Sedra Shorts

Ideas and commentaries on the weekly Torah readings.

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Location: Bet Shemesh, Israel

I taught Tanach in Immanuel College, London and in Hartman, Jerusalem. I was also an ATID fellow for 2 years. At present, I work for the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora, in Bar-Ilan University, Israel. The purpose of this blog is to provide "sedra-shorts", short interesting ideas on the weekly Torah reading. Please feel free to use them and to send me your comments.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim

The Gathering

Generally, God instructs Moshe to: "speak to the children of Israel" (דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל). In the second of this week's parsha he is told: "speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel" (דַּבֵּר אֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל) (VaYikra 19:2).

The commentaries explain that Moshe would not personally transmit God's message to the entire people. He would delegate the task to the the elders of the community, so that it can be done in smaller manageable groups.

In this instance, however, God wanted every single person, young and old, men and women and even suckling children to be present and hear the laws personally from Moshe. It was "Hakhel", the gathering of the entire people.

Why? What is unique about these laws? The Ibn Ezra explains that the entire Ten Commandments appears in this sequence of laws, it is the essence of the Torah, and recalls the Giving of the Torah. Indeed, this section marks the epicentre of the Five Books of Moses, a sign that it is of great importance. Therefore, the entire people were assembled for this special gathering.

Nevertheless, this was not the only occassion that Moshe spoke: "to the entire congregation of the children of Israel".

"Moshe called the entire congregation of the children of Israel to assemble, and he said to them: '... the seventh day shall be holy for you...'" (Shemot 35:1-2).

Building the Mishkan
"Moshe spoke to the entire community of the children of Israel, saying: '...Take from yourselves an offering for the Lord...'" to build the Mishkan (ibid 4-5).

Note how the entire people had to present to hear about the "Holiness Code" (our Parsha), the sanctity of Shabbat and the building of the Mishkan.

Each of these gatherings introduced a different concept of holiness:

Shabbat - the sanctity of time; Mishkan- the sanctity of space; and Israel - the sanctity of the human being.

Note also how each concept becomes holy through its separation. The seventh day from the other six days of the week, the materials of the Mishkan through its separation from the people's other possessions, and the people through its different mode of behavior to the other nations.

All the people, the entire congregation of the children of Israel, were to understand that they were capable of achieving holiness in their lives; by separating from aspects of their routine, home and behavior.


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