email facebook google share twitter

Torah Reflections

Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Kedoshim 2016

Kedoshim: False Gods

The Hebrew name of this week’s reading, Kedoshim, means “holy” and is taken from the portion’s opening: You shall be holy, for I, YHVH, your God, am holy. (Leviticus 19:2) That verse is followed by all sorts of instructions for living a holy life and bearing witness to the Divine. Included among them is the following: Do […]

Read More »
Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Akharei Mot

Akharei Mot: The Ever-Present Sacred

This week’s Torah portion (Akharei Mot) includes instructions for the rituals associated with Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement is still considered the holiest day of the Jewish year, but contemporary observance is vastly different than that described in this reading. The ancient rites of Yom Kippur were intended to purify not just Israelites, but also their […]

Read More »
Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Metzora 2016

Metzora: Real Humility

This week’s Torah portion (Metzora) begins with instructions for restoring a person afflicted with tzara’at to ritual purity. The ceremony for cleansing the person with this mysterious skin condition requires some very specific things: The kohen (priest) is to order, and the person to be cleansed is to take two live, clean birds, a cedar stick, a […]

Read More »
Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Tazria 2016

Tazria: Polluted Speech

This week’s reading (Tazria), continues the instructions for managing the competing energies of life and death, and purity and impurity. Much of the text focuses on tzara’at, a curious condition that could affect both skin and clothing. Under certain circumstances, a person with this affliction was subject to an extreme form of quarantine: All the days the […]

Read More »
Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Shemini 2016

Shemini: In Synch with the Sacred

In this week’s reading (Shemini), the kohanim begin their duties, the divine presence comes to dwell in the sanctuary, the dietary laws are revealed, and instructions for managing the competing energies of death and life are given. The entire community comes to witness the priestly installations rites, and Moses explains that…  …this is what YHVH commands you […]

Read More »
Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Tzav 2016

Tzav: Contagious Holiness

This week’s reading, Tzav, focuses on the rights and responsibilities of the kohanim and concludes with their initiation into priestly service. Leviticus is primarily a technical manual, and as such it is rather dry reading. I generally have to work hard to find inspiration in its contents. But every once in awhile, I come across a verse that seems to glow […]

Read More »
Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Vayikra 2016

Vayikra: Spiritual Estrangement

With this week’s Torah portion, we begin the book of Leviticus. Both the reading and the book itself are known in Hebrew as Vayikra (And He Called). The English name means “pertaining to the Levites”, which is a good summary of its content. Leviticus is primarily concerned with the rules and regulations pertaining to the sanctuary, […]

Read More »
Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Pikudei 2016

Pikudei: Building a Sacred Space

This week’s reading, Pikudei, is the last one in the book of Exodus. It begins with an accounting of the materials used in the construction of the portable sanctuary and ends with God taking up residence (so to speak) within. In the middle of all of this, we read: Thus was completed all of the work of the mishkan ohel […]

Read More »
Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Vayakhel

Vayakhel: Start by Planning to Stop

This week’s portion, Vayakhel, describes the construction of the mishkan, the portable sanctuary that accompanied the Israelites on their wilderness journey. The focus is so complete that just one verse in the whole section considers any other topic. The reading begins with Moses gathering the community in order to give them assignments and instructions. But his first words […]

Read More »
Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Ki Tissa 2016

Ki Tissa: Imagining Catastrophes

With this week’s Torah reading, Ki Tissa, we return to narrative drama. Moses was alone on Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah, but the Children of Israel were having a different experience. Forty days had passed with no word from their liberator, leader and conduit to God. It’s no surprise that they were anxious: When the people saw […]

Read More »