Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Shemini 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

Silent Comfort: On Profound Loss

Posted on April 20, 2017

This week’s Torah portion is the third in the Book of Leviticus, Shemini, and it includes a very dramatic, and traumatic event.  The Tabernacle in the Wilderness has just been consecrated, and the priests, Moses’ brother Aaron and his sons, are entering into their office.  God’s presence fills the Tabernacle, and all is right with the people. 

And then, suddenly, disaster strikes.  Aaron’s eldest sons, newly ordained priests named Nadav and Avihu, offer what is called eish zarah, strange fire to the Lord.  They are immediately struck down and devoured by divine fire, dying before the Lord. 

In the aftermath of this tragic shock, Moses consoles Aaron with strange words: “God says, ‘By those brought near to Me I am consecrated, and honored before the people.’”

There is no word on whether Aaron accepted this as a just ending for his sons.  The text merely says “Vayidom Aharon”, Aaron was silent.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Shemini 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Pesach 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

Freedom for All

Posted on April 12, 2017

The Torah readings on Passover are some of the most dramatic and interesting of the entire year.  We remember the Exodus from Egypt in a variety of ways: in prose, in poetry, by recalling the sacrifices of our ancestors, and by delineating rituals that we still observe. 

We use Torah during Passover in the same way that we use the Haggadah at the Seder: to teach, remind, and refresh our understanding of the great blessing and value of freedom in every possible permutation.  Freedom is too easy to take for granted.  We must always remind ourselves of its blessings.

We do so on Pesach by celebrating freedom in word and song, by observing dietary restrictions that remind us of the servitude of our ancestors.  Even the food teaches us to value the hard-won freedom of the Exodus story.

May we always enjoy the liberty to do so in this society, and in every society in which we find ourselves. 

And may the many people of every faith who are not yet free become free soon.

Please join us for our Wandering Jews’ hike in the Wilderness at 5:30 PM this Friday night, our Shabbat Passover morning services at 9:30 this Saturday, including the chanting of the Song of Songs, and our 7th Day Passover morning services Monday including Yizkor memorial prayers at 9:30 AM.  And have a zissen Pesach, a joyous and healthy Passover! 

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Tzav/Shabbat Hagadol 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

Offering Thanks in a Season of Freedom

Posted on April 5, 2017

This week’s Torah portion is the second in the Book of Leviticus, Tzav, the section that establishes rules for the various sacrifices offered in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, the Mishkan. These same sacrifices were later also offered in the Temple in Jerusalem for a thousand years. 

There are many different types of sacrifices commanded in Tzav: burnt offerings, guilt offerings, sin offerings, and so on.  But one group of sacrificial offerings stands out: the offerings of peace, the zevach shlamim.  And among this higher category of offerings one in particular stands out the highest: the zevach haTodah, the thanksgiving offering. 

The rabbis thought so highly of thanksgiving to God that they are quoted in the Talmud saying that, “when the Messiah comes all sacrifices will have completed their mission, and all will be discontinued, with one exception: the thanksgiving offering.”  That sacrifice will last forever, even after the Messiah!  Why?  Because even in a perfect world we must remember to give thanks, to be grateful for what we have. 

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Tzav/Shabbat Hagadol 5777

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Vayakhel-Pekudei 5777

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT

The Triumph of Hope over Experience

Posted on March 23, 2017

Hope is a tangible, unstated presence in our Torah portion this week, Vayakhel-Pekudei, the double sedrah at the end of the book of Exodus.  On the surface, this parashah is nothing more than a listing of how the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was constructed by our ancestors, lists of materials used, processes employed, structures and implements assembled.  So many pieces of wood or gold or skins of animals used to make this item; these artisans employed on that project; Moses asked for these materials and they were graciously donated.  And so on and so forth.

But in another sense, this is an incredibly hopeful Torah portion, a section that truly represents the triumph of hope over experience.  For in last week’s Torah portion of Ki Tisa the people of Israel dramatically failed both God and Moses: they made a Golden Calf, and worshipped it, and bowed before it, and insisted that it was their god.  Just 40 days after receiving the Ten Commandments at Sinai they forgot the Revelation and abandoned monotheism and morality and everything they had just been taught, including the Second Commandment prohibiting the worship of idols.  It was a devastating moment for Moses.  It must have been a fundamentally depressing time for God, too.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk On Vayakhel-Pekudei 5777

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