Shemini 5777

April 18, 2017

This is Torah Talk for the week of April 16th, 2017

Is a nesher an eagle or a vulture?  Is an ayit a vulture or an eagle?

Mic. 1:16

Shear off your hair and make yourself bald

For the children you once delighted in;

Make yourself as bald as a vulture,

For they have been banished from you.   [In fact, the only bald eagle is the American one, not known in biblical times.]

This week’s handout:   26 Shemini 5777


Recent update on Gamla:


R. Slifkin:

Word of the Day:



The Future of American Jewish Bible Translation

April 13, 2017

Since there’s no podcast this week (regular Torah readings resume after Passover NEXT Saturday, with Parshat Shmini), I thought it might be worth posting this notice for folks who are on the East Coast.  I’m chairing the afternoon session.  Click the link to register.  See you there!


The Future of American Jewish Bible Translation

Sunday, April 30  •  9:30 am – 3:30 pm
At the Museum
Sponsored by The Jewish Publication SocietyCreighton University College of Arts and Sciences, and NMAJH
A special symposium in celebration of the 100th anniversary of The JPS Holy Scriptures, with many of the nation’s leading Bible scholars. After a look back at the last century, representatives from all the major rabbinical seminaries will discuss “Trends in Bible Scholarship and Translation” at the morning session. Scholars involved in the JPS Bible Commentary series will offer “Notes for a New Translation” at the afternoon session, that will also address the startling impact of the digital revolution in education and publishing.
Free, advance registration required


Tzav 5777

April 4, 2017

This is Torah Talk for the week of April 2nd, 2017

Is holiness contagious?  The real meaning of Lev 6:11.

Bonus:  “One of the best left-handed compliments in the history of Jewish Bible commentaries .”

This week’s handout:  25 Tzav 5777

Marty Lockshin, “Is Holiness Contagious?” on


Happy Passover to all!  Reminder: no podcast next week, when we are reading the holiday portion on Shabbat; the podcast will be back the week after, with Parshat Shemini.


Vayikra 5777

March 28, 2017

This is Torah Talk for the week of March 26th, 2017

Why does Lev 2:11 have two different words for “leaven” — and what’s wrong with leaven to begin with?

Lev. 2:11

No meal offering that you offer to the Lord shall be made with leaven [חמץ], for no leaven [שאר] or honey may be turned into smoke as an offering by fire to the Lord.

Nahmanides:  … Or perhaps there is some mystery in all of this that escapes us.

This week’s handout:  24 Vayikra 5777


Vayakhel-Pekudei 5777

March 21, 2017

This is Torah Talk for the week of March 19th, 2017

How the creation of the Tabernacle matches the creation of the world — and WHY.


Jeffrey Tigay, “Exodus,” Jewish Study Bible

Thus was completed all the work of the Tabernacle of the Tent of Meeting (Exod 39:32):  The phraseology (see also 40:33 n.) alludes to the completion of the creation of the world in Gen. 2:1, 3, one of several echoes of the Priestly source’s account of creation here in the Priestly account of the creation of the Tabernacle (see 25:1–31:17 n.).

This week’s handout:  22-23 Vayakhel-Pekudei 5777


Ki Tisa 5777

March 14, 2017

This is Torah Talk for the week of March 12th, 2017

What were the Israelites really doing when they worshipped the Golden Calf?

Rashbam:        Could they really be so foolish as not to understand that this calf, which had just been created, had not brought them out of Egypt? Of course not. All idolaters know that our God in heaven created the world. Their mistake was made because idols have in them an unclean spirit, just as the prophets have in them a holy spirit.

This week’s handout:  21 Ki Tisa 5777


Tetzaveh 5777

March 7, 2017

This is Torah Talk for the week of March 5th, 2017

Exod 28:29 Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel on the breastpiece of decision over his heart, when he enters the sanctuary, for remembrance before the Lord at all times. 30 Inside the breastpiece of decision you shall place the Urim and Thummim, so that they are over Aaron’s heart when he comes before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall carry the instrument of decision for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord at all times.

But just what are the Urim and Thummim?  Victor Hurowitz (ז״ל) had some ideas.

This week’s handout:  20-tetzaveh-5777


Terumah 5777

February 28, 2017

This is Torah Talk for the week of February 26th, 2017

Just what is that darn “dolphin skin”?

Answer:  Like the Covenant Code in last week’s parashah, it’s an ancient Near Eastern thing.

This week’s handout:  19-terumah-5777


Mishpatim 5777

February 21, 2017

This is Torah Talk for the week of February 19th, 2017

What does Exod 21:22 mean by saying that a pregnant woman is pushed and “her yeladim come out”?

And what is the “other damage” that may or may not ensue?

This week’s handout:  18-mishpatim-5777


Yitro 5777

February 14, 2017

This is Torah Talk for the week of February 12th, 2017

How is Jethro portrayed in Exodus 18 — and why?

(Ed Greenstein on “Jethro’s Wit”)

This week’s handout:  17-yitro-5777