Author: Avi Shafran

Emor – Crime and Punishment

The first of the Torah’s two cases of imprisonment – that of the mekalel, the blasphemer, is in the parshah (Vayikra, 24:12). The second is in parshas Shelach (Bamidbar 15:34), regarding the mekoshesh eitzim,...

A Mothers Day Lesson About Living

At 14 years of age, my mother assumed that “sitting shiva,” the Jewish week-long observance of mourning for a close relative, was just part of the regular Jewish year-cycle. That was because, after immigrating...

Kedoshim – Skin in a Zero-Sum Gam

Although, in the end, all tattooing is forbidden by halachah, one opinion in the Mishna (Rabi Shimon ben Yehudah in Rabi Shimon’s name) sees the prohibition as referring specifically to tattooing the name of an...

Acharei Mos – “No. You Do ME”

“Propriety” was apparently a theme of the Sadducees, or Tziddukim, one of the camps of Jews during the Second Temple period that rejected the the Torah’s “Oral Law,” the key to understanding the true...

The Puzzle of the Fours

Four questions. Four sons. Four expressions of geulah. Four cups of wine. Dam (=44) was placed, in Mitzrayim, on the doorway (deles, “door,” being the technical spelling of the letter daled, whose value is four). Moving...

Metzora – Not Just the Kitchen Sink

I once witnessed an amusing exchange between a mother and her four- or five-year-old daughter. The former, trying to do some cooking with the child underfoot, told the little person, “You need to leave...

Tazria – The Little Man Who Wasn’t There

“On the eighth day yimol b’sar arlaso – the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised” (Vayikra, 12:3). Rather than directly command circumcision, the Torah here employs the future passive tense – “it shall...

Shemini – Feel the Burn

Fire descending from heaven was something our ancestors in the desert experienced nightly for decades, as the daytime pillar of cloud was replaced by one of flame. It had surely become an expected, regular...

Tzav — Finding Fervor

“And for generations,” the Midrash, quoted by Rashi, adds to its assertion: “The word tzav [‘command’] implies ziruz [‘fervor’ or ‘zeal’] immediately…” The context of the Midrash’s statement are the laws of terumas hadeshen...

If You Want to Help Ukrainian Jews

If you want to help Jews in Ukraine but are (rightfully) wary of some of the “opportunities” to do so, please know that a trustworthy campaign taking no administrative costs has been set up...

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