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Torah Commentary

Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Tzav

Tzav: As Without, So Within

This week’s Torah portion is a continuation of the instructions for offerings that began with last week’s reading, and so presents similar challenges to the modern commentator. It’s no easy thing to create spiritual meaning from such dry and dated material. Commentators have long looked to the structure of the portable sanctuary known as the […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Vayikra

Vayikra: Drawing Near

This week we begin the Book of Leviticus, known in Hebrew as Vayikra/And He Called.  The book is also known as Torat Kohanim/Instruction for (or by) Priests. The first part of the book is addressed primarily to the priests and the second half is, for the most part, directed to the people. Vayikra is, for most people, the […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Vayakhel/Pikudei

Vayakhel-Pikudei: Wise Hearts

In this week’s reading, the Israelites turn to the task of building the Mishkan according to God’s plan. They are called upon to donate building material and to take on the responsibility for constructing the various components of this portable sanctuary. One particular phrase is repeated so often that even a cursory reading of the Hebrew will make […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Ki Tissa

Ki Tissa: Revelation and Insight

This week’s reading includes the story of the Golden Calf. The failure of the Children of Israel and to live up to covenant they had so recently accepted pushed both God and Moshe nearly to limits of their patience. God’s anger was so great that he had to withdraw his presence (Exodus 33:1-6). Moshe pitched his tent outside […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Tetzaveh

Tetzaveh: Eternal Light

Early in my adult Jewish learning, the evolutionary quality of Jewish thought and practice captured my interest.  As conditions changed over time and across space, Jews found extraordinary ways of adapting without losing connection to the past. This week’s Torah portion offers an opportunity to explore this process of adaptation and change. In last week’s […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Terumah

Terumah: Offering Space

This week’s Torah portion is Terumah, which means “offering”. The reading opens with a divine request for gifts of specific items that will be used to construct a sanctuary. These offerings are not mandatory but are to come from those whose hearts are moved to contribute. The text explains the project this way: Let them […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Mishpatim

Mishpatim: Cultivating a Benevolent Heart

This week’s parashah/Torah reading is aptly named Mishpatim, which means “rules” or “ordinances.” The reading includes 53 different mitzvot/religious obligations encompassing, among other things, civil rights and responsibilities, jurisprudence, finance, seasonal festivals and dietary laws. I’d like to focus on just two of them: When you encounter your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you must […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Interdependence

Yitro: Interdependence

This week’s Torah portion includes the revelation at Mount Sinai, the giving of the Ten Commandments and the acceptance of God’s rule by the Children of Israel, but I’m not going to comment on any of that. Instead, I want to focus on Moshe and the challenge of leadership.   The Israelites were not an easy group […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Beshalakh

Beshalakh: Walking the Talk

This Torah portion finds us at the conclusion of the Israelite sojourn in Egypt. Pharaoh finally relents and agrees to let the people go.  They journey through the wilderness, led by a divine pillar of fire, and eventually make camp by the Sea of Reeds. Meanwhile, back in Egypt, Pharaoh has had a change of heart and sends […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Bo

Bo: Delusional Desire

This week’s Torah portion includes Moshe’s last encounter with Pharaoh before the exodus from Egypt. It narrates the last of the ten plagues, including the death of the first-born, and establishes Pesach/Passover as the first Jewish festival. I am theologically and ethical troubled by aspects of the Exodus account, but I am also inspired by it. There’s […]

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