Archive for Mitzvot and Traditions

Some things to know about Chanukah

* In  the first bracha (blessing) of the candlelighting ceremony, there are thirteen tevot (punctuations) which coincide with the thirteen attributes of mercy. (They are very important; G-d practically guarantees that if one says the 13 attributes at proper times of the year he will be forgiven. During the high holidays, it is emphasized greatly.)  The second bracha also has thirteen tevot as well, and represents the same. Both brachot together equal 26 which is the name of G-d that represents mercy.


* The longest bircat hamazon of the year is said on Shabbat Chanukah. It has both al hanisim (the prayer said for Chanukah, and R’tzei, the prayer said on Shabbat) and if by chance Rosh Chodesh falls out on Shabbat, that’s’ a marathon.


* What happens if one is on a business trip? Does he light where he is? The answer is no; his wife lights at home for the husband. However, one is required to see the Chanukah candles lit. So if he’s in a Jewish town and he’s able to see other menorahs lit, then he has fulfilled the requirement. If he’s in a city where there are no Jews, then he must light himself. The mitzvah is also to see the candles burning on the menorah.

The Reciting of the Havdalah

          The ceremonial Havdalah, which we recite Saturday night, makes a separation between the Shabbat, a spiritually holy day , and weekdays. Initially, we recite the Havdalah at the evening services Amida in the midst of the bracha of ATTA CHONEN L’ADDAM DA’AT, “G-d give us understanding”. The question is asked: Why did the Sages instill the recitation of the Havdala in this bracha?
          Another question one may ask is “Are not the statements we make in Havdala (the separation between holy and not holy, between light and dark and between the nation of Israel and the other nations) extremely elementary?”
          Lets give a parable in order to fully understand the message of Havdallah.:
          If someone is not sure if a knife he finds in his house is dairy or meat, what should he do?
         Well one particular individual used one side of the knife for dairy and the other side of the knife for meat. Obviously this person lacks DA’AT-knowledge. This is the reason the recitation is found in the bracha of “G-d please give me knowledge”. If one has the proper knowledge, he can make the proper distinction.
          However life is such that certain situations are not so clear cut. When does one say “Enough”. There are many situation at work or between neighbors that occur between us and the non-Jews that fall under the grey area of what the Havdalah calls ” between us and the non Jews”. We therefore pray our decisions will be clear and with the proper understanding.
          It’s important to put fences, barriers, at the proper junctures of our relationships. Unfortunately, it’s common that lines are crossed. How many of us say “I’m going to do this no matter what”. The reason is our emotions get in the way. There is a certain vulnerability in all of us and no one is immune.
         Avraham had the gift, the courage, and the foresight to draw the line, to make the “havdalah (separation). This is how he was able to teach to his son and students G-d’s word and for this reason G-d loved him like no other.

Some Insights into the Mezuzah


In this week’s Parsha, G-d commanded that the Israelites inscribe the Torah on twelve gigantic stones.  Some say it was written in seventy languages; some say only the commandments were written. What’s the purpose of this commandment which was placed in Gilgal, at the entrance to Eretz Yisrael?


One answer is the stones signified that one was about to enter the land of Torah. Just as a Jewish home is distinguished by the mezuzah at the doorpost; so a huge monument at the border of Eretz Yisrael reminds the traveler that the purpose living there is to keep the Torah.


We have 613 commandments in the Torah, do’s and don’ts. There are only two mitzvot where one gets severely punished if one does not do a “do it”….and that is brit milah and korban Pesach (sacrifice). Seemingly, these two commandments are very important and it’s the first two commandments we had. The brit – Avraham was commanded to do on himself and his children. The korban Pesach was mitzvah number two. G-d said whoever did not perform circumcision cannot participate in the korban Pesach. Therefore, that night, many Jews, who were lax in this area, circumcised themselves. Then they were instructed to put the blood of the brit milah and korban Pesach on the doorpost which protected them from death of the first born. G-d skipped over the doorposts with the blood.


G-d said, because you did these two mitzvot you will be redeemed.


