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A Reform Jewish Community for all of Tucson
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Yom Shlishi, 12 Av 5775

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Posted on July 22, 2015

This week we begin reading Devarim, Deuteronomy, final book in the Torah. The name Deuteronomy, captures a midrashic explanation of the essence of this Sefer—it means “a repeated text,” which in Hebrew is called Mishnah Torah. This reflects the fact that the whole book of Devarim is made up of a few long sermons by Moses recapitulating the events and commandments established over the previous three books. Not bad work for a man with a serious speech impediment.

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

SAMUEL COHEN TALITNumbers Family Values

Posted on July 16, 2015

This week we read the double Torah portions of Matot and Masei, the last sections of the book of Numbers, Bamidbar. Both portions teach an important message about the centrality of Jewish family values, but they do so in very different ways.

The setting for these final parshiyot in Numbers is the border of the Promised Land, as the Israelites approach Canaan for a second time, after their forty-year sojourn in the Wilderness of Sinai. As the tribes gather to enter the land, two of the tribes, Reuben and Gad, make a strange request of Moses: we like the land we are traveling through now, here on the East Bank of the Jordan—in what is today the country of Jordan, long before Arab peoples moved into the Middle East.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Weekly Torah Talk on Matot-Masei 5775

SAMUEL COHEN TALITThe Congregational Covenant of Peace

Posted on July 8, 2015

This week in our Torah portion of Pinchas we learn of a Brit Shalom, a covenant of peace given by God to Pinchas, a member of the priestly family.  The covenant a commitment to lead worship, to help others fulfill the requirement of avodah, service to God in the public forum.  Peace is the result of such successful service, and this eternal covenant of peace is its sign.  For when we connect with God fully we can reach personal peace as well as communal peace, both of which are among the greatest of all God’s blessings.

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

SAMUEL COHEN TALITBlessings from Curses

Posted on July 1, 2015

This week we read the Torah portion of Balak in the Book of Numbers, which includes some of the best words an outsider ever delivered about our people. In the portion, one of just two in the entire Torah named after a non-Jew, 40 years of wandering have passed and the Israelites have finally arrived on the borders of the land of Canaan. They are about to move in and they seem unstoppable to their opponents. Balak, King of Moab, comes up with a novel plan: he will hire Balaam, a pagan sorcerer, to curse the Israelites, which will destroy their chances of defeating his own army and entering his land.

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

SAMUEL COHEN TALITThe Price of Holiness and Healing

Posted on June 24, 2015

This week in the book of Numbers we read the odd, ritualistic Torah portion of Chukat, the rites of the red heifer. In order to achieve true ritual purity ancient Jews were required to find a completely unblemished young red female cow, slaughter it, burn it to ashes, and mix the ashes with water to create a liquid of purification in which to wash away ritual impurity.

While many elements in the sacrificial code of our ancestors seem odd or alien, this might be the strangest ritual of all. For it turns out that the red heifer, the Parah Adumah, makes the one who is washed in its ash-water pure—but it makes everyone else who comes into contact with it impure. The mystery of this is complete, and commentators have struggled with its meaning ever since the time the Torah was given. Just what is it that makes the red heifer the right animal to bring purity to the people? And why does it make you pure if you use it properly, but make you impure when you are properly preparing it?

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