Torah Talk Starts The Book Of Leviticus

I discuss the weekly Torah portion with Rabbi Rabbs every Monday at 7pm PST on my live cam and on YouTube.

This week’s Torah portion (parasha) is Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1-5:26).

We do Torah Talk Monday night at The House of Rabbs.

* Ask R. Rabbs about his posting that pic of him on the loo.

* Is this an example of the masora you talk about so much?

* Does this ad give you bad thoughts?

* The Torah is not a closed book. It is not in esoteric language. You don’t have to sleep with a priest to get it (unlike all cult leaders who seem to have a lot of young women around). A friend of mine used to trade Torah classes for sex but this is not the norm in Judaism. Torah is a book for all Jews and for all of the world. You don’t need special $10,000 classes or holy water or red strings around your wrist to understand it.

* There were no hidden sacrifices. The sacrifices were done silently. There were no incantations.

* There’s a division of power between prophet and priest. Moses is not a priest.

* What should we do about people who have emissions (vaginal or seminal) today?

* Where does the Torah differ from other sacrificial systems at the time in the area? Nothing about God eating. Sacrifice is not about warding off evil or bringing the rain or hoping for a great harvest, it’s about atoning for sin.

* Do you agree with the Rambam that the purpose of the sacrificial system was to wean the Jews off human sacrifice?

* What did a Jew do if he could not make it to the temple to atone for a sin? What do Jews do today to atone for their sins? Do you want to rebuild the temple so we can sacrifice to God again?

* No other sacrificial system at this time forbade the eating of blood.

* Animals are not to be killed for sport. Jews don’t hunt. Almost all of the sacrifices were eaten.

* The word “sacrifice” in Hebrew means to get close to God. So what do you do today to get close to God? We get close to that for which we sacrifice.

* Vayikra is a book about holiness. It is about maintaining the presence of God. Abraham feared his wife would be raped and he’d be murdered because there was no fear of God in the place. We call an evil place “God-forsaken.”

* Animal sacrifices don’t expiate for your sins against other people. They don’t expiate deliberate sins. Christians say there can be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood. This teaching finds no support in the Israelite sacrificial system as many sins (against people and deliberate sins against God) get no sacrifice and those sins that do get a sacrifice, you can usually offer up a non-animal sacrifice where there is no blood.

* Walking into a shul after an absence and you get around people who fear God and it reminds you of how you are going off course. It’s easy to go off course if you try to do Judaism on your own.

It’s largely about what is the ultimate real to you. If you lead a life largely outside of the Orthodox community, you think that the outside world is the ultimate real, while if you spend most of your meaningful time within the Orthodox community, that becomes the ultimate real. It’s like walking around Pico-Robertson on Rosh Hashanah or Shabbat or Yom Kippur. Those holy days become more real to you than the traffic whizzing by and the open gas stations and Starbucks. On Yom Kippur, particularly, I feel as I walk around the neighborhood that the divine dimension is more real than anything else, while most of the time, I feel like the secular world is more real than the spiritual world.

L. emails:

Hi Rabbs and Levi,

When large companies receive feedback, they often assume that the comments represent the views of thousands of customers. I had some feedback for you both to consider. I’m not sure it represents the thousands of viewers but thought I would share.

The new feed looks good, and the image and sound have been greatly improved. I don’t know if I would say the same for the atmosphere. Don’t take this the wrong way Rabbs.

When the show was broadcasting from Levi’s place, the viewer really felt like they were being invited into a hovel. There was a strange but comforting appeal to it. You could see books in the background, a few other things sometimes too. There was an intimate feel to the discussion, and the background truly helped created a sense of location and community. It was a place we all went on Monday nights – like the bar in Cheers.

In the last couple shows at the House of Rabbs, the content and delivery was still enjoyable, but there was something missing. I could not put my finger on it for a while, but then it struck me. The feed is missing any sense of surrounding. There is nothing to keep the other half of the brain preoccupied, and there is no color or context.

