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How to Study Torah

Approaching the Five Books of Moses

Each class examines a verse or verses from the weekly Torah portion and shows how to understand the simple meaning of the text according to the explanations of the foremost Biblical commentaries of all time.

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How to Study Torah - Noach
Why G-d wanted Noah to make a public spectacle by building an ark all by himself. Understanding the verse "Make for yourself an ark..." (Genesis 6:14) and how Noah, as righteous as he was, failed as a spiritual leader.
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How to Study Torah—Lech Lecha
When Abraham feared that the Egyptians would kill him in order to take his wife, he asked her to pretend that she was his sister. We examine the meaning of the verse (Genesis 12:13), “Say that you are my sister, so that they will favor me.”
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1:09:34
How to Study Torah - Vayeira
We study the enigmatic story of the Akeida with a special focus on Abraham’s response when G-d stops him at the last moment.
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1:19:53
How to Study Torah - Chayei-Sarah
Abraham dispatches his servant, Eliezer, with clear instructions on how to find a wife for Isaac. Eliezer finds Rebecca almost immediately and an extremely unusual conversation follows.
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How to Study Torah - Toldot
The Torah records minute details about Rebecca’s first and only pregnancy. Did her twin sons, Jacob and Esau, have free choice to become who they wanted to be or were their personalities predestined from the womb?
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How to Study Torah - Vayeitzei
Jacob has a vision which encapsulates the future of the Jewish people and climaxes with the promise of "Ufarazta" -- the power to spread forth, transcending all limitations.
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1:20:45
How to Study Torah - Vayishlach
How Jacob prepared for a potentially deadly confrontation with his murderous brother, Esau. Discover the Torah’s “rules of engagement” in a time when we’re forced to wage war rather than make peace.
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1:18:10
How to Study Torah - Vayeishev
What are the meanings of Joseph's dreams which angered his brothers and caused the chain of events that ultimately caused the entire Jewish people to go into exile in Egypt?
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How to Study Torah - Mikeitz
Joseph is brought out of prison to interpret Pharaoh's dreams, thereby becoming viceroy over Egypt, the global superpower of the day. How did Joseph do it? And why couldn't anybody else understand the message which seems so obvious?
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1:17:46
How to Study Torah - Vayigash
Pharaoh designates the district of Goshen for the family of Joseph. There the Jewish people build settlements which ultimately enrage the locals who then use this as a pretext to prosecute the Jewish people.
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How to Study Torah - Shemot
When G-d charges Moses with the task of leading the Jews out of Egypt, Moses asks G-d what His name is and G-d responds, "I will be what I will be." How does this cryptic answer help us understand the problem of evil and suffering?
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1:20:47
How to Study Torah - Va'eira
When we celebrate our freedom at the Passover Seder, we have Four Cups, Four Children and Four Questions. But they all come from the original "four" of the Torah: The Four Expressions of Redemption.
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1:20:50
How to Study Torah - Bo
The first mitzvah given to the Jewish people before they even left Egypt was to sanctify the new moon and keep a calendar. A careful study of the verse (Exodus 12:2) "This month shall be for you the beginning of months."
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How to Study Torah - Beshalach
After the miracle of the splitting of the sea, the entire Jewish people broke out into song. Moses led the men and Miriam led the women. What does this story teach us about separation of genders in Jewish tradition?
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1:11:44
How to Study Torah - Yitro
When G-d instructed Moses to prepare the people to receive the Torah at Sinai, He said: "Speak to the house of Jacob, and tell the sons of Israel" (Exodus 19:3). The "house of Jacob," our sages explain, are the women; "the sons of Israel," the men.
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How to Study Torah - Mishpatim
Exodus 23:2 teaches us, among many other important legal principles, that we must follow the majority in a dispute between judges. What other axioms of Jewish law do we learn from this verse?
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1:20:10
How to Study Torah - Terumah
What did the Ark in the Holy of Holies look like? The commentaries on the Torah discuss the design of the Ark and its unusual lid upon which were two golden Cherubs.
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How to Study Torah - Tetzaveh
The High Priest's garments included ebony epaulets that he wore on his shoulders. What was the symbolism of these ornaments?
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1:19:20
