Torah Thursdays

Torah Thursdays with Rabbi Harley Karz-Wagman 
at Mt. Sinai Synagogue  2610 Pioneer Ave. 

Thursdays – Noon – bring your own brown bag lunch 


For the most current listings of where we are in the Torah "scroll" (your screen) down to the bottom of the page.

Starts 11/03/2011 (Cheshvan 6, 5772)  with Rabbi Harley Karz-Wagman Join in a lively exploration of the core texts of the Jewish people.  A working knowledge of Hebrew is not necessary to have meaningful participation in this group.  Most of the reading and discussions will be in English with references to specific Hebrew words or phrases.  Texts for these sessions are available at the meetings.  You are welcome to bring your own if you wish.  Topics will vary depending of the specific interests of the participants. Meet in Social Hall, unless otherwise specified. No fees.  No prerequisites.  Donations encouraged. See Mt. Sinai's website for further details.

The first session was B'reishit (aka Genesis 1:1-5) held on Tuesday October 25, 2011 (Tishrei 27, 5772), but after discussion with those present and in consideration of those who were known to want to attend, but couldn't,
Rabbi Harley Karz-Wagman decided to have this group meet on Thursdays instead of Tuesdays.   This study group now "book ends" the "
Bibles and Burgers" as well as the "Bibles and Beer" study groups on Mondays actually fitting the days of the work week when Torah is studied in larger communities.  Mondays and Thursdays were when people would come to town for the traditional "market days" in Jewish communities in the days before refrigeration and by custom still are in many parts of the world.  Since more people were in town on those days, under Ezra the Scribe, Torah reading became customary for those days in addition to Shabbat (The Sabbath).  The change from Tuesdays to Thursdays is not only an homage to that tradition/custom, but  also removed the scheduling conflict with the monthly Cheyenne Interfaith Council Meetings, as well as provides a couple of days in between it and the "Bibles and Burgers" as well as the "Bibles and Beer" study sessions for those who desire to participate in more than one study group. 

This study group will be looking at the texts from a variety of Jewish perspectives facilitated by the Rabbi.  One does not need to be Jewish to participate (and enjoy) Torah Thursdays.  For those who are not familiar with Jewish approaches to these texts it will be an opportunity to engage in study and dialogue from perspectives few outside of the Jewish community are familiar with.  For Jews who participate, it will be a chance to deepen their understanding of Torah from within their own traditions.  So far, participants from a variety of faith traditions have enjoyed and found meaningful this opportunity to study with Cheyenne's Torah Scholar in Residence.

The Torah is the first five "books" of the TaNaKh (Torah, Nivim, Ketivim - see below for further information).   In Jewish traditions there are prescribed cycles of reading (studying) it.   This group will not be specifically following that order of readings mainly to allow time to explore what is being read in a manner which fits the needs of the participants. "Ben Bag-Bag used to say of the Torah: Turn it and turn it again, for everything is in it. Pore over it, and wax gray and old over it. Stir not from it for you can have no better rule than it."  - from Pirke Avot 5:25 in the Talmud.

For those who are interested, here is a link to the common order for public reading of Torah in synagogues around the world. Out of respect for the traditions which these sacred texts come from, calendar dates on this page feature both the common Gregorian Calendar as well as the Jewish Lunar Calendar.  Likewise for those who are interested in following along in the Hebrew, hyperlinks have been added to  the week to week selections (as transliterated Hebrew using English orthography) found on this page.   

Example: B'reishit   

These links point to "Navigating the Bible II - online bar/bat mitzvah tutor" provided as a free service from
World O.R.T.  These links allow the user to see the section of "Torah Thursdays" group is studying in Hebrew (with and without vowels and cantillation [trope] marks), in transliteration, with a translation to English, and audio links permitting one to listen to how that section is chanted using Sephardic Jewish pronunciations.  Unlike nusach, the trope does not change with seasons or holy days.  Since a single  parsha (portion) may be divided up among several weeks in this group, even if the highlighted link is the same word as the previous week, it will point to date associated with this group's study and there for is different in each week's listing unless the exact same set of verses is being studied for more than one week.  

B'reishit (Genesis 1:1-5) held on Tuesday October 25, 2011 (Tishrei 27, 5772) and 
B'reishit (Genesis 1:6) held on  Tuesday November 3, 2011(Cheshvan 6, 5772) both list "B'reishit" but the hyperlinks actually point to different specific lines of Torah pertaining to the ones studied by the Torah Thursdays group for those specific dates.

It is hoped that the inclusion of these links will deepen the experience, understanding, context, and enjoyment in studying these sacred texts.

