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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'midbar (May 26, 2012)
By Rabbi Amy B. Ehrlich
IT’S NOT AN EXAGGERATION to say that we are at a critical time in history: American history, world history and Jewish history when we must assess who we are, what we stand for and with whom we stand. If we are to move forward in a meaningful way, then we must know ourselves.

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Parashat B'har-B'chukotai (May 19, 2012)
By Saul Kaiserman
THIS IS ONE of the years when we read the final two portions from the book of Leviticus, B’har and B’chukotai, in the same week. These chapters conclude the section of the Torah known as the “Holiness Code,” which began with Parashat K’doshim and continued with Emor, the portion we read last week.

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Parashat Emor (May 12, 2012)
By Missy Bell
A LOT IS HAPPENING in this week’s Torah portion, Emor. Moses is on Mount Sinai, receiving many of the commandments to be followed by the Israelite community. First, Moses is given a list of rules for the kohanim, the priests. This is followed by a list of commandments regarding the animal sacrifices that the Israelites may offer to God and what is acceptable versus what is not.

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Parashat Acharei Mot-K'doshim (May 5, 2012)
By Rabbinic Intern Hannah Goldstein
BEFORE WE HAD the machzor, the High Holiday prayer book, we had the scapegoat. In Acharei Mot, we read about the first rituals that accompanied the Day of Atonement. God told Aaron to take two male goats before the tent of meeting: one intended for a purification offering, the other intended for Azazel. The Torah: A Modern Commentary calls the goat for Azazel, “the most embarrassing feature of the ancient ritual.” The appearance of what can be interpreted as a “demonic being” in the ritual for the holiest day of the year is difficult to reconcile with our notion of Jewish ritual. What does a demonic being have to do with atonement?

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Parashat Sh'mini (April 21, 2012)
By Rachel Brumberg

When I sat down to start my Torah Commentary for this week, I realized that this was not the first time that I was writing a commentary for Parashat Sh’mini. At first glance, it seemed to me that I had said all I had to say about this portion back in 2008. (Click here to see what I had to say back then.) It is not an easy section on which to comment: It starts with rules about sacrifices, includes the death of Aaron’s sons by fire, goes into detail about the laws of kashrut and ends with a discussion on cleanliness and holiness.

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