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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 Sh'mot (January 21, 2017)
By Warren Klein
AS A VISUAL PERSON, Sh’mot was a very exciting parashah for me to revisit. Almost immediately I was reminded of some of the incredible medieval illuminated Haggadah manuscripts that illustrate scenes from Sh’mot chapters 1-5, manuscripts such as the Golden Haggadah in the British Library and the Sarajevo Haggadah.

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Parashat Va-y'chi (January 14, 2017)
By Rachel Brumberg
THIS WEEK WE ARRIVE at the final portion in the book of Genesis: Parashat Va-y’chi. This portion easily could have been named “Blessings and Deaths,” as within it we read about Jacob’s final blessings to his sons as well as about the deaths of Rachel, Jacob and Joseph. However, the thing that kept on catching my eye as I read and re-read the text was the name of Joseph’s father and Rachel’s husband: the biblical character of Jacob whose name was changed to Israel by God several parashiyot ago in Genesis 32:29. Throughout this week’s portion, the text goes back and forth between calling him Jacob and Israel. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of consistency, and sometimes the name changes within the same verse. Why?

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Vayigash (January 7, 2017)
By Jessica Ingram
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION, Vayigash, provides a dramatic finale to the epic story of sibling rivalry and family dysfunction that plagues our ancestors from one generation to the next.

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Parashat Mikeitz (December 31, 2016)
By Rabbi David M. Posner
IN A WELL-PRINTED AND EDITED CHUMASH, both the number of verses and even the number of words of each parashah are given in the traditional manner: the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet used as numbers. In Parashat Mikeitz, there are 146 verses, which correspond numerically to the names of two kings of Judah: Yechizkiyahu and Amatziah. In an almost unbelievable coincidence, the names Yechizkiyahu and Amatziah are the very same as the mnemonics used for the first parashah of the Torah, sidrah B’reishit. B’reishit also contains 146 verses.

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Parashat Vayeishev (December 24, 2016)
By Rabbi Allison Tick Brill
IN A RECENT CONFIRMATION CLASS, our high school students examined race relations in America and how we might respond as Jews. As part of our study, we explored the work of DJ Jay Smooth who makes popular videos to educate people on issues surrounding race. DJ Smooth suggests that we need to move away from the premise that being a good person is a fixed, immutable characteristic and see it instead as something that requires constant engagement with our imperfections. It’s like dental hygiene, he says. You don’t have good dental hygiene because, at one point, you spent a lot of time cleaning your teeth. You achieve good dental hygiene by brushing and flossing every day. So, too, we need to address constantly the prejudices and negative tendencies that can build inside us and continue to improve ourselves.

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