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This Week's The Torah Portion:



This week we begin the third book of the Torah, the Book of Leviticus - known in Hebrew as "Vayikra".  Leviticus served as an instruction manual for the tribe of Kohen, the priestly tribe of ancient Israel. Interestingly, even as the pagan priests of Israel's neighbors engaged in sacrificial worship, so did the tribe of Kohen. But that is where the similarities between them ended. For whereas our neighbors offered human beings upon their altars, our ancestors put a stop to that horrific practice; whereas our neighbors worshipped idols, our ancestors worshipped an invisible G-d; whereas our ancestors worshipped scores of gods and goddesses, our ancestors worshipped the one G-d of all people.

But perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of ancient Israel's sacrificial rites may be found in the introductory verse to Leviticus: "...If any person among you wishes to offer a sacrifice ..." The rabbis of the Talmud inferred from that verse that anyone's sacrifice was acceptable in G-d's Temple – those offered up by Hebrews as well as those offered by non-Hebrews. What a breathtaking leap that represented in human consciousness! Hundreds of years later, Isaiah would reinforce this message in a verse emblazoned on many a synagogue wall today: "Thus says the Lord: My House shall be a House of prayer for all people!"

NOTE: This Sabbath, known as "Shabbat HaHodesh", the "Sabbath of the New Month", announces the arrival of the month of Passover, the oldest of our holidays.

Thus, Happy Passover!
And of course, Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Alvin Wainhaus

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