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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 Naso (May 18, 2013)
By Saul Kaiserman
AMULETS, SUPERSTITION AND WITCHCRAFT — perhaps the enduring remnants of the pagan worship of our ancestors — always have been a part of Jewish folk religion. Golems, dybbuks and demons play key roles in the Talmud, the stories of our grandparents and our imaginations today. It still is common practice to change one’s name after surviving an illness or to wear the mezuzah as a good-luck charm, a hamsa to ward off the evil eye or a red string after a visit to the Kabbalah Center.

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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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