Parshat Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18)

“You shall not ill-treat any widow of orphan.” (Exodus 22:21) Parashat Yitro provides drama. Parashat Mishpatim provides details. It begins a section of the Torah known as sefer habrit, the Book of the Covenant and presents laws necessary for a just society. One section of sefer habrit lists punishments for causing bodily harm: “…the penalty […]

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

“So the people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was.” (Exodus 20:15) Parashat Yitro is the moment the Torah was written for. The Israelites are camped around the base of Mt. Sinai. The priests and the elders climb partway up the mountain, but no farther. Moses alone ascends to […]

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

“The Lord will battle for you; you hold your peace!” (Exodus 14:14) Parashat B’shalach describes Israel’s hasty departure from Egypt, Pharoah’s fevered pursuit, and God’s miraculous splitting of the sea and destruction of the Egyptian army.  In response, Moses leads the people in Shirat Hayam, the Song of the Sea.  (That is why this Shabbat […]

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

 “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a festival of the Lord.” (Exodus 13:6) Parashat Bo rachets up the drama of the plagues with locusts, darkness, and Pharoah’s continued intransigence.  Then God informs Moses of the final, awful plague.  But something curious happens: God interrupts the narrative […]

Parashat Va’era (Exodus 6:2-9:35)

“…I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements.” (Exodus 6:6) Parashat Va’era is better known than most because its contents are recounted each year at the Passover seder.  Moses’ request for and Pharoah’s refusal to let the Israelites worship God in the desert initiates the first seven of the ten plagues […]

Parashat Sh’mot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

“…She called his name Moses, as she said, ‘For I drew him from the water.’” (Exodus 2:10) Parashat Sh’mot opens the book of Exodus (which also is called Sh’mot in Hebrew) with the Israelites’ descent into misery and slavery.  It also introduces one of the Torah’s central characters: Moses.  The classic commentators remark on Moses’ […]

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

“Then Israel said to Joseph, “I am about to die, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers.”   (Genesis 48:21) Parashat Vayechi is the last parasha (portion) in the book of Genesis and brings to a close three nested story-cycles:  the epic of the patriarchs, the travails […]

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

“Joseph sustained his father, and his brothers, and all his father’s household with bread, down to the little ones.” (Gen. 47:12) Parashat Vayigash contains the denouement to the Joseph saga:  Joseph reveals himself to his brothers, they reconcile and return to Canaan to bring Jacob and the rest of the family down to Egypt, and […]

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

“And Pharoah removed his ring and placed it on Joseph’s hand…” (Genesis 41:42) Parashat Miketz describes Joseph’s rise from prisoner to Pharoah’s second-in-command.  Pharoah provides Joseph with the trappings of power and also bestows upon him an Egyptian name (Tsaf’nat Panei-ach) and an Egyptian wife (Asnat).  This makes Joseph one of the PEW Report’s 44%:  […]

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

“And when his master saw that the Lord was with him and  that the Lord lent success to everything he undertook. “ (Genesis 39:3) Parashat Vayeshev introduces the story of Joseph and his brothers.  On the surface, it’s a tale of sibling rivalry.  Underneath, it’s a parable about leadership.  It chronicles not only the beginning […]

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