The RAMBAM writes, by walking in and out of our houses we kiss the mezuzah to remind us of the fundamental principles of our religion. We are reminded of going out of Egypt. The brit mila is also a declaration acknowledging G-d and the korban Pesach – a declaration to do the commandments. These declarations which consists of the Shema and VEHAYA IM SHAMOAH is found in the parchment in the Mezuzah. 

Parshat Ki-Tavo

First Portion
* Many commentaries including the RAMBAM – Maimonides – say the whole issue of the commandment of bikurim, (first fruits are brought from the seven species – wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates which the land of Israel is most famous for), is to stress man’s total submission and appreciation to G-d. When a land-owner notices that the first fruits of any of the aforementioned begin to ripen in his field, he ties a thread around it to mark it bikurim. When it ripens, he takes it to the Temple, as part of his tithe. The first fruits of the land were chosen to express this basic principle, because whatever is first is always precious to a person.
The same concept applies to pidyon haben – redeeming of the first born son. It’s special because it has enhanced the status of man to father; there is a continuity of the new father where he has the opportunity to pass down the Jewish tradition which he has received from his father. The precious valuable commodity firstborn belongs to G-d and the father proudly redeems the boy. The ceremony consists of the father purchasing back his son from any Kohen (they are G-d’s representatives) for five silver coins. The ceremony is conducted on the 30th day from birth. If one is not redeemed on the 30th day, he can still do the procedure in his lifetime regardless if his father is alive; he can redeem himself. The reason bikurim-first fruits – is emphasized is because after the Israelites entered and settled in the promised land, Israel, we must take great care to ensure we don’t have any delusions that it was because of my strength that I have attained this wealth. Every year that our ancestors brought bikurim was testimonial that the earth is G-d’s. It’s not our land, it’s His. So bringing the first which is always so special would be a meaningful gift to G-d. There are a number of firsts which are important to discuss. How important it is therefore for a woman to hold herself until her wedding and let her husband be the first. It is a tremendous added plus to the relationship. Unfortunately, at certain times in our history we were tremendously subservient to our gentile oppressors who demanded that the first night would belong to the gentile officers before the Jewish groom. The enemy knew they would dampen and sour the relationship and bond which would have a detrimental lasting effect on the newlyweds. This is, by the way, one of the curses which we find later in the Parsha. “You shall betroth a wife and another will take her.” We also find that the acts of smelling, touching, seeing, and hearing for the first time, is a lot more pleasurable at first. Human nature has always anointed the first in every aspect of life, as special.

Second Portion
* Interesting to note – there is no commandment in this Parsha where the owner gives the teruma and ma’aser. However, the commandment is on the declaration of the Teruma and ma’aser (end of Pesach fourth and seventh year). We see how the Torah finds speech crucial in the ongoing daily activities of man. What distinguishes us from the animal kingdom, who can physically receive and give, is the power of speech.

Third Portion
* The question is asked who has a greater reward, someone who is obligated to do a Torah commandment or someone who doesn’t but does it anyway? The answer is someone who has the obligation and does it. A person who inherits an obligation is struck a psychological burden on himself therefore greater is his evil which prevents him from accomplishing the mandatory task. The other with no obligation feels lightweight. It’s an easier feeling when one can pull out at any given time with no obligations.

Fourth Portion
* The Jews were instructed that as soon as they enter the land they should erect monuments and write the Torah on each. Rav Sadya Gaon says only the commandments that were written but not the full text.

Fifth Portion
* Moshe commanded that on the day the Jews enter the land under his successor’s leadership, they were to travel directly to Mt. Greezim and the adjacent mountain, Mt. Aival, where the twelve tribes will be divided equally on each mountain, and they will pronounce G-d’s blessings and curses. The kohanim, Levites, and the ark would remain in the valley between the two mountains. The levi’im then would begin the recitation of the blessing and the two sides will answer amen. Why did G-d command the Jews to listen to curses and blessings on the day they entered the holy land? This was a new covenant, a new acceptance of the Torah in the land itself. The two mountains would serve as two internal witnesses who remind the Jews of their pledge to keep the Torah in the land of Israel.

