are on the altar.

But Aaron’s two oldest sons, Nadav and Avihu, each take a fire-pan with fire and incense, resulting in a “strange fire” that God had not commanded. Instantly, fire emerges from God and consumes Nadav and Avihu. Moses offers a cryptic explanation for their deaths, which is met by Aaron’s silence. Moses coordinates the removal of Nadav and Avihu’s bodies, then tells Aaron and his surviving sons not to mourn and not to leave their posts in the Tent of Meeting. God then speaks to Aaron, commanding the new priests not to be under the influence of wine or beer while in the Tent of Meeting. Moses then squabbles with Aaron’s other sons, Eleazar and Itamar, for not eating the purification offering. This time, Aaron is not silent; he defends his sons, because they are mourning the loss of a sibling. Moses backs off.

Parashiyot Tazria-Metzora 

April 25, 2015 – 6 Iyar 5775

We learn that, after giving birth, a mother is in a state of impurity, and following that time, she is not allowed to touch or be a part of sacred places. The duration of these ritual statuses is twice as long if she gives birth to a girl. And if she has a boy, the boy must be circumcised on the eighth day of his life. The mother becomes pure again after making a proper offering.

The text explores proper procedures for managing an outbreak of a skin affliction known as tzara-at. An Israelite priest examines such outbreaks and determines if they are chronic, and if they are causing such ailments as an infected burn or diseased hair or scalp. He even examines when such an affliction penetrates fabric or leather. The priest determines whether the person or object needs to be isolated and/or washed after a certain amount of time.

The second portion details how a person is purified from tzara’at. The purification includes ceremonies and offerings carried out by a priest in addition to the afflicted person washing, shaving, and cleaning his/her clothes. Offerings differ depending on the afflicted person’s wealth.

We learn that, when the Israelites enter Canaan, tzara’at can potentially afflict their houses. Depending on the degree of affliction, the houses must be scraped, or perhaps torn down, while those who enter the house must be purified.

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