Messages on Leviticus

The priestly code; the rules pertaining to sacrifices, diet, and morality; and the Land of Israel and festivals are discussed.

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Bechukosai (Leviticus 26:3-27:34) 

The Familiar and Predictable Pattern We Seem to Forget  In1927, Meshech Chochma¸ one of the original Torah commentaries in the modern era was published. In this piece, the familiar cycle of Jews excelling in their host country and then the ensuing persecution is explained. It is remarkable—if not prophetic—that, years before the Holocaust, this commentary used […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)

)A Radical Solution for Intergenerational Poverty Imagine the following two scenarios: (1) You decide to sell land that had been in your family for generations and sometime later you realize it was a major immense mistake. Your family falls into poverty, which leads to a downward social and economic spiral, one which can lead to what […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Kedoshim (Leviticus19-20)

Rethinking Holy Karl Duncker, one of the pioneers of Gestalt psychology, conceived a challenge to demonstrate the need for unconventional thinking. In a room with a table pushed against the wall is a box of thumbtacks, matches, and a candle. Subjects were asked to attach the candle to the wall and have it lit. Many […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Achrei Mot(Leviticus 16-18)

Self-Imposed SlaveryWhat would you do if you lost your life’s savings? About 18 years ago, thousands of people had to face this tragedy. In her book Lost and Found, Geneen Roth describes the intense pain of finding out that all her life’s savings were lost to Bernie Madoff but what she gained was priceless.Before the […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Metzora Internal Freedom

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Metzora Internal Freedom Social media has made it commonplace for people to post negative and condemning remarks about people with whom they disagree. This and other types of malicious behavior are considered major offenses in Judaism. There’s not a whole lot we can do about it today but in ancient times, a person who […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha:Tazria (Leviticus 14-25)

Creating PossibilitiesThis week’s Parsha discusses the harmful effects of lashon hara, senseless negative speech. People who don’t take speech seriously, talk about others without regard for their feelings or the potential damage it can cause. King Solomon wrote, Life and death are in the hands of the tongue. One explanation is that negative talk has the ability to destroy […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Shmini (Leviticus 9-11)

Preying vs. Praying  This week’s Parsha ends with a detailed discussion concerning the specifics for determining whether a fish, animal, or even insect is kosher. The exact names of the kosher birds are listed and in addition we are taught what characteristics a bird requires to be fit for Jewish consumption. Birds of prey […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Tsav(Leviticus 6-8)

Why Civilizations Die In the book, The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking our way out of extinction, Rebecca Costa delivers a fascinating account of how civilizations die. Their problems become too complex. Societies reach what she calls a cognitive threshold. They simply can’t chart a path from the present to the future. The example she gives is the […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Bamidbar/Shavuos 5781-2021

You Count! When the cycle for the weekly Torah readings was established centuries ago, this week’s Parsha was designated specifically to precede the holiday of Shavuot, the festival commemorating the giving of the Torah. What is the connection between the two? It begins with G-d’s charge to Moses to conduct a census of the Jewish people. The […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Emor (Leviticus 21-24)

The Thoughtful Observer  A Jew who is Shomer Shabbos (Sabbath observant), adheres to the kosher laws, and keeps other mitzvot  in the Torah is referred to as an observant Jew. I’m not sure where exactly the term “observant” came from with reference to Jews, but a verse in this week’s Torah portion suggests an answer. You shall observe […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12-15)

CHIRP Why is so much of Diaspora Jewry ambivalent toward Israel? A peculiar phenomenon mentioned in this week’s Parsha sheds light. A unique spiritual illness having physical manifestations similar to leprosy existed in Biblical times; it resulted from speaking senseless gossip or derogatory speech. Part of the purification process was to bring two birds. Although […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Shmini (Leviticus 9-11) 

 Sometimes Silence is the Answer This past year I had the opportunity to be part of a group who visited Auschwitz. That evening, we stayed in a hotel across the street from one of the oldest and most renowned synagogues in Poland, the Rema’s shul in Cracow. Over 40 years earlier, in 1979, Professor Yaffa Eliach […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Tzav (Leviticus 6-8)  5783-2023

Roberto Clemente’s Lesson in Job Clarity Roberto Clemente, one of baseball’s most iconic figures, was playing outfield late into the 1968 season against the Houston Astros. The Pirates were no longer contenders, which meant that that game had no statistical meaning. A ball was hit deep into the outfield. As Clemente raced back, it seemed […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Vayikra (Leviticus 1-5)

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Vayikra (Leviticus 1-5) (Being as we are less than two weeks away from Passover, a short idea about one of Passover’s core messages will be presented at the end of this dvar Torah.) Set a Margin so Life doesn’t Just Barge In Margin/märjən/the edge or border of something. Although margins are important for […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Emor (Leviticus 21-24)Passing the Baton

A great deal of this week’s Parsha deals with matters pertaining to Kohanim, the decedents of Aaron. “Priests” is usually the English translation but there’s no appropriate terminology to describe this unique group of people whose task it is to perform the service in Jerusalem’s ancient Temple as well as being teachers for the Jewish people. […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Metzora(Leviticus 14-15) Creating Possibilities

Creating PossibilitiesThis week’s Parsha continues discussing the harmful effects of lashon hara, senseless negative speech. Many people don’t take speech seriously, speaking about others without regard for their feelings or the potential damage it can cause. King Solomon wrote, Life and death are in the hands of the tongue. One explanation is that negative talk has the ability to […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Nasso (Leviticus 4:21-7:89) Thirsty for Reality

In 2018 a study conducted at Ghent University (Belgium) demonstrated that people act differently when presented with a hypothetical moral decision than when faced with a real-life situation. Participants were presented with the “trolley dilemma,” which involves the following hypothetical scenario. A runaway trolley is about to hit five people on the tracks. They can take no […]