How to Study Torah - Ki Tisa
Moses asked G-d "show me Your Glory" to which G-d responded, "No man can see Me and live." Does G-d have a face? What does it mean to see G-d? What did Moses want and what did he end up getting?
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How to Study Torah - Vayakhel
Why are these portions that talk all about building the Tabernacle also the context for learning about a day of rest? What is the connection between observing Shabbat and making a place for G-d's presence to dwell?
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How to Study Torah - Vayikra
The name of this week's portion, Vayikra, describes the unique Divine call to the greatest prophet of all time, Moses. How much do we know about the way G-d communicated with Moses, and what can we learn from it today?
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How to Study Torah - Tzav
After seven days and nights of Aaron and his sons staying in the newly constructed Sanctuary in the desert, what transpired in the final, climactic moments of the Sanctuary's inauguration?
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How to Study Torah - Shemini
An overview of what transpired on the eighth day of the inauguration of the Sanctuary climaxing with Aaron alone, and then he and Moses blessing the people, and the appearance of G-d's presence.
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1:10:35
How to Study Torah - Acharei-Kedoshim
The Torah commands us "to be holy." What does this injunction mean? Many commentaries explain that it refers to not indulging even in permissible pleasures. What is the difference between asceticism and holiness?
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1:17:09
How to Study Torah - Emor
This week's portion tells the kohanim (priests) that they must educate their children to keep the detailed laws of ritual purity binding upon the priestly families. What is the Torah teaching us about the obligation to educate our children?
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How to Study Torah - Behar-Bechukotai
What does the Torah say about this thankfully antiquated practice? If slavery as an institution is recognized by the Bible, how do we reconcile this with the eternality of the Torah?
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1:14:48
How to Study Torah - Bamidbar
In the census of the Jewish people, Moses counted all men eligible for military conscription, that is all who were twenty years of age and older. Why then did a separate census of the Tribe of Levi include even babies from 30 days and up?
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How to Study Torah - Naso
"And it was that on the day that Moses finished erecting the Mishkan, he anointed it, sanctified it, and all its vessels, and the altar and all its vessels." (Numbers 7:1) Learn about the process of readying the newly-built sanctuary for daily use, the inaugural gifts of the tribal princes and the opening ceremonies officiated by Moses.
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1:06:19
How to Study Torah - Behaalotecha
Long before the Maccabees, there was the original menorah that was lit in the Holy Temple as part of the daily ritual officiated by the priests. How was the menorah lit? What purpose did it serve?
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1:16:47
How to Study Torah - Shelach
Before entering the land of Israel, Moses sent twelve spies to scout out the land. Follow the spies on their journey through the Holy Land. Where did they go? Where did they stop? What did they see?
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How to Study Torah - Korach
Can anything grow from a wooden staff? Learn about the miraculous test that proved the legitimacy of Aaron's priestly status.
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How to Study Torah - Chukat
One of the most infamous events in the Bible is Moses' striking the rock to bring forth water. Why did Moses do what he did? Was it a mistake or was there a reason? How can this seemingly rebellious act be understood within the context of Moses' perfect obedience to G-d?
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1:11:22
How to Study Torah - Balak
When King Balak hired the evil prophet Bilam to curse the Jews, G-d told Bilam, (Bamidbar 22:12) "Do not curse the nation for they are blessed." But when Balak sent more officers to ask Bilaam again, he told them, (22:19) "Stay here tonight, and I will know if G-d wants to say anything more to me." Why didn't Bilam answer that G-d had already told him not to go? Furthermore, why did G-d eventually allow Bilam to accept the task of cursing the Jews after having previously warned him not to?
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How to Study Torah - Pinchas
Learn about the unusual procedure by which the Tribes of Israel were assigned to their portion in the Land. What does this teach us about providence, predetermination and fate?
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1:13:21
How to Study Torah - Matot
Just before entering the Promised Land, two and a half of the Twelve Tribes ask for special permission to settle on the other side of the Jordan River. If they were meant to settle in that place, then why didn't G-d assign it to them to begin with? And if they were not meant to settle there, then why did G-d agree to their request?
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