Kedoshim | קדשים

The Palace of Torah Expanded: Aharei Mot-Kedoshim 5781

For many modern readers, engaging with Torah presents a paradox. Biblical and rabbinic voices reaching us from the distant past are like starlight emitted millennia ago—brilliant and often shockingly current, but also artifacts from light sources that may have dimmed or even expired. This paradox can be constructive, drawing modern readers out of our own…

Minyan in Cyberspace?

The Coronavirus pandemic has affected our lives in many unfortunate ways, and we worry that much worse is yet to come. Saving lives is our first obligation, and this responsibility led most Jewish communities across the world to cancel public worship as soon as public health officials recommended this measure. As with other aspects of…

Silence Above and Below: Aharei Mot 5779

 Ze’ev Wilhelm Falk was a professor of law at Hebrew University who also served as rector and faculty at the Schechter institute in Jerusalem. Born in Breslau in 1923, he fled Germany alone at 16, arriving in Israel in 1939, and went on to study in the Hevron yeshivah and then at Hebrew University. He…

Karma and Kehunah: Aḥarei Mot-Kedoshim 5778

They’re a strange combination, Aḥarei Mot and Kedoshim. The former parashah focuses on an inaccessible ritual—possible only for a certain person, at a specific time, in a sacred place, from which we have been exiled for millennia. The Torah states, “no person may be in the tent of meeting when he [the priest] enters.” In…

From Kilayim to Kabbalah to CRISPR

I participated in a conference on the new gene-editing technology known as CRISPR/Cas9 at Berkeley on June 18-19, 2017. Below are my remarks, building on the foundation of my 2015 responsum on genetic engineering. Gene Editing Ethics Workshop convened by Jennifer Doudna and Bill Hurlbut Panel on Catholic, Muslim and Jewish Perspectives (Texts displayed as…

Kind Criticism and the Holy Community. Shabbat Kedoshim 5766

The first 19 verses of Parashat Kedoshim are an astonishingly broad code of religious life. The passage opens with a mandate for Israel to become holy like God, and it ends with preserving the integrity of plants and animals. In between is a remarkable series of commands designed to inculcate social solidarity and equality—we are…

Making and Unmaking Distinctions: Aharei Mot-Kedoshim 5775

Many years ago a teacher challenged me to name a mitzvah that had no personal significance. It took but a second for the word shatnez to cross my lips—I just couldn’t think of any spiritual insight that could come from worrying about the fabric blend in my clothes. As a city dweller, I didn’t have…

Love Your Neighbors–Plants and Animals Included: Kedoshim 5774

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…