By Lilly Kaufman for JTS
The Jewelry of a Master Teacher
Without using alchemy, the 16th-century Italian commentator Seforno (1470–1550) turned gems into gold. Writing a few short words about the gemstones that adorned the clothing of the High Priest, described in Parashat Tetzavveh, Seforno shares a truly fine insight about achieving greatness as an educator.
We read in Exodus 28:2, “And you shall make sacred garments for Aaron your brother, for honor and for glory.” On the word tiferet (glory), Seforno asserts that the High Priest will be a kohen-moreh norah, an awesome priest-teacher. He explains, שהם תלמידיו החקוקים על לבו וכתפיו, “for they are his students who are engraved on his heart and shoulders.”
By Daniel Nevins, JTS
A Symbol of Peace
The Arch of Titus in Rome is simultaneously one of the saddest and most exciting places for a Jew to stand. It is but a short distance from the Colosseum, the stadium made famous by its cruel sports, built with money plundered from the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE. Titus’s Arch celebrates the destruction of our Temple, a building designated by Isaiah to be a house of prayer for all nations. A bas-relief sculpture on the arch’s inner walls depicts a sickening scene: the triumphant display of the Temple’s sacred objects, the Menorah most prominent among them, along with a pathetic procession of enslaved Jews.
Mishpatim - Mahar Chodesh
by Julia Andelman, JTS
Kashrut and Refugees
There’s an old joke based on the three appearances of the commandment “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk”—the first being in this week’s parashah, Mishpatim (Exod. 23:19). The narrow prohibition against “eating the flesh of an animal together with the milk that was meant to sustain it” (Etz Hayim, 474) was expanded over time into a vast array of laws regarding the separation of all dairy and all meat:
God says to Moses: You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk (Exod. 23:19).
Moses replies: Oh, you mean we should never eat any meat with any dairy?
God says: You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk (Exod. 34:26).
Moses replies: Oh, you mean we should wait three to six hours between eating meat and dairy?
God says: You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk (Deut. 14:21).
Moses replies: Oh, you mean we should have two separate sets of dishes for meat and dairy, separate pots and pans and utensils, and separate sponges?
God says: Fine, have it your way.
BY STEPHEN P. GARFINKEL, JTS
Whose Revelation Is It, Anyway?
Parashat Yitro is a Torah reading of monumental ideas, foundational concepts, and widely-recognized importance. By all measures, this week’s portion must be considered a highlight of the entire Torah, since it includes no less (and a lot more!) than the Ten Commandments. This seems to be the right place to explore questions such as these: what did the actual revelation (Exodus 20) include? What were God’s commandments? Why were these statements singled out, especially given the amount of law scattered throughout the Torah? What gives these brief pronouncements their distinctive importance? There are so many crucial questions we could ponder with great benefit about the Commandments, their form, their content, and their meaning.
Shabbat Shira - Beshalach
BY HILLEL GRUENBERG, for JTS
Israel: Between Tears and Songs
Beshallah holds special importance for me and my family—it was the parashah of the week of my son Zeke’s bris three years ago, and that of the week of my wedding to Yael two years before that. Under the huppah, my rabbi (and brother-in-law) Aaron Brusso referenced the Zohar’s likening of the parting of the Red Sea to a wedding for having weeping on one side of the event and singing on the other (Zohar 2:170b). Between the tears and songs, however, lies the Children of Israel’s experience of actually traversing a supernaturally divided sea, one of immense physical insecurity as they walk in the sea knowing that at any moment, the “waters that were to them a wall from their right and their left” (Exod. 14:22, 27), והמים להם חומה מימינם ומשמאלם could come down, crash, literally liquidating everything in their midst. However, this physical insecurity is only one part of the equation.