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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Bekhukotai 2106

Bekhukotai: Finding our Way

This week’s reading, Bekhukotai, is the last one in the book of Leviticus. Much of the portion is given over to describing consequences of living in accordance with the Torah’s instructions. If we follow the instructions, pay attention to spiritual obligations and act in accordance with them (Leviticus 26:3), then we will reap benefits that include peace […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Behar

Behar: Be Like a Mountain

The name of this week’s reading, Behar, means “on the mountain.” In this case, the peak is Mt. Sinai and context is the revelation of additional instructions for sacred living. Traditional students of Torah hold that every aspect of the text has something to teach us, so it should come as no surprise that they […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Emor 2016

Emor: (Re)called to Holiness

This week’s reading, Emor, includes a description of Judaism’s annual cycle of holy days. Collectively, these occasions are known in Hebrew as mikra’ey kodesh or callings to holiness: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: YHVH’s appointed times–you will call them callings to holiness–these are [YHVH’s] appointed times: (Leviticus 23:2) The “appointed time” include Shabbat […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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, […]

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