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Monday, April 26, 2010


This week the parasha repeats something that was already stated in the book of Exodus.  It says that:
24:19  ... a person who causes an injury to another person, just as he did, so shall be done to him 
24:20 A fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Just as he injured another person, he shall be injured.
 Does this seem fair to you?  If someone bullies you, should you bully them back?  If someone trips you on purpose, should you trip him the next time you see him?  What about if you trip over someone's backpack by accident?  Should you insist that she trip over your backpack?  What if when you tripped you didn't really get hurt.  Does that make a difference?
The rabbis decided a very long time ago that it was impossible to carry out this kind of punishment fairly.  Why do you think they thought so?  Do you agree with them?

Be sure to share your answers by commenting on this blog

Monday, April 19, 2010

Aharei Mot and Kedoshim

The two portions of Torah we read this week have some of the most famous sayings in the Torah.  Here are some examples:

  • When you harvest your fields you shall not pick up what is accidentally left behind (19:9)
  • You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind (19:14)
  • You shall not be a bystander when something bad happens to someone else (19:16)
  • You shall love your neighbor as yourself (19:18)
  • Treat a stranger who lives with you the same way you treat everyone - remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt (19:33-34)
  • (The land of Israel is) a land of milk and honey (19:24)
Choose one of the above quotations and explain why you think it is in the Torah.

Here is a famous story you may have heard before.  Read it and decide whether you agree with Hillel.  Be prepared to support your opinion.
in the Talmud [Shabbos 31A]. A gentile [non-Jew] approached Shammai and said to him: "Convert me but teach me the entire Torah as I stand on one foot." Shammai, feeling that he wasn't serious, chased him away. This gentile then approached Hillel with the same offer/request but was met with a very different reaction--Hillel agreed. The entire Torah on one foot that Hillel taught him was "that which you hate, don't do to others--a paraphrase of the command to love your neighbor. "That is the entire Torah," Hillel told him, "the rest is simply an explanation. Go and learn it!" (Parsha Insights, by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner)
 This week we are celebrating Earth Day.  What connection is there between any idea in this week's parashot and Earth Day?

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Monday, April 12, 2010


The two Torah portions read this week seem to be about a disease called 'leprosy'.  It is a disease which we understand today is caused by a virus and which can be controlled with medication.
But in the time of the Torah it was not understood the same way.  It seemed to be a punishment from God. According to Maimonides, a great rabbi and philosopher (and doctor, by the way) who lived in the 12th century, this disease (tzara'at in Hebrew) was caused by gossip - talking about other people.

  • What if gossiping made someone break out in a rash?
  • In your opinion, is there a difference between gossiping and bullying?  Explain your answer.
  • According to Jewish thinking, three people are harmed by gossip - the one who is telling, the one who is listening, and the one being talked about.  Do you agree that all the people involved are hurt? Why?
  • What happens when people post mean things about other people on the internet?
  • What do you think you SHOULD do to help stop bullies who use words to hurt others?
  • What do you think you CAN do?
  • What WILL you do?
Be sure to share your answers by commenting on this blog

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010


    Passover is over - some of you may have eaten differently during this holiday - matzo instead of bread, matzo brei instead of French toast.  Some families may have completely changed what they cooked and ate during Passover, using different utensils as well as serving different foods.
    This week's parasha, Sh'mini, has a lot of information about which animals are considered kosher - and which are not.  There are no reasons given, just names of animals, birds and insects that are permitted and that are not.

    • Today there is a lot of attention paid to what we eat and how it affects us - some people eat only organically grown food, some eat only things grown locally, and so on.  How do you decide what to eat and what not to eat?
    • When Antiochus ruled the land of Israel as representative of the Syrian/Greek empire, one of the things he outlawed was eating kosher food (he also outlawed circumcision, study of Torah, and observing Shabbat).  Why do you think he chose to forbid kosher food?
    • If you know someone who follows the rules of kashrut, ask that person why.  Does the answer make sense to you?  Do you think religion should be a factor in what you eat?  Explain your answer.

    Be sure to share your answers by commenting on this blog