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Dan Horwitz, past contributing blogger
Dan Horwitz was most recently the Rabbi and Director of Immersive Learning for Moishe House. A rabbi, lawyer, violinist and Detroit sports enthusiast, Dan possesses an unparalleled passion for Jewish life, learning and peoplehood. Prior to joining Moishe House, Dan was a transactional attorney with a large Detroit area law firm. Committed to lifelong learning, he holds a BA in Politics from Brandeis University, an MA in Jewish Studies from Gratz College, a JD and an MA in Sport Management from the University of Michigan, an MA in Jewish Education from Hebrew College, and is a doctoral candidate in education at Northeastern University. He received rabbinic ordination from the non-denominational Mesifta Adas Wolkowisk. Dan is happiest when engaged in meaningful discussion with others on topics of Jewish and general philosophical interest, when playing basketball, and when Justin Verlander is pitching. The views expressed in this blog are his alone.
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This week's Torah portion is Shemini – or is it? In Israel, they actually are already on the next portion. The reason for this is that outside of Israel, in traditional communities, the Passover holiday lasts for 8 days, while in Israel it only lasts for 7 days.

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In this week’s double Torah portion, where we complete the Book of Leviticus by reading the portions of both Behar and Bechukotai, we are immediately introduced to the concept of the land resting.

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In this week’s portion, Shlach Lecha, Moses sends 12 spies (one from each tribe) into the Promised Land in order to scope it out. After 40 days, the spies return and share that the land is indeed flowing with milk and honey.

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In this week's portion, Pinchas, we find a unique stand taken for women's rights. The five daughters of a man named Zelophechad (try learning to spell that as a child!) approached the Israelite leadership and shared that their father had passed away without leaving any sons.

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In this week's portion, Moses continues his speech to the Israelites and emphasizes their potential rewards and punishments for following the commandments. Moses shares that the Promised Land is one that is flowing with milk and honey (from dates – not bees – a common misconception!), and that "when you have eaten your fill, give thanks to the Divine…" [Deuteronomy 8:10]

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In this week's portion, Ki Tavo, Moses continues his speech to the Israelites by highlighting a pretty horrific list of curses that the Israelites will be subject to if they don’t follow the proper path (read: the Torah’s laws) once they enter the Promised Land. Juxtaposed with the curses are a number of blessings that they will receive if they do remain true to the Torah’s teachings.

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We’ve reached the final portion of the Torah – V’zot HaBeracha. On the holiday of Simchat Torah, Monday night and Tuesday, we read this portion, and immediately following, we read a section of the portion of Bereshit – the first portion of the Torah – in order to symbolize the never ending nature of our learning.

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At the beginning of this week’s portion, Vayera, we find God visiting Abraham to check on him after his recent circumcision (which at age 99, was likely taking its toll physically). Modeling for us the Jewish value of bikkur cholim – visiting those who are ill – you’d think that Abraham would have been flattered that God was stopping by to hang out for a bit.

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This week’s portion begins with Jacob preparing to see his brother Esau after 20+ years apart. As you’ll recall, after stealing Isaac’s blessing intended for Esau, Jacob fled in order to avoid Esau’s wrath. Now, a few wives, a dozen children, and massive amounts of property later, Jacob finally has to deal with his past, as he learns that Esau is coming towards his camp with 400 men (seemingly to attack).

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In this week's portion, Yitro, we find Moses (and the Israelites) being greeted by Moses's father-in-law Yitro (aka Jethro) after the Israelites managed to fight off the armies of the nation of Amalek. Yitro greets Moses, bringing along Moses's wife and two sons. After telling his father-in-law all that God had done for the Israelites in Egypt, Yitro rejoices, praises God, and offers up a sacrifice.

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In this week’s portion, Tetzaveh, we find the instructions on how to consecrate Aaron and his sons as the priests of Israel, how to create the High Priest’s special garments, and we also learn how to construct the incense altar (and are told to light incense twice daily).

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In this week’s portion, Tzav, we find the specific instructions delivered to Aaron and his sons as to how to perform the ritual sacrifices. In particular, we learn about a few different types of offerings: burnt, meal, anointment, sin, guilt, and well-being. We learn that priesthood would only be passed on to Aaron’s male descendants, and we learn that we’re not permitted to eat certain animal fats (who knew the Bible was so ahead of its time as it relates to eating healthily!), and that eating blood is not permitted.

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In this week's double portion, we find the steps the High Priest took each Yom Kippur to atone for the nation, we find a slew of sexual morality laws (incest is not okay – sorry Lannisters), we get some general guidance as to how we're meant to be holy in our actions as a result of God being holy, and we learn that hanging out with ghosts is a no-no.

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Naso 9 Sivan 5773 / May 17-18, 2013   In this week’s portion, Naso , we find the language Aaron was instructed to use when blessing the Israelite nation:   יְבָרֶכְךָ    יְהוָה   וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ  (Y’-va-re-ch’-cha A-do-nai v’-yish-m’-reh-cha) May God bless you and

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This week’s portion, Devarim, kicks off the last of the Five Books of Moses. Most of the book is Moses’s final speech to the Israelites before they enter the Promised Land, in which he recaps their travels, battles and the various miracles they witnessed.

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I don’t know if you heard, but apparently a royal baby was born in England recently. How fitting that in this week’s portion, Shoftim, Moses provides the framework for the Israelites appointing a king over themselves (the one whom God chooses of course) should they choose to do so once having conquered the Promised Land.

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Our tradition describes Yom Kippur as “Shabbat Shabbaton” – the “ultimate Shabbat.” Given our usual association of Shabbat with rejoicing (whether by eating great food, relaxing with our families, being intimate in the bedroom, etc.), it seems odd that we’d compare a day like Yom Kippur, where we specifically avoid comforts, to Shabbat.

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In this week's portion, we begin to learn a bit about Abraham (at the time, still called Abram). When introduced, Abram is already 75 years old; granted the years might have been a calculated a bit differently back then, given that biblical characters were often cited as living very long lives.

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In this week's portion, Vayetzeh, we find one of most intriguing love stories in the Bible. Jacob lays eyes on Rachel for the first time (yes she was his first cousin; no that wasn't weird at the time), and knows that they're meant to be together. He immediately proceeds to water her flocks for her, and lets her know who he is and his relationship to her.

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This week’s portion, Vayechi, marks the end of the book of Genesis. We first find Jacob about to pass away, and note that he still hasn’t learned his lesson about the issues that come with playing favorites, as he adopts Joseph’s sons as his own, ensuring that each gets an equal share of his inheritance with his trueborn sons.

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In this week's portion, Beshalach, the Israelites have just left Egypt and are being led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night into the wilderness. God has Moses encamp the Israelites alongside the sea, and then proceeds to harden Pharaoh's heart one final time.

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In this week’s portion, Tetzaveh, we find detailed instructions for how to go about creating vestmentsfor the High Priest (Aaron) and his sons, as well as how to consecrate and ordain them as the nation’s priests.

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This week’s portion, Acharei Mot, begins by sharing the specific instructions for what the High Priest is meant to do on Yom Kippur (the holiday is introduced as well).



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