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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 B'har-B'chukotai (May 4, 2013)
By Missy Bell
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION is actually two portions combined — B’har and B’chukotai. B’har begins with some of the many agricultural laws in the Torah. The Israelites are told of the Sabbatical year — that every seventh year, the land must be allowed to rest. We also learn of the Jubilee year, the 50th year. What follows is a long list of mitzvot that must be observed in the Jubilee year. In B’chukotai, the Israelites learn of a number of rewards and punishments that will fall upon them depending on whether or not they keep these mitzvot. Many of these, too, are related to land and agriculture.


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Parashat Emor (April 27, 2013)
By Rachel Brumberg
“AN EYE FOR AN EYE and a tooth for a tooth.” This week’s parashah (portion) brings us one of the most quoted passages in the Torah. We’ve all heard it; we’ve probably even all said it at some point in our lives. But what does it really mean? And is it right?

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Parashat Acharei Mot-K'doshim (April 20, 2013)
By Dr. Mark Weisstuch
SCAPEGOATING. It is a dynamic of human behavior with which we are all familiar. A problem develops. It could be political, social, economic, domestic or personal, and those suffering from the problem cast blame on an individual or a group, imputing to them the source of the problem. In the Middle Ages, Jews were held responsible for the Black Death. Hitler pointed to the Jews as the reason for the economic and social travails of Germany. Today, some say gays are the reason for the decline in family values, and immigrants are indicted for the high levels of unemployment.

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Parashat Tazria-M'tzora (April 13, 2013)
By Sherry Nehmer
THE VERY FIRST phone call I received from a parent regarding scheduling a bar/bat mitzvah service began with these words: “I just want to make sure my child doesn’t have to chant about leprosy. I had that Torah portion for my bat mitzvah, and it’s HORRIBLE!”

Putting aside the encouraging fact that here was a mother who actually had knowledge of the Torah and opinions about it, the basic reason for her concern was this week’s double portion, Tazria-M’tzora, or as we usually think of it, “That stuff about leprosy and bodily discharges.” No wonder this parent was concerned, because, well, yucchh.

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Parashat Sh'mini (April 6, 2013)
By Abra Lee
LESSONS FROM MY Italian-Catholic grandmother and Parashat Sh’mini…who knew?

This week’s Torah portion, Sh’mini, begins on the eighth day of the ceremonies consecrating the Tabernacle and the ordination of the High Priests. As part of the ordination, Moses directs Aaron in the offerings and sacrifices, and then together they enter the Tent of Meeting. When they come out, Moses and Aaron bless the people, and the Presence of God is with them. Afterward, in their zeal, Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, bring forth a burnt offering on their own, and the fire consumes them. Upon their tragic and unexpected deaths, Moses explains God’s actions and teaches the priestly responsibility to act only in the ways commanded by God. Moses instructs the removal of their bodies and cautions the people against mourning their loss. Moses gives additional explanation of the priestly duties of sacrifice to Aaron and his remaining sons, followed by God’s instructions regarding the laws of kashrut. Dietary restrictions are detailed, along with a description of the laws of ritual defilement regarding animal carcasses. Finally, the parashah closes with an affirmation of the special relationship between God and the Jewish people:

“For I am Adonai, your God… who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God. Thus you shall be holy because I am holy.”

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