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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 D'varim (July 28, 2012)
By Dr. Mark Weisstuch
IN D’VARIM, the eponymous first portion of the last of the five books of the Torah, Deuteronomy, Moses begins by recapitulating the recent history of the people in their desert wanderings and then describes the battles waged by the Israelites against several Trans-Jordan fiefdoms. The Israelites are on the threshold of entering the Promised Land. This is a new generation. The generation that left Egypt and received the Torah at Mount Sinai committed the grievous sin of lacking faith in the power and promise of God. After being commanded to invade the Land, they hedged, they doubted — they became pragmatic. They strategized that it would be advantageous to send scouts into the unknown territory to reconnoiter the terrain and assess the strength of the enemy. The scouts reported — with two notable dissenters, Caleb and Joshua — that the land was inhabited by undefeatable giants, next to whom they felt like grasshoppers. (Deuteronomy 1:28; Numbers 13:32-33) The people’s resolve wilted; they hemmed and hawed; the grand vision clouded over; they demonstrated that they were inadequate partners to God in the great enterprise of securing the Land of the Covenant.

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Parashat Matot-Mas'ei (July 21, 2012)
By Prince H. Davis
THIS WEEK’S PARASHAH focuses on the importance of the spoken word. In English Common Law, and in most legal systems in the world, agreements that are not in writing and then signed by the parties are of little enforceable value.

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Parashat Pinchas (July 14, 2012)
By Prince H. Davis
THIS IS THE third consecutive year that I have had the pleasure to write a commentary for Parashat Pinchas. There are so many interesting things in it, but for the sake of brevity, I’ll stick to one topic.

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Parashat Balak (July 7, 2012)
By Cantor Lori Corrsin
Ma Tovu ohalecha Ya’akov,
mishkenotecha Yisrael!

How fair are your tents, O Jacob,
your dwellings, O Israel!

THE WORDS ABOVE, which form the opening verse of the prayer Ma Tovu (How Fair), come from this week’s Torah portion, Balak.


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Parashat Korach (June 23, 2012)
By Leah Kadosh
PARASHAT KORACH, named for only one of the four infamous antagonists described in this week’s portion, continues right where last week’s parashah, Sh’lach L’cha, left off: The Israelites are condemned to wander the desert for 40 years, ensuring that the adult generation will die before reaching the Promised Land. The Israelites, already having committed sins of idolatry, disloyalty, ungratefulness and unfaithfulness, naturally are displeased with their ultimate punishment and immediately appeal with an apology. Moses does not even consult with God on behalf of the Israelites and answers them simply by asking them why they continue to disobey God. The punishment will not (not cannot) be revoked. With the initial choice of apology overturned, we read of option two: rebellion with a desired change of leadership. Korach (Moses and Aaron’s first cousin), Dathan and Abiram gather 250 chieftains (highly respected Israelites) and proceed to challenge Moses and Aaron’s leadership.


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