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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 Mishpatim (February 18, 2012)
By Missy Bell
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION, Mishpatim, begins immediately after the Israelites are given the Ten Commandments. Mishpatim, meaning “laws,” is a very fitting name for the portion, considering that these chapters are long lists of laws that the Israelites are told to follow. Immediately prior to Mishpatim, the Israelites receive the Ten Commandments, and some commentators say that this detailed list in Mishpatim is actually an elaboration on the laws of the Ten Commandments. Some of the laws include how to treat slaves, how to treat animals and how to treat the land. There are also many laws about compensation for damage or injury caused to another person or their property, including the well-known “an eye for an eye.” (Exodus 21:23) The Israelites also are given the three festival holidays at this time: Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. Finally, at the end of the portion, Moses goes back up to Mount Sinai where he will remain for 40 days and nights.

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Parashat B'shalach (February 4, 2012)
By Rabbinic Intern Hannah Goldstein
IN EXODUS 13:3, Moses said to the people of Israel, “Remember this day, on which you went free from Egypt, the house of bondage, how the Lord freed you from it with a mighty hand.” We retell the story each year during the Passover seder: The Israelites quickly gathered their belongings. They did not even have time for their bread to rise, and so today we eat unleavened bread as we recall their hasty departure. After two centuries, God brought the Israelites out of slavery. And each year, we continue to mark this critical moment in our Jewish story with songs and stories, celebrating as if we ourselves made the transition from slavery to freedom.

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Parashat Bo (January 28, 2012)
By Robyn Weinstein Cimbol
PARASHAT BO CHRONICLES defining moments in the biblical account of the Israelites’ experience in Egypt. These chapters tell of the final three plagues and anticipate liberation by presenting the commemorative rituals of Pesach, t’fillin and the redemption of the firstborn. Included in this parashah are many of the pre-Sinai experiences that prepare to transform the Israelites into a collective entity — a community with a shared history and a shared destiny.

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Parashat Va-eira (January 21, 2012)
By Sherry Nehmer

The river flows, broad and calm and slow,
Bringer of life, the Nile!
Fertile and rich, the soil damp in our fingers,
Loamy, heady, dark with nature’s promise.
Fattened cattle graze, and lush crops flourish.
We tend the land beside the flowing water.

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Parashat Sh'mot (January 14, 2012)
By Rachel Honeyman
WHEN I TOLD a few people that I had chosen to write a Torah commentary on Parashat Sh’mot, I got some quizzical looks — “That parashah? But it’s so boring!” Well, I completely disagree. It is the parashah that introduces us to some of the most exciting stories in our heritage; it is the precursor to the 10 plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

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