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Tazria - Metzora
BY: RABBI LANCE J. SUSSMAN for ReformJudaism.org
Judaism, Medical Science, and Spirituality: A Brief History
It rarely fails. B’nei mitzvah families come to me three, four, five years in advance. “Is it possible,” they ask, “that our child not be assigned the portion in the Torah on leprosy? We’re just not sure,” they continue somewhat disingenuously, “it will be meaningful.” So, we talk about leprosy as metaphor and explore questions like, “what is the leprosy of our era?” and the parental anxiety slowly relaxes. By contrast, only twice in 30 years families came to me and actually asked to be assigned the portion that discusses leprosy, Tazria. “Why?” I ask them. Both times either one or both parents were dermatologists eager to accept the portion, and equally ready to disprove the biblical diagnosis and suggest an alternate skin disease.
Shemini II, LEVITICUS 10:12–11:47
BY: RABBI DAVID A. LYON for ReformJudaism.org
The Dietary Laws: Fitness for a Life Well-Lived
The dietary laws presented in the Book of Leviticus are intended to draw us closer to God. But even I, as a rabbi, sometimes have difficulty understanding how the Torah intends for this to happen.
The second part of Sh’mini (Leviticus 10:12-11:47) takes up the subject of food. Everything from taboos to general permissions are commanded forming the foundation of later, Talmudic, legal interpretations on what is kosher (fit for consumption) and what is t’reif (unfit). Reform Judaism has gone around the block on the subject of kashrut. Notwithstanding biblical and Talmudic rules, and laws about what is “fit” for personal consumption, Reform Judaism has sought an authentic response to expectations for kashrut that would meet individual and contemporary norms.
D'VAR TORAH BY: RABBI LANCE J. SUSSMAN for ReformJudaism.org
You Are What You Eat: The New World of Kosher Food
Thousands of years before the 19th-century saying, “you are what you eat” came into being, 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. Subsequently, the laws of kashrut were greatly expanded by the Rabbis to include food preparation in general and, especially, on the Sabbath, the full separation of milk and meat products, methods of slaughter, and a whole range of food regulations during Passover.
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