It all started with dolphins.
I’m reading this week’s parsha, Terumah, which - let’s be honest - might be the least exciting read in the whole Torah. I mean, on the one hand, it’s all about building a structure for God to dwell on earth - an awesome undertaking. But on the other hand, it reads a bit like an IKEA furniture assembly instruction manual. For example:
The most famous of the all the Torah commentators, in his very first piece of commentary on the Torah, seems to suggest that the whole book of Genesis is a waste of time.
For, says the great Rashi:
What was it like?
This week’s parsha contains what is arguably the single most important moment in the Torah: The Revelation at Mount Sinai. You might say that the whole of the Jewish religion is based on this event. And the content of that revelation is perhaps the most famous part of the Torah, and the most enduring legacy of Judaism: The Ten Commandments.
The strangest thing about that first Passover was living with the lamb for four days.
Behold - the plagues! Rivers of blood! Swarms of locusts! Darkness upon the land! Terrifying devastation, of supernatural proportions, all wrought by God’s mighty…
This week, we begin the Book of Exodus, and from here on out, Moses will be our guide. We will follow him from his precarious beginnings until his death, the final scene in the Torah. The epic saga of the Exodus, the story which defines the Jewish people, is, in many ways, the story of Moses.
If you take a look at various collections of Torah commentary, you’ll notice that each parsha seems kind of front-loaded. That is, the commentators tend to spend more than proportional time reflecting on the first part of the parsha, or sometimes even just the first line. Practically speaking, that makes sense; when you’re analyzing text - or doing anything, really - it’s just human nature to dig in deep at first, and then begin to move quicker and a bit less thoroughly when there’s deadline approaching. And with the weekly Torah reading, there’s a built-in deadline every Shabbat.