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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 Mikeitz (December 12, 2015)
By Missy Bell
THIS WEEK’S PARASHAH, Mikeitz, continues the story of Joseph. Joseph is still in prison in Egypt. However, he soon is released because Pharaoh has two dreams that no one is able to interpret until the butler, remembering the time Joseph interpreted his dream in prison, tells Pharaoh about Joseph. Joseph is able to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams, although he gives the credit to God. Joseph tells Pharaoh that his dream of the seven fat cows and seven good ears of corn means that there will be seven years of plenty in the land. The dream of seven lean cattle and seven thin ears of corn means that seven years of famine will follow. Pharaoh rewards Joseph for this interpretation, giving him a wife and putting him in a position of power — supervising the storage of grain during the seven years of plenty and the distribution of the grain during the famine.

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Parashat Vayeishev (December 5, 2015)
By Sherry Nehmer
ONCE AGAIN, this week’s parashah contains a story where, although the main character is male, two women have their brief moments in the sun. As in Parashat Pinchas, we have one woman who flaunts her sexuality for no good purpose, but also, unlike the five sisters in Pinchas who demand their rights to own land, here we have one very bold woman who uses sex to achieve a point of Hebrew law.

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Parashat Vayishlach (October 31, 2015)
By Rabbinic Intern Stephanie Crawley
PARASHAT VAYISHLACH IS ONE of our tradition’s most dramatic tales of reconciliation, recounting the moment of reunion between the brothers Jacob and Esau.

The first part of their story is one of rivalry, deception and revenge. Even in the womb, Jacob and Esau wrestle, (Genesis 25:22) and their rivalry continues at their birth, when Esau comes out first, followed by Jacob, who is grasping onto Esau’s foot. In fact, Jacob’s name, Yaakov, is a wordplay on the word akev, meaning “heel,” and its related verb, which means “to overreach.” Jacob, from birth, is trying to “overreach” his brother. (Genesis 25:25-26)

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Parashat Vayeitzei (November 21, 2015)
By Bettijane Eisenpreis
JACOB’S VOW IN PARASHAT VAYEITZEI is not the first story in the Torah that features someone bargaining with God. In Genesis 18: 23-32, a famous dialogue happens between Abraham and God in regard to Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham is distressed that God plans to destroy the cities because of their wicked inhabitants. He begins by getting God to promise that if there are 50 righteous men in the cities, He will spare them. Eventually, Abraham gets the number down to 10, but later we learn that the cities were destroyed because they did not even contain 10 good men.

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Parashat Tol'dot (September 14, 2015)
By Rachel Brumberg
THIS WEEK’S TORAH PORTION, Tol’dot, tells us of the line of Isaac. It includes his marriage to Rebekah; the birth of their twins, Esau and Jacob; and the selling of Esau’s birthright to Jacob. It ends with the deception of Isaac when Jacob tricks his father into giving him the blessing meant for the firstborn. In the middle of these life-cycle events we read about a famine. God instructs Isaac not to go to Egypt during this famine but rather to remain in the land that was promised to him as part of God’s covenant with Abraham. So Isaac stays there and settles in Gerar so that he can continue to receive God’s blessing.

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