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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 T'tzaveh (February 8, 2014)
By Saul Kaiserman
IN MY COMMENTARY this past fall on Parashat Tol’dot, I described the biblical association between clothing and dishonesty. In many biblical stories, our ancestors and their adversaries wear a disguise or conceal who they are in order to achieve their goals.

Yet, clothing may serve not only as a costume — hiding our true identities — but also as a statement about ourselves, revealing to others aspects of our personalities that would otherwise remain unknown. In deciding what to wear and how we wish to be seen, we show others something about who we are and what matters to us.

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Parashat T'rumah (February 1, 2014)
By Rabbi Rena Y. Rifkin
IT TAKES ALL KINDS to make the world go round. And it takes all kinds to build a tabernacle.

This week’s Torah portion, T’rumah, contains the instructions for building the Tabernacle. God’s tells Moses about the various jewels, woods and materials that will be needed to construct this Holy Ark and asks for people to bring these things as gifts. God asks for gold, silver and copper…for yarns of blue, purple and crimson…for dolphin skins and the finest goat’s hair. God asks for the most beautiful of riches, the most precious of items. Each person is commanded to take his or her gift, to give it to God and to contribute the gift to the building of the Tabernacle…all kinds of people, each bringing a different gift. It is not until each person’s gift, each person’s terumah, is sacrificed to God that the Tabernacle is completed.


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Parashat Mishpatim (January 25, 2014)
By Robyn Weinstein Cimbol
NA-A-SEH V-NISH-MAH. Two deceptively simple words, six brief syllables floating easily off the tongue.

Na-a-sheh, with the root of ayin, shin and heh, refers to a physical action, doing an activity. A version of this root (o-seh) is recited during the Kaddish prayer and also at the conclusion of Birkat HaMazon (Grace after Meals) when we recite Oseh Shalom.

V-nish-mah literally means “and we will hear.” This root — shin, mem, ayin — also is found in the familiar Sh’ma prayer.

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Parashat Yitro (January 18, 2014)
By Prince H. Davis
YITRO DEFINITELY IS one of the most interesting personalities in the Torah. Remarkably, he is hardly ever discussed. He’s Moses’ father-in-law, who faded into obscurity. Most likely, the reason for his disappearance from the scene is that he only stayed around for a year after he came to the nation of Israel.

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Parashat Bo (January 4, 2014)
By Warren Klein
THIS WEEK’S PARASHAH covers the last three of the 10 plagues: locusts, darkness and the death of the firstborn. God’s commandment to eat the paschal lamb, matzah and maror (bitter herb) also are addressed, as are the Israelites’ preparations for leaving Egypt.

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