Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Of Sevens and Eights
"A bull, sheep or goat that is born to you shall remain under its mother for seven days. From the eighth day onward it is acceptable as an offering to G‑d" (Leviticus 22:27). Why does the Torah refer to the newborn animals by their mature names instead of the usual calf, lamb and kid? This teaches us that an animal is born with its entire potential already actualized. It cannot develop into something greater then it already is.
Its qualities will never erode, but its inherent faults will always remain.
Young At Heart
Not so for human beings. Man is always capable of more. Rabbi Akiva, for example, was forty years old before he learned to read Hebrew, yet he became the greatest Torah scholar in history. Every human being, background and affiliation not withstanding, can transform him or herself and thus make great strides forward.
What's So Terrible About Idolatry?
Why is Judaism so intolerant of idolatry? I don't mean massive temples with human sacrifices. What about a civilized idolater, in the privacy of his own home. With a job, a family, a mortgage, donates to the World Hunger Fund and Greenpeace -- and instead of one G‑d, he just happens to have two or three or even several dozen, all lined up on the dashboard of his car. Why does Judaism make a cardinal sin of it, demanding total eradication of idolatry in every corner the world? As long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, what's so terrible?
In the description of the High Priest's service on Yom Kippur, the Torah notes that "he shall atone for himself and his family and for all the congregation of Israel."
The sense of community responsibility is, fortunately, highly developed among our people. Whether our public concerns are Israel and its infinite problems, or domestic philanthropies of the hospital and Old Folks Home type, or religious institutions like synagogues and schools -- the survival instinct, the desire to perpetuate our people and ideals is a strong motivating force. The urgency of such activities is beyond question.
We may ask ourselves some personal questions, though. Can these activities be the totality of our Jewish living? Do our communal efforts fulfill our obligations as Jews? Can we expect people far far away to put Judaism into action, so we may safely forget to look to the ways of our own households? What are our own homes like?
All the activities, projects, chairmanships, committees, offices, minutes of meetings, motions and tabled motions, national and regional and local honors, districts, chapters, conventions and conclaves -- all these are no substitute for being a good Jewish father and mother. Nor do these activities absolve us in any way of personally keeping the commandments of the Torah.
We have responsibilities to ourselves, our families, our people, and all these obligations may enjoy peaceful and fruitful coexistence. This we see from the High Priest who looked (note the order) to "himself, his family, and the entire congregation."