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You Are What You Eat: The New World of Kosher Food

Thousands of years ago, Judaism recognized the essential significance of food in the Jewish and human experience. Originally, without explaining “why” we should eat some, but not all types of different foods, the Torah in this week’s portion, Sh’mini (Leviticus 11), laid down a lengthy list of culinary dos and don’ts, the textual foundation of kashrut, Jewish dietary practice and law. The Rabbis greatly expanded on this topic and today there are a variety of expressions of kashrut.

D'var Torah By: 
Finding Spirituality in the Dietary Laws
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Miriam Philips

Living in Israel after college, I found myself staying in a kosher home. I became so engrossed in the minutia of kashrut (the laws/practice of keeping kosher) that I gave little attention to the ethical imperatives at the heart of Judaism. But surely kashrut should be a spiritual discipline, as I’d initially believed. Where was the heart I searched for? Sh'mini begins to answer the question.

To Die in the Exercise of Your Passion

On Wednesday, August 7th, 1974, a 24-year-old Frenchman named Philippe Petit stepped out onto a steel wire strung across the 130-foot gap between the tops of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York — close to 1,350 feet above the ground. After a 45-minute performance he was asked, "Weren't you afraid that you were going to die?" While conceding, he replied, "If I die, what a beautiful death, to die in the exercise of your passion."

Parashat Sh'mini contains the important and troubling story of Nadab and Abihu. It is the eighth day of the ceremony of consecrating the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the priests. Aaron and his sons have been sacrificing animals all week long. Fire comes down from heaven and consumes the offerings, and all is going according to plan. Suddenly Nadab and Abihu, two of Aaron's sons, bring an additional offering of incense, which had not been commanded. They are immediately consumed by Divine fire; their bodies are dragged out of the Mishkan while Aaron remains silent.

D'var Torah By: 
Strange Fire in Our Time
Davar Acher By: 
Ari S. Lorge

When are you a priest? When are you a prophet? These questions present a constant tension for liberal Jews. When do we maintain what was passed down to us? When do we strike out on a bold new path? In Covenant & Conversation, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks lifts up the priests Nadab and Abihu, and their "strange fire," as examples of those who misunderstood their role and moment. Sacks uses the images of priest and prophet to set out a tension, as he writes: "The priest serves God in a way that never changes over time. . . . The prophet serves God in a way that is constantly changing over time."The priest attests to what is enduring and ritualized, while the prophet must be spontaneous and take his or her own initiative.

Keeping Kosher - Leviticus and the Current Debate

A recent article in The New York Times [circa 1999] reported a possible revival of the Catskills, which was until a few decades ago a fabled vacation paradise for countl

D'var Torah By: 
Holiness as the Art of Making Distinctions
Davar Acher By: 
Joel Oseran

The reader who carefully follows this week's Torah portion, Sh'mini, from beginning to end may quite reasonably come to the conclusion that this portion can be better understood if i

Mourning and Meaning

We read in this week's Torah portion about the death of Aaron's two eldest sons, Nadab and Abihu.

D'var Torah By: 
Hearing the Sounds of Silence
Davar Acher By: 
Greg Wolfe

Amidst all the pomp and circumstance, the pyrotechnics and awesome majesty, something has gone awry. A terrible tragedy has occurred!

What Makes a Jew a Jew?

Throughout the millennia, one question that has continued to pique the curiosity of Jews and non-Jews, rabbinic sages and scholars, and leaders and hoi paloi alike is: What constitutes a Jew?

D'var Torah By: 
Not the What but the How
Davar Acher By: 
Debra Landsberg

As Dr. Bard has discussed, Parashat Sh'mini presents us with the challenge to define ourselves as Jews-to identify the behavioral boundaries that mark us as Jewish.


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