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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 Tazria (March 29, 2014)
By Rachel Dulitz
THE BOOK OF LEVITICUS could be succinctly summarized as, “a guide to holy relationships with God.” There are rules pertaining to the holiness and purity required in food consumption, sexual practices, and the offering of sacrifices in the Temple. We read about the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests and the laws of the high priest entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur.

In this week’s Torah portion, Tazria, we read about tzaraat, which can appear on a person’s body, clothes, and even in their homes.

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Parashat Sh'mini (March 22, 2014)
By Missy Bell
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION, Sh’mini, begins by continuing to explain the different types of sacrifices the Israelites need to make, including sin offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings and meal offerings. The rituals, rules and structure surrounding these types of offerings are explained in depth as Moses and Aaron are taught what to do. The second half of the portion begins to list some of the laws of kashrut — the laws about which animals the Israelite community is permitted to eat, and which animals they may not eat.

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Parashat Tzav (March 15, 2014)
By Rabbi Amy B. Ehrlich
I HAD BEEN STUDYING in Israel for some time when my friend arrived as a new oleh, a new resident. Happily, he decided to celebrate his citizenship with a trip south to scuba dive. I was lucky to have a break from school at that same time and joined the adventure. The drive south along the Sinai coast was hot and unending, punctuated by welcome and refreshing swims at Nueba and Dahab. As expected, the destination oasis of Sharm el-Sheikh lived up to its reputation of having the most wondrous underwater life. The week passed too quickly, except for the ride back to Jerusalem, which seemed further away than we remembered. As a proud new Israeli, my friend wanted to share his extensive knowledge of history, and soon we made a detour off the main road and headed toward the coast. He sought the large cannon that had been mounted on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba. It was the still there, he told me, as a symbol of strength, although decades had then transpired since its use.

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Parashat P'kudei (March 1, 2014)
By Jennifer Knobe
THE JOY IS IN THE JOURNEY. Imagine a car ride, and your travel buddy is a big floppy-eared dog. Windows down, your canine companion extends her head out the window, laps up the wind with her crimson tongue and gives what seems to be a big dog smile to the turquoise blue sky. You and your pet are in the moment. No map point matters; it’s “Destination Unknown.” What matters most is the here and now. This is what “counts.” P’kudei means “counting” or “recording” an idea that stresses the worth of the individual, how everyone “counts” as an individual. (Site: The Gutnick Edition, Chumash, Rabbi Chaim Miller, 2003.)

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Parashat Vayak'heil (February 22, 2014)
By Rabbi Benjamin J. Zeidman
PARASHAT VAYAK’HEIL BEGINS with the warning to do no work on the seventh day, the Sabbath. It then continues with instructions for constructing the Tabernacle. Last week, a description of the Tabernacle’s construction ended with instructions regarding resting on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:12-17).

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