What's Pshat?

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The Men in the Middle (Balak)

Preview: Yitro and Bilaam were both religious leaders of Midian. One became a good friend of Israel’s while the other set out to destroy them. Why?

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Outside Opinions (Beha’alotcha)

Preview: Of all the complaints issued by Israel in the desert, not a single one comes when Yitro is with them–in fact, they end right when he arrives and start up again the minute he leaves. And, there are remarkable resonances between the language Moses uses to plead with Yitro to stay, and the description of Israel’s complaints as soon as he departs…

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The Semantics of Sin (Aharei Mot)

Preview: What do the Torah’s words for sin – ז.נ.ה, פ.ש.ע, ח.ט.א, ע.ו.ן – all have in common?

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You Can’t See Me (Ki Tissa)

Preview: On the meaning of the curious phrase, “man shall not see Me and live” – including parallels between Moshe, Eliyahu, and Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

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Giving Selflessly (Terumah)

Preview: How can “gifts” be “commanded?” A short homiletic thought.

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Sound Investments (Beshalach)

Preview: A short homiletic thought: When the people store mann in their tents, it rots. When Aaron stores it in the mishkan, it does not. There’s a lesson here: investments in material luxury don’t ultimately yield the returns we might have hoped; investments in ethical education do.

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Look Who’s Talking (Shemot)

Preview: Why would Hashem choose a leader with a “heavy tongue and heavy mouth” to act as His spokesman to Pharaoh? For a clue, let’s look to an unlikely source: the “Tale of the Eloquent Peasant,” a very popular ancient Egyptian story about a man of great oratory skills who advocated for justice before the Pharaoh. Plus, other approaches.

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The Gift of Life (Mikketz)

Preview: Rikvah: “If my son marries those women I might as well die.” Rachel: “If you do not give me children I will die.” Yaakov: “If one of us stole your gods, that person shall die.” Reuven: “If I do not return with Benjamin, you can kill my sons.” The brothers: “If one of us stole your goblet, he shall be killed.” Notice a trend?

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What’s in a Name? (Vayishlach)

Preview: Why does Yaakov ask for the angel’s “name?” The stories of Gideon and Manoach may offer some clues.

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Plea for Privacy (Chayei Sarah)

Preview: The tent as a symbol of privacy in Tanach, and how that symbol manifests in the lives of Avraham/Sarah vs. Yitzchak/Rivkah.

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