Sixth Portion
* “Bless shall you be when you enter and bless shall you be when you leave.” This is a very popular slogan which is found in the entrance in many Jewish homes. You shall leave this world as free of sin as you were when you came into it (Rashi).
* “G-d should place you as a head and not as a tail.” This is one of the brachot we say symbolically to have a good year on Rosh Hashanah. It is possible that one can be a leader to some but to be a follower to others. G-d promises that if Israel is worthy, it will be respected by everyone and subservient to no one.

Seventh Portion
* Many times in our lives, human nature dictates, we do not appreciate or are sensitive enough to fully comprehend the event that occurred most recent in our lives. It takes some time to digest. Moshe has tried to inject an awareness drug so they can comprehend now what has transpired and put the wilderness years into perspective. Unfortunately, for us we cannot fully understand or appreciate until the event, time, or individual is gone.

The Ultimate Task of Parents


One should know and realize by looking at the tablets that half contain man’s relationship with G-d while the other half represents man’s relationship with his fellow man. If one examines it closely however, one will notice “honoring your father and your mother” is placed in the wrong column – on the side that represents man’s relationship with G-d. Clearly, as far as I’m concerned, parents are humans and they belong on the other side of the tablets. Perhaps the designer thought it would look awkward having six and four placed on the Aron Kodseh (place where you keep the Torahs). Five and five look much better and even; it gives more presence to the Synagogue, especially the fancy shmancy ones.


We read in Psalms, which was written by King David; (Sefardim read it daily while the Ashkenazim recite it the month before Rosh Hashanah). “My father and mother have left me but I still have you, G-d”. We can deduce from the Psalm that King David relied heavily on G-d. We can also detect David missing his parents. But that’s kind of odd; before he was anointed King, there was a concern that he might have been illegitimate. Yishai, his father, wasn’t sure David was his son. At best, they had a cold relationship. Although one may argue that any doubt about the legitimacy of Yishai being David’s father was put to rest after the Prophet Shmuel anointed David, and a loving father and son relationship developed. However, David was on the run, whether being chased by King Shaul or whatever wars he fought. Furthermore, David’s parents and brothers (except for one) were massacred by the Moabites. So as far as David’s relationship with his father, what’s there that he missed so much that triggered him to make such a statement?


Any one of the readers who have had the experience of taking care of elderly parents realized that as long as they were alive, one felt the parent was taking care of them even though the opposite was true. The son or daughter paid all the bills and they would escort them to their medical appointments because they would not be able to go by themselves. In fact, my father once said when a person becomes old he reverts back to being a child. Even so, apparently as soon as they pass on, the children feel abandoned; they have an uneasy feeling of losing that nurturing parent.


Belief and trusting G-d requires one to fully rely on Him. How does one develop that ability? This is accomplished by practicing the concept of “leaning on and trusting” through the parents. They are there so we can really on them. They fed and clothed us and took us to school when we were young; they taught us about life. The college tuition was paid and they let us borrow the car. We look up to them until a certain time where then they pass the baton to G-d and we rely on Him fully. It may take twenty years or forty, but it’s inevitable.


This is the reason “honoring parents” is on the same side of man/G-d relationship. G-d and parents are part and parcel in bringing out in us the feeling of trust and having being taken care of and that the ultimate and optimal feeling one has to have to G-d.

The Source for a Bar Mitzvah Celebration



The Avnei Nezer asks an interesting question. Who gets a bigger reward, one who studies Torah and doesn’t get enjoyment from the learning or one who learns and receives tremendous pleasure from it?


There are people who get such a high from learning. It’s definitely a nice feeling and at times I can testify about that tremendous feeling. One might think that the one who doesn’t get the enjoyment from studying Torah gets a greater reward. The reason is because it makes the obligation more difficult; he’s not enjoying it. However, the Avnai Nazer concludes that in fact the one who gets the pleasure gets the greater reward because that’s the proper way to learn.


Rabbi Baruch Dopelt, quoting the MARSHAL, asks, “Who gets a greater reward, one who is obligated to do a MITZVA-commandment or one who isn’t but does it anyway?


