The Portion

The Portion

"The Portion" is a podcast where Aaron Roller, a curious Orthodox Jew, sits down with his brother-in-law, Rabbi Jonathan Bienenfeld, to discuss the portion of the Torah that is read each week by Jews around the world. The conversation is informal and friendly, but not afraid to delve into the wealth of Jewish wisdom and interpretation. Guests may join to offer their takes on the portion as well. ... Show More

Episodes

This is our first episode with Rabbi Bienenfeld on vacation and we were so grateful and honored to have Rabbi Yisroel Serebrowski, the leader of Torah Links on the East Side of Cherry Hill, sit in with Aaron as guest host this week. On this week's episode, we talked about two mysteries, the mystery of the red heifer, a colorful animal whose ashes bring purity, and the mystery of what Moshe did to deserve the consequence of not bein... Read more

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July 3, 2019 47 min

In this week's Torah portion... rebellion. Moshe's cousin Korach leads a revolution against Moshe and Aharon, claiming everyone is equal in the eyes of G-d. But it that's the case, how does Korach justify wanting to be in charge? And why do the people continue to glorify Korach even after he is swallowed by the earth in a clear repudiation of his claims? On this week's episode, we look at the aftermath of the sin of the spies and d... Read more

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June 26, 2019 37 min

Why do ten of the twelve spies sent by Moshe come back with such terrible things to say about the Land of Israel? And why are the Children of Israel so quick to believe them? In this episode, we delve into the mentality that led to this debacle and the lessons we can derive for our own religious lives. Also, an explanation for the spies' sin with a sci-fi twist!To stay up to date and to comment on this week's episode, please Like u... Read more

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This week's Torah portion sees a stark divide, two nuns that serve as a parenthesis and divide the first part of the Book of Numbers, which is optimistic and centered around a holy encampment moving swiftly towards the Promised Land, with the rest of the book, largely centered on everything that goes wrong. In this week's episode, we talk about the root of the complaining that marks the start of the negativity. We also talk ab... Read more

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June 12, 2019 33 min

This week's Torah portion presents us with some interesting laws that seem to have little practical application today. Does the case of the sotah, the wife accused of adultery, have anything to tell us today? What about the nazirite? And how do the priestly blessings that are recorded here relate? Join us for this week's discussion. To stay up to date and to comment on this week's episode, please Like us on Facebook: https://w... Read more

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We start the fourth and penultimate book of the Torah... "Numbers," or, in Hebrew, Bamidbar (which translates to "In the Desert," not "Numbers"). What is the significance of the desert and why is this book named after it? We talk about the theme of this book (Aaron's suggestion: it's about failure) and how the grandeur and pageantry described in this week's Torah portion may have some dark foreshadowing hiding beneath the surface, ... Read more

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Sefer Vayikra, the Book of Leviticus, comes to a close with a harrowing account of G-d's vengeance if the Children of Israel fail to adhere to the vision and build the society described throughout the earlier sections of the book. In this week's episode, we talk about the role of punishment, how to relate to something so frightening, and why the book closes on a strange note. To stay up to date and to comment on this week's episode... Read more

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May 22, 2019 37 min

In this week's portion, Behar, the Torah teaches the laws regarding the sabbatical year and the jubilee year. In the sabbatical year, farmers must let the land lie fallow for one out of seven years. And every fifty years, in the jubilee year, all real estate sales are canceled and the land goes back to its original owners. In this week's episode, we talk about how these laws present an approach to politics and economics that tie th... Read more

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May 15, 2019 43 min

In this episode, we discussed the Torah portion's exclusion of priests with disabilities or physical blemishes from serving in the Tabernacle or Temple. It was a difficult discussion but it was good to talk about the Torah's different models of leadership and how we respond when specific laws do not conform with our sense of fairness (or what we might see as the Torah's own system of values). We hope that we approached this topic w... Read more

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May 8, 2019 38 min

This week's Torah portion is a bit of a grab bag, filled with all different kinds of laws that somehow comprise "holiness." But what does it mean to be holy? We talk about the differences between holiness and purity, a famous interpretation by the Ramban, and whether shmura matzoh should be described as artisanal. Join us! To stay up to date and to comment on this week's episode, please Like us on Facebook: https://www.faceboo... Read more

