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Torah Commentary Blog

Temple Emanu-El’s weekly Torah commentary is prepared by members of our clergy and senior staff. An electronic version can be sent to your e-mail inbox each Monday morning by subscribing to our electronic mailing list. Blog comments will be moderated. Please note that we reserve the right to delete comments that are deemed inappropriate, use offensive language, promote personal attacks or are self-serving (promote goods and services). At the same time, we hope that this blog will promote thoughtful dialogue and continued learning.

Parashat Va-et'chanan (August 1, 2015)
By Rachel Brumberg
IN THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION, Parashat Va-et’chanan, Moses continues to tell the story of what has happened to him and the Israelites in the desert. The narrative includes Moses’ pleading with God to allow him to enter the Promised Land (which of course is denied), Moses telling the Israelites to follow God’s laws, the receiving of the Ten Commandments and a reminder not to worship other gods.

Continue reading Rachel’s commentary »



Sunday July 26th | Post a comment/View comments » (0 comments)


Parashat D'varim (July 25, 2015)
By Saul Kaiserman
THE BOOK OF DEUTERONOMY, the final book of the Torah, begins 40 years after the Exodus from Egypt. The Israelites are encamped across the Jordan River from Israel and are preparing to follow Joshua into the Promised Land. Nearly all of Deuteronomy consists of the farewell address that Moses delivers at this climactic moment. His speech recounts the history of the people’s journeys through the Sinai wilderness, emphasizing the many defining experiences and decision points along the way that have shaped them as a nation.

Continue reading Saul’s commentary »



Sunday July 19th | Post a comment/View comments » (0 comments)


Parashat Matot/Mas-ei (July 18, 2015)
By Bettijane Eisenpreis
MOST READERS WOULD LOOK at this passage and say, “What has this got to do with me?” And, I don’t blame them a bit. On the other hand, I cannot read the passage without a shiver of recognition. How can words from so many thousands of years ago be so relevant to me?

Continue reading Bettijane’s commentary »



Sunday July 12th | Post a comment/View comments » (0 comments)


Parashat Pinchas (July 11, 2015)
By Robyn Weinstein Cimbol
The Daughters of Zelophehad: Thinking Outside the Tent

IT’S VERY TEMPTING to turn this into a feminist manifesto. Indeed, there are nearly 1,000 men identified by name in the Torah but fewer than 200 women. The fact that we know the names of all five of Zelophehad’s daughters is significant, and they are referred to by name not once but several times. The presenting issue is that Zelophehad, a member of the generation of Israelites who departed from Egypt under Moses’ leadership, had died during the 40 years in the wilderness. He had no sons and five daughters (but there is no mention of a wife/mother). Now a census is being taken in order to apportion the Land among the tribes and clans. The projected allotment of the Land, based upon this census in which only men were counted, would have deprived the clan of Manasseh of the share due to Zelophehad. If he’d had sons, they would have been counted, but his daughters (Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah) were not to receive a portion according to the distribution equation.

Continue reading Robyn’s commentary »



Sunday July 5th | Post a comment/View comments » (0 comments)


Parashat Balak (July 4, 2015)
By Rabbi David M. Posner
OUR SIDRAH THIS WEEK, Balak, gives us a very unusual example of the prophetic function, as understood in the ancient Middle East. Balaam is a prophet from Pethor, on the river, in the land of Amo. The words “Pethor” and “Amo” are known from Akkadian cuneiform texts. Coming from a city on the Euphrates River, Balaam lived in an environment that was just perfect for prophecy and ripe with soothsayers. In fact, there exists one particular letter, written in Akkadian, from the Babylonian city Mari on the Euphrates, which specifically mentions seers who were sent along with troops into battle. Balaam was just such a seer.

Continue reading Rabbi Posner’s commentary »



Sunday June 28th | Post a comment/View comments » (1 comments)


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