An example is given from the Talmud in tractate Kedushin. There is a discussion between Rav Yehuda and the Sages about if a blind man is obligated to do Torah commandments or not. Rav Yehuda says he’s not obligated, and if he does them anyway, they should have a celebration because of the difficulty due to his deficiencies. The Sages ask on Rav Yehuda and I paraphrase, “You mean to say that a person who is not obligated has a tougher time doing Gd commandments?! We say the opposite; a person who has an obligation has a far more difficult time doing the MITZVOT. The reason is that it’s human nature to say ‘I DON’T WANT PEOPLE TELLING ME WHAT TO DO. I’LL DO IT WHEN I’M GOOD AND READY!!’” The evil inclination plays with us. The more the obligation, the more the resistance and the more the mental TZA’AR-anguish. Therefore they conclude that it’s a lot tougher for one to fulfill the Mitzvot when he is commanded to do so.


In this week’s Parsha, we speak of a GER-convert. “We should not cause anguish to the stranger (convert)”. A GER, by the way, is one that has experienced the feelings both of obligation and no obligation to do MITZVOT. As a Jew, he is obligated do all the commandment; no excuses. When he’s about to convert, he does the MITZVAH without any pressure or responsibilities.


The Marshal concludes that if Rav Yehuda wanted to throw a party for one who is not obligated (a blind man), how much more so to a thirteen year old who is on the threshold of taking a tremendous step and accepting the responsibility to do the MITZVOT. THEY SHOULD THROW A HUGE PARTY!!! This is the source of a Bar Mitzvah celebration.


This Shabbat commemorates the 9th anniversary of my father’s passing. He orchestrated and led, with the help of Teddy Pinchasi and later Aharon Tzionov, Bar Mitzvot for Russian immigrants, who either could not afford it or because of not being proficient in Torah and tradition, did not deem it important. On three separate occasions, he would collect money and throw a big party at the main Bukharian Bet Hakneset in Forest Hills in honor of the Bar Mitzvah boys. The boys would get a chance to put on for the first time their new T’filin and to make the brachot.


As a child, my father escaped the Soviet Union with his Mother (my grandfather was too sick to travel) to Israel. He arrived at an age close to his Bar Mitzvah. It was difficult to adjust; still, they managed to survive. He never talked about his Bar Mitzvah. He didn’t need to. The actions he took by doing this big Mitzvah spoke for itself.


I once had the pleasure of meeting, many years later, one of the Bar Mitzvah boys. He was observant and Orthodox and with a beard. He said to me: “I used to come home every day from school and stare at the T’filin which I received as a gift and think of that special day. It left a lasting impression. Your father once came into the office where I worked and I was debating whether to walk over to him and tell him that I was one of those boys. However, I was too shy.”


It’s a shame he didn’t introduce himself, my father would have been proud.

Reflecting Back On The Mah Nishtana



There’s an old saying, “Time marches on, it doesn’t stop for anybody.” We blink our eyes and the wonderful holiday of Pesach is history. There are many customs among our great nation for many of our chagim. Over the course of the holiday of Pesach, I had spoken to many people and I came across this touching story of Rav Baruch Dopelt. His name may sound familiar to some of the readers; this is because I quote him in many of the Divrei Torah which I write and lecture on.


He mentioned that his custom at the Pesach Seder is that everybody who is sitting at the Seder table gets a chance to say the Mah Nishtana to their father. This is because the Seder is all about asking questions to the elders. It doesn’t matter what age they are; everyone recites it. Of course, the youngsters are thrilled with the opportunity for the limelight. However, the teenagers are a bit embarrassed and feel it’s not their speed anymore to recite the questions. But there are those like Rabbi Dopelt, who’s a grandfather many times over, who has been saying the Mah Nishtana, with the exception of this year, to his father ever since he can remember. Unfortunately, his father passed away this past year and he discontinued his questions. There is a feeling of a tremendous loss at the table. I can definitely feel for Rabbi Dopelt, having lost my father eight years ago. I can still remember him sitting in his customary joma (holiday robe) and excitingly answering the Patriarch response to the questions, ‘avadim hayinu.’ Rav Dopelt said how nice it would be to say the Mah Nishtana one more time to his father.


It seems like Rabbi Dopelt and I have inherited quite a responsibility. Now we are the Patriarchs of our family and it’s our task to pass down the tradition of our families that goes back three thousand years. It’s a challenge to step up to the plate and give over to your children what your father has taught you all these years. The sages say to keep it fun and interesting. We, the Patriarchs, are now in the entertainment business; and it’s worth a million dollars to see your child respond eagerly to your stories and answers.

