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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 Vayikra (April 1, 2017)
By Tarlan Rabizadeh
THERE’S A MOVIE CALLED “MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING.” It’s about a first-generation American woman from a Greek family who ends up falling in love with a non-Greek man and must come to terms with her heritage and clashing identities. Tula’s life story reminds me of my own.

My family might not roast lamb on a spit in the front yard, as in the film, but like the ancient Israelites in this week’s parashah, I grew up in a family where we do kaparot...sacrifices.

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Parashat Ki Tisa (March 18, 2017)
By Bettijane Eisenpreis
PARASHAT KI TISA is such a rich portion that this opening section often is overlooked. After all, when you have the story of the Golden Calf, who cares about a boring census?

Or is it boring? Here is a people, fresh out of slavery, being asked to stand up and be counted, starting with the age of 20 — the age when they (men, of course, not women) would be eligible for military service. By stepping forth and enrolling for service, Israelite men were making a statement: They were agreeing to defend their infant community against older and better organized civilizations.

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Parashat Mishpatim (February 25, 2017)
By Ben Kirschenbaum
IN THIS WEEK’S PARASHAH, the newly formed Jewish people suddenly are confronted with many new laws and rules, regulations, restrictions and requirements by which to live their lives and conduct their day-to-day affairs. As with many aspects of life, much of what they are told is logical, sensible and inherently vital toward the preservation of a functioning civil society, where individual rights, liberties, values and aspirations are protected. But, these laws and rules also help them achieve the delicate balance between survival in the world in which they live and the personal refinement that helps them strive toward a higher, more G-d-like self. Many of the other laws that were passed may seem more arbitrary and less logical, but they do appear in the same venerated and holy text. Should those which do not appear to be as relevant to our lives be met with any less enthusiasm and solemnity?

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Parashat Yitro (February 18, 2017)
By Ilana Symons
IN YITRO, we read the most important contract made in the history of the Jewish people: The Ten Commandments. There is a lot of pomp and circumstance leading up to G-d’s pronouncements. Then, “the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the blare of the horn and the mountain smoking and… they fell back and stood at a distance.” (Exodus 20:15) They feared G-d, and the responsibilities that G-d set before them.

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Parashat Bo (February 4, 2017)
By Bettijane Eisenpreis
PARASHAT BO TAKES ITS NAME from the first word of the Lord’s command to Moses, “Go (Hebrew: Bo) to Pharaoh.” That much is clear; what follows is profoundly troubling. God states here, and several times before and after, that He has “hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” If this were simply the story of a wicked king who never really wanted to let the Israelites leave Egypt, then there would be no problem. It would be, in the words of a title by the late Jimmy Breslin, another version of “How The Good Guys Finally Won.”

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