Ki Tisa 5779

February 19, 2019

This is Torah Talk for the week of February 17th, 2019

Exod 30:11  The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: 12  When you take a census of the Israelite people …

But … why is this commandment given here?  And what is it interrupting in ch. 30 as a whole?

This week’s handout: 21 Ki Tisa 5779

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Tetzaveh 5779

February 12, 2019

This is Torah Talk for the week of February 10th, 2019

Exod. 27:21  Aaron and his sons shall set them up in the Tent of Meeting.

Exod. 28:1   You shall bring forward your brother Aaron, with his sons, from among the Israelites, to serve Me as priests …

Exod. 29:2   … And so they shall have priesthood as their right for all time.  You shall then ordain Aaron and his sons.

Wait … what?  Why was Aaron chosen to found the hereditary priesthood?  And why was he at work before this command?

This week’s handout:  20 Tetzaveh 5779

More links:
James W. Watts, “Scripturalization and the Aaronide Dynasties”
Ryan Bonfiglio, “Priests and Priesthood in the Hebrew Bible”
Mark Leuchter, “Who Were the Levites?”
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Terumah 5779

February 5, 2019

This is Torah Talk for the week of February 3rd, 2019

Exod. 25:16   And deposit in the Ark [the tablets of] the Pact [העדות] which I will give you.

What is an edut [עדות], and why did God want them put in the Ark?

This week’s handout:  19 Terumah 5779

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Mishpatim 5779

January 29, 2019

This is Torah Talk for the week of January 27th, 2019

Exod. 24:4    Early in the morning, he set up an altar at the foot of the mountain, with twelve pillars for [ל] the twelve tribes of Israel.  [Apologies; on the recording I say by mistake that this preposition is על.]

Exod. 24:8   Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people …

What were the pillars for, and what was Moses doing with the blood?

This week’s handout:  18 mishpatim 5779

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Yitro 5779

January 22, 2019

This is Torah Talk for the week of January 20th, 2019

Exod. 18:13  Next day, Moses sat as magistrate among the people, while the people stood about Moses from morning until evening.

Exod. 21:1           These are the rules that you shall set before them.

What was Moses ruling on in chapter 18?

This week’s handout:  17 yitro 5779

Read Chaim Saiman’s essay here.

See his new book and a Q & A with him here.

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Beshalach 5779

January 13, 2019

This is Torah Talk for the week of January 13th, 2018

Exod. 14:11  “Was it for want of graves in Egypt [המבלי אין-קברים במצרים] that you brought us to die in the wilderness?”

Where else does this strange way of asking a question occur in the Bible — and why?

Some possibilities:

1 – the author of Exodus wanted to allude to 2 Kings;

2 – the author of 2 Kings (or Elijah himself) wanted to allude to Exodus;

3 – both stories were written in the same short era when that phrase was natural and there is no connection between the stories;

4 – both stories were written by the same author, but there is no connection between the stories;

5 – the stories were at different times, but in a particular social location (say, a certain scribal school) where that idiom happened to be used;

6 – it is just a coincidence.

This week’s handout:  16 Beshalach 5779

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Bo 5779

January 8, 2019

This is Torah Talk for the week of January 6th, 2019

Exod. 12:8 They shall eat the flesh that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs … 15 Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread; on the very first day you shall remove leaven from your houses, for whoever eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel … 17 You shall observe the [Feast of] Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your ranks out of the land of Egypt; you shall observe this day throughout the ages as an institution for all time … 20 You shall eat nothing leavened; in all your settlements you shall eat unleavened bread.

Where does the word matzah [מצה] come from, and what is the big deal about eating it?

This week’s handout:  15 Bo 5779

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Va’era 5779

January 1, 2019

This is Torah Talk for the week of December 30th, 2018 — Happy New Year, everyone!

Exod. 7:17  … I shall strike the water in the Nile with the rod that is in my hand, and it will be turned into blood; 18 and the fish in the Nile will die.

Was this a plague of blood [דם] or a plague of fish [דג] — and was it miraculous or not?

This week’s handout:  14 Va’era 5779

Read David Frankel’s essay here.

Read the essay on miracles here.

Watch the Torahcast version of the essay here.

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Shemot 5779

December 25, 2018

This is Torah Talk for the week of December 23rd, 2018

Exod. 3:11  But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt?”

How many questions is Moses asking — one or two?

This week’s handout:  13 Shemot 5779

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Vayehi 5779

December 18, 2018

This is Torah Talk for the week of December 16th, 2018

Gen. 48:21  Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die; but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers. 22 And now, I assign to you one portion [שכם, shechem] more than to your brothers, which I wrested from the Amorites with my sword and bow.”

What is a shechem … when did Jacob “wrest” it … and why the Amorites?

This week’s handout:  12 Vayehi 5779

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