When some rantings go on as if coming from an asylum, doesn’t mean I want to feel like I am in one! 🙂 The white curtains, although I’m sure clean, feel a bit sterile to such a lively discussion, and make me feel a bit as if a cloth was being hung to hide the whereabouts of the cave. Psychologically, I personally rather come into your office or home weekly to listen then watch you in front of a white curtain. It’s the difference between entering a home, getting comfortable and ready to really listen, vs. standing to watch a street performer and then walking away with very little self commitment.

That’s all guys. As a psychologist caught up in marketing, I may be more conscious about these things than others, but I wanted to at least provide the feedback. Otherwise, great shows. Nice to see Luke making the effort to get over to your place too. Looking forward to catching up on the shows.

Watched your dating interview too Levi, and Rabbs is right – you sure do interact differently when there are woman in the hovel! Be well.

Rabbi Rabbs responds:

L., thank you for your feedback and for watching our shows. We will take your opinions under consideration.

My only criticism with your views is that you wrote “the viewer really felt” as if you speak for all viewers, when you really can’t speak for all of them so you should have written instead, “I really felt”.

It might interest you to know that numerous viewers have expressed to me quite the opposite view from yours, and they have told me that the quality of the show is far better when broadcast from my house, because the lighting is much better allowing everyone to see us more clearly, and that the curtains backdrop looks more professional as if we’re in a studio.

L. WRITES: “The show is without a doubt in better quality that is for sure. As for the backdrop being more professional I guess that is an opinion and is fair, although I’ll maintain that even though the hovel was “less” professional, I felt more in an office, or better, “a study.””

Rabbi Rabbs: Yeah, I think it comes down to personal preference and tastes, as with anything. Two people listen to the same music or go to the same movie and respond with opposing reviews.

What I find interesting in your review is that you prefer the more “haimish” stage setting as opposed to the more “corporate” one. That is common whenever a mom and pop restaurant takes it to the next level. Although the upgrade will usually attract many more customers, some of the oldtimers will always say “the atmosphere here was so much better before they went commercial.”

KHUNRUM EMAILS: “I was able to access by clicking the link Luke provided on his site not the link I have on “favorite places”. I was asked to sign in, didn’t, but saw and heard Luke and Rabbs nevertheless. They appeared and please tell me Luke if I am wrong, to be discussing the subject of “hot women” not religious dictum. Instantly recognizing how ridiculous this topic sounded coming from two middle aged, bearded paupers, I switched on T. V. and watched a movie called The Getaway. Not the Sam Peckinpah “Getaway” with Steve Mc Queen and Ali McGraw but the more recent Alec Baldwin/Kim Bassinger version. While not up to Peckinpah standards, I thought the movie was none the less rather entertaining. Lot’s of shoot outs, explosions and filmed in Tejas.”

Chaim Amalek emails me: “Which religion would one return to if one assumes that the real Creator of us all is opposed to the mass extermination of infants, no matter the ethnicity of their parents?”

Luke: “God never commands genocide in the Torah. Only Moses does. What pasuk are you referring to?”

Here’s the Wikipedia entry on Amalek.

Chaim: “And speaking of killing, does the Torah, that is to say (as the rabbis would say it, “God”) command the Jews to commit genocide? I certify this question to Luke.”

Luke: “I don’t think God commands genocide in the Torah. Only Moses does. As you know, Samuel is not Torah [in the narrow definition referring to the five books of Moses].”

Chaim Amalek emails: For what you say to be true:
1. The word of Moses here was not the wish of God and
2. The books of Samuel are NOT a part of the Torah. (!!!)

Now, forgive me, but these two positions are directly contrary to what normative Judaism has always taught. If the Book of Samuel is not part of the Torah, then exactly what is?

I’m not sure what sort of Jew one can be while holding this belief, but I am certain that it is not one that is consonant with any form of orthodoxy (or conservative Judaism, for that matter) I have ever heard of. You cannot be an orthodox Jew if this be your belief. Aping the “minhagim” of ignorant shtetil Judaism does not make one a Jew.

Here, at last, is an issue Rabbs could speak to.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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