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TEMPLE EMANU-EL

A Reform Jewish Community for all of Tucson
225 North Country Club • Tucson, AZ 85716
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Yom Chamishi, 29 Tishri 5775

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Beginning with a Holy Mistake

Posted on October 15th, 2014

Tomorrow night we celebrate Simchat Torah—Thursday night at 6:30 PM—the wonderful festival when we complete the reading of the Torah and start all over again at the very beginning, a very good place to start.

B'reisheet, the very first Torah portion of the year, presents a unique challenge to every commentator. There is so much to say—where to begin?

Which is of course precisely the point, for Genesis is the beginning not only of the Torah, but of Judaism—and all Western religion, including Christianity and Islam. It starts with the great theological creation in B'reisheet, and the immortal, eternal words B'reisheet bara Elohim, "In the Beginning, God created..."

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Weekly Torah Talk on B'reisheet 5775

Mystical or Moral? Revelation for Sukkot 

Posted on October 8th, 2014

This week we are celebrating the wonderful, outdoor festival of Sukkot, in which we give thanks to God for the harvest and enjoy our zman simchateinu, the season of happiness. Interestingly, Sukkot has many mystical connections in our tradition, including a variety of messianic events that supposedly will take place at this season in times to come. Perhaps for that reason, the Torah portion selected for this Shabbat by the rabbis is from the sedrah of Ki Tisa, and it is a strange, beautiful section, one of the most mystical in the entire Torah.

The part of the parshah prior to our reading includes the traumatic events of the Golden Calf narrative. In its aftermath, Moses asks God to give him a sign of reassurance. God answers, but in an odd and oblique way that teaches something uniquely important about the elusive nature of spirituality.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Weekly Torah Talk on Sukkot 5775

Scapegoats, Responsibility, and Holiness

October 1, 2014

This Shabbat is more than just the "regular" Sabbath—it is Shabbat Shabbaton, the Great Sabbath of Sabbaths, Yom Kippur. On this holiest day of the year we Reform Jews have not one but two different Torah readings, Nitzavim, the same portion from Deuteronomy that we read just before Rosh Hashanah, and a selection from the middle of the Torah in Leviticus, Kedoshim.

While, atypically for Judaism, all Jews tend to agree on what portion of the Torah is read for almost every ritual occasion, on Yom Kippur there is a significant difference of opinion as to what Torah section should be read. On the morning of the Day of Atonement, Orthodox and Conservative congregations read a description of the rites of sacrificing animals on the Day of Atonement in the days when the Temple stood in Jerusalem, followed by the obscure and interesting ritual of the scapegoat. Their afternoon reading is a long listing of the kinds of sexual immorality that are forbidden by the Torah.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Weekly Torah Talk on Yom Kippur 5775

Our Choice

Posted on September 17th, 2014

In this week's Torah portions of Nitzavim and Vayelech, Moses is nearing the end of his leadership—and his life. That gives a special poignancy to his message here. It is the last will and testament of Mosheh Rabeinu, Moses on Management. What will Moses teach us about how to carry on after he is gone? How will our greatest leader pass the baton, and who will he give it to?

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Weekly Torah Talk on Nitzavim-Vayelech 5774

To Change the World

Posted on September 10th, 2014

How do we go about changing our world? And how long should it take?

Our Torah portion this week, Ki Tavo, gives us powerful commandments about how we are to live in society. We are commanded to be moral, to protect the rights of the impoverished, the widow, and the stranger. We are to be honest in business, careful of the needs of the hungry and the homeless. We are to create a society of ethical practice and moral concern. We are to understand that a nation is judged by how it treats its weakest, neediest members. We are told repeatedly that God knows and expects us to live to this covenant, to uphold it, to cherish it, to make it our own. And we are told of the blessings that will be ours if we can do this, and the curses we will bring on ourselves if we cannot.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Weekly Torah Talk on Ki Tavo 5774

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