Torah and Haftarah Readings for Yom Kippur

Posted on September 24th, 2017
By Rabbi Richard Sarason for

On Yom Kippur, the Torah is read in both the morning and afternoon services.  This emulates the traditional reading practice on Shabbat (indeed, Yom Kippur is called shabbat shabbaton in Lev. 23:32 – literally, “a day of complete rest,” but understood homiletically to mean “the most important of Sabbaths”).1

The Mishnah (Megillah 4:5) lists Leviticus 16 (the description of the Yom Kippur ritual in the tabernacle/Temple) as the Torah reading for Yom Kippur (morning; there is no afternoon reading in the Mishnah).  This remains the traditional Torah reading for Yom Kippur morning down to the present.  The Tosefta (Megillah 3:7) lists as well the “concluding” reading as Numbers 29:7ff. (the description of the sacrifices made on Yom Kippur). Today this is read from a second scroll in traditional practice.2 The afternoon Torah reading is first mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud (Megillah 31a).  It is listed there as Leviticus 18, the enumeration of forbidden sexual relationships (forms of incest and adultery) that render the community unclean in the sight of God.  The relevance of this subject to Yom Kippur, in the view of the Rabbis, is that on the Day of Atonement, the community must stand before God in a state of purity.  The reading serves as a reminder and a warning about the larger impact of these acts of sexual impropriety.

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Shabbat Shuva - Ha’azinu

Posted on September 17th, 2017

Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky is Executive Director of Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute and the author of numerous books about Jewish spirituality.


A Life of Vision

We who are engaged in building Jewish communities must simultaneously look to the past and the future.

This week’s portion, which nearly completes the annual reading of the entire Torah , reflects on the past as it simultaneously offers a powerful vision for the future. As a result, the subtlety of this portion and the myth that has been perpetuated through its common retelling yearns for further exploration.

Moses will not be allowed into the Promised Land. The primary reason offered is his disobedience: he angrily struck the rock for water when he was merely supposed to touch it with his staff, gently coaxing the water from its source (see Numbers 20: 2-13.) Many read this as the explanation for his punishment.

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Posted on September 10th, 2017

Deuteronomy 29:9 - 31:30

Rabbi Elaine Rose Glickman is a noted speaker and author whose work includes the National Jewish Book Award finalist, Sacred Parenting.

Moses’ Fate

The leader of the Israelites is not allowed to enter the Promised Land.

It was the moment for which Moses had prepared nearly all his life. Reared in Egyptian luxury, mothered by a princess, Moses might have lived out his 120 years in careless splendor, unconcerned with the fate of hordes of Israelite slaves who labored outside his palace. Yet, from the moment that Moses –still a young man — slays the Egyptian taskmaster, he chooses to cast his lot with the slaves.

For their sake and their God’s — Moses spends 40 years traversing the wilderness, leading a complaining and defiant people, interceding with an inscrutable and demanding Sovereign, and somehow transforming the despised and oppressed into witnesses of miracles and keepers of revelation. The work is almost finished. God and Moses have brought the people to the edge of the Promised Land, a place Moses will not reach. He will gaze upon it from the heights of Mount Nebo, but he will die before he enters it.

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Ki Tavo

Posted on September 3rd, 2017

Deuteronomy 26:1 - 29:8 

Andrew F. Klein is the assistant rabbi of Hevreh of Southern Berkshire, Great Barrington, Mass.

Discovering The Relationship Between Curses And Blessings

By viewing the troubles and joys of our lives as part of a continuum we can uncover blessings even in the most challenging curses.

The Israelites are instructed to express their gratitude to God for their bountiful harvests and freedom from slavery by tithing ten percent of their crops for the Levite, the stranger, the orphan, and the widow. (Deuteronomy 26)

The people are told to display on large stones God’s commandments for all to see. (Deuteronomy 27:1–8)

The Levites are to proclaim curses upon those who violate God’s commandments. (Deuteronomy 27:15–26)

The Israelites are told that if they obey God’s mitzvot (commandments) faithfully, they will receive every blessing imaginable. They are also told that if do not fulfill their b’rit (covenant) with God, many curses will descend upon them. (Deuteronomy 28:1–69)

Moses reminds the Israelites of the miracles they witnessed in the wilderness and commands them to observe the terms of the covenant so that they may succeed in all that they undertake. (Deuteronomy 29:1–8)


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Ki Teitzei

Posted on August 27th, 2017

Deuteronomy 21:10 - 25:19 

Rabbi Kerry M. Olitzky is Executive Director of Big Tent Judaism/Jewish Outreach Institute 

Generational Tension

We need to stop holding children of intermarriage responsible for decisions their parents made.

This Torah portion appears to be a list of endless and often seemingly irrelevant rules. Some we carefully follow. Others have been assigned to history. Perhaps it is because they are specifically related to a time and place that no longer speaks to us. Often, it is because we do not understand the depth of wisdom contained in the Torah’s directives for our daily lives. Even if the specific obligation may be obscure, the principle that underlies it may bring insight and meaning into our lives.

What is indeed woven through the portion is a sense of obligation and responsibility, especially among the generations. One rule in particular we can relate to, whether we are parents or children. Perhaps it is extreme but we understand its sentiment nonetheless: “Parents shall not be put to death for children, nor children be put to death for parents; a person shall be put to death only for his own crime (Deuteronomy 24:16).”

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