Parshat Shemini

First Portion: * THE INAUGURATION!!! Much has been written in the Torah about  G-d’s  Temple, the sacrifices, the utensils, and the individuals who perform the heavenly work. In this week’s Parsha, the majestic temple will finally begin to operate; opening day at the Mishkan. It will be a liaison between G-d’s chosen people and their master. The Temple was a tremendous opportunity for the Jews to get close to G-d. No time in our history have we had a spiritual closeness than in the period of the Temple and its sacrifices. Apparently, one can logically assume, it’s a major source of celebration. However, the Parsha begins with the word ‘Vayehi’ – and it was; every time a sentence begins with that word, it signifies that trouble lies ahead.

* One of the punishments of Adam and Chava (Eve) for their sin for eating from the tree of knowledge, was that any happiness that mankind will incur will be marred by a percentage of bad. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we break the glass at the chupah at a wedding; we remind ourselves of the destruction of the Temple; one should have a little sad feeling at the celebration. We are hoping that by breaking the glass, representing the uneasy memory of the destruction of the Temple, will replace the possibility of a negative occurrence which might take place, and may be harsher. Unfortunately, here, we have one of the most spiritual celebrations of the Jewish people, and tragedy will occur.


Second Portion: * For the first time, the kohanim performed the task of presenting sacrifices to G-d; until now, the firstborn were in charge. However, after the sin of the golden calf, the firstborn, who were responsible as spiritual leaders, were stripped of this high position.

* Aharon, the high priest and Moshe’s brother, was a charismatic figure. Evidence of his charm is the fact he was the broker of peace to many. Whether it be between husbands and wives or businessmen trying to settle a dispute; he had a way with people; they sensed his sincerity and reacted favorably and did what he said. Aharon’s response to the people was always with enthusiasm. He was so excited to show his love to his nation on the day of the inauguration, that he instinctively raised his hands to bless the people. As a reward for the affection he had for the people, every kohen since, has the opportunity to bless the people daily (Ashkenazim three times a year). This ritual is started by the kohanim raising their hands as Aharon did that very first time. The kohanim mention Aharon and the word be’ahava – with love in their blessing as a tribute to the affection he had.


Third Portion: * Tragedy strikes the Israelites as Nadav and Avihu, Aharon’s two oldest sons and the heir – apparent to the leadership, are killed, consumed by fire from their unauthorized sacrifices which they performed. Many reasons are given why they perished. We will mention a few:

– They were not married; therefore, it was difficult to control ‘the fire within’ them. Therefore, they were not focused on their task.

– They performed their duties intoxicated. The celebration of the inauguration spilled over to a part of the day which being sober was a must. From here we learn, don’t pray drunk.

– They were a bit haughty; they couldn’t wait to take the position of leadership from Moshe and Aharon.

Rashi (main commentary on the Torah) says Moshe thought they were greater than he and his brother Aharon. A good number of commentaries say, on the contrary, there was no negativity attached to their sacrifice; they were on a mission to go where no man has entered which is as close to G-d as possible, and unfortunately they went beyond the point of return. Regardless, it was a tragic loss for the Jewish people.


Fourth Portion: * The kohanim have to observe special laws of purity which forbid them to touch a corpse. However, there are exceptions such as a death of a close relative for whom a kohen has to mourn and whose burial he has to attend. A high priest, on the other hand, is never permitted to leave the avoda (Kohen’s task) even if his own parents die. On the eighth day of the inauguration, G-d applied the laws of the high priest not just to the kohen gadol Aharon, but to his remaining sons. They were forbidden to exhibit any signs of mourning for their brother’s death, but were commanded to continue the service. Interruption of the services of the mishkan would spoil the joy of the newly constructed tabernacle.


Fifth Portion: * Moshe gets angry. Our sages teach us a general rule: A Torah scholar, who displays anger or arrogance, loses his wisdom; a prophet loses his prophecy. Apparently, Moshe erred and forgot the law as a result of getting angry.


Sixth Portion: * G-d taught Moshe which species of beasts, birds, and fish a Jew may eat and which are forbidden to him. Why did G-d allow the nations of the world to eat any food they desire while he imposed restrictions on us? The reason is that we possess pure souls and therefore we are negatively affected by the consumption of non-kosher foods.

