Toward Harvest, part 1 (Beyond 41)

The Jewish calendar places us in several different moments simultaneously. We are just over a week away from Shavuot, our re-experiencing of Sinai; but we are also Behar [at the mountain] already, as we close out the reading of Leviticus in the annual Torah cycle (Behar, Lev 25:1-26:2, & Bechukotai, Lev 26:3-27:34). We have counted […]

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Food for All Creatures

“[God] prepares food for all creatures…” This line, which appears in the first section of the blessing after meals [Birkat Hamazon], has been giving me pause lately…Quite literally, if I’m paying the least attention to the words, I find myself stuck — “on pause” – as I consider whether what I just ate was the […]

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Awaiting the Harvests: Re’eh Prayer Links

“You find three verses [two in this week’s portion] that command you to rejoice in the Feast of Tabernacles….For Passover, however, you will not find even one command to rejoice. Why not?” Several explanations are offered in the commentary for the variations of joy-related commandments (there is one command to rejoice for Shavuot). Each explanation […]

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[One Hundred Thirty-]Six Degrees of Separation: Devarim Prayer Links

The mighty kings Og and Sihon — mentioned in Devarim/Deuteronomy 1:4, with more detail in chapter 3 — were defeated while the Israelites were still in the wilderness (Numbers/Bamidbar 20, 21). But Og and Sihon provide a direct connection to several prayers as well as to contemporary debate about what, more generally, is a “morally […]

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Acharei Mot: Language and Translation

Sound and word patterns evident in the Hebrew text do not always translate well into other languages. Fox* notes that Chapter 17 of Leviticus/Vayikra is “built at least partially on repeating sound patterns”: A threefold refrain is “That man is to be cut off from his kinspeople,” stressing the seriousness of the prohibition. Four times […]

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Tzav: Great Source(s)

“People of the book”? — “People of the table,” too. With the repeated destruction of local and central sanctuaries, the power of the sacrificial system necessarily diminished. The decline of sacrifice did not end Jewish concern with food, but channeled it in a different direction. Meat-eating became separated for sacrifice, and non-sacrificial forms of worship […]

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Toldot: Language and Translation

The lads grew up and Esau became one who knows hunting, a man of the field; but Jacob was a wholesome [tam**] man abiding in tents. Isaac loved Esau for game that was in his mouth; but Rebecca loved Jacob. Jacob simmered a stew [va-yazed yaakov nazid], and Esau came in from the field, and […]

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