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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 Tazria (April 9, 2016)
By Wendl Kornfeld
AT SATURDAY MORNING TORAH STUDY, we need little encouragement to express our opinions. Nor is humor absent. Our backgrounds range from Torah newbies to scholars of related history and literature. The weekly text is examined through the lens of its own time but perhaps more for its relevance to modern lifestyles and values. We Torah students are not shy about challenging, even rejecting, one another’s opinion — including the rabbi’s! After all, if we agreed on everything, then there’d be no need to come back each week. (Then again, there are bagels.)

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Parashat Sh'mni (April 2, 2016)
By Cara L. Glickman
IN THIS WEEK’S PARASHAH, SH’MINI, or the “eighth day,” we learn about ritual practices. Moses, Aaron, his sons and other priests are busy sacrificing and creating signs to appease God while demonstrating to the people of Israel God’s power and might. After God instructs Moses and Aaron to bring forth fire as a part of a ritual act, two of Aaron’s sons appear to take things into their own hands.

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Parashat Tzav (March 26, 2016)
By Rabbinic Intern Stephanie Crawley
ONE OF THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS ABOUT READING TORAH is that there is meaning to be found not only in the words themselves but in how you read them. The Masoretes — a group of sixth through 10th century C.E. Jewish scribes and scholars — developed the vowel notation system as well as the system of cantillation, known as trop, that we use to this day. As a result, the Torah, when it is chanted, is not so different from other forms of music. Both the words themselves, and their accompanying melodies, convey meaning and emotion.

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Parashat Vayikra (March 19, 2016)
By Missy Bell
VAYIKRA IS THE FIRST PORTION in the book of Leviticus, also known as Vayikra. The building of the Tabernacle, or Mishkan, has just been completed at the end of Exodus, and the Israelites are left wondering about the purpose of the space. We find out the answer pretty quickly in the first chapters of Leviticus: making sacrifices to God. Vayikra outlines five different types of sacrifices: the burnt offering, the meal offering, the sacrifice of well-being, the sin offering and the penalty offering. Each of these sacrifices involves the priests burning a food item, such as an animal or flour, on the altar and then offering it to God on behalf of the person making the sacrifice. The Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban, comes from the same root as karov, meaning “near.” It is thought that the purpose of these sacrifices was to bring the Israelites closer to God.

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Parashat P'kudei (March 12, 2016)
By Robyn Weinstein Cimbol
FALLING BETWEEN SHABBAT SH’KALIM AND SHABBAT ZACHOR, each possessing an inherent holiness, P’kudei seems mundane by comparison. This last weekly portion of the Book of Exodus, like much of the Book of Leviticus that follows, appears at first to be tedious and irrelevant. Many modern Jews find it difficult to relate to the description of the building of the portable Tabernacle (Mishkan), an anachronistic sacred space, and the ancient priestly rituals. However, looking beyond the seemingly irrelevant details of the materials and construction plans, we see the further evolution of the relationship between God, Moses and the Israelites.

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