How do you SKINNY?

Get your SKINNY on in less time than it takes to binge watch Orange is the New Black.


(the pitch)

This week, the Torah chapters have some indexing issues – like an app without a deep link. It starts with an oration on promises, then skips to a war, then adds some real estate transactions, and ends with a lovely wedding. Here’s the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed:
The Torah explains that vows are really important. If you make one, keep it. But, it also says that some people’s vows aren’t binding. That is: a father can overturn a vow that was made by his daughter or wife. (Can you hear Team SKINNY cringing?!) The Torah does delineate various limitations to a father’s authority. For example, he can’t reverse a promise made by his wife unless it affects him and he can only overturn those made by his daughter until she becomes an adult. That said, Team SKINNY is signing petitions against the Torah’s sexism, especially since we thought we had made some serious gains with inheritance laws in last week’s Torah reading. (Read this SKINNY if you’re feminist forgetful.)
In last week’s Torah-episode, Pinchas (like bean with a “p”- chas) killed Zimri (zeem-ree) and his paramour for openly defying Moses’ leadership. (If you missed the spear campaign, read this SKINNY.) Zimri’s gal pal was a Midianite, a clan of people who were peer pressuring our peeps into idolatry. In response, Moses selected 1,000 men from each of the 12 Tribes to battle the Midianites and Pinchas was appointed as the army’s leader. When the Midianites saw the small Jewish army approaching, they laughed at our peeps with bravado, confident that they’d prevail over us. But God stepped in to provide back up and our peeps were victorious in battle.
After the battle, two tribes, Reuben and Gad, asked Moses if they could settle on the east side of the Jordan River instead of in the Land of Israel. They preferred the Jordan River area because they owned a lot of cattle and, after checking out the area on Zillow, they saw that the land was very fertile with rich, green grass for their cattle to graze. Moses reluctantly agreed to Reuben and Gad’s request. Some members of the tribe of Manasseh also decided to settle in the land east of the Jordan River. (If you’re not tribal, read this SKINNY.) 
This week’s Torah reading is called Matot (mah-tote) Masei (mahs-aye). Matot means tribes and Masei means journeys. The Torah reading lists the 42 places where our peeps journeyed and set up camp from their starting point in Egypt after they escaped slavery to the outskirts of Canaan (k’-naan – like the yummy Indian flatbread), which is what the Land of Israel was called in Torah-times. (Team SKINNY heard they also engaged in a lot of carpool karaoke along the route.) The Torah then details the borders of the Land of Israel and designated various cities of refuge for asylum.
The badass daughters of Zelophchad (tz-la-ph-chad) from the tribe of Manasseh got married to some boy-toys from their own tribe, which meant the estate they inherited in last week’s Torah reading wouldn’t pass to another tribe. (Read last week’s SKINNY if you missed the historic girl power moment.)


(the over think)

Team SKINNY’s concern of the sexism inherent in this week’s Torah reading about a father’s ability to rescind his daughter’s and wife’s vows remains unresolved. That said, promises are a serious commitment in the Torah. Ancient sages highly discouraged us from making any promises frivolously. They said something along the lines of: “Don’t make promises, you can’t keep” and “Promise little, but do much.” The modern-day sage, Beyoncé, sang: “If you keeping your promise, I'm keeping mine,” but that seems like it’s based more on a reciprocal quid pro quo than a personal commitment to keep a promise…no matter what. The characters in Fault of Our Stars said, “Some people don't understand the promises they're making when they make them, but you keep the promise anyway. That's what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway.” What do you think? Discuss on Friday night (or any other night!)


(to be in-the-know)

This week’s Torah reading, Matot-Masei, is actually two distinct Torah portions that are typically combined and read together as one. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which has 52 (ish) weeks each year, depending on the year, there are 50 to 55 weeks in the Jewish lunar calendar. In some leap years, Matot and Masei are read separately, but in most years they’re combined so the entire Torah can be read in a single year. Studious SKINNIES know the Torah is divided into five books. Each week, we read a section of the Torah and it takes a year to read the whole thing. (Read this SKINNY if you leapt past the leap year and read this SKINNY if your Jewish calendar app crashed.)


(bookmark. reflect. share)

Matot and Masei are the last chapters in the book of Bamidbar (bah-meed-bar), which means we’ve finished the fourth of the Torah’s five books. (SKINNY readers who’ve been with us from the beginning get props for the Torah’s version of a Snapchat streak!)
  1. Genesis | Bereisheit (beh-rey-sheet) | In the Beginning (Done!)
  2. Exodus | Shemot (sheh-mote) | The Names (Done!)
  3. Leviticus | Vayikra (vie-eek-rah) | And God Called (Done!)
  4. Numbers | Bamidbar (Bah-meed-bar)| In the Desert (Done!)
  5. Deuteronomy | Devarim (deh-var-eem) | The Words (We’ll be here next week.) 
Foursome SKINNIES know when we finish reading a book in the Torah, it’s a tradition to recite a throat-scratching phrase: Chazak (ch-ah-zahk) Chazak (repeat) V’nitchazek (v’neat-ch-ah-zehk), which means: Be Strong, Be Strong, and May We be Strengthened. It’s a celebratory statement that reminds us that we’re strengthened by learning and it encourages us to continue studying and growing. You can recite this dual-purpose celebration mantra in honor of other accomplishments too. Say it with your kids when they come home from summer camp. Shout it out if you’re an obsessed, renegade warrior at SoulCycle or whisper it after a really good meditation. Whenever and however you say it, the phrase is intended to give props to our inner strength – the physical, intellectual, and spiritual kinds.


(to chew on)

We launched THE JEWISH SKINNY 11 months ago as an all-volunteer effort that continues to this day. We started it because we couldn’t find anything online that was based in the rhythm of the weekly Torah reading that felt relevant to our modern, faced-paced lives. Our goal is to provide a brief summary of the weekly Torah portion that you can use as a source of inspiration, motivation, and reflection. Use the SKINNY to enliven your Shabbat dinner conversation or any night at dinner. Use it to sound really smart and engaging at a cocktail party. Use it as a how-to guide for raising children with strong guideposts and ethics or as your own how-to guide to live a balanced and grounded life.

How do you SKINNY?
Let us know!



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