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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'lach L'cha (July 2, 2016)
By Elizabeth Cooper
AS A RISING JUNIOR who is eagerly, yet nervously, anticipating a study abroad adventure, my imminent journey framed the way I read this week’s parashah: Sh’lach L’cha. This portion focuses on 12 spies who are dispatched and ordered by Moses to venture eastward and survey the new Promised Land, which God has granted the Israelites. Ten return discouraged, claiming to be unsuited to conquer the current inhabitants; whereas the other two, namely Caleb and Joshua, come back feeling confident in their destined endeavors. As the story progresses, the underlying themes of faith and perspective grow more conspicuous, and the lessons become more easily deducible. The parashah examines the consequences of those devoid of faith through the depiction of an angry God and explores the power of perspective. Feeling abandoned and distrusted, God denies the 10 men entry into the Promised Land while he guides the other two to the land of milk and honey.

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Parashat B'haalot'cha (June 25, 2016)
By Missy Bell
THERE IS A LOT HAPPENING IN THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION. The Israelites are in the midst of their journey in the desert. God gives them various rules about their travel, including instructing them to remain encamped while the cloud hangs over the Tabernacle and to break camp when the cloud lifts. The Israelites might remain encamped for days or weeks at a time. All the Israelites have to eat during the years of travel is manna, and their dissatisfaction with this diet becomes clear in this Torah portion.

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Parashat Naso (July 18, 2016)
By Gila Drazen
NASO ALWAYS HAS BEEN A TORAH PORTION THAT I HAVE FOUND FASCINATING. One of the things I find most compelling about this parashah is the way that it’s divided; each of the first four sections carries a significant punch.

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Parashat B'midbar (June 4, 2016)
By Rachel Brumberg
THIS WEEK WE START READING THE FOURTH BOOK OF THE TORAH. Our Torah portion takes its name from this book: B’midbar. B’midbar translates to “in the wilderness” and thus sets the scene for where this book takes place. The English name for this book is “Numbers” and is equally as telling, as this week’s parashah starts with a census of the Israelites. Tribe by tribe the generations were listed and counted as they stood in the Sinai desert. They also were told where to camp and in what order to march.

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Parashat B'chukotai (June 4, 2016)
By Bettijane Eisenpreis
THE TROUBLE WITH “IF”

This parashah is called B’chukotai, but its first words are actually Im behukotai telehu. (Literally, “If you my laws follow.”) The redactors of the Torah didn’t bother with little words like im (if) in selecting titles for the parashiyot (portions) of the five books of the Torah. But our tradition teaches us that every word of the Torah is important, and any child can tell you that no word is more important than “if.”

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