Emor 5780-2020

“Death, and the Kohanim--the Children of Aaron”
(updated and revised from Parashat Emor 5762-2002)

In parashat Emor we learn that a Kohain/priest is only permitted to contaminate himself on the occasion of the death of one of his seven closest relatives. Rabbi Saul Berman maintains that the ancient priests, who acted as clergy, were not permitted to be involved with the dead so they not be in a position to exploit their vulnerable constituents at their time of bereavement. It may also be a way of showing that rather than relying exclusively on clergy, lay people should also reach out to their friends and acquaintances who are in need.

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Tzav 5775-2015

“When Performing a Mitzvah Comes at a Significant Personal Cost”

The priests of old were profoundly challenged when they worked in the Tabernacle and Temple, since their service resulted in a significant loss of personal income.

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0 Comments11 Minutes

Terumah 5774-2014

“The Shulchan--Much More Than Just a Table”

The “Shulchan”–the Table of Showbread, one of the central furnishings in the Tabernacle and the Temple, was much more than just a table.

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0 Comments6 Minutes

Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5773-2013

"The Sanctity of The Holy of Holies"

What is the role, function and mystique of the “Holy of Holies?”

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0 Comments10 Minutes

Tetzaveh 5773-2013

"The Centrality of Light"

Why does the commandment of lighting the candles appear at the beginning of this week’s parasha, rather than after the completion of the building of the Mishkan and the placement of the utensils?

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Emor 5772-2012

"Lessons from a Priest’s Wanton Daughter"

The bad habits that we see some of our children developing may not be due to the children’s own personal shortcomings, but rather a result of the failure of proper parental nurturing. The only way for the priests, parents, and children to become sanctified and remain sanctified is for parents to serve as sanctified examples for their children and their families.

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0 Comments14 Minutes

Shemini 5771-2011

“The Death of Aaron’s Sons: The Midrashic Perspective”

The Midrash labors, at great length, to develop a context for the great tragedy that befell Aaron’s family on the “eighth day.”

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0 Comments13 Minutes

Tetzaveh 5771-2011

"Do Clothes Make The Man?"

Just as the ancient priests, who served in the Temple, wore special vestments, so should every Jew be dressed in a special way, to reflect their spiritual roles as servants of the Al-mighty.

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0 Comments6 Minutes

Emor 5770-2010

"Striving For Perfection"

Much of parashat Emor speaks of holiness, faultlessness, striving for perfection and the proper observance of the holy days. Have we lost the desire to reach perfection in the modern world?

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Tzav 5770-2010

"The Command"

Only with respect to the Olah, the burnt offering, does the Torah use the term "Tzav," command, rather than "say" or "speak." What is it about the burnt offering and the priests' relationship to it that requires the priests to be commanded to do this particular service properly and expeditiously?

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0 Comments12 Minutes

Emor 5769-2009

"The Highest Mitzvah of All!"

In parashat Emor, our sages derive from the laws governing the prohibition of the priest from defiling himself to the dead, the special commandment of "Met Mitzvah," the requirement to bury an abandoned body for which there is no one else to care. It is considered by many to be the foremost mitzvah, over which no other mitzvah takes precedence.

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0 Comments10 Minutes

Tazria-Metzorah 5769-2009

"And He Shall be Brought to the Priest"

The expression, "And he shall be brought to the priest" is repeated in each of this week's double parashiot, Tazria and Metzora. This recurring phrase is explained by various commentators as having important contemporary implications and bearing vital lessons for both Israel and American society.

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0 Comments8 Minutes

Shemot 5766-2006

"And G-d Built Them Houses"

According to tradition, the midwives who refused to follow Pharaoh's orders and kill the male Hebrew children, were Yocheved and Miriam, mother and sister of Moses and Aaron. The commentaries suggest that when Scripture notes that G-d rewards them by building them "houses" it refers not to real houses, but rather to the dynasties of the Priesthood and Levites and the monarchy of King David. It is NJOP's hope that many NJOP students who never knew that they were Priests and Levites will return to their Priestly and Levitic functions, and that in the time of Messiah, the Al-mighty will see fit to choose one of those students, a descendant of the tribe of Judah, to lead His people to full redemption.

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0 Comments6 Minutes

Korach 5765-2005

"Lessons from the Rebels"

The sad story of the rebellion of Korach and his tragic demise are remote and far-removed from the minds and experiences of most contemporary men and women. There are, however, many profound lessons to be learned from the Korach saga regarding individual destiny choices, living up to one's potential and working within given structure.

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Tzav 5764-2004

"Making the Menial Hallowed and Mundane Holy "

Examining the priestly service, we find something rather perplexing: the holy Cohanim who are engaged in honorable rites with much pomp and circumstance, begin the holy service with a decidedly menial duty each morning. The first service of the day involves removing and transferring the day-old waste of yesterday's ashes. This act not only serves to keep a priest's ego in check, it also teaches a valuable lesson about how truly important the "small stuff" really is.

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Tzav 5763-2003

"What we Learn from the Jewish 'Caste System'"

How does Judaism justify its seemingly discriminatory communal structure of Kohanim-Priests, Leviim-Levites and Israelites?

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Korach 5762-2002

"The Origin of the Big Lie"

According to the Midrash, Korach was a brilliant provocateur who was able to convince the hordes to believe that he was rebelling for the sake of the common folk, instead of for his own personal benefit. By drawing a distorted caricature of the mitzvot of the Torah, Korach was able to convince the people that Moses and Aaron were personally benefitting from the mitzvot and observances that they were advocating.

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Naso 5762-2002

"The Challenge of the Priestly Blessings"

The issue of whether human beings can encourage G-d to bless them, or if human beings can actually bless G-d, is not easily resolved. One thing we know for sure is that mortals certainly need G-d's blessings.

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0 Comments5 Minutes

Emor 5762-2002

"Death and the Kohanim--the Children of Aaron"

In parashat Emor we learn that a Kohain is only allowed to contaminate himself on the occasion of the death of one of his seven closest relatives. Rabbi Saul Berman maintains that the ancient priests, who acted as clergy, were not permitted to be involved with the dead so they would not be in a position to exploit their vulnerable constituents at the time of bereavement. It may also be a way of encouraging lay people to reach out to their friends and acquaintances at the time of death, rather than relying exclusively on clergy.

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0 Comments6 Minutes

Tetzaveh 5760-2000

"Clothes: A Reflection of the Divine Image"

Clothes play an important role in Judaism and in Jewish tradition. After all, the Al-mighty was the first designer of clothes for Adam and Eve. The clothes that the priests wore not only invested them with sanctity, but also represented the values that the priests were trying to communicate to the people.

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0 Comments10 Minutes