Torah Notes – May 2012
NOTES FOR May
Here is just a taste of the Torah you can look forward to in the month ahead. For the real thing, be sure to join us each Shabbat morning at 9 am for a lively discussion of the meaning and implications of the weekly portion. All are welcome. No previous experience required.
May 5 Acharei Mot-Kedoshim Leviticus 17:8-19:14
Purification of the sanctuary is the main topic of Acharei Mot. Following the opening that recalls the death of Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, which occurred a few weeks back, we hear descriptions of the rituals for the sin offerings that Aaron is to present in the Mikdash for himself and the people. Yom Kippur is designated as the occasion for this elaborate ritual, which features the “scapegoat.” Chapter 17 begins what is known as the “holiness code” and introduces certain forbidden sexual relations which are inconsistent with holiness.
Kedoshim concerns itself with matters of holiness and lists those ritual and ethical laws that, if followed, will make the Jewish people a “holy” people. The passages this week are punctuated by the refrain “You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God am holy.” Probably the most famous verse from this portion is “Love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Eternal.”
May 12 Emor Leviticus 22:17-23:22
This Torah portion presents the laws regulating the lives of the priests, who officiated at the sanctuary and the sacrifices. Certain donations are listed as acceptable for the sanctuary. We are also reminded of the calendar of celebrations, including Shabbat, Pesach, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot. The portion concludes with a series of laws dealing with profanity, murder, and the maiming of others–including the famous passage “an eye for an eye.”
May 19 Behar- Bechukotai Leviticus 25:39-26:46
Parashat Behar discusses the laws of the sabbatical year and the jubilee year. Six years the people may till their fields, but the land must be given a Sabbath of complete rest on the seventh year and cannot be worked. The jubilee year is to be celebrated every fifty years, when the land is to rest and liberty is granted to all Israelites enslaved during the previous forty-nine years. Property acquired over the forty-nine years also reverts back to the original owner-families.
Parashat Bechukotai expresses all the good things that will come to the people if they follow God’s ways and the misery that will result if they are not faithful. The portion also includes a brief discussion of the payment of vows and gifts made to the sanctuary. With this Torah portion, we conclude the Book of Leviticus. Chazak, Chazak v’nitchazek (Let us be strengthened by our study of Torah)
May 26 Bemidbar Numbers 2:1-3:13
The fourth book of the Torah, Numbers, begins this week with Parashat Bemidbar, literally “in the wilderness.” It is called “Numbers” in English because it begins with Moses taking a census of the Israelite population on the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites departed from Egypt. The Levites, who are responsible for the services in the sanctuary and don’t bear arms, are excluded from the census. A separate census is also taken of the Kohathites, a sub-family of the Levites, who are responsible for the carrying of the sacred objects of the sanctuary.