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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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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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We All Make Mistakes (Yom Kippur)

Preview: The most significant details of Yom Kippur seem to all be modeled upon the kohen gadol’s historical failures. The date recalls the Golden Calf. The prohibitions recall the people’s attempt to gain atonement. And the Temple rituals are introduced in explicit contrast to the trespass of Nadav and Avihu! What’s going on?

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The Rock Song (Yom Kippur/Haazinu)

Preview: The song Moshe leads on the last day of his life, all about “water” and “rocks,” seems to bring us back to an episode from earlier in his life where “rocks” and “water” took center stage…

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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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The Problem of Repentance (Yom Kippur)

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