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Fights, Fields, and Family (Shoftim)

Preview: Is there any organizing principle for the apparently random series of laws that makes up the bulk of sefer Devarim? Well, there sure seem to be a lot of laws about war; and a lot of laws about fields; and a lot of laws about family—and when you pay close attention, you notice that they tend to cluster together in recurring patterns.

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The Secret Chord (Eishet Chayil)

Preview: A theory: Eishet Chayil was written by Bat Sheva to warn Shlomo HaMelech against repeating the marital mistakes of his parents. Those mistakes were the ones forewarned about in our parshah. Indeed, read carefully and you’ll discover echoes of these laws playing themselves out throughout the lives of David, Bat Sheva, and Shlomo: (1) Bat Sheva was a quasi-yefat to’ar; (2) Natan’s parable plays off the law of the two wives; (3) Shlomo was apt to become a ben sorer u’moreh; (4) the book of Mishlei records the “mussar” which David and Bat Sheva gave their son to prevent this outcome (hence, for example, the book’s extensive focus on the “mussar” of parents, drawing repeatedly from the exactly language of ben sorer u’moreh); (5) Eishet Chayil—the last chapter in Mishlei—constitutes the climax of this rebuke.

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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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Sending Signs (Shelach)

Preview: The battle at Kadesh is the second one fought by b’nei Yisrael during their time in the desert. In many ways, it represents a direct reversal of their first one, which they had fought a year earlier, at Rephidim. What are the connections, and what do they mean?

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The City Builder (Bereshit)

Preview: Kayin was doomed to nomadic exile – so his son, Chanoch, became the first city-builder. Plus, how this story connects to the Torah’s law of military exemption.

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Temple Run (Terumah)

Preview: The mishkan is introduced in this week’s parshah, yet several of its laws appeared as early as two weeks ago. Why were those laws introduced “early?”

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