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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 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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Parashat Vayak'heil (Marc 5, 2016)
By Rabbinic Intern Toba Schaller
IN THIS WEEK’S PARASHAH, we read an incredibly detailed description of the Israelites building of the Mishkan. Most of these details we are seeing for the second time in just a few weeks. Some of them we will hear three times before the Mishkan finally is built and Torah moves on. All in all, Torah devotes 13 chapters to telling us exactly from what the Mishkan was made and how it was built. We read God’s instructions, we read as the Israelites follow those instructions, and then we read about the outcome. For a text usually known for brevity, Torah certainly focuses a great deal on the details of this sanctuary for God’s presence.

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Parashat Ki Tisa (February 27, 2016)
By Bettijane Eisenpreis

We do not call them “the Children of Israel” unwisely. The story of the Golden Calf could come right out of a book on child psychology — a perfect example of what not to do, both for the parents and for the children.

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Parashat T'tzaveh (February 20, 2016)
By Sherry Nehmer
THIS WEEK’S PARASHAH, T’TZAVEH, recounts in extreme detail the making of an Israelite priest, as well as vivid instructions on a number of other ritualistic items and practices. In addition to presenting the procedures for the first ordination ceremony (and let’s just say they’re wildly different from the lovely ceremony performed annually here at Temple Emanu-El as new rabbis and cantors are ordained), we learn the minute details of costume and ritual that make a Hebrew priest. Precious and semi-precious stones on a richly decorated breastplate, the mysterious divination objects the urim and thummin, the fine linen wound ever so carefully into a turban, the bells and pomegranates hanging from the hem of their tunics — these garments of the kohanim, created by the finest craftsmen — “those who are skillful” — ensure that priests are recognizable immediately as separate and important — awe inspiring, even. After all, these people interact with the Divine presence on behalf of an entire people.

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