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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 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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Parashat T'rumah (February 13, 2016)
By Rachel Brumberg
IN THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION, Parashat T’rumah, we read a very detail-oriented account of God telling Moses how to go about building the Tabernacle. This portable sanctuary was to be crafted out of the finest items, which were to be donated by the community, and was designed to hold the Holy of Holies — the Ark of the Covenant. The scale, colors and materials are all very specifically described. And whereas one can see the entirety of the Torah as being a blueprint for Judaism — teaching us the values and traditions we have handed down for thousands of years and that guide us today — it is this portion we actually can use as a guide for building a sacred space. And we do.

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Parashat Mishpatim (February 6, 2016)
By Gila Drazen
OVER THE LAST TWO WEEKS OF TORAH READINGS, we have encountered some of the most defining moments in the history of the Jewish people. In Parashat B’shalach, the people crossed through the sea from slavery into freedom. In Parashat Yitro, they stood at the foot of the mountain and received the Ten Commandments from on high, a moment that began to coalesce this group into a society.

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