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This week's parsha is Aharay Mot and Kedoshim, Leviticus chapters 16 to 20.  During leap years, it is split into two parshas, but this year is not a leap year so the two parshas are read together. The Haftarah (reading from the prophets) is either Amos 9: 17-15 or Ezekiel 20: 2-20, or Ezekiel 22: 1-16, depending whether you are Ashkenazi or Sephardi (apparently the Sephardim have two traditions on where to read from Ezekiel).

This week's reading includes Leviticus 19, which, along with the Ten Commandments and the Shema (Deuteronomy 6: 4-9), comprise the most important teachings of Judaism in the Torah.  Although Chapter 19 contains a mixture of ritual and ethical laws, the ethical laws alone proclaim a duty to our fellow human beings that should provide a guidance for all humanity, regardless of faith or lack thereof.  

The most famous words in chapter 19 are from line 18:  "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Jesus proclaimed as the fundamental Jewish teaching, which Christianity would follow, that the Shema and "Love your neighbor as yourself" were the two greatest teachings of the Torah - "all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  Mark 12: 30-31 and Matthew 22: 37-40.  And a few years earlier, Rabbi Hillel had agreed, teaching (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a):  

That which is hateful to you do not unto your neighbor.  That is the whole Torah, all the rest is commentary thereof.  Now go and learn it [the commentary].
So, to follow the teaching of Hillel, lets examine another verse from Leviticus 19, explore the commentary thereon, and then ask whether the self-proclaimed righteous Christians who dominate the governments of too many states, and who occasionally refer to their values as "Judeo Christian", are actually following Judeo-Christian values when they enact their war against the poor.  From Leviticus 19:9-10:
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Reposted from Kitchen Table Kibitzing by mettle fatigue

Input for improvement welcome: comment or kosmail to diary writer. Revision is in process.

JOB  1:  Someone with permission of the kosak in trouble has written a diary stating who's the kosak in trouble, what help is needed, and what means are in place so help is receivable. Often you'll see the diary published by Community Fundraisers or a group the kosak in trouble is a member of (group publishing reaches friends immediately & makes updates possible by other group editors/admins in case the original diarist can't, says belinda ridgewood who magnificently writes a lot of them; also that anyone writing such diaries can kosmail to a Comm'ty Fndrsrs admin, ask to be made a contributor there, explain what your diary will be and when it needs to post; and group members there will help you if they can, if you keep communications open.)


JOB  2:  Go to the profile page of the kosak in trouble, find all groups in which the kosak is a member, and:

         2A:  Readers who are editors/admins there republish the diary to those groups.

         2B:  Contributors see if that's been done and if not queue it and kosmail repub requests "to help a member of the group" to 1 or 2 eds/admins at each whose profile page shows them currently active in DK.

               Don't bother with Message-to-Group: it won't put a New Message alert in any
               WELCOME BACK box & can go unseen forever. Don't worry if others are doing
               the same as you: together the bases get covered better than any 1 or 3 alone.

         2C:  Non-members check is it repub'ed at those groups? If not, kosmail the diary link to 1 or 2 active eds/admins at each, requesting repub to help group-member.  Don't worry etc.

JOB  3:  If the diary says where the kosak is, find groups in a 200-or-so mile radius in Where The Kogs Are — folks there may have friends/relatives nearer who might be able to help.
                  3A:  See 2A  ◄►  3B:  See 2B  ◄►  3C:  See 2C

JOB  4:  Check the DK Health-Med & Related Groups & Series to find groups focused on health or socioeconomic needs cited in the diary — members there may be knowledgeable about resources & coping.
                  4A:  See 2A  ◄►  4B:  See 2B  ◄►  4C:  See 2C

JOB  5:  Send the diary link to individual kosaks you know with expertise in that kind of emergency, or who are near it but not in a group where they'd read of it.

JOB  6:  Come back and recommend and tip the diary, and comment on:
      6A:  what groups you repub'ed or queued or kosmailed the diary to with reasons why, so readers who don't know The JOB will learn it from you.
      6B:  resources you have reason to know may be available where the kosak in trouble is, and how to reach those resources.
      6c:  offer whatever donations and words of fellowship as always.

