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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 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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Parashat Ki Teitzei (September 6, 2014)
By Ellen Davis
PARASHAT KI TEITZEI, with its 72 commandments (the most numerous and diverse), aims at impressing moral values on the social structure. It lays out the laws for a community to function and for the individual to know the rules by which to live. Every people and society has its own code of behavior. In today’s world these values are taught in the home and at school. A child’s first exposure to a formal code of conduct is during preschool. Just as in ancient times when our people abided by a specific code of conduct, our Nursery School’s mission statement carries out this legacy of prescribing moral and ethical behavior.

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Parashat Shof'tim (August 30, 2014)
By Robyn Weinstein Cimbol
UNDER THE INSPIRED LEADERSHIP OF MOSES, the Israelites are advancing toward their destination. Religious authority rests with the priests. However, they will need to adjust to a new set of political realities once they arrive. In Parashat Shof’tim, our wanderers receive divine instructions on fundamental aspects of the administration for the new society they will create.

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Parashat R'eih (August 23, 2014)
By Rabbi Rena Y. Rifkin
TIME TRUDGES ON and even the biggest moments in our lives become small memories. It’s hard to remember all of the details and the feelings of those moments. We grow and change, and we move on. And as much as we want to hold those important moments in our consciousness every day, it is nearly impossible to do so.


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Parashat Eikev (August 16, 2014)
By Bettijane Eisenpreis
NEVER PROMISE ANYTHING, whether it is an ice cream cone or a spanking, if you are not sure you can deliver it,” my father, Clinton Long, said frequently. I learned early in life not to ask him to promise me a ride in the country or a day at the beach, even if I were a very good girl. The best I could get was a “We’ll see.”

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