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.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Parshat Achrei-Kedoshim

Molech Worship

In both this week's parshiyot, the Torah warns us about Molech worship:

"You shall not allow any of your offspring to pass through for Molech. You shall not profane the Name of your God. I am the Lord" (VaYikra 18:21).

"Any man of the children of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn among Israel, who gives any of his offspring to Molech…" (ibid 20:2).

How and why would a person want to "pass through" their children to Molec.

It is not clear, but the concept of "passing through" occurs again after the war with Midian. Israel captured much bounty, but it was impure. The bounty needed purification. The purification process is explained: "whatever is used in fire you shall pass through fire and then it will be clean" (Bemidbar 31:23).

It seems that the "passing through" was passing through fire, as is confirmed in Devarim: "There shall not be found among you anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire" (Devarim 18:10).

From the example in Bemidbar it appears that passing through fire is as purification process, as the process purified the metal tools allowing them to be used.

It seems that people believed that they could also purify themselves by putting their children through fire, as the prophet Yechezkel decries: "Their sons…they have also set apart unto them to be devoured…For when they had slain their children to their idols" (Yechezkel 23:37-39).

In extreme cases, such as that brought in Yechezkel above, people would actually slaughter their own children, while in others, they would simply pass their children over burning coals in a similar manner and purpose as the Hindu firewalkers.

However, the Torah teaches that rather than purifying themselves this behaviour defiles the name of the Lord God and they desecrate His sanctuary.

Last years' Sedra Short on Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim, entitled: "The Gathering" appears at

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