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Torah Commentary

Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Shoftim 2016

Shoftim: Guarding the Gates

I always feel a little sad when I come to this week’s reading.  Shoftim (Judges) is the last weekly commentary written by my teacher, Rabbi David Wolfe-Blank before his sudden death in 1998. Reb David introduced me to a new way of reading Torah. His work is the inspiration for (and often the source of) my own Torah reflections. […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Re'eh 2016

Re’eh: What You See Depends on How You Are

This week’s reading, Re’eh (See), opens with a dire warning:  See, I set before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing, if you keep the mitzvot of YHVH, your God…and the curse, if you do not keep the mitzvot of YHVH your God. (Deuteronomy 11:26-28) The most literal translation of the Hebrew word mitzvot (singular: mitzvah) is “commandments”. However, as […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Ekev 2016

Ekev: Bless what Comes and Bless what Goes

This week’s reading, Ekev, is a continuation of Moses’ final orations. The portion includes promises, rebukes, reminders and a review of significant events. It also includes the following instruction: When you have eaten and have been be satisfied, bless… (Deuteronomy 8:10) A few verses later, Moses explains the importance of expressing gratitude once our desires have […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Va'etkhanan

Va’etkhanan: Paying Attention

I’m just back from a silent mindfulness and insight (vipassana) meditation retreat, so it’s no surprise that the following line from this week’s reading (Va’etkhanan) jumped out at me. After all, it sounds a lot like the meditation instructions I’d just received and diligently practiced. Watch your self so that you don’t forget the things […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Devarim

Devarim: Moving On

This week, we begin the fifth and final book of the Torah, known in English as Deuteronomy.  Devarim, the Hebrew title of the book is also the name of the first portion. Just a few verses in, Moses speaks the following words: YHVH our God spoke to us at Horeb, saying, “Long enough you have stayed […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Mattot-Massei

Mattot-Massei: Illusions

This week’s reading (Mattot-Massei) is full of challenges. It opens by placing restrictions on the behavior of wives and daughters. It continues with a divinely ordained war of retribution against Midian and its ugly aftermath. Frankly, these are the kinds of things that give the Bible (and organized religion) a bad name, and I have […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Pinkhas 2016

Pinkhas: Speaking and Listening

This week’s reading, Pinkhas, includes what may be the first recorded example of women publicly speaking out for more equitable treatment. At the end of the wilderness journey, Moses was instructed to allocate the land–as well as the right to inherit it–on the basis of a male-only census. Enter five extraordinary women: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah,  the […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Balak

Balak: Wisdom from a Smart Ass

How can you help but love a biblical story featuring a talking ass? This week’s Torah portion, Balak, includes such a creature and, as far as I’m concerned, she is the hero of the tale.  Let me explain. The setting is the conquest of the land of Canaan. The Moabite king (Balak, who gives his name […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Khukat 2016

Khukat: Even Rocks Deserve Compassion

This week’s reading (Khukat), includes an incident that has been the subject of seemingly unending speculation. YHVH spoke to Moses, saying: “Take the staff and assemble the community, you and your brother Aaron; speak to the rock so they can see you so that it gives forth its water. In this way, you will bring forth water for them from the […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Korakh 2016

Korakh: For the Sake of Heaven

This week’s reading focuses on a rebellion against Moses and Aaron leadership. Korakh, the leader of band of rebels, expresses his challenge with the following words: “…Too much you have taken for yourselves! The entire community–all of them–are holy and YHVH is in their midst. Why then do you exalt yourselves over YHVH’s congregation?” (Numbers 16:3) As […]

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