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Parsha Lab by Aleph Beta

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Ep.35 Parshat Ha’azinu: Is This The Song of Doom?

In Parshat Ha’azinu, the Israelites receive a frightening prophetic “song” about their future failure to follow God’s will, and the punishment they receive as a result. When Moshe introduces this prophecy, he states that he hopes his speech will fall “ke-se’irim alei desheh” -- like some sort of ‘rain upon grass.’ What does that mean? And why is it stated as an introduction to the song? Join Daniel Loewenstein and Ami Silver as they explore the hidden layers of meaning in Ha’azinu, and the...


Ep.34 Parshat Vayeilech: What's Wrong With Moses’ Leadership?

Parshat Vayeilech records Moses’ farewell speech on the last day of his life. In the opening of this speech, Moses reminds the people that he won’t be leading them into Israel and that Joshua will take over his position. But when you look closely at what Moses says about Joshua, you can’t help but ask, was Moses trying to sabotage Joshua's leadership? Or was Moses trying to warn the people about something? Join Beth Lesch and Daniel Loewenstein as the re-examine the text and discover a...


Ep.33 Parshat Nitzavim: What Is the 'Hidden Sin' In This Week's Parsha?

Parshat Nitzavim states, “The hidden things are for God but the revealed things are for us,” which suggests perhaps that only God can punish for sins done in private. Could the parsha be alluding to a specific hidden sin in our history? Join Beth Lesch and Ami Silver as they re-examine the text of Nitzavim and its references to the story of the Sale of Joseph, and never think about Parshat Nitzavim the same way again.


Ep.32 Parshat Ki Tavo: What Are Blessings And Curses, Really?

In Parshat Ki Tavo, the Israelites are told that when they enter the land they must publicly bless those who keep the commandments, and curse those who violate them. And they have to proclaim these blessings and curses on two mountains -- Mount Gerizim and Mount Eval. But why? What's so special about these mountains? And why must the blessings and curses be reviewed in such a public way? Join Daniel Loewenstein and Beth Lesch as they use the gematria, grammar and topography hidden in Ki Tavo...


Ep.31 Parshat Ki Teitzei: Remember Amalek; Don't Forget

This week’s parsha includes the commandment to wipe out the memory of Amalek, the nation who attacked the Israelites just weeks after the Exodus from Egypt. It’s the kind of mitzvah that makes our skin crawl in the 21st century. Why would God command wiping out an entire people? What did they do that was so evil that they deserve to be completely erased from history? And why does the Torah use this cryptic language of memory and forgetting to give this command? Our parsha holds a surprising...


Ep.30 Parshat Shoftim: What Does It Mean To Be A Fair Judge?

In Parshat Shoftim, we're given a detailed list of instructions as to how to establish a justice system. Yet there are seemingly random topics woven into these instructions, like idolatry, and how to properly offer an animal to God. Is there a reason for these odd interludes? Are they telling us something important about the justice system? Join Daniel Loewenstein and Beth Lesch as they consider what true justice in the Torah really is -- and never think of Parshat Shoftim the same.


Ep.29 Parshat Re’eh: How Does God Really Feel About Child Sacrifice?

In the beginning of Parshat Re’eh, the Torah warns not to follow other gods that "we don’t know." Idolatry is prohibited, so why does it matter whether we "know” these other gods or not? Join Beth Lesch and Ami Silver as they re-examine the text and its parallels to Akeidat Yitzchak (Sacrifice of Isaac) and understand what it means to “know” God, and for God to “know” you -- and never think about Parshat Re'eh the same way again. For more about the Binding of Isaac:...


Ep.28 Parshat Eikev: Is this Another Akeidah?

In Parshat Eikev, Moshe is gearing up the people to enter the land of Israel. He’s laying out conditions of what God will expect, and what they can expect in return. But strangely, peppered throughout Moshe's talk are echoes and references to Akeidat Yitzchak (Sacrifice of Isaac). Why is this story being referenced here? What is Moshe communicating the people by comparing entering the land to the story of Abraham and Isaac? Join Ami Silver and Daniel Loewenstein as they explore these themes...


Ep.27 Parshat Va’etchanan: How Do We Manage The Influences Around Us?

In Parshat Va’etchanan, the Israelites are forbidden from intermarrying with the Canaanite nations when they enter the land of Israel. While the rationale for this commandment may seem straightforward, its language echoes another story of a foreign nation, namely the story of the brutal mistreatment of Dina in Genesis. What do the Canaanites and Shechem have in common? Join Daniel Loewenstein and Beth Lesch as they re-examine these two narratives and explore the Torah’s understanding of how...


Ep.26 Parshat Devarim: What Did The Spies Do Wrong?

We know God wasn't pleased with the spies. Due to their actions, an entire generation would die in the desert, never entering the Promised Land. But what exactly did the spies do wrong? They reported that the land of Israel 'flows with milk and honey' and was inhabited by strong peoples -- weren't they just telling the truth? Why was God blaming the spies for reporting their experience? Join Beth Lesch and Ami Silver as they explore Moses' retelling and of the spies and discover their real...


