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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, 6 Heshvan 5775

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Boundaries

Posted on October 30th, 2014

This week's Torah portion of Lech L'cha includes the first description of the boundaries of the Land of Israel. At the beginning of our parshah God commands Abram, later to be renamed Abraham, Lech L'cha... el ha'arets asher areka, to "Go!.. to the land that I will show you." Abram and his wife Sarai are living in the city of Haran at that time, in Turkey today just north of what is now the Syrian border. Abram moves his household immediately, and relocates to Canaan, and God announces that this is the land which God will give to Abram and his descendants forever.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Weekly Torah Talk on Lech L'cha 5775

Washing it All Away to Save the Species?

Posted on October 23rd, 2014

The famous story of Noah in this week's Torah portion has been explained in many ways.  It has been interpreted as a moral lesson on the consequences of evil conduct, as a way to establish the concept of covenant between God and humanity, as the first great sea story, even as an environmental fable of the earliest example of global warming.

However you read Noah, who went to sea not for a three-hour tour but for months after forty days and nights of rain, it is a dramatic and rather strange text. God determines that humanity, the crown of creation of which the Holy One initially said, "it is very good," is now failing, destroying the peace of the world through hatred, anger, and murder. The free beings created in the very image of God have made their choices, and they are universally wrong, embracing evil. It is time to start over, to begin afresh.

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

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

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