Re’eh 5781

August 3, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of August 1st, 2021

Deut. 12:4   Do not worship the Lord your God in like manner, 5 but look only to the site that the Lord your God will choose [מָּק֞וֹם אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַ֨רהַ] amidst all your tribes as His habitation, to establish His name there.

Where the site that the Lord your God will choose?  When will He choose it and when will the other sites be destroyed in this way?

According to 2 Kings 21-23, it did not happen until half a millennium later, when a king in Jerusalem read this passage and — perhaps, argues Frederick Greenspahn — misunderstood it.

This week’s handout: 47 Re’eh 5781

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Ekev 5781

July 27, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of July 25th, 2021

Deut. 10:12   And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God demand of you? Only this: to revere the Lord your God, to walk only in His paths, to love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, 13 keeping the Lord’s commandments and laws, which I enjoin upon you today, for your good.

Why does this verse resemble Micah 6:8 — and what does that verse mean by הצנע לכת ‘walking humbly’?  Not everyone agrees that humility is what Micah is calling for.  The NJPS translation of Mic 6:9, plus some poetic parallelism, will give us a clue.

This week’s handout: 46 Ekev 5781

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Va-etchanan 5781

July 20, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of July 18th, 2021

Deut. 5:23/26    For what mortal ever heard the voice of the living God [אֱלֹהִ֨ים חַיִּ֜ים] speak out of the fire, as we did, and lived?

What does the living God mean?  Why is living plural?  And exactly which verse are we talking about anyway?  All that and more on Torah Talk this week.

This week’s handout: 45 Va-etchanan 5781

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Devarim 5781

July 13, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of July 11th, 2021

Deut. 1:41   You all girded yourselves with war gear and recklessly started [‏וַתָּהִ֖ינוּ לַעֲלֹ֥ת] for the hill country.

What on God’s green earth does va-tahinu mean?  And why does Numbers describe what the Israelites did with an almost as unusual a verb, va-ta’apilu?

This week’s handout: 44 Devarim 5781

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Mattot-Masei 5781

July 6, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of July 4th, 2021

Num. 34:1    The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Instruct the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you [אֲשֶׁ֨ר תִּפֹּ֤ל לָכֶם֙] as your portion, the land of Canaan with its various boundaries …

Num. 34:13    Moses instructed the Israelites, saying: This is the land you are to receive by lot [אֲשֶׁ֨ר תִּתְנַחֲל֤וּ אֹתָהּ֙ בְּגוֹרָ֔ל] as your hereditary portion, which the Lord has commanded to be given to the nine and a half tribes.

Does your share of the land “fall” to you because the lot “falls” in your favor?  Everyone old and new thinks so, except for one scholar.  And what really happens when the land is finally distributed?

This week’s handout: 42-43 Mattot-Masei 5781

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Pinchas 5781

June 29, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of June 27th, 2021

Num. 16:32 tells us that the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up all Korah’s people.  But this week, in Num. 26:11, we learn:  “The sons of Korah, however, did not die.”

You may not have a dog in this fight, but according to Itamar Kislev, someone did.

This week’s handout: 41 Pinchas 5781

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Balak 5781

June 22, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of June 20th, 2021

Num. 22:39 Balaam went with Balak and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep [בָּקָ֣ר וָצֹ֑אן], and had them served to Balaam and the dignitaries with him.

Why does Balak sacrifice “oxen and sheep” rather than “sheep and oxen”?  Not as pointless a question as it sounds.

This week’s handout: 40 Balak 5781

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Hukkat 5781

June 15, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of June 13th, 2021

Num. 20:13 Those are the Waters of Meribah—meaning that the Israelites quarrelled with the Lord—through which He affirmed His sanctity [וַיִּקָּדֵ֖שׁ בָּֽם].
This week’s handout: 39 Hukkat 5781

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Korah 5781

June 8, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of June 6th, 2021

Num. 16:13   Is it not enough that you brought us from a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, that you would also lord it over us?

What do you mean, from a land flowing with milk and honey?  And did you really mean honey?  And did you really even mean milk?  Idan Dershowitz doesn’t think so.

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Shelach Lecha 5781

June 1, 2021

This is Torah Talk for the week of May 30th, 2021

Num. 15:39   That shall be your fringe; look at it and recall all the commandments of the Lord and observe them, so that you do not follow your heart and eyes in your lustful urge.

But Ecclesiastes begs to differ.

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