Kedoshim 5774: Love Your Neighbors–Plants and Animals Included

I’m sad to say it, but apocalypse was on my mind over Pesah. Elizabeth Kolbert’s new book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, took me through a few hundred million years of natural history, during which the earth has experienced five “extinction events” when a large portion of the biosphere died off. The most famous…

Shabbat HaGadol 5774: Got Your Goat?

One kid, just one kid-חד גדיא, חד גדיא. Goats are the key connection between Parshat Aharei Mot and Shabbat HaGadol. Our portion features two goats that are the most visible signs of dedication and atonement of the Yom Kippur ritual, and it also offers a cryptic reference to Israel’s past history of goat worship. In…

Shabbat Metzora 5774: Magic or Morality?

Ritual is essential to religious life, but what does it actually accomplish? Is our elaborate system of gestures and taboos purely symbolic, or does it effect some sort of spiritual shift in reality? In our portion, we are told that the priest purifies a person or a home that has been afflicted with tzara’at by…