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Bird’s Eye View (Ki Teitzei)

Preview: In the “law of the mother bird” we find intriguing echoes of an apparently unrelated episode from much earlier in the Torah: the story of Yitro’s visit to Moshe in the desert.

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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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The Grandfathers (Shemot)

Preview: There’s a funny midrash about a promise Yitro once asked Moshe to make regarding how he’d raise his children, and it sounds a whole lot like the oath Yaakov makes Yosef take in this week’s parshah. Did Chazal see a relationship here? What’s the lesson for us?

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Taking a Stand (Chukkat)

Preview: There are two water crises in the Torah – the one at Massa U-Merivah and the one at Mei Merivah. Ever notice the spate of similarities between the stories told in each one’s aftermath – that is, between Moshe’s correspondence with the King of Edom and Moshe’s correspondence with the Priest of Midian? What are the connections, and what do they mean?

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From Within a Cloud (Mishpatim)

Preview: At the burning bush, Hashem promised Moses that after the exodus, he and the people would “worship Me on this mountain.” When exactly was this prophesy fulfilled? There’s actually quite a few interpretive possibilities, and realizing this may help us explain the confusing and disjointed way in which the Torah presents what happened at Sinai.

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The Visit, Revisited (Yitro)

Preview: Yitro had seven names – why is he referred to throughout as “Moshe’s father-in-law?” And why, per many commentators, is the story of his visit told out of sequence? And what are we to make of the connections between Rut and Yitro? Are all these issues related?

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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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