Candle lighting time for Friday, April 5, 2013, 7:16 p.m.
Parashat Shemini/Birkat Hahodesh
26 Nisan, 5773 / April 6, 2013
Triennial Cycle III: Lev. 11:1-47
Humash Etz Hayim, page 636
Haftarah: 2 Samuel 6:1-7:17, p. 643
(11:1-12) The signs of kashrut for land animals, and sea creatures.
(11:13-23) A list of forbidden birds. Forbidden and permitted insects.
(11:24-47) A list of animals whose carcasses can cause ritual defilement, and the laws regarding ritual impurity and defilement from carcasses of animals and from reptiles. The sedrah concludes with a general warning to guard against defilement and to be concerned about ritual purity.
By Rabbi Daniel Pressman
For I the LORD am your God: you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not make yourselves unclean through any swarming thing that moves upon the earth. For I the LORD am He who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God: you shall be holy, for I am holy. (Lev. 11:44-45)
You shall be holy, for I am holy. This is a grand concluding generalization, but its precise application to the dietary prohibitions is not entirely clear, imitatio dei is ringingly proclaimed. Perhaps because God is involved with creation yet loftily removed from it, Israelite man in his image in this cosmic hierarchy is enjoined to set himself at a certain distance from the natural world of which he is necessarily a part by restricting categories of animal food, by not ingesting all living creatures in the teeming polymorphous fullness of their pullulation. The reiterated verb “to divide” is a key to the Priestly account of creation in Genesis1: the world comes into coherent being when God divides the chaotically interfused primal elements—light and darkness, the waters above and the waters below, the sea and dry land—from each other. Here the Israelites are commanded to emulate God by setting up a framework for daily life in which they are to “divide” (verse 47) between the unclean and the clean, between what is forbidden and permitted to be eaten. (Robert Alter)
The Torah as a whole, then, articulates a broad pattern of “set apartedness,” distinctions in time and space (for Israel is also a holy land), among peoples, and in how we live our lives (for example, in what we eat and don’t eat, in our sexual relationships, and in life-cycle events) that ultimately bear upon God as well. All of these distinctions underlie and support one another. In each case, some ritual is introduced that marks the boundary between one and the next.
The grand purpose of Torah, then, is to infuse our consciousness with boundaries, or distinctions. In a word, the purpose of the whole is to create structures. Structures provide a sense of order or cosmos. They shield us from the anarchy or chaos that are so much a part of our daily experience. Halachah, the pattern of Jewish law, is one grand ordering device.
People cope with disorder in different ways. Some people thrive on it; others don’t. Some of us are constantly ordering the papers on our desks into piles. We make lists of what we are to do today, what calls we are to return, what letters we are to answer. We keep meticulous appointment books. We live in constant anxiety that our lives may tumble out of control. Others seem to manage quite well without any of these devices.
But viewed from an anthropological or psychological point of view, religion seems to assume that all human beings need to feel that on the broadest possible canvas, their world is fundamentally ordered. Of course, chaos always threatens to overwhelm us, but then, our religious traditions give us the resources to reimpose order on the disorder. Think, for example, of the richness of our rituals for handling death and mourning. (Neil Gillman)
1 To put forth sprouts or buds; germinate. To breed rapidly or abundantly. To teem; swarm.
Minyan – Sunday 9:30 am & Monday – Thursday 7:00 p.m.
Holocaust Museum – through April 10
Sunday, April 7: Milestones and Memories – 1:00 p.m.
Monday, April 8: Community Yom Ha’Shoah Service – 7:30 p.m.
Monday, April 8: Social Action Committee Meeting – 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 9: Membership Committee Meeting – 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 10: Beginning Hebrew Class resumes – 11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.
Sunday, April 13: Book Discussion Group – Approximately 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, April 14: Saratoga Serves – The Mitzvah of Feeding the Hungry – 12:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 20: Mussar Matters with Rabbi Pressman – 1:30 – 2:30
Sunday, April 21: Marriage and Divorce in the Second Temple Period – 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Friday, April 5: Singles Shabbat Dinner for Those 45-65 – 6:15 p.m.
Sunday, April 14 – Thursday, April 18: Southern California College Tour with JCC
Friday – Sunday, May 3-5 – Special Needs Family Camp Weekend @ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa Click Here for brochure