Michal: Parashat Shemini

Each Shabbat, Jews around the world read the same section of the first five books of the Bible, which is called the Torah. In addition, a thematically related portion of the Bible outside of the Torah called haftarah is read each week. Although it is not certain, many scholars believe that this custom of secondary readings originated during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes (175 – 164 BCE). As ruler of the Seleucid Empire, which included Israel, Antiochus prohibited the Jews from reading from the Torah, the most sacred part of their scriptures. To circumvent this ruling, Jews devised the haftarah system of readings to replace the forbidden texts.

The reading in Leviticus this week describes the death of Aaron’s sons for improper behavior in connection with the Ark of the Covenant. The ancient rabbis linked this passage with II Samuel 6:1-7:17 which describes similar tragedies in relation to the Ark. Aptly, the haftarah reading this week includes Michal, the first wife of King David. I say aptly because like the Jews under the rule of Antiochus, the men in her life continually tried to dominate and silence her.

So let’s learn more about this woman and bring her back from silence. Read more…

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