Parashat Yitro (Exodus 18:1-2:23)

“Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods, yes, by the result of their very schemes against the people.” (Exodus 18:11) Parashat Yitro contains two stories. The first is a family reunion, when Yitro (a Midianite priest and Moses’ father-in-law) joins the Israelites. The second is the revelation at Mt. Sinai. Aviva […]

Parashat B’shalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)

“When the fall of dew lifted, there over the surface of the wilderness, lay a fine and flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground.” (Exodus 16:114) Parashat B’shalach open with God’s splitting the Reed Sea to deliver the Israelites from slavery to freedom. However, this peak moment of exultation (“The Lord is my […]

Parashat Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

“Are you not yet aware that Egypt is lost?” Exodus 10:7 At the beginning of Parashat Bo, Pharoah’s advisors beseech him to recognize his defeat and accept the Israelite request to leave Egypt. Pharoah refuses and continues his shortsighted and stubborn ways, refusing to succumb until God sends the tenth plague (the killing of the […]

Parashat Va’era (Exodus 6:2-9:35)

“The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Go and tell Pharoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites depart from his land.’” (Exodus 6:10, 11) Parashat Va’era opens with a crisis. Moses’ initial attempt to liberate the Israelites fails: Pharoah refuses to acknowledge God’s sovereignty, the Israelite slaves are punished with harsher conditions, and they, in […]

Parashat Sh’mot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

“Come, therefore, I will send you to Pharoah and you shall free my people, the Israelites, from Egypt.” (Exodus 3:10) Parashat Sh’mot opens the book of Exodus (which also is called Sh’mot in Hebrew) with the Israelite’s descent into slavery and misery. It also punctures the myth of the “Great Man” theory of history (in […]

Parashat Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26)

“And Joseph called to his sons and said,’ Come together that I may tell you what is to befall you in days to come.’” (Genesis 49:1) Parashat Vayechi is the last parasha (portion) in the book of Genesis. It concludes the story-cycle of Joseph and his brothers. Much of the parasha is taken up with Jacob’s […]

Parashat Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27)

“’Enough!’ said Israel. ‘My son Joseph is still alive! I must go and see him before I die.’” (Genesis 45:28) Parashat Vayigash opens with Judah begging Joseph to take him as a slave instead of Benjamin for stealing Joseph’s silver goblet. Convinced his brothers have indeed done t’shuva, repentence, for selling him into slavery, Joseph […]

Parashat Miketz (Genesis 41:1 – 44:17)

“Pharoah said to Joseph, ‘I am Pharoah; yet without you, no one shall lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.’” (Genesis 41:44) Parashat Miketz is the original Saturday-afternoon-matinee-action-thriller with lots of cliffhangers. Joseph rises from the prison to the palace. The famine he predicts drives his brothers down to Egypt to […]

Parashat Vayeshev (Genesis 37:1-40:23)

“Now Jacob was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan.” (Genesis 37:1) Why is there is so much bad behavior between relatives in the book of Genesis? Daniel Elazar (1934-1999; a leading political scientist and specialist in the study of the Jewish political tradition) explains: the Torah is a […]

Parashat Vayishlach (Genesis 32:4-36:43)

“Please accept my present, which has been brought to you, for God has favored me and I have plenty. And when he urged him, he accepted.” (Genesis 33:11) Parashat Vayishlach is a nail-biter. Jacob returns home to Canaan and encounters his brother Esau. Jacob is nervous, with good reason; he stole Esau’s blessing twenty years […]

Listen. Do you hear what I hear? Something is happening at JCCs -- and it goes like this. Sounding Board