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 alhatorah.org 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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Vayigash 5779

December 11, 2018

This is Torah Talk for the week of December 9th, 2018

Gen. 47:23  Then Joseph said to the people, “Whereas I have this day acquired you and your land for Pharaoh, here is seed for you to sow the land. 24  And when harvest comes, you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths [ארבע הידות] shall be yours.

What do fractions have to do with “hands,” and why are they yadot [ידות] and not yadayim [ידיים]?

This week’s handout:  11 Vayigash 5779

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Miketz 5779

December 4, 2018

This is Torah Talk for the week of December 2nd, 2018

Gen. 43:3  Judah said to him, “The man warned us, a‘Do not let me see your facesunless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you will let our brother go with us, we will go down and procure food for you; 5 but if you will not let him go, we will not go down, for the man said to us, a‘Do not let me see your facesunless your brother is with you.’”      aLit. “Do not see my face.”

What is the big deal about seeing Joseph’s face?

This week’s handout:  10 Miketz 5779

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Vayeshev 5779

November 27, 2018

This is Torah Talk for the week of November 25th, 2018

Gen. 38:1 About that time Judah left his brothers and camped near a certain Adullamite whose

name was Hirah. 2 There Judah saw the daughter of a certain Canaanite whose name was Shua …

Is Shua the father’s name or the daughter’s name?

Was he really a Canaanite?

What does Shua mean, anyway?

It all matters because 1 Chr 3:5 calls Solomon’s mother not Bathsheba, but … Bathshua.

This week’s handout:  09 Vayeshev 5779

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Vayishlach 5779

November 20, 2018

This is Torah Talk for the week of November 18th, 2018

Gen. 32:33  That is why the children of Israel to this day do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the

socket of the hip, since Jacob’s hip socket was wrenched at the thigh muscle.

Is this a commandment, or just a bit of ethnography?

This week’s handout:  08 Vayishlach 5779

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Vayetze 5779

November 13, 2018

This is Torah Talk for the week of November 11th, 2018

Gen. 31:38  “These twenty years I have spent in your service, your ewes and she-goats never

miscarried, nor did I feast on rams from your flock. 39 That which was torn by beasts I never

brought to you; I myself made good the loss; you exacted it of me, whether snatched by day or

snatched by night.

“A fine picture of the ideal shepherd” … or full of allusions to the intricate plot that is leading the Israelites to slavery in Egypt?

This week’s handout: 07 Vayetze 5779

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