Rabbi Feingold's D'var Torah

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This week's double parasha contains laws about people with some kind of physical ailment or dramatic bodily function, e.g. childbirth. It is interesting that these body issues are dealt with in a religious/spiritual context. Religious rituals are prescribed, and, sometimes, religious leaders, priests, are called in to make pronouncements about the afflicted person's status in the community. Even though the rituals prescribed are archaic and, at times, incomprehensible, we can relate to the concept of there being a spiritual dimension to the awareness of the functioning of our bodies, both when they work and amaze us (as in childbirth) and when they don't and we suffer the results. When we heal from afflictions and especially when we witness the birth of a child, we are in awe of the functioning of our bodies and the goodness in our lives. We thank God, as in the words of the prayer Asher Yatzar from the morning service: "Blessed are You, Adonai, who heals all flesh, working wondrously." (Mishkan Tefilah, p. 194)

This week's parasha contains a list of "clean" and "unclean" animals that constitute, in part, what is permitted and forbidden for "kashrut," the Jewish dietary laws. We are prone to ask "why," but the Torah provides no explanation. However, explanations abound in later Jewish literature. Rabbi Richard N. Levy suggests that we are forbidden from eating certain categories of animals (birds of prey, "bottom feeders" in the water, animals whose behavior is not dignified [e.g. pigs]), to remind us that we human beings are to elevate ourselves above this level, seeking holiness in our lives. See: 

http://www.reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study/shmini-ii/diet-holiness.

I do not keep strictly kosher, but I do refrain from ingesting the list of forbidden animals. I do it primarily to remind myself that I am a Jew and, therefore, live differently than others. But, I like the idea that limiting what I eat elevates my humanity as well. I would like to hear from others who keep some form of kashrut. Why do you do it, and how would you encourage others to try it out for themselves as a Jewish practice? I invite you to email me your answers, and I will compile and share them with others—without attribution, if you so indicate.

On the seventh day of Pesach, we join in the synagogue for a festival service and the recitation of Yizkor, the Memorial prayers. Therefore, please join us tomorrow, April 10, at 10:30am for these services as well as Shabbat services tomorrow evening at 7:30pm. In traditional congregations where Pesach is observed for 8 days, this Shabbat will be a festival day as well, and another special Torah reading is reserved for that day. But, in Reform congregations and in Israel it is a regular, non-festival Shabbat. (Even so, since some observe the traditional 8 days of Pesach diet, the Oneg tomorrow night will be "Kosher for Passover.") The Torah reading calendar becomes a problem when the Reform and Israeli calendars differ from the traditional calendar. The solution is to split the Torah and Haftarah readings for next Shabbat (Shemini) into two separate readings. So, we will read part of Shemini this week and part the following week. Then the whole Jewish world will be back on track in the same place by next Shabbat! Chag Samei'ach!

May FOOD OF THE MONTH: canned or dried beans

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