Webmaster's Note: As discussed at the "Bibles and Beer" gathering on 9-26-2011, referring to the Hebrew Bible (Jewish Bible) as the "Old Testament" is a specifically Christian label which not only does not convey the full sanctity of these texts as they are held by the people from which they originate, but historically has been part of the contextualization of them being something other than currently relevant. For sake of inclusiveness, so that no one from any faith tradition should feel marginalized or that their sacred texts are treated with anything other than sincere respect, as much as possible we are going to refer to what is commonly referred to by Christians as the "Old Testament" as the "Hebrew Bible, Jewish Bible, or Tanakh." When we get to the books that were added by and are common to all of Christianity, we will refer to them as the "Christian Scriptures, Gospels, Epistles, etc." The other books which occur between these two biblical canons we will refer to as "Apocrypha" as they are labeled by the traditions which embrace them. While this may seem like "political correctness" or "mere semantics" to some, it in fact is simply being accurate and precise in describing these sacred texts. For more information about why the people who carried forward these Biblical stories for about 2,000 years before the beginning of Christianity call these texts the "TaNaKh" and how that canon is organized, please view the video below as well as explore the links which follow it. Shalom, Salaam, Peace.

The full course can be found here:

Christine Hayes is Professor of Religious Studies in Classical Judaica. Before joining the Yale faculty in 1996, she was Assistant Professor of Hebrew Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University for three years. A specialist in talmudic-midrashic studies, Hayes offers undergraduate courses on the literature and history of the biblical and talmudic periods (including Introduction to the "Old Testament"/Hebrew Bible and Introduction to Judaism).

Diagrams illustrating the timeline and books of the HB/"OT":

Here is a link to where you can find an online Hebrew - English Bible According to the Masoretic Text (1917 JPS [Jewish Publication Society] edition) which is a start, but should be read with the caution that the JPS edition from the 1980's is considered a superior translation and has the benefit of information from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were not available in 1917.

For additional information also please see

OMG!!!! September 26, 2011 (Elul 27, 5771) GOOGLE and Israel Museum publish Dead Sea Scrolls online

"Most Ancient Hebrew Biblical Inscription Deciphered, Scholar Says"

Here's an interesting fragment which comes awful close to being "older than dirt."
 Click on the picture above to learn more about it.  What do you think?

For anyone who would like to read some of Rabbi Harley Karz-Wagman's teachings about various Torah portions, some may be found at the Rabbi's Page of the Mt. Sinai Synagogue website.

Here is "Genesis" scribed on an egg. What does this image mean to you?

There was some interest expressed in having links to other creation accounts that pre-date the Hebrew text and culture. Per the request of the group, here are some links for anyone who is interested in learning more about this topic. They are being presented without endorsement or debate so that anyone who is unfamiliar of their existence can be introduced to them.

Find this page more easily with your mobile device:
We start here with "A beginning".

Thursday November 3, 2011 (Cheshvan 6, 5772) Noon, at Mt. Sinai Synagogue the study group will continue with the Second Day of Creation B'reishit (Genesis 1:6) and see how far the group gets. 

Thursday November 10, 2011 (Cheshvan 13, 5772) Noon, at Mt. Sinai Synagogue the study group will continue with "Cain and Abel" B'reishit (Genesis 4:1) and see how far the group gets. 

Thursday November 17, 2011 (Cheshvan 20, 5772) Noon, at Mt. Sinai Synagogue the study group will continue with "Man began to increase on the face of the earthB'reishit (Genesis 6:1) and see how far the group gets. 

Thursday November 24, 2011 It's Thanksgiving Day, we're not meeting this week, see you next week.  Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday December 1, 2011 (Kislev 5, 5772) Noon, at Mt. Sinai Synagogue the study group will continue with "NoahNoach (Genesis 6:9) and see how far the group gets.

Thursday December 8, 2011 (Kislev 12, 5772) Noon, at Mt. Sinai Synagogue the study group will continue with "Life after the floodNoach (Genesis 9:1) and see how far the group gets.

Thursday December 15, 2011 (Kislev 19, 5772) Noon, at Mt. Sinai Synagogue the study group will continue with "Go away from your landLech Lecha (Genesis 12:1) and see how far the group gets.

25 Kislev - Happy Hanukkah 

Thursday December 22, 2011 (Kislev 26, 5772 - second day of Hanukkah) Noon, at Mt. Sinai Synagogue the study group will continue with "Abram and the Kings of the PlainsLech Lecha (Genesis 14:1) and see how far the group gets.

Thursday December 29, 2011 (Tevet 3, 5772) Noon, at Mt. Sinai Synagogue the study group will continue with "Sarai, Hagar, and IshmaelLech Lecha (Genesis 16:1) and see how far the group gets.

Happy New Year everyone.  Here's a link to an interesting interfaith discussion about:  The Pursuit and Practice of Happiness Is an Awareness of the Suffering and Pleasure of OthersMay you find it an interesting way to start the new year.

Thursday January 5, 2012 (Tevet 10, 5772)  Noon, at Mt. Sinai Synagogue the study group will continue with "Berit Milah" (The Covenant of the Cut)  Lech Lecha ( picking up from Genesis 17:1) and see how far the group gets. Rabbi Harley Karz-Wagman is away this week.  The discussion facilitator this week is Wyoming's only mohel and member of the Mt. Sinai Synagogue Ritual and Liturgy Committee,  Jason Bloomberg MD.   Here is a link to a PDF of supplemental notes about Berit Milah which is a major theme in Genesis 17.  If you do decide to download and print this document, please be mindful that some of the text within it contains the Divine Name and therefore should be handled appropriately.  


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