The Intermediate Shabbat of Passover
(Exodus 33:12-34:26) After Israel worshipped the golden calf, Moses shattered the first set of tablets. Now Moses again ascends Mount Sinai in order to receive the new set of tablets. Moses pleads for God’s assurance of support. God reassures Moses and also reveals His 13 divine attributes. Moses then brings down a new set of tablets with the Ten Commandments.
The Haftarah is taken from the Book of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 37:1-14). The prophet finds himself in a valley of dry bones and, under the vivifying effect of God’s spirit, the bones knit together and become covered with flesh. Ezekiel understands this vision to mean that the people of Israel, having been exiled to Babylon, will again be reborn as a nation.
Both the fact that Passover, recalling past deliverances, looks forward to future redemption and an old tradition that the resurrection of the dead will take place during Passover determined the choice of this passage as the Haftarah for the Intermediate Sabbath of Passover.
The Song of Songs
It is customary to read the biblical book Song of Songs on the Intermediate Sabbath of Passover. Rabbinic tradition interprets the book as a love song, where the “beloved” is taken to mean God and “the bride” to mean the congregation of Israel. This tradition made the Song of Songs especially appropriate to Passover, because it marked, as it were, the beginning of the courtship of Israel and God before, metaphorically speaking, they became finally wedded at Mount Sinai by Israel’s acceptance of the Torah.
Another reason given for the reading of this book on Passover is that it is a song of the spring. To the poet and the singer, spring is synonymous with hope and happiness. A people’s hope lies in its freedom and its attachment to the law of God. This, too, is the lesson of Passover, for which the people of Israel have fought since they left Egyptian servitude, and this is the eternal message it wishes to convey to the whole of the human race.
Shabbat HaGadol - Parashat Tzav
Leviticus 6:1 - 8:36; HAFTARAH Malachi 3:4 - 3:24
BY RABBI KERRY M. OLITZKY for MyJewishLearning.com
The Eternal Light
The sacrifices teach us about constancy in relating to God.
Like other Torah portions, the title of this portion teaches us something about what is to follow. Tzav, command–not a suggestion nor even a request. It is a command, something with which we are generally only familiar in the context of the Torah (as mitzvot) or perhaps in the armed services.
In Tzav, this command is directly related to the giving of sacrifices. But it is not a command to do sacrifices. Rather, the text tells us that God speaks to Moses and tells him that if the Israelites are going to make sacrifices–as the ancient way of coming close to God–then they have to undertake these sacrifices in a specific way. There is little flexibility offered. The portion–and much of the book of Leviticus–outlines these specifics. This is not simply a case of “God is in the details,” but rather, “a relationship with God is in the details.”
D'var Torah By Rabbi LANCE J. SUSSMAN for ReformJudaism.org
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Navigating the Book of Leviticus
If we were to compare the Book of Exodus to a “rock” (as in Mt. Sinai) and the Book of Numbers to a “hard place” (as in the “wilderness”), then the Book of Leviticus would be somewhere “between a rock and a hard place.” My sense is that for most Reform Jews, reading the third book of the Torah, Leviticus, is more a function of calendar than choice: a tough, unavoidable literary landscape with only a few rest stops or scenic overlooks. It’s just a territory we must traverse in order to get to the next major site on our annual pilgrimage through the Five Books of Moses.
Passover is coming, check out our Passover Resource Kit.
Shabbat HaChodesh - Vayak’heil/P’kudei
D'var Torah By Rabbi Ana Bonnheim for ReformJudaism.org
The Formation of a People
Parashat Vayak’heil/P’kudei is a double Torah portion that concludes the Book of Exodus. The paired Torah portions describe the building of the Tabernacle and the anointing of the priests. The parashiyot are primarily composed of many verses of detailed plans and descriptions of rituals, some of which are hard to visualize sitting in such a different world today.
I want to take a step back and reflect on Exodus as an entire book, with Parashat Vayak’heil/P’kudei as the penultimate culmination of a lot of action. Genesis ended long ago with the movement of Joseph’s family from Canaan to Egypt. It was the story of a single family, rapidly expanding, with many relatives and growing generations. This particular family was exceptional, because this was the family with whom God created a relationship. Abraham’s personal relationship with God is passed down to his son, grandson, and great-grandson. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph all encounter God in different ways, due to the varying trials and circumstances of their lives. But still, Genesis is the composite of stories of personal relationships between God and individual men.
Shabbat Parah - Ki Tissa
Exodus 30:11−34:35 and Numbers 19:1 - 19:22
D'var Torah By Rabbi ANA BONNHEIM for ReformJudaism.org
A Concrete Relationship with God
At this point in Exodus, in Parashat Ki Tisa, the Israelites have seen a lot of action: the great drama of the plagues, the earth-shattering Exodus itself, and the transcendent moment of Revelation at Sinai. But now, it is as if the rushing scenes have been paused in favor of, well, waiting. The Israelites are somewhere in the desert, they have had these communal, transcendent experiences, and now, … now they are killing time until Moses returns to them.