Ep.25 Parshat Matot-Masei: The Hidden Story Of Brothers, Borders, And Moses’ Burial

In Parshat Matot-Masei, the Israelites are on the cusp of entering Israel, right on the Eastern side of the Jordan. But before they do, the tribes of Reuven and Gad ask Moshe to stay by the border, as the land is advantageous to raise their herd. At first furious, Moshe agrees to let them have the land provided they battle alongside their brethren as they enter Israel. But there’s something unique about this exchange -- it’s strikingly similar to another negotiation between Joseph and his...


Ep.24 Parshat Pinchas: How Is Land Ownership Connected To The Pesach Sheni Offering?

In Parshat Pinchas, we read about the daughters of Tzelaphchad, who sought to inherit their father’s land. God granted their request, and even codified it into law. But there’s something unique about this story — it’s strikingly similar to the story of the Pesach Sheini offering. When a group of ritually impure people approached Moses and requested a way to make an offering, God codified a practice called Pesach Sheni, which acted as a “make-up” offering for the impure. But what does...


Ep.23 Parshat Balak: Why Weren't The Plagues Enough?

As the Israelites made their way towards the Promised Land, they encountered many nations -- Edomites, Canaanites, Amorites, Moabites -- who greeted them with less than open arms. But after seeing what God did to the Egyptians, wouldn't it have been better to take them in and avoid God's wrath? Join Rabbi Fohrman and Beth Lesch as they re-examine the text of Numbers to understand how these nations thought about God and the Israelites -- and never think about Parshat Balak the same way again.


Ep.22 Parshat Chukat: Why Do We Need A Red Heifer?

In Parshat Chukat, we read the laws surrounding the Red Heifer — the rare cow whose ash is used to purify those who stood too close to a corpse. But what is the reason for this unique ritual? Why do we need the ash of a red cow to be purified? Join Rabbi Fohrman and Daniel Loewenstein as they re-examine the text of the Red Heifer and discover a striking reference to the Garden of Eden — and never think about Parshat Chukat the same way again.


Ep 21. Parshat Korach: Where did The Rebellion Start?

In Parshat Korach, there’s a sudden rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Korach, the leader of the rebellion, argues that all Israelites are holy, not just Moses and Aaron. But where did his distrust of Israel’s leaders come from? Join Rabbi Fohrman and Ami Silver as they re-examine Korach’s family origin, which is recorded in the text, and see how his upbringing may have played a significant role in the rebellion -- and never think about Parshat Korach the same way again.


Ep 20. Parshat Shelach: Spies. Conspiracies. And the Two Men Caught In The Middle — Sound Familiar?

In Parshat Shelach, we read the story of the spies who ventured to the land of Israel and brought back a false report to the Israelites. But there’s something very strange about their report. Aside from being inaccurate, it’s strikingly similar to another story we’ve heard. A group of twelve men, ten of whom committed a terrible sin and two of whom were innocent — sound familiar? Join Rivky and Beth as they re-examine the text of the spy story — and never think about Parshat Shelach the same...


Ep 19. Parshat Beha’alotecha: Is it the Beginning of the End?

In Parshat Beha’alotecha we complete the Mishkan story that started in the middle of Exodus and is completed all the way into this portion of Bamidbar. Finally, the children of Israel are ready to embark on their journey to the Holy Land with the Mishkan - God’s dwelling place - by their side. But their journey quickly takes a turn for the worse as the saga of the desert experience begins to fester with complaints, regrets, and slander. Is this the beginning of the end? What will become of...


Ep 18. Naso: What Are The Unique Laws of Sotah Really About?

Parshat Naso introduces us to one of the oddest laws in the Torah, the laws of the Sotah -- a woman suspected of adultery by her husband. If the woman chooses to defend her honor, she is able to partake in an ancient ritual where the Kohen makes her drink tampered water. If she’s telling the truth, nothing happens and she’s rewarded with children. But if she’s lying, she has a traumatic reaction to the water and she’s killed. What is the basis for this strange law and where did the procedure...


Ep 17. Bamidbar: Is the “Book of Numbers” A Good Translation for “Bamidbar”?

Parshat Bamidbar is the first Parsha in the book of Bamidbar. Strangely enough, the names our Sages give to the Books of Torah often don’t line up with the Hebrew. Case in point, the Sages call Bamidbar “Sefer Hapikudim,” or the Book of Numbers. But what do numbers have to do with Bamidbar? Sure, the Israelites are counted in the beginning, but why is the whole book called Numbers? Is there actually a theme being presented in the title? And for that matter, are all of the Sages' titles...


Ep 16. Behar-Bechukotai: Shemittah, Yovel and… Mount Sinai?

This week’s double parsha, Behar-Bechokotai, focuses on the agricultural cycles of Shemittah and Yovel. Strangely enough, the language here carries echoes of some of the themes of last week’s parsha, and even seems to take us all the way back to Mount Sinai. Are these ideas somehow connected? What could the revelation at Sinai have to do with agricultural laws in the land of Israel? Join Rivky Stern and first time co-host Ami Silver as they explore these fascinating connections and the...