Ki Tisa 5781

March 2, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of February 28th, 2021

Ex. 34:28    And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he ate no bread and drank no water; and he wrote down on the tablets the terms of the covenant, the Ten Commandments [עֲשֶׂ֖רֶת הַדְּבָרִֽים].

Wait, what?  Didn’t we get the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20?  But the name isn’t found there — it doesn’t occur until here.  What’s going on?

This week’s handout: 21 Ki Tisa 5781

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Tetzaveh 5781

February 23, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of February 21, 2021

Ex. 28:35 [Aaron must wear a robe hemmed with bells …] so that the sound of it is heard [ונשמע קולו] when he comes into the sanctuary before the LORD and when he goes out—that he may not die.

Who hears this sound?  Why must it “be heard” when he leaves?  It’s more complicated than you might think.

This week’s handout: 20 Tetzaveh 5781

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Terumah 5781

February 16, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of February 14, 2021

Ex. 26:31 You shall make a curtain [פָרֹ֗כֶת] of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and fine twisted linen; it shall have a design of cherubim worked into it.

It seems obvious that פרכת must mean curtain, but as Abraham ibn Ezra tells us, this word does not occur outside the description of the Tabernacle — with one exception.

This week’s handout: 19 Terumah 5781

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Mishpatim 5781

February 9, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of February 7, 2021

Ex. 21:29  If, however, that ox has been in the habit of goring, and its owner, though warned, has failed to guard it [וְלֹ֣א יִשְׁמְרֶ֔נּוּ], and it kills a man or a woman—the ox shall be stoned and its owner, too, shall be put to death.

R. Eliezer says in the Mekhilta: “The only adequate guard it can have is the knife.”  But was this his opinion, or was he looking at a spelling mistake?

This week’s handout: 18 Mishpatim 5781

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Yitro 5781

February 2, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of January 31st 2021

Ex. 18:5   Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, brought Moses’ sons and wife to him in the wilderness, where he was encamped at the mountain of God.

But how could Moses be there when the Israelites don’t reach the mountain of God until Exod 19:2?

This week’s handout: 17 Yitro 5781

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Beshalach 5781

January 26, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of January 24th 2021

Ex. 14:1   The Lord said to Moses: 2 Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp before Pi‑hahiroth [פִּ֣י הַחִירֹ֔ת], between Migdol [מִגְדֹּ֖ל] and the sea, before Baal-zephon [בַּ֣עַל צְפֹ֔ן]; you shall encamp facing it, by the sea.

What are these mostly Semitic place names doing in Egypt — and in our story?

This week’s handout: 16 Beshalach 5781

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Bo 5781

January 19, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of January 17th 2021

Exod. 10:21       Then the Lord said to Moses, “Hold out your arm toward the sky that there may be darkness upon the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be touched.” 22 Moses held out his arm toward the sky and thick darkness descended upon all the land of Egypt for three days.

Why was there darkness for three days? And … was this the 9th plague of 10, or the 1st of 7?

This week’s handout: 15 Bo 5781

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Va’era 5781

January 12, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of January 10th, 2021

Ex. 6:2-3   God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them [לֹ֥א נוֹדַ֖עְתִּי לָהֶֽם] by My name YHWH.”

What does Jewish tradition recognize about this passage that Christian tradition did not?  Answer: P.

This week’s handout: 14 Va’era 5781

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Shemot 5781

January 5, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of January 3rd, 2021

Exod 1:15   The king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah.

What do these names mean — and why are they mentioned at all, when even the king’s name is not?

This week’s handout: 13 Shemot 5781

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Vayehi 5781

December 29, 2020

This is Torah Talk for the week of December 27th, 2020

Gen. 49:3  “Reuben, you are my first-born …”

But was he really?  Reuben is so insignificant in biblical history that scholars invent an important pre-history for him.  Andrew Tobolowsky says there may be a different answer to this puzzle.

This week’s handout: 12 Vayehi 5781

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