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 […]

Parashat Vayeitzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3)

“And if I return safe to my father’s house—the Lord shall be my God.” (Genesis 28:21) Parashat Vayetzei describes Jacob’s flight from Canaan to his uncle Lavan in Haran. Following his epiphany at Beth El (the dream scene with the ladder and angels) he enters a situation new for him, but familiar to us, and […]

Parashat Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:8)

“When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb.” (Genesis 25:24) Parashat Toldot tells a familiar tale of familial conflict. Rebecca gives birth to Esau and Jacob, boys with very different personalities. Isaac favors Esau; Rebecca prefers Jacob. The sibling rivalry comes to a climax when Jacob, at Rebecca’s […]

Parashat Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18)

“And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac.” (Genesis 25:5) Parashat Chayei Sarah declares “And Abraham was old, and come into days, and God blessed Abraham bakol, in all.” (Gen. 24:1) It’s a little surprising to read because the first Jewish family is a mess: Isaac and Abraham have not spoken since returning from […]

Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-24)

“…Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25) Parashat Vayera tells the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and introduces an important concept in Jewish thought: z’chut, or merit. Abraham distinguishes himself from Noah by challenging God’s plan and holding God accountable to a moral code. Abraham advocates for […]

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