Why not "6c" first? Because time is of the essence to spread word far & wide in DK which mobilizes fully effective help fast and gets the diary heavily rec'd and tipped so word goes even further.  But emotion can pull us so deep into events that we get sidetracked from what's personally immediately powerful to do, while every delay multiplies geometrically all along the line, and things get scarier and worse than maybe have to. Since forever, telephone-trees, amazingly global 'ham' radio (my heroes!), bicyclers town to town, foot-runners, drums — come fire, flood, famine, avalanche, bush-war — people send out the call. And stay connected to check on each other in case of emergency, like Itzel Alert Network (in the first of the 2 lists in DK Health-Med&Etc Grps). Like all of DK can. So, spread the word - that's why.

Later, Job 7: kosaks wanting to stay help-ready can republish this to your groups (the section above the green line will shrink as revision addresses omissions), and periodically Move To Top so even in disorienting emergencies Dk grps have checklists to help us come through for each other.

New folks join DK constantly. Let's give them opportunities like this to matter, by their actions, right from the get-go.

What other virtual first-responder actions and groups should we remember and/or include, and where in the sequence? Are there diaries good to link here and repub and Move To Top at our groups? What ways of spreading word and mobilizing help do you recall from when you were a kid, or how your parents or g'parents did it? Or thru'out history!

BTW, reading the please-help diaries, I kept thinking: "when [troubles] come, they come not single spies, but in battalions" ...from Hamlet, Act IV, Sc 5. This week we also had diaries on how Shakespeare continues to speak to our lives.  10-Q 4 the inspiration of all the diaries.

Reposted from TexMex by mettle fatigue Editor's Note: Our thoughts & prayers with the people of Nepal devastated by massive earthquake and aftershocks, & with Americans, Israelis & others killed, injured or missing among first responders. Jewish organizations joining the effort include American Jewish World Service, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Jewish Federations of North America -- mettle fatigue

A Response Team volunteer  message to donors.
ShelterBox Response Team volunteer Becky Maynard has a message for donors and supporters which we're releaseing as she's 30,000 feet in the air flying to join the ShelterBox relief efforts in Nepal after Saturday's eaarthquake.

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Reposted from Support the Dream Defenders by mettle fatigue Editor's Note: BF Skinner is a member of Elders of Zion. -- mettle fatigue
BFSkinner in 2010
Sigh. Our friend BFSkinner returned to the emergency room on Friday due to intestinal blood loss and extreme weakness. He remains hospitalized at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, north of Detroit.

He received three units of blood. His intestinal bleeding has apparently stopped for now. No site of blood loss was visible on a red blood cell nuclear scan. His doctors cannot determine if the tear has healed completely or if the rend is bleeding intermittently with a periodicity of one to two weeks.

Some of his doctors want to give him the blood thinner Coumadin to prevent blood clots being thrown to his heart or brain. He had a clot already which lodged in an artery on the surface of his heart, for which he had a stent placed. Other doctors reject Coumadin because of his risk of hemorrhage. Coumadin has caused him to hemorrhage in the past.

He told me he has to choose between death by bleeding and death by heart attack or stroke. Immediately after delivering this news, he made me laugh by telling me a funny story about an interaction with one of his doctors. We both laughed.

Looks like he will undergo placement of a temporary vena cava filter in the next couple of days. This filter will be removed in about 30 days.

His family is nearby. His sister lives in the next town, and his brother has not yet returned home to China.

I found out about his rehospitalization today. BFSkinner asked me to say his continued illness has kept him from participating at Daily Kos.

Again, he cannot view Daily Kos on his cellphone, but he can make limited comments on FaceBook.

Instead of creating another incredible collection of get-well notes for him, please take a moment as you hover over the Tip Jar to send him gentle but firm and certain healing.


Fri Apr 10, 2015 at 11:00 AM PDT

D'var Torah: Passover

by ramara

I have posted things before that I wrote for writing classes held at my synagogue by my friend Lynn. They have usually been related to the High Holidays, but this year the class is less focused, and one class was very close to Pesach. The assignment was to invite a character to a seder. Some class members are writing novels, and used their fictional characters, but we could use real people or historical people, or pretty much anyone.

After thinking about it, I decided to bring my mother to the seder I attend every year.