* The Torah describes the signs by which a permitted animal can be distinguished from a forbidden one.

– Beasts – only an animal possessing two of the following characteristics is kosher: 1) Its hooves must be split throughout. Some animals possessing hooves which are partially split but join at the bottom are not kosher; the hooves must be comprised of 2 distinct parts; possessing two nails 2) It is ruminant, that is having swallowed its food, it regurgitates it once again in order to chew it.

– Fish – A fish must possess fins and scales. However, as long as we find scales on the fish, we may consider it kosher since every fish which has scales possesses fins too.

– Birds – The Torah lists 21 non-kosher birds. These are listed instead of the kosher birds; they are fewer in number than the kosher ones.

– Insects – Some locusts are permitted. Nevertheless, since we do not have a reliable tradition, they are all prohibited.


Seventh Portion: * Sheretz \creeping animals – It is forbidden to eat any creeping animals on dry land or in water. The reason for the stringency is because of the snake which belongs in this category. Because of the memory of the snake being instrumental in the sin of mankind, any creeping animals similar to it is forbidden. That’s how much G-d is repulsed by the snake for what he did.

The Business of Kashrut


My father always warned me to never enter the kashrut business. The temptation of corruption is great and inadvertent mistakes are quite common. Little did he know I would become a Rabbi. The truth is, I’m perfectly happy keeping busy behind the computer keyboard, than behind a kosher meat market kitchen. Kol hakavod to those brave Rabbis who take it upon themselves to maintain a standard of excellence at these facilities. It surely is a tremendous task and a big responsibility.


My father mentioned how common it was, in Stemarkand, Russia, for a butcher to threaten the Mashgiach’s life if he did not give his stamp of approval. Thank G-d today in America, we have some strong kashrut organizations that will not tolerate such shenanigans. Unfortunately, sometimes a story comes out with horrific consequences. Does anybody remember the butcher in Monsey, NY who sold non-kosher chickens to many in the New York and Philadelphia area for years?


According to our sages, if one consumes non-kosher food, it ruins the ability to reach and comprehend any levels of spirituality, even inadvertently. One might wonder why some people just can’t get into it while others are just enjoying some aspect of Torah and Judaism. They look at the people enjoying the Torah like they are weird because they cannot relate. Well, they cannot relate because their pipes to the heavens have been clogged up. I wonder if they’re not jealous of the spiritual individuals, that they can feel something that they cannot. This is the result of non-kosher consumption. It’s not for naught that Orthodoxy takes enormous pains, time, money, and skills to make sure everything is tip-top. The authorities are trying to avoid damage to our precious souls. This is the main reason we’re so meticulous.


Those of you who read my articles weekly, know that they are pretty positive and encouraging. However, it’s a pretty sticky subject. I’d like to share this gruesome story with you.


There was once a butcher in the town of Tzippory who used to sell non-kosher meat to Jews. Once, on Yom Kippur eve, he ate a heavy meal, drank wine, and ascended to the rooftop. In his intoxicated state, he tripped, fell, and broke his neck. The dogs assembled to lap his blood. Yom Kippur has already begun, and the people hurried to R’ Chanina to ask him whether it was permissible on Yom Tov to carry the corpse to a different place where it would be protected from the dogs. “Leave it where it is,” ordered R’ Chanina. “This man cheated the dogs out of legal reward assigned to them by the Torah.” It says “Do not eat traifa meat, but throw it to the dogs” (Shemot 22:30). However, this man fed the Jews non-kosher meat, thereby withholding it from the dogs. They therefore are coming now to claim their reward.


Kashrut is a very serious business on both sides of the fence, both on the eating and on the selling. Please use precautionary measures.


Parshat Emor


First Portion: * I have many close friends who are kohanim. These friends, as well as the rest, must observe laws of holiness beyond those which apply to the rest of our beloved nation. They have higher standards  because they, at one point, performed G-d’s holy work in the temple. Although many of those tasks are not applicable today, the kohanim still abide by the stringent laws of their ancestors. Astonishingly, I find even the most secular kohanim observe many of these stringent laws. They all know they can’t go to a cemetery or be in the same room with someone who is deceased. Although a Kohen must defile himself for his nearest relative that have unfortunately perished, which is one of seven – wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother or un-married sister, he is also obligated to defile himself for a met-mitzvah (a corpse found in a deserted spot where there is no one else within calling distance who can perform the burial. He must then bury the dead body).


