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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 Vayeitzei (November 9, 2013)
By Missy Bell
THERE IS SO MUCH HAPPENING in this week’s Torah portion, Vayeitzei. We begin with Jacob departing from his parents’ home because he has been instructed to find a wife — one of the daughters of Laban, his mother Rebecca’s brother. Jacob has an eventful journey, encountering God on his way.

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Parashat Tol'dot (November 2, 2013)
By Saul Kaiserman
HERE IN NEW YORK CITY, it is impossible to not notice that it is Halloween this week. But, it should be noted that costumes and trickery are as ancient as the Torah. One of the most famous stories is in this week’s portion, Tol’dot.

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Parashat Chayei Sarah (October 26, 2013)
By Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson
JEWISH SURVIVAL HAS BEEN a source of concern since the time of Abraham and a spark for debate and study for generations. The most recent wave of unease about Jewish continuity broke earlier this month when the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project reported that the intermarriage rate among Jews has reached 58 percent and 71 percent among non-Orthodox Jews. The study acknowledged that it counted individuals whose identification with Judaism was by their own admission “marginal,” but even so, the numbers are unsettling.

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Parashat Vayeira (October 19, 2013)
By Elisa Schindler Frankel
IN PARASHAT VAYEIRA, God seeks to destroy the corrupt and criminal cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but Abraham stands up and speaks out in defense of those who are innocent: “Should the judge of all the world not act with justice?” (Genesis 18:25) And with the art of a skilled negotiator, Abraham bargains with God to save the lives of the innocent: “Let not my Lord be angry if I speak but this last time: What if ten should be found there?” And He answered, “I will not destroy, for the sake of the ten.” (Genesis 18:32)

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Parashat Lech L'cha (October 12, 2013)
By Rabbi Benjamin J. Zeidman
IN OUR SIDRAH this week we encounter what must have been a difficult separation between relatives. Abraham and his nephew Lot, tending their flocks in the Land where the Canaanites and the Perizzites also were dwelling, find that there is just not enough space for the two of them. Lovingly though they may treat one another on the surface, their herdsmen are quarreling and fighting. Abram, seeking peace, suggests each to go his separate way and selflessly allows Lot the right to choose where he wishes to go.

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