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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.

Chol HaMo-eid Sukkot (October 11, 2014)
By Rabbinic Intern Alexis Pinsky
THESE WORDS FROM the book of Ecclesiastes, a work traditionally read on Sukkot, highlight the cycle of life and its extremes. Sukkot is itself a holiday of dichotomies. While sitting in the sukkah, we are at once inside and outside. While it has a roof, we must be able to see the stars through the roof in order for the sukkah to be a kosher structure. The sukkah provides shelter, yet there is still exposure to the elements.

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Yom Kippur (October 4, 2014)
By Cantor Lori Corrsin
OVER THE CENTURIES, many liturgical melodies came to be shaped, chanted and cherished by European Jews. Called Mi-Sinai (from Mount Sinai) tunes, they are melodies made holy by text, history and custom.

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Parashat Haazinu (September 27, 2014)
By Rabbi Benjamin J. Zeidman
HAAZINU IS ONE OF MY favorite Torah portions because it is one of two places in the entire Hebrew Bible that explicitly mentions demons, or sheidim.

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Parashat Nitzavim-Vayeilech (September 20, 2014)
By Rabbi Amy B. Ehrlich
LAST SHABBAT AFTERNOON, in between b’nei mitzvah, Cantor Corrsin and I enjoyed one of the pleasures of the season: We rolled the Torah. It’s an act of love that I look forward to each year. And happily, we take our time, carefully making sure that each turn is as perfect and symmetrical as possible, given the limitations of our handcrafted gem. After all, our work has to last an entire year.

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Parashat Ki Tavo (September 13, 2014)
By Warren Klein
PARASHAT KI TAVO IS all about blessing and curses. More specifically, if you do not follow God’s commandments you will be cursed, and if you do follow God’s commandments you will be blessed. Seems pretty straightforward to me. One of the things I found interesting about this parashah was the rhythm of the text, how after laying out the commandments for the tithe and the instructions for the building of an alter, there is a list in Chapter 27 about who is cursed: from he who insults his father or mother (verse 16) to he who strikes down his fellow countryman in secret (verse 24). This is followed by Chapter 28 in which various blessings are laid out if one follows God’s commandments, such as blessed shall you be in the city (verse 3) to the Lord will make you the head not the tail (verse 13). This then is preceded by a list of curses echoing the blessings: Cursed shall you be in the country (verse 16) to a far worse curse of your carcasses shall become food for the birds (verse 25). Why then is the pattern curses, blessings, curses? Is this to emphasize God’s wrath? Or rather, is it to heighten the sensation of potential blessings?

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