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Torah Commentary

Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Tazria 2016

Tazria: Polluted Speech

This week’s reading (Tazria), continues the instructions for managing the competing energies of life and death, and purity and impurity. Much of the text focuses on tzara’at, a curious condition that could affect both skin and clothing. Under certain circumstances, a person with this affliction was subject to an extreme form of quarantine: All the days the […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Shemini 2016

Shemini: In Synch with the Sacred

In this week’s reading (Shemini), the kohanim begin their duties, the divine presence comes to dwell in the sanctuary, the dietary laws are revealed, and instructions for managing the competing energies of death and life are given. The entire community comes to witness the priestly installations rites, and Moses explains that…  …this is what YHVH commands you […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Tzav 2016

Tzav: Contagious Holiness

This week’s reading, Tzav, focuses on the rights and responsibilities of the kohanim and concludes with their initiation into priestly service. Leviticus is primarily a technical manual, and as such it is rather dry reading. I generally have to work hard to find inspiration in its contents. But every once in awhile, I come across a verse that seems to glow […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Vayikra 2016

Vayikra: Spiritual Estrangement

With this week’s Torah portion, we begin the book of Leviticus. Both the reading and the book itself are known in Hebrew as Vayikra (And He Called). The English name means “pertaining to the Levites”, which is a good summary of its content. Leviticus is primarily concerned with the rules and regulations pertaining to the sanctuary, […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Pikudei 2016

Pikudei: Building a Sacred Space

This week’s reading, Pikudei, is the last one in the book of Exodus. It begins with an accounting of the materials used in the construction of the portable sanctuary and ends with God taking up residence (so to speak) within. In the middle of all of this, we read: Thus was completed all of the work of the mishkan ohel […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Vayakhel

Vayakhel: Start by Planning to Stop

This week’s portion, Vayakhel, describes the construction of the mishkan, the portable sanctuary that accompanied the Israelites on their wilderness journey. The focus is so complete that just one verse in the whole section considers any other topic. The reading begins with Moses gathering the community in order to give them assignments and instructions. But his first words […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Ki Tissa 2016

Ki Tissa: Imagining Catastrophes

With this week’s Torah reading, Ki Tissa, we return to narrative drama. Moses was alone on Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah, but the Children of Israel were having a different experience. Forty days had passed with no word from their liberator, leader and conduit to God. It’s no surprise that they were anxious: When the people saw […]

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Tetzaveh: Service from the Heart

This week’s Torah reading, Tetzaveh/Command, provides instructions for making the high priest’s ritual garments. Aaron and all subsequent high priests were commanded to wear these vestments whenever they entered the Tent of Meeting or approached the altar. The priestly garb included a woven breastplate (khoshen) set with precious stones inscribed with names of the twelve Israelite tribes.  Exodus […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Terumah 2016

Terumah: Foolish Wisdom

This week’s reading, Terumah/Offerings, describes the necessary steps for creating the mishkan, the portable sanctuary that accompanied the Israelites on their desert wanderings. That being the case, it is not the easiest reading from which to derive spiritual teachings. But the rabbinic imagination is nothing if not fertile, and the commentaries on this week’s portion offer fascinating […]

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Rabbi Naomi Hyman | Mishpatim 2016

Mishpatim: Clouded Perception

This week’s Torah reading, Mishpatim/Laws, includes a long list of divinely ordained statutes on a wide variety of topics. Included among them is the following instruction: Do not takes bribes, for bribes blind the clear-sighted and confounds the words of the righteous. (Exodus 23:8) The Torah’s language is very clear on this matter and on the reasons […]

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