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Torah Commentary

Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Shelakh 2016

Shelakh: What Now?

This week’s Torah portion, Shelakh (Send), opens with the Israelite poised at the border of Canaan. God instructs Moses to scout out the land, and Moses sends them off with the following instructions: See what the land is [like] land it is, and the people who inhabit it: are they strong or weak, are they few or many? And […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Beha'alotekha 2016

Beha’alotekha: Raising Light

This week’s reading, Beha’alotekha, considers various aspects of the challenges of leadership. It begins with instructions for lighting the seven-branched menorah that had been constructed for use in the mishkan/temporary sanctuary: YHVH spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and say to him: “When you light (beha’alotekha) the lamps, let the seven lamps give light toward the front of […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Naso 2016

Naso: The Middle Way

This week’s Torah portion, Naso, includes the laws pertaining to an individual who voluntarily undertakes certain ascetic practices. Such a person is called a Nazirite. The Nazirite is expected to refrain from wine and grapes, forbidden to get a haircut and must refrain from contact with the dead. These practices, typically undertaken for a set […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Bamidbar 2016

Bamidbar: The Transformation of Identity

This week’s reading opens the Book of Numbers. Both the book and the first portion are known by the name Bamidbar, which means “in the wilderness”. It opens with a census: YHVH spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Bekhukotai 2106

Bekhukotai: Finding our Way

This week’s reading, Bekhukotai, is the last one in the book of Leviticus. Much of the portion is given over to describing consequences of living in accordance with the Torah’s instructions. If we follow the instructions, pay attention to spiritual obligations and act in accordance with them (Leviticus 26:3), then we will reap benefits that include peace […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Behar

Behar: Be Like a Mountain

The name of this week’s reading, Behar, means “on the mountain.” In this case, the peak is Mt. Sinai and context is the revelation of additional instructions for sacred living. Traditional students of Torah hold that every aspect of the text has something to teach us, so it should come as no surprise that they […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Emor 2016

Emor: (Re)called to Holiness

This week’s reading, Emor, includes a description of Judaism’s annual cycle of holy days. Collectively, these occasions are known in Hebrew as mikra’ey kodesh or callings to holiness: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: YHVH’s appointed times–you will call them callings to holiness–these are [YHVH’s] appointed times: (Leviticus 23:2) The “appointed time” include Shabbat […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Kedoshim 2016

Kedoshim: False Gods

The Hebrew name of this week’s reading, Kedoshim, means “holy” and is taken from the portion’s opening: You shall be holy, for I, YHVH, your God, am holy. (Leviticus 19:2) That verse is followed by all sorts of instructions for living a holy life and bearing witness to the Divine. Included among them is the following: Do […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Akharei Mot

Akharei Mot: The Ever-Present Sacred

This week’s Torah portion (Akharei Mot) includes instructions for the rituals associated with Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement is still considered the holiest day of the Jewish year, but contemporary observance is vastly different than that described in this reading. The ancient rites of Yom Kippur were intended to purify not just Israelites, but also their […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Metzora 2016

Metzora: Real Humility

This week’s Torah portion (Metzora) begins with instructions for restoring a person afflicted with tzara’at to ritual purity. The ceremony for cleansing the person with this mysterious skin condition requires some very specific things: The kohen (priest) is to order, and the person to be cleansed is to take two live, clean birds, a cedar stick, a […]

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