It was easy to write the background, but when I got to the seder itself, I blocked. I realized I did not want her there. It was too late to completely rethink my piece, so the rest of the assignment changed then, and became about why I didn't.

This feels more personal than what I usually write here at Daily Kos, even though I have written personal diaries before, usually on health-related matters. I hope you will bear with me.

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Sun Mar 29, 2015 at 04:34 PM PDT

Afikomen prizes for adults

by Greg306

Reposted from Greg306 by ramara

If you no longer have young children at your Passover Seder, I have a suggestion for an alternative approach to the Afikomen tradition that brings in more of the Jewish sensibility of the ritual invitation to the Seder (Ha Lachma Anya) where all who are hungry are invited to eat. Put simply,  make the Afikomen prize a gift card for food, provide one for every member of your Seder, and share with them the mitvah (responsibility) for giving that gift card to a hungry person

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Reposted from JLan by JLan

Having gotten into the Book of Leviticus, it can be hard to relate to the Torah.  We enter a period of discussing sacrifices, and in this particular weekly section (Leviticus 6:1-8:36), that’s pretty much our entire focus.  Guilt offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings (yes, those are different), all can make it difficult to think that the Bible has anything to do with modern life.  But once we look under the hood, we can find a few things to focus on and maybe learn a couple of lessons in the process.

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Seven years ago this week-end I had asked to do the d'var Torah at my synagogue. My birthday was on Shabbat, and it was my first birthday after having cancer, my 60th. I was still recovering and weak, but it seemed right to do my first d'var Torah after cancer on my birthday. It was a different parsha, Tzav, and I talked about how things seemed new, and how I was marking events as before and after cancer, and how it must have felt dedicating the Mishkan and performing the sacrifices for the first time.

This year my birthday is not on Shabbat, but the next day, but again I wanted to mark the date with a drosh.

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Reposted from arlenegoldbard by remembrance

SELMA. A few days ago, an estimated 40,000 people descended on Selma, Alabama, for the 50th anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (and recently portrayed in Ava DuVernay’s film) and of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the landmark civil rights legislation passed in its wake.

The Selma Jubilee was festooned with all the contradictions of American society circa 2015: it had dozens of corporate sponsors, a speech by President Obama, and the thrilling presence of Rep. John Lewis, who at age 24 almost died from a beating by Selma police. In a CNN interview on 6 March, Lewis said, “The bridge at Selma is almost a holy place. It is a place where people gave up their blood to redeem the soul of America…. We came to the highest point, and down below we saw a sea of blue, Alabama State Troopers. And behind the Troopers we saw men on horseback…. They came at us with nightsticks, trampling us with horses, I went down on my knees. My legs went out from under me. I thought I was going to die.”

Gratitude isn’t a strong enough word for the awestruck admiration that hitches a ride on a tidal wave of love—for justice, for the human beings who are owed justice—that sustains such courage, determination, and vision. The power of that love got President Johnson to send troops to protect the marchers on their next attempt to cross the bridge and to sign the Voting Rights Act that August.

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Fri Mar 13, 2015 at 07:00 AM PDT

D'var Torah: Power Corrupts

by Navy Vet Terp

First Torah reading:  Exodus Chapters 35 to end of Exodus.
Second Torah reading:  Numbers Chapter 19.
Haftarah:  Ezekiel 36:16-38.

For a diary on this week's regular Torah reading, check out my diary from last year, here.

Fortunately, for those of us who are not building contractors, interior designers, or clothing manufacturers, there's a second Torah reading for this week.  This Shabbat is Shabbat Parah (the Shabbat of the Cow), the third of five special Shabbats during the weeks before Passover. God commands the Israelites to find a perfectly red cow - one hair of a different color disqualifies the cow, which has never worn a yoke or been used for work.  The Israelites were commanded to slaughter this cow, and burn it into ashes, along with a piece of cedar wood and hyssop tied together with red string, which were also tossed into the fire.  The Israelites were commanded to take the ashes, mix them with spring water, and sprinkle this mixture on anyone who was impure because of contact with a corpse.  The rabbis decreed that this strange Biblical passage should be read several weeks before Passover to remind people to purify themselves if they had been in contact with a dead body, so they could participate in the Passover sedar.

