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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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The Orders Are Out of Order (Mattot)

Preview: Why is the battle with Midian presented so disjointedly – that is, spread across two different parshahs, and interrupted with a series of laws and stories that seem entirely unrelated? What’s the relationship between the beginning of our parshah (laws of vows), its middle (war with Midian), and its end (request of Reuven and Gad to reside in the Transjordan)? Is there a subtle play on words going on with the name of the Midianite princess, “Kozbi bat Tzur?” How does the curious fact that Midian was ruled by five different kings shed light on a story from all the way back in sefer Shmot? This and more, below: a very quick outline of a theory trying to make sense out of the bizarre battle with Midian, along with several other, shorter insights on the parshah mixed into the footnotes.

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Are We There Yet? (Bo)

Preview: There’s a curious focus on the packing of “provisions” (צדה) that we find when b’nei Yisrael travel between Egypt and Canaan in Yosef’s days; and again, on the eve of the exodus in the book of Shemot; and again during their entry into the land in the days of Yehoshua. What’s its significance, and how is it related to the concept of “tarrying” (להתמהמה) – another concept that crops up a lot in these contexts?

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A Revolution That Never Was (Vayelech)

Preview: Calev, “the other spy,” is surprisingly silent during Moshe’s speech proclaiming Yehoshua as his successor. But generations later, Calev would issue his own speech, and if you listen carefully, you realize that he never quite forgot the moment he was passed over for leadership…

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Leadership and “Leanership” (Pinchas)

Preview: “And Moses leaned his hands on Yehoshua”–if we really want to understand the meaning of this gesture we must return to the last story in which Moshe, Yehoshua, and the “leaning of hands” featured prominently…

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Synthesis and Statehood (Yom Ha’atzmaut)

Preview: A strange pattern: things that happen in “twos” for Moshe happen in “ones” for Yehohua. Also, why does sefer Yehoshua keep repeating the phrase “עד תום כל הגוי?”

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