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"For Instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the L-rd from Jerusalem." -- Isaiah 2:3


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LEVITICUS — 9:24 fire

If civilization is to be guided by love, justice, and respect for the integrity of creation, there must be moments in which we leave the "I" behind and encounter the fullness of being in all its glory. That is the function of the holy – – the point at which "I am" is silent in the overwhelming presence of "There is." That is what Nadav and Avihu forgot – – that to enter holy space or time requires ontological humility, the total renunciation of human initiative and desire. The significance of this fact cannot be over-estimated. When we confuse G-d's will with our will, we turn the Holy – – the source of life--into something unholy and a source of death. The classic example of this is "holy war," jihad, Crusades – – investing imperialism (the desire to rule over other people) with the cloak of sanctity as if conquest and forced conversion were G-d's will. The story of Nadal and Avihu reminds us yet again of the warning first spelled out in the days of Cain and Abel. The first act of worship led to the first murder. Like nuclear fission, worship generates power, which can be benign but can also be profoundly dangerous. The episode of Nadav and Avihu is written in three kinds of fire. First there is fire from heaven: [this verse] This was the fire of favour, consummating the service of the Sanctuary. Then came the "unauthorized fire" offered by the two sons (Leviticus 10:1). Then there was the counter-fire from heaven: (Leviticus 10:2). The message is simple and intensely serious: Religion is not what the European Enlightenment thought it would become: mute, marginal, and mild. It is fire – – and like fire, it warms but it also burns. And we are the guardians of the flame.

LEVITICUS — 10:3 holy

The uniqueness of the doctrine of Kiddush Hashem [sanctifying the Divine name through holy conduct - AJL] derives from its human side as the supreme ideal an obligation of the Jewish people. It makes its first appearance negatively in Amos 2:7, where the infraction of moral laws is denounced as a profanation of G-d's name. Isaiah demands of Israel the sanctification of G-d (8:13; cf. 19:21f.; 29:23) and defines the idea of sanctification in moral terms. "The Lord of hosts is exalted to justice and the Holy One is sanctified to righteousness" (5:16). This idea is central in the priestly writings in the Bible. By means of ceremonial deeds as well as through moral actions men sanctify and honor G-d. Priests, prophets and the whole people of Israel must so conduct themselves as to reflect credit upon the G-d they worship. "Through them that are nigh unto Me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified" (this verse; cf. Num 20:12; Deut. 32:15). When they fail to honor Him properly, His name is profaned. Ezekiel charged Israel with violation of the Torah, profanation of the Sabbaths, and despising the holy things (32:8, 26). Idolatry in any form constitutes a profanation of G-d's name, which G-d will not tolerate in Israel (Leviticus 20:3; 22:32). Religion is judged by the conduct of those who profess it. Not by word-of-mouth alone but by their whole lives men must witness to G-d. One's behavior must reflect the Divine, and render Him beloved by other men. The commandment "Thou shalt love the Lord thy G-d" (Deut. 6:5) is interpreted in the Sifre: "Make Him beloved by your fellowmen."

LEVITICUS — 10:3 silent

Silence it is good in many situations, such as in that of one who has been visited with the attribute of justice, as in the case of Aharon, where it is written [this verse]: "And Aharon was silent." If one hears others insulting him, he should remain silent. Silence in the face of insult is a great virtue. One should also accustom himself to silence in the privy, which is modesty (cf. Berachos 62b). And it requires great zeal to remain silent in the synagogue, to refrain from speaking even in words of Torah; how much more so to refrain in other matters, and all so that he can concentrate his heart on prayer. If one is sitting among the wise, he should be quiet and listen to the words. For when he is quiet, he hears what he did not know, and when he speaks, he does not grow in knowledge. But if he is in doubt as to what the Sages are saying, he should ask them, for remaining silent at such a time is very bad. King Shelomo, may peace be upon him, said (Koheles 3:7): "There is a time to be silent and a time to speak." Sometimes speech is good, and sometimes silence is good. And the Sage has said: "If you cannot find a man to teach you moral instruction, remain silent, lest you speak folly." Because the tongue is extremely light in speaking, one must take great care to "weigh down" the tongue to keep it from speaking. An abundance of words is like a heavy burden, and the heaviness of an abundance of words is greater than that of an abundance of silence. And if one hears his friend speaking, he should keep quiet until the other finishes, for (Mishlei 18:13): "If one answers before he has heard, it is folly to him and shame." One who is accustomed to silence is saved from many transgressions: from flattery, from levity, from slander, from falsehood, and from insults. For if one shames and insults him, if he answers him, he will receive a double portion [in return]. And thus did the sage say: I hear the bad thing and I keep quiet." They asked him, "Why?" He answered: "If I answer my insulters, I am afraid I will hear insults worse than the first." And he said: "When the fool contends with the sage, and the sage keeps quiet, this is a great rejoinder against the fool." For the fool is more distressed by the silence of the sage then if the sage would answer him. And about this it is written (ibid.26:4): "Do not answer the fool according to his folly."

LEVITICUS — 10:12 sons

It was taught: Fortunate are the righteous. Not only do they bring merit unto themselves, but also to their sons and to the sons of their sons, until the end of all generations. For Aaron had several sons who would have deserved to be burned, as Nadav and Avihu, is being written: "his remaining sons", but the merit of their fathers saved them (Yoma 87a).

LEVITICUS — 10:16 angry

Anger breeds arrogance in a man, and because of it he will not submit and will not acknowledge the truth. The Sage has said, "When you wish to choose a man as your friend, make him angry. If he admits the truth to you in his anger, make him your friend, and if not, leave him." Anger produces error. Who is greater than Moshe our teacher, may peace be upon him, who became angry three times and erred because of his anger? As it is written [this verse]: "And he became angry with Elazar and Isamar," followed by (ibid: 17): "Why did you not eat the Sin Offering in the sacred area?" [A question indicating a misapprehension on Moshe's part], and (Bemidbar 20:10): "Listen, you rebellious ones," followed by (ibid. 11): "And he smote the rock" [instead of speaking to it], and (Bemidbar 31:14): "And Moshe was angry with the commanders of the army," followed by (ibid.:21): "And Elazar the priest said to the men of the army who had gone to war, 'This is the law of the Torah,'" indicating that Moshe had forgotten the law (Sifri, Mattos 31:21) . And now, understand, if this happened to Moshe our teacher, may peace be upon him, the father of the Sages, what happens to fools who become angry? It is for this reason King Shelomo wrote (Koheles 7:9): "Do not be hasty in your spirit to become angry." And take great heed that you do nothing destructive in the midst of your anger, for our Rabbis have said (Shabbos 105b): "If one tears his garments, or scatters his money, or breaks his vessels in his anger, he should be in your eyes as one who serves idols. For such is the craft of the evil inclination. Today he tells a man, 'Do this,' and tomorrow he tells him, 'Go and serve idols,' and he goes! In this connection it is written (Tehillim 81:10): 'Let there not be in you a strange god.' Which is the 'strange god' in a man's body? The evil inclination." Observe how one's evil inclination intensifies in the time of his anger.

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