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Torah Commentary Blog

Temple Emanu-El’s Torah commentaries are prepared by members of our clergy, senior staff, Religious School faculty and Saturday morning Torah Study group. Blog comments are 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. If you are a temple member interested in joining our team of writers, contact Prince Davis.

Parashat B'haalot'cha (June 6, 2015)
By Sherry Nehmer

Once my brother threw a staff on the earth
and God turned it into a snake. Once my brother
put his hand inside his cloak and God turned it white
like hoarfrost in the cold desert shadows. Once
I groused that my brother gets all the attention
(he speaks for God; he married the most beautiful woman
any of us had ever seen, then ignored her
because God was more important) and God turned me
white as my brother’s arm. Does that mean I too
am an instrument of God's will, set apart wholly?

THESE LINES ARE part of a septet of poems about Moses’s sister, Miriam, written by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. A poet as well as a scholar, Rabbi Barenblat (who has a wonderful blog called “The Velveteen Rabbi”) invests her writings with personal, as well as cerebral and religious interpretations of the Hebrew Bible. Her poetry is lovely and thought-provoking, and I’m delighted to call her a friend of mine.

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Parashat Naso (May 30, 2015)
By Rabbi Amy B. Ehrlich
EVER HAVE A FIT OF JEALOUSY? Yes, a fit! A blinding rage of emotions, fueled by envy or greed or insecurity. It’s not a particularly “admirable” side of our personalities, but it is honest. It triggers a cascade of feelings and often evokes a response in which we are likely to do or say something that we hope will reveal a truth or validate a fear.

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Parashat B'midbar (May 23, 2015)
By Rabbi Rena Y. Rifkin
THIS SHABBAT, we begin the fourth book of the Torah: Numbers (B’midbar). In the first few verses of this book, God asks Moses to take a census. But God is not asking Moses simply to do a head count. The time has come to take account of all of God’s chosen people. So Moses counts each person and helps God to take each person into account.

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Parashat B'har-B'chukotai (May 16, 2015)
By Bettijane Eisenpreis
Im behukosai telehu, v’es mitzvosai tismeru v’ahseesem ohtam...

I LEARNED THE FIRST LINE of Parashat B’chukotai (Behukosai in the Ashkenazic pronunciation) many, many years ago, and I never have forgotten it. B’har/B’chukotai is usually a double portion, as it is this year, but it happens that the year I studied it was a leap year. So, the two parashiyot stood alone.

Why did I learn that line, and why do I still remember it?

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Parashat Emor (May 9, 2015)
By Ellen Rothschild French
PARASHAT EMOR ENUMERATES the ways in which the Temple priests were instructed to maintain ritual purity. Ritual purity helped the Temple priests to arrive at a state of physical holiness, which enabled them to connect with God. Through the laws of sacrifice and ritual purity, the rest of the Israelites were able to connect to God as well. The parashah also presents the most extensive biblical account for the observance of the Holy Days (Shabbat, Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot). How is this discussion of attaining Holiness related to the observance of the Holy Days? Why does the parashah discuss what appears to be disparate ideas?

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