* The Torah forbids a Kohen from marrying any of the following women. Chalala – the daughter of a Kohen, born of a union which was forbidden to him. For example, a girl born from a marriage between a Kohen and a prostitute or a divorcee. Zonah – a woman who had forbidden relations (for example, a non-Jew), and geyoret – a convert. He may only marry a girl who is Jewish by birth. Lastly, he may not marry a gerusha – a divorced woman.
Why did the Torah impose these limitations upon a Kohen in his choice of a wife? A man’s thoughts are influenced by his wife and to a great part directed toward her. The purity of a Kohen ranks above the rest; therefore, the Torah wants him to marry a type of woman whose background and past are without a blemish to ensure that he is not disturbed with thoughts of her background, and therefore able to perform his holy task.
* A Kohen still commands respect among his Jewish brethren. He is the first to be called to the Torah; according to Sephardic tradition, he blesses the people daily at the shacharit services. Ashkenazi origin – Jews bless the people three times a year. A Kohen is also given honor to lead the grace after meal. A new father takes his newborn son to the Kohen after 30 days to be redeemed (pidyon haben).

Second Portion: * A Kohen with a physical defect did not perform the service. He was not even permitted to enter the haichal (holy section of the temple). A physical defect includes both a birth defect, for example, blindness (even in one eye) and a temporary one, for example, injury. The Kohen resumes his Avoda – task – only when he is healed. Our sages list 140 blemishes which disqualify a Kohen from performing his duty.


Third Portion: * An animal must fulfill several requirements to be suitable as a sacrifice. It must be physically perfect. Also, an animal is acceptable only from the eighth day after birth and on. Why may it not be offered earlier? A newborn creature is small and not yet well-developed for the first seven days. It is still difficult to discern whether or not it has some minor defects. After the eighth day, it is sufficiently developed whether or not it is blemished.


Fourth Portion: * In this section, we find the wording of the special holiday Kiddush; the Kiddush starts elleh moadai. The Torah discusses two festive times – moadai Hashem. G-d gave the Bet-din (the Jewish court) the authority to proclaim when holidays should be, through determining when the new moon begins. If one thinks of the magnitude of authority that G-d has given the bet din, which is the ability to proclaim the holidays, they would come to the conclusion that it’s mind-boggling. It seems like there is a tremendous degree of confidence G-d has upon our Jewish courts. So the festivities are man-appointed. The other festivity which is discussed, is from G-d – “Shabbat” – which has more stringent laws attached to it and the punishment for discretion is more severe. However, we might assume that Yom-Tov (holidays) can be taken lightly since its sanctity was put into effect by man. The Torah juxtaposed the two to teach us they are equally forbidden. In fact, to show how important holidays are, if one notices, if a holiday falls on a Shabbat, we do not recite the usual Shabbat prayer. Even though there is a law “always recite the more frequent prayer”, we say a festive prayer instead with a Shabbat reference.
* The holiday of Pesach and the counting of the Omer are discussed.


Fifth Portion: * In this section, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are discussed.


Sixth Portion: * Here, the Torah speaks about the holiday of Sukkot and the four species that one assembles together (lulav, etrog, hadas, and arravot) and makes a blessing.


Seventh Portion: * There was a man who was a trouble maker, whose mother was Jewish and father was Egyptian. He ridiculed Moshe about the lechem hapanim – the special bread in the temple that miraculously stayed fresh and warm after a week, saying “Na, it’s probably stale. Is it proper to serve such bread in the Kings palace?” One day, he decided to pitch his tent in his mother’s territorial tribe, Dan. However, because of his father’s non-Jewish status, the Jewish court rejected the advances by him to claim territorial rights in Dan. Inheritance goes after the father, not the mother. Out of anger, he cursed G-d. The incident was an unprecedented first. G-d instructed Moshe that this individual’s punishment should be death.