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After a short break for Pesach, we're back discussing the weekly Torah portion. In this week's portion, Acharei Mot, we see how the laws we studied earlier in Sefer Vayikra are applied by the High Priest on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. We talk about the mysterious scapegoat, its possible relationship to demon worship, and what it means to wipe the slate clean. Also, how does the end of the Torah portion - on Jewish sexu... Read more

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April 10, 2019 39 min

What is the story with the two birds that the healed leper needs to bring to the Temple as part of their process of healing and purification? Are they supposed to identify with the one that is slaughtered as a sin offering, feeling that the bird goes in their place? Or should they feel more like the other bird, the one that gets dipped in the blood of its fellow and then flies to freedom? We take on these and other questions in thi... Read more

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April 3, 2019 45 min

In this week's episode, we talk all imprecise translations. Does tameh really mean impure? Does tzara'at really mean leprosy? And what is a discussion of a spiritual skin disease doing in the aftermath of the deaths of Nadav and Avihu? Perhaps of greatest relevance, how does this Biblical skin affliction impact our view on sickness and health?To stay up to date and to comment on this week's episode, please Like ... Read more

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March 27, 2019 44 min

In this week's episode, Aaron makes the case that the Torah portion of "Shmini" has all the suspense and tension of a submarine movie with an intense drama that largely takes place between the lines of the Torah's text. We talk about Aharon the High Priest's silence and Moses' humility and discuss whether the transition from the story about the Tabernacle's inauguration to the laws of kosher food is as jarring a segue as it first a... Read more

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March 19, 2019 50 min

Maybe it's because this episode is coming out on Purim 2019, or maybe it's because we digress a bit when talking about animal sacrifice, but either way, this week's show feels a little looser. There are a few moments we talked about editing out... but then we left them in, including when Rabbi Bienenfeld's printer started printing mid-episode. This conversation yielded a lot of good Torah, including ideas about why the priests get ... Read more

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March 13, 2019 48 min

We pop into the Book of Leviticus with some unconvincing champagne sound effects and then we're off, with a discussion of what the institution of animal sacrifice is all about. Is it about achieving closeness with G-d? Reconciliation? Keeping G-d's presence in the Israelite camp? We explore all these avenues and Rabbi Bienenfeld brings some illuminating analogies, drawing from board games, barbecue and a recent article in the New Y... Read more

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March 5, 2019 34 min

For our first live show, we talked about the completion of the Tabernacle and the end of the Book of Exodus. We continue our discussion about creativity and get into why this is an appropriate place to end the book. Also... audience questions. To stay up to date and to comment on this week's episode, please Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/The-Portion-1840699399318632/?view_public_for=1840699399318632  And please ... Read more

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February 27, 2019 43 min

In this week's episode, we can't help but notice that the Torah portion of VaYakhel looks very similar to the earlier portion of Trumah. We talk about the nature of repetition and what we might learn from it. Also discussed: creativity, performance art, meditation and self help books (and Aaron's struggle to finish them). We also analyze the kiyor (or laver) in the Mishkan and what it tells us about the Jewish outlook on sexuality.... Read more

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February 20, 2019 56 min

This week, we die into - of all things - census counts. Why does the Torah tell the Israelites to give a half shekel as a way to count men for military service? What is the significance? Does it have some lesson for politics in modern America? We say yes. We also discuss the sin of the golden calf, one of the most shocking events in the Torah. To stay up to date and to comment on this week's episode, please Like us on Facebook... Read more

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February 12, 2019 42 min

In this week's episode, a look at the garb of the High Priest leads to a conversation about clothing and uniforms in general. It's a loose episode, that incorporates cultural references to the Beastie Boys and "Close Encounters" but also has lots of Torah insight into things like what clothing says about us, the position of the incense alter in the Mishkan, and the bells hanging from the priestly robes. Also, Aaron tells a story ab... Read more

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