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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 Eikev (July 27, 2013)
By Saul Kaiserman
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION includes the text that is the biblical source for Birkat HaMazon, the grace after meals. The commandment to bless after eating appears in Deuteronomy 8:10, where God instructs Moses to tell the people, “When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.” This phrase, later included as part of the second paragraph of Birkat HaMazon, here in context appears to be no more than a general injunction to appreciate God's generosity in times of prosperity. Nevertheless, the Talmud (Ber. 48b) cites this passage not only as the scriptural basis for the institution of Birkat HaMazon but also for its wording and for the sequence of its paragraphs.

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Parashat Va'etchanan (July 20, 2013)
By Missy Bell
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION, Va’etchanan, includes the second listing of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy Chapter 5. Scholars have a great deal to say about why this second set of the Ten Commandments is different from the first, which appears in Exodus Chapter 34.


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Parashat Matot-Mas'ei (July 6, 2013)
By Rabbi David M. Posner
CHAPTER 32 OF Parashat Matot gives us fascinating insight into the Jewish scale of values, the responsibility that groups and individuals must feel for the community at large, a leader’s role in formulating such values and responsibilities, and the methods the leader uses to communicate the values and responsibilities to the nation at large. The setting for this episode was the request that the tribes of Gad and Reuben be permitted to settle on the east bank of the Jordan (the land of Gilead) instead of crossing the Jordan with the other 10 tribes and settling on the west bank of the Jordan, that is the Land of Israel proper. Had it not been for this ultimately successful request, then the west bank would have been owned jointly by all the tribes.

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Parashat Pinchas (June 29, 2013)
By Sherry Nehmer
IN THE TIMES the other day there was an article about how the phenomenon of the “Real Housewives” franchise has spread to other countries, resulting in the shows “The Real Housewives of Canada,” “Real Housewives of Greece” and “Real Housewives of Israel,” among other new locations. The article notes that while the Canadians were “slightly more polite” and the Athenian matrons more obsessed with clothing than their Orange County, New Jersey or New York counterparts, the Israeli women as a whole were more intense, more obsessed with opulence and more opinionated than other “Housewives” around the globe. “What? I’m going to give Iranians a living?” one exclaims, when offered a high-end piece of marble for her countertops. “So they can build a nuclear weapon and drop a bomb on me? I don’t want it!”

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Parashat Balak (June 22, 2013)
By Rabbi David M. Posner
AT THE VERY BEGINNING of this sidrah, Balaam is introduced as a prophet from the city of Pethor on the Euphrates River, in the land of Amo. The place names Pethor and Amo actually are known from Akkadian cuneiform texts. And coming from a city on the Euphrates, Balaam lived in an environment that was just perfect for prophecy and ripe with soothsayers.

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