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Respect the Process (Ki Tetzei)

Preview: The laws of sefer Devarim seem uniquely focused on procedural issues (the process for resolving disputes), and among the reasons for this may be that it was an inability to resolve disputes which divided the Bible’s first group of people who tried to live together in the Promised Land (Abraham and Lot) — and it was the failure of procedural justice (how the law is administered) even more than substantive justice (what the law says) which ultimately undermined the earliest Biblical societies, too (Noah’s generation and the city of Sodom).

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The Proactivity Paradox (Shemini)

Preview: Nadav and Avihu were merely following the model of Moshe, Aharon, and the nesi’im, who innovated nearly every major ritual during the Tabernacle’s dedication ceremony without command from God – and whose innovations included nearly every detail involved in the innovative act of Nadav and Avihu. 

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The Calf and its Other Half (Zachor)

Preview: If you read closely, you’ll notice something most peculiar: as it turns out, the sin of chet ha’egel unfolds in ways eerily reminiscent of the way that the confrontation with Amalek did. What are the connections, and what do they mean?

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Book the Date (Simchat Torah)

Preview: Why is Simchat Torah celebrated when it is? Perhaps because that is actually when the world’s very first cycle of Torah study was instituted. In fact, that’s a conclusion we might be able to arrive at using little more than the chronology available to us in the Torah itself.

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Blessings in Disguise (Vezot Habracha)

Preview: Why are there so many veiled allusions to Esav in Moshe’s parting blessing to b’nei Yisrael? A very quick idea on this week’s parshah, along with an accompanying source sheet.

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They Won’t Trust Me (Shemot)

Preview: A theory: Moshe’s leprosy is directly linked to Miriam’s: only because Moshe doubted himself did others begin to as well. Ironically, his concerns – that others would question his prophetic abilities – became their own self-fulfilling prophecy.

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History’s Best Sermon Hook (Devarim)

Preview: “Hashem told us at Sinai: Enough standing around this mountain!” Read properly, this, in effect, is the first line of Moshe’s valedictory address. What a wild way to begin one’s goodbye – and what a curious way to summarize the experience at Sinai! Why start this way?

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The Avengers (Masei)

Preview: No less than four times throughout the Torah do we find the tribesmen of Levi taking justice into their own hands, by taking the lives of those deemed deserving of death. In other words, those responsible for running the arei miklat—those tasked with discouraging the practice of vigilante justice—were none other than the nation’s most prominent vigilantes. What’s going on?

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Snake Eyes (Chukkat)

Preview: Snakes. Fire. Cursed bread. Weariness and thorns. Pathway to the good land has become obstructed. All these elements appear during the plague in our parshah – and also in the Garden of Eden…

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Beating Around the Bush (Beha’alotcha)

Preview: Is there any connection between the lighting of the menorah and the fires of Nadav and Avihu? What about the branch of almonds that sprouted following Korach’s rebellion? What about the burning bush?

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