Getting ready for Sinai

Shabbat Shalom! As Shabbat concludes we have the special opportunity to go from kodesh to kodesh, holy to holy, as Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, commences. Our tradition teaches that on Shavuot our people stood at Mt. Sinai and established the communal covenant with God as a community for the first time. The Torah is the evidence of this sacred relationship.

This week I had opportunity to summarize each Torah portion in just a few words. So, I am re-posting that effort here because you may learn something and want to study a little bit more. Feel free to ask me questions, too. The audience for this list were 5th graders by the way.


Bereshit – Two creation stories, Garden of Eden

Noach – Story of Noah and the flood, Tower of Babel

Lech L’cha – Meet Abram, the first Jew. Hagar has a son. The making of the covenant

Vayera – Sarah finds out she will have a child. Story of Sodom and Gemorrah. Binding of Isaac

Chayei Sarah – Sarah dies. Abraham makes arrangements for a wife for Isaac

Toldot – Jacob and Esau are born. Sibling rivalry

Vayetze – Jacob leaves home and goes to his uncle’s. Jacob’s ladder. The first stories about Jacob’s growing family.

Vayishlach – Jacob and Esau reunite. The bad situation with Dina. Rachel dies as does Isaac.

Vayeishev – The beginning of the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Miketz – The end of the musical mentioned above. Joseph sees his brother’s again.

Vayigash – Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and the family reunites in Egypt

Vayehi – Recounting of Jacob’s life and his final blessings to his children.


Shemot – We meet Moses. Moses grows up an Egyptian prince. Moses does something bad. Moses flees and meets God for the first time at a bush that is on fire but is not consumed.

Vaeira – God and Moses make some arrangements. Moses goes to Pharaoh and says, “Let my people go!” plagues begin

Bo – Plagues continue. The Israelites get out of Egypt

Beshallach – the crossing of the Sea of Reeds, the people are really free!

Yitro – The Israelites get to Mt. Sinai and the 10 commandments are given.

Mishpatim – lots and lots of laws are given in this Torah portion

Teruma – Instructions to build the Mishkan, the tabernacle, are given in detail (dolphin skins included!)

Tetzaveh – the clothes the priests will wear are described in detail here

Ki Tissa – Aaron and some Israelites build the Golden Calf, bad idea.

Vayakhel-Pekudei – Reminders to observe Shabbat, the building of the Mishkan is completed. God’s presence fills the space at the conclusion of this book of Torah.


Vayikra – the beginnings of the sacrificial cult, the way the Israelites are going to worship God are described

Tzav – more sacrifice descriptions and the details of the ordination of the priests (Aaron and his sons)

Shemini – Beginning of the usage of the altar for sacrifices. Two of Aaron’s sons get in big trouble for not following directions

Tazria-Metzora – purification rituals are described and biblical medical treatments, too

Acharei Mot-Kedoshim – Laws of Yom Kippur and how the Israelites are going to be a holy community are included here

Emor – Holiday observances are detailed

Behar-Behukotai – Laws of sabbatical and jubilee years and a lot of rewards and punishments for following rules


B’midbar – a big census

Naso – some unique rituals included here, including the laws of the Nazarite

Beha’alotecha – setting up the menorah, 2nd Passover, and some complaining and speaking ill of others

Sh’lach Lecha – 12 spies are sent out to check out the land of Israel. Their report has important consequences

Korach – Korach leads a rebellion against Moses and Aaron

Chukat – Red heifer ritual, Miriam dies, Moses gets angry and strikes a rock. Aaron dies.

Balak – Balak wants to curse the Israelites, it doesn’t work out the way he thinks and includes a talking donkey

Pinhas – Zealousness is brought out here. Inheritance for woman is a big issue, offerings for holidays, too.

Mattot-Masei – laws about vows and who the arch-enemies of the Israelites are. Distribution of land and the inheritance for woman issue is reprised


Devarim – Moses reminds the people of their journeys in the wilderness

V’etchanan – Moses reminds the people of the rules. The Shema and V’ahavta are in this Torah portion, too

Eikev – Moses is still talking. Reminders of the special relationship mGod the Israelites possess and some of the experiences since Egypt

Re’eh – Israelites have some choices, a life of blessings or curses. Review of kosher laws.

Shoftim – Judicial procedures and laws of war

Ki Teitze – a cool mixture of 72 different commandments

Ki Tavo – foreshadowing the Israelites’ life in the land of Israel

Nitavim-Vayelech – We are reminded to choose life and that the covenant is with us, too. Moses calls the people together to hear his final poem.

Ha’azinu – Moses’s final poem.

V’zot Habracha – The end of the Torah. Moses dies.

About rabbisteinman

I am a rabbi living in North America. I was ordained from HUC-JIR. This is my blog.
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