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Fruit for Thought (Bereshit)

Preview: Commentary on assorted observations, including: (1) From one vantage point, Adam and Eve’s mistake seems to be that they sought to take fruit from the world before producing fruit for the world; (2) Notice that the lifespans in the genealogy of Adam are divided into two: the years before birthing children and the years after birthing children; (3) The first people named “father” in all of the Torah are those who have no children – they are the “fathers” of inventions!

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Pisa Huts (Sukkot)

Preview: When Yeravam rebels against the Davidic dynasty, shortly after the death of Shlomo HaMelech, one of his first steps is to make up his own holiday that competes with the festival of Sukkot. Why? Do any other aspects of Yeravam’s revolution seem aimed at undermining the festival of Sukkot? And why does Amos talk about “David’s fallen Sukkah” when he predicts the restoration of the Davidic dynasty – a very curious phrase, but one that remains in our prayers until today? All this in more. Part IV of a four-part series.

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Face Time (Sukkot)

Preview: Beginning on the first of Elul, and through to the end of Sukkot, we recite Psalm 27: “L’David Hashem Ori V’yishi.” What’s this psalm all about? Is it an entirely original composition – or might it be built upon a prayer which Moshe had once offered, all the way back during the aftermath of the Golden Calf? Part III of a four-part series.

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Show Me Your Waze (Sukkot)

Preview: The Torah reading for Shabbat Chol HaMoed of Sukkot is Exodus 33:12-34:26. It’s the story of Moshe praying for Hashem to forgive b’nei Yisrael, following the incident of the Golden Calf. But why read it now? In what way is this story connected to the holiday of Sukkot? And, while we’re at it: could it be that Shlomo HaMelech was actually alluding to this incident, generations later, in his prayer upon the inauguration of the Beit HaMikdash? Part II of a four-part series.

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Cloud Storage (Sukkot)

Preview: During the Haftarah for the second day of Sukkot, we read about Shlomo HaMelech’s inauguration of the Beit HaMikdash, which occurred at the time of Sukkot. Why did Shlomo HaMelech choose to hold this ceremony at the time of Sukkot, specifically? What other details of this ceremony seem to point back to the holiday of Sukkot? Is the Beit HaMikdash itself intended to emulate the Sukkah, perhaps (or, for that matter, vice versa)? Part I of a four-part series.

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Battle of the Bards (Haazinu)

Preview: A lyrical prophecy. The fortieth year in the wilderness. “Incline your ears” to the words “of my mouth.” Revelation about the “end of days.” Knowledge from the “most high.” Water similes. Bird imagery. Snake and serpent imagery. B’nei Yisrael are handed over to “belo am.” These and about five other elements appear in not one, but two Torah texts: the prophecy of Bilaam… and the song of Haazinu! What are all the connections, and what do they mean?

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We All Make Mistakes (Yom Kippur)

Preview: The most significant details of Yom Kippur seem to all be modeled upon the kohen gadol’s historical failures. The date recalls the Golden Calf. The prohibitions recall the people’s attempt to gain atonement. And the Temple rituals are introduced in explicit contrast to the trespass of Nadav and Avihu! What’s going on?

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A River Runs Through It (Vayelech)

Preview: Parshat Vayelech tells the story of Moshe’s last day of life. Per Rashi, it takes place exactly 120 years from the day of Moshe’s birth. And, indeed, there’s a way in which the account of Moshe’s last day brings him “full circle,” all the way back to the account of his birth; both accounts are very short, but their similarities are intriguing… 

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Going Against the Grain (Tzom Gedaliah)

Preview: Ever notice that Gedaliah seems to have been obsessed with issues related to the “harvest?” Why is that? And why, for that matter, do we find “harvest” themes playing such an important role in the prophecies of sefer Yirmiyahu – where Gedaliah’s story is recorded – and in megillat Eichah, which Yirmiyahu wrote? And, while we’re at it: why did the exile which Yirmiyahu bemoaned last “seventy years?” Might these seventy years be related to the seven-year agricultural cycle known as “shemittah?”And might that cycle, in turn, have its roots in the seven-year agricultural cycle over which Yosef presided, back in Egypt?

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Where the Chips Fall (Nitzavim)

Preview: Rashi identifies the “wood choppers” in this week’s parshah as the Giveonites from sefer Yehoshua. What’s the deeper meaning behind this connection – and how does the law of the accidental murderer, which also features a “wood chopper,” illuminate this connection?

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