A strange verse in Parshat Shoftim has all the commentators speculating on the nature of trees. But it is 20th-century philosopher Martin Buber, not directly commenting on the verse, who may have the best interpretation.
The case of The Tempter in Deuteronomy speaks of the dangers of being lured into idolatry by your loved ones - friends and family members. We are warned against giving in to their influence. But the commentaries of Rashi and the Rashbam point to other tempting forces in our lives - ones which may be harder to resist.
From the Documentary Hypothesis to Lurianic Kabbalah - something for everyone in this week's ParshaNut, as we scour through the stories of Korach's rebellion to find secret connections to an earlier uprising.
How did it take forty years to walk from Egypt to Israel? The distance itself suggests that it could have been done in a month. Well, it turns out they were in one place for a nearly half the time, a place called 'Kadesh.' So how did they get stuck there, and why?
It's time to kill the Midianites. And Pinchas ben Elazar, the priest, will lead the charge. Why is he chosen? The reasons seem obvious at first. But there is more to the story...
God sins. We forgive.
Who would dare say such a thing?! Why, the rabbis of the Talmud, of course.
From Moses to Einstein, this week we take a tour of Jewish thought throughout the ages, and try to pick up on themes that we have been grappling with throughout time.
This week,the Torah goes Dr. Seuss on us. The language that the Torah uses to describe Moses crafting a copper snake seems almost deliberately playful. What is the meaning of this unusual poetic device, and who stuck it in there?
This week, Moses uses a new name for God, "The God of the Spirit of All Flesh." It is a name used only one other time in the Torah. We'll take a look at both contexts, and see what they have in common, and what they tell us about the kind of God Moses wants to believe in.
This week, we return to a classic story from the Torah, the "Sin of the Spies," only to discover there are no spies there at all.
Forgive the poor sound quality this week, folks! The Parsha Nut is traveling, and away from his regular recording studio. But since we're revealing the secrets of the universe this week, I guess it's fitting that they be a little hard to hear.
Who were these princes that appear in this week's parsha to present tributes to the Tabernacle for their tribes? And how did they claim their titles? It turns out there is quite a backstory, but it must be carefully reconstructed from fragments spread out across the Torah.
The Book of Numbers, in Hebrew is called, "Bamidbar," or, "In the Desert." This week we explore the deeper meaning of that name with the help of a very, very old commentator: The Prophet Hosea.
This week, a deep dive into one wild and beautiful piece of commentary by the master, the great Rashi.
Some lines in the Torah just seem like dealbreakers. Like, what do we do with this:
For the Children of Israel are slaves to Me, they are My slaves. (Lev. 25:55)
Now what kind of God wants slaves? And is there any way of redeeming the religion after it declares a thing like this? Our valiant commentators give it their best try!
This week we look at a different model for celebrating holidays - not the classic resting experience of Shabbat, but a more anxious kind of observance suggested by the lesser-known holiday, Shemini Atzeret. What could be the virtue of worry? Plenty, says 15th-century Italian commentator, Rabbi Ovadia Seforno.
Of all the forbidden idolatrous practices, the very worst is the Cult of Molech. For that god is to be pacified with child sacrifice. The Torah hates Molech, and anyone who dares to follow him is to be excommunicated forever! But there's one big problem with this law... Molech isn't the only one who asked for a child offering.
What is cultural judaism, exactly? So many Jews today identify as culturally Jewish, but would be hard-pressed to say exactly what they mean by that. Surprisingly, the Torah is also concerned with the question of cultural Judaism. A deep dive into one verse in this week's parsha reveals that, according to commentators, it isn't enough to just be religious; a Jew must also defend Jewish culture.
What's the connection between gossip and skin disease?
This week we explore how a condition in Leviticus often translated as 'leprosy' came to be understood as a punishment for speech crimes. Along the way, we compare 'textual' and 'conceptual' modes of Biblical interpretation.
The first person God created was a hermaphrodite.
I think that's all the preview you need for this one.
Something is wrong with the High Priest. He's seeing things. Are they visions from God, or demons from his past?
This week we follow one of the greatest of the Medieval commentators, Moses Nachmanides, down a path of investigation that will reveal both the inner workings of Aaron the Priest, and the riches of parshanut.
This week's parsha is more of the same from last week. Details, details, details of animal sacrifices. Not the most pleasant read.
But there is one unique thing in Parshat Tzav: a "shalshelet."
What is a shalshelet, you ask? Take a listen and find out.
Can God smell things? If not, then why does the Torah describe the sacrificial offerings as having "a pleasant scent to the Lord"? Our attempt to grapple with this question will take us back to Marcel Proust, Moses Mendelssohn, and Noah.
Welcome to the Book of Leviticus!
We've reached the end of the Book of Exodus, the Tabernacle is complete, and the presence of God has entered into it. But there's a problem. That presence so fills the space that Moses cannot actually enter into it to meet with God. How will he figure out a way in? The answer will take us on an intricate journey, into the heart of one of Judaism's great theological debates.
Once there was a man named Hur, a great leader in Israel. He was there on the battlefield with Moses and Aaron. He judged the people when Moses was on the mountaintop.
But then, suddenly, he disappeared. After Moses came back from Mount Sinai, we never heard about Hur again. Who was Hur, and what ever happened to him?
This week, we find out.