Tazria-Metzora: Purification

Tazria-Metzora orecchiette pasta

Tazria-Metzora orecchiette pasta

This week’s parsha Tazria-Metzora, offers a detailed explanation of purification steps for someone who is ritually impure (tumah). It includes the following instruction: And he shall slaughter the guilt offering lamb, and the kohen shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering’s and place it on the cartilage of the right ear of the person being cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot (14:25). Tumah is not bad. As commentary in Etz Hayyim explains: “We can see the notion of tumah, then, as growing out of a sense of reverence for the miraculous nature of birth, the awesome power of death, and the mysteries of illness and recuperation” (p. 649).

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Shemini: Integration

Shemini: Couscous and tomato stew

Shemini: Couscous and tomato stew

A version of this originally appeared on the Joy of Kosher
In this week’s parsha, Shemini, on the 8th day Aaron (reluctantly), and his sons become Kohanim.  After Aaron’s sacrificial offering, he and Moses “bless the people; and the Presence of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came forth from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat parts on the altar. And all the people saw, and shouted, and fell on their faces.”

Thereafter, Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu proceed to offer a sacrifice to God, but bring “alien fire.” Thus, “fire came forth from the Lord and consumed them: thus they died at the instance of the Lord.” After their deaths, Aaron was instructed by Moses, “you must distinguish between the sacred and the profane, and between the impure and pure; and you must teach the Israelites all the laws which the Lord has imparted to them through Moses.” Continue reading

Passover: Ending Slavery in our Food Systems

Child cocoa worker. Photo courtesy of Fair Trade Judaica

Child cocoa worker. Photo courtesy of Fair Trade Judaica

When we read at Passover, “This year we are slaves; next year, may we be free” we can do our part to ensure that our Pesach celebrations—and all year long–are free of the stains of modern day slavery. Despite the Universal Declaration of Human Rights prohibition against slavery, approximately 35.8 million men, women and children worldwide are enslaved, more people than at any point in the history of humanity. About 10 percent of enslaved people work in food industries, harvesting cacao, sugar, and tomatoes, raising cattle or catching fish. The frequent battle for cheaper prices in the global food marketplace might seem great for consumers, but “the reality is that competitive pricing is often the result of exploitative labor practices” where food is grown in disregard for human dignity and international laws. Continue reading