If you are thinking, this is really bizarre, you are not alone, the rabbis thought the same thing. According to Numbers Rabbah, even the wise King Solomon thought it was weird.  Rabbi Johanan ben Zakai, who single handedly saved the Jewish people and the Jewish faith when the Second Temple was destroyed, story here, confessed to his students that he could find no rational explanation for this command.

One of the things that puzzled the rabbis was that everyone who was involved in creating this "water of sprinkling" became contaminated, ritually impure, and had to purify themselves before they could rejoin the community.  The priest who slaughtered the cow, the guy that burned it, and the guy who gathered up the ashes, all became ritually impure.  Why?

The rabbis of old had no explanation, but Rabbi Joseph Hertz, author of a Torah commentary, published in 1937 and used in most synagogues in the English speaking world over the remainder of the 20th century, took a stab at it:  

There have been great institutions and movements, in both the Jewish and general history, that have sanctified others, and yet have at the same time tended to defile those that created or directed those institutions and movements.  The very men who helped others to self-sacrifice and holiness, not infrequently themselves became hard and self-centered, hating and hateful, elevating others, and themselves sinking into inhumanity, impurity and unholiness.  It is a real, if disturbing, fact in the spiritual life of man.
Certain people come to mind.  William Aramony, who headed the United Fund for over 20 years while he stole over $1 million from the charity.  And Rabbi Menachem Youlus, whom I knew personally, who sold hundreds of Torah scrolls he had purchased off the internet, claiming that he had dug them up at death camps and other sites in Europe, where they had supposedly been secretly buried so the Nazis wouldn't desecrate them - they were all lies and the good rabbi is currently a guest of the United States government for having scammed so many people.

And what about the politicians we blog about here on Daily Kos?  We gloat when a Rush Limbaugh gets busted as a drug addict, at the sex scandals engulfing a Mark Foley, David Vitter, Mark Sanford, or Larry Craig, at Joe Walsh the deadbeat dad.  But what do we write when a Democrat goes down - an Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer, Rod Blagojevich,  or, most recently, Bob Menendez?  Scandal and graft is not the exclusive province of Republicans.  Democrats, liberals, are not immune.  Power corrupts.  We must be ever wary that the politicians we support are not just progressives, but are honest progressive who will resist the temptations of office.

Shabbat Shalom.


Fri Mar 06, 2015 at 09:11 AM PST

D'var Torah: Ki Tisa

by Eowyn9

Reposted from Street Prophets by ramara

Torah reading: Exodus 30:11-34:35
Haftarah: 1 Kings 18:20-39.

And so now we come to the story of the Golden Calf. The Israelites, impatient and worried that Moses has vanished forever on Mount Sinai, tell Aaron to make them "gods that will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him."

Aaron (surprisingly, for Moses' right-hand man) doesn't put up much or, really, any resistance. He tells all the people to bring their gold jewelry, then takes it and makes it into a golden calf -- and the people are delighted. "These are your gods, O Israel, that brought you up out of Egypt." A festival is declared, and the people spend the next day making sacrifices to the idol, followed by a riotous night of feasting, drinking, and "indulging in revelry" (which I'm assuming refers to sexual activity.)

Needless to say, when Moses comes down the mountain and sees this, he is furious. He smashes the tablets of the Law which God has made, grinds the idol to powder and makes the Israelites drink it. Then he calls the faithful to his side; the Levites rally around him, and a mass slaughter of the idolaters begins. "And that day about three thousand of the people died."

The next day Moses goes back up the mountain to plead before God for the people of Israel, as he did the previous day when God had told him what was happening in the Israelite camp. "Please forgive their sin --" he begs -- "but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written." God tells Moses he punishes those who have sinned against him, nobody else. Moses is to continue to lead the people to the Promised Land -- but God strikes them with a plague first in punishment for their sin of idolatry.

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Wed Mar 04, 2015 at 12:13 PM PST

D'var Torah: Purim

by ramara

Purim begins today at sundown. It is customary to dress in costume; we read the Megillah (the Book of Esther) and whenever Haman's name is mentioned we make as much noise as possible to drown it out. We are also commanded to get so drunk that we confuse Haman and Mordechai.

Purim is the first holiday not named in Torah, and it is a holiday of exile, of the diaspora.

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