Shabbat Vayikra 5773

This Shabbat, we’ll have the pleasure of learning Torah from USYers from the five boroughs as we host Kiriyah Spring Kinnus at HHJC. And then we have our monthly Lunch n Learn with The Observant Life. Assuming it doesn’t snow this time (!), we’ll look into the chapters on the Secular Justice System and Crime and Punishment, pages 452-475.

Now, we had planned to discuss these chapters in concert with Parshat Mishpatim last month, and that parshah was a perfect fit with the theme of the chapters. That said, this week’s portion, Vayikra, also deals with response to wrongdoing, albeit focused more on ritual than on criminal misdeeds. The parshah introduces us to korbanot, sacrifices, brought after sins committed in omission, against the sanctuary, by an individual, a leader, or an entire community. These sacrificial rites aren’t the working of the criminal justice system, of course, but they constitute a religious response to transgression.

In the chapters from The Observant Life, what were the religious elements of rabbinic laws on criminal justice? In other words, in what way was the rabbinic capital justice system infused with religious values? And how can those values inform the ongoing debate on these issues–capital punishment and incarceration, for example–in today’s public sphere?

We’ll address these questions at the lunch n learn following services. If you already have a copy of the book, please bring it along. If not, remember that HHJC members are entitled to a complimentary copy, thanks to a generous gift by Natalie Kotlyar and family, so we’ll make sure you get one. Hope to see you then!

Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi David Wise