Join us on Saturdays at 9:15am (Attend once, once in awhile or every week)
The cornerstone of our learning is our Saturday morning Torah Study. We discuss the weekly Torah portion and have a lively and spirited conversation as we relate this ancient text to our daily lives.
No special training or prerequisite courses are necessary for you to attend. Neither is there an entrance requirement for the understanding of Torah. When we come to it in study, there are no barriers to keep us distant from our heritage.
How to Move the Right Heart at the Right Time
When, in Exodus 25:1-2, Torah tells us “The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved,” the text manages to be both inclusively open and exclusively specific. We tend today to read this invitation as an equalizer; no matter the gift, God will accept it. The most important quality of the gift is the zeal of the giver to share it. But building the Mishkan required specific materials: gold, silver, copper, fine linen, dolphin skins, for example. Any gift not found on this list would not be of much use. Did every Israelite possess something on this list?
Not all gifts are equal in value. Not all materials are central to a project. In making a request of the community, sometimes we are not specific enough about our needs, for fear of offending those who may not feel included. But in valuing willing energy over specific skill, we lose the opportunity to empower those who could rise to lead.
In this opening instruction of the parashah, Torah also clearly struggles with how to word such a request. How does a developing community welcome and include all while also elevating some over others? Did the community really want all gifts or only the ones most relevant to the task?
Perhaps the text hoped to move the heart of the individual who would hear and understand that she had a valuable contribution to make, in material or skill. When the details of a project speak to your particular strengths, you are required to step up and participate. We must be willing, when the call comes, to evaluate ourselves and know when it is our time to lead. Do not fear the display of confidence or bounty. The success of the community relies upon your heart being moved at the right time.
Vayak’heil-Pekude (Exodus 35:1-40:38)
God commands the Israelites not to do any work in the Sanctuary on Shabbat. Moses told them to collect gifts of materials from those whose heart so moved them — gifts of gold, silver, copper, colored yarns, fine linen, goats hair, tanned ram skins, acacia wood, olive oil, spices, lapis lazuli, and other stones. Moses invited all who were skilled to make the Tabernacle, its furnishings, and the priests’ vestments. Moses says that Ohaliab and Bezalel, who are filled with the spirit of God, should take the gifts of the Israelites and build God’s Sanctuary.
In Pekude, Aaron and the priests are given their clothing for work in the Sanctuary. God told Moses to set up the Tabernacle, and Moses did just as God had commanded him. Moses anoints Aaron and his sons to make their priestly positions official. Moses finished the work, and the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and God’s Presence filled the Tabernacle. When the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set out, and when the cloud did not lift, they would not set out. And God’s cloud rested over the Tabernacle by day, and fire would appear in it by night, throughout the Israelites’ journeys.
Sh’mini Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47 (pp. 798-823)
Shemini begins on the 8th day of the ordination ceremonies of the High Priests, Aaron and his sons. When Aaron’s sons put fire and incense in their fire pans and offered alien fire to God, a fire comes forth from God and both die instantly. Moses explains God’s actions, saying the deaths demonstrate specifically the responsibility of priests to do that which God commanded. God commands Aaron not to drink intoxicants, for he must be able to carry on his duties. God speaks to Moses and Aaron regarding the laws of kashrut, making distinctions between land animals, birds, and animals in the water.
Tazria Leviticus 12:1 - 13:59 (pp. 826- 838)
Tazria means “she gives birth.” In this portion God tells Moses to instruct the Israelites about the definitions of impurity and the rituals of purification after child birth. Moses and Aaron are instructed in the diagnosis of tzara’at - an ailment which could affect human skin. If a person is diagnosed with the affliction, he or she must be isolated for seven days and is labelled “impure” until a priest has declared they are cured.