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To Forgive is Human (Ki Tissa)

Preview: Are the “Thirteen Attributes of Mercy” modelled upon the mercy Yosef once showed his brothers?

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Around and Around (Asarah B’Tevet)

Preview: Shofar blasts. Cities that are encircled, encamped against, besieged, and breached. A foreign family, known as the Rachavites/Rechavites, who live both within and yet beyond the city, earn praise for their virtue. Rescues by rope. Night-time escapes. Pursuit by the king’s men. The valley of Aravah. The environs of Yericho. Temple spoils. Entry into a land. Exile from a land.

What Biblical story contains all of these elements? Two stories, actually. Nor are these the only connections between them…

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Father Favors (Vayigash)

Preview: Why were the kohanim granted special exemptions from Yosef’s redistribution regime? Might it be because his own father-in-law was a kohen? And might the parallels between Yosef’s role dispensing bread rations as viceroy, and his earlier experience serving in Potiphar’s house, also be relevant in this regard?

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We Talkin’ About Practice? (Yom Kippur)

Preview: Most people know that Yom Kippur is the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. By contrast, many have never even heard about the laws of shemittah—the laws commanding us to let our fields lie fallow once every seven years. Yet pay close attention and you’ll notice that the laws of Yom Kippur are intimately linked with those of this peculiar agricultural institution. Study this connection deeply, in fact, and you might begin to wonder: are the laws of Yom Kippur simply an invitation to “practice” for the commands that “really matter”—those of shemittah?

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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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Double Blind (Toldot)

Preview: The “sibling swap” Rivkah orchestrates against Yitzchak is simply a version of the very same ruse he had orchestrated a chapter earlier, against Avimelech. In fact, all of the major stories from sefer Bereshit through the beginning of sefer Shemot may have their roots in the ruse that the patriarchs pulled on Avimelech/Pharaoh – and the literary links are there to demonstrate it.

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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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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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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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