TILT is now looking at the weekly Torah portion. In theory we look at the portion to be read the following Saturday, although some trips to visit my grandson and family have pushed us back a week. This week, March 20, we looked at two portions to catch up: Vayikra and Tzav—the first two parshiot of Leviticus (1:1 – 8:36).
Over the past few months, we have read most of Exodus and I’ve shared a lot of what I found in The Midrash Says – The Book of Sh’mos by Rabbi Rabbi Weissman. I’ve also used The Five Books of Miriam: A Women’s Commentary on the Torah edited by Ellen Frankel. Everett Fox’s translation of The Five Books of Moses is another favorite source. And I recommend Nahum Sarna’s Exploring Exodus. We try to use as many different translations as there are participants since translation is commentary. I stress that there is no one “right” way to interpret the text, while showing what the rabbinic tradition has read into and pulled out of the text.
For example, last week (March 20), I explained that men gave their jewelry to make the golden calf, but the women refused to do so, not out of vanity but because they did not approve, and so, in recognition of their piety, Rosh Hodesh (the day celebrating the beginning of each Jewish month) became a women’s holiday. Someone pointed out the minor problem that this is not to found in the Biblical text. She was not convinced by the fact that the Hebrew text says the men gave their jewelry, since Hebrew uses the masculine plural to mean both men and women. And I’m sure there are other instances where tradition insists that women are included when the text says men. This led to a discussion of the Oral Torah and the Written Torah and their relative value in Jewish tradition. I love that the text is a living and growing entity.