Author: Avi Shafran

Bamidbar – Life is for the Giving

The Torah’s pointed note (Bamidbar 3:4) of the fact that Nadav and Avihu had no children (according to the Midrash, because they did not marry) is understood by Chazal as having contributed to their...

Behar — What’s Special About Shmita

The problem surely occurs to every reader of the first Rashi in parshas Behar. The Rabban shel Yisrael, quoting a Midrash, recounts the famous question, “What does shemita have to do with Har Sinai?”...

Emor – Simple Jews

The Baitusim, a sect in Talmudic times often associated with the Tzedukim (or Sadducees), had a congenial approach to establishing the date of Shavuos, which the Torah describes as the fiftieth day from a...

Acharei Mos/Kedoshim – Black Like Us

The haftarah for Acharei Mos, which will be read this week for the double parsha of Acharei Mos/Kedoshim, is from Amos (9:7), where Hashem extols the Jewish people with the famous and famously strange...

Tazria/Metzora – Life is Other People

Tzara’as, the condition that occupies the bulk of parshios Tazria and Metzora, is characterized by the Talmud as a punishment for sins like speaking ill of others or stinginess at their expense. Thus the...

Shemini — Inner Space

The abundance of advertisements for gyms, weight loss products, hair restoration drugs and cosmetic surgery testifies to contemporary citizens’ obsession with physical image. To be sure, many people seek to work out or lose...

Two Pesach Pieces

A piece I wrote for the Forward about the Chametz Law in Israel can be read here. And a thought about the Haggadah and American history appeared today at Religion News Service, here. Chag...

Tzav – The Challenge of Change

The shalsheles cantillation, expressed in a long, wavering series of notes, occurs only four times in the Torah. In three, the “wavering” may reflect a wavering of will. In Beraishis 19:16, Lot, about to...

Vayikra – Hierarchy and Holiness

Animal sacrifices begin not only the parsha and the sefer of Vayikra but the world as we know it. Because Noach was commanded to take extra animals of certain species on the ark for...

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