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

“Jacob called the name of the place P’niel: ‘for I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved’.” (Genesis 32:31) Parashat Vayishlach is filled with suspense.  Jacob is returning home to Canaan from Charan.  Along the way, he encounters an anonymous man who turns out to be an angel.  Jacob wrestles with […]

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

“He came upon a certain place and stopped there for the night, for the sun had set.  Taking one of the stones of that place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place.”  (Genesis 28:11)   The repetition of the word hinei, behold, is a clue to the importance of the […]

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

“When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the>outdoors; but Jacob was a mild man who stayed in camp.” (Genesis 25:27) Parashat Toldot repeats the Genesis motif of families in conflict.  Rebecca gives birth to Esau and Jacob, children with very different personalities.  Isaac has his favorite (Esau) and Rebecca […]

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

“Thus the field with its cave passed from the Hittites to Abraham, as a burial site.” (Genesis 23:20) Parashat Chayei Sarah opens with Sarah’s death.  Abraham approaches the local community to purchase a burial plot for her.  In the opening parley, Abraham refers to himself as a ger toshav, a resident alien (Gen. 23:4), even […]

Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-24)

“Then an angel of the Lord called to him from heaven: “Abraham! Abraham! And he answered, “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:11) Parashat Vayera includes the powerful and difficult story of the akedah (the Binding of Isaac).  Most commentators focus on Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a demonstration of his great faith in […]

Parashat Lekh Lekha (Genesis 12:1-17:27)

“For I give all the land that you see to you and your offspring forever. “ (Genesis 13:15) “If at first you don’t succeed, try try again” describes God’s situation this week. The ideal of the Garden of Eden is a bust and the plan to partner with all humanity ends in failure, too. Still, […]

Parashat Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32)

“This is the line of Noach.  Noach was a righteous man; blameless in his age; Noach walked with God.”  (Genesis 6:9) Parashat Noach tells the story of the end of one world and the beginning of another; it is the bridge connecting the two.  God destroys the pre-Noah world because it is immoral.  This destruction […]

Parashat B’reishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)

“A river issues forth from Eden to water the garden, and from there it is divided and becomes four headwaters.”  (Genesis 2:10) Volume VII of The Melton Center for Jewish Education in the Diaspora’s series in Jewish Education explores the origins of Jewish educational institutions.  It is instructive to know how things begin and often […]

Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot (Intermediate Shabbat of Sukkot) (Exodus 33:12-34:26)

“You shall make the festival of weeks with the first offering of the wheat harvest and the festival of the harvest shall be at the changing of the year.”  (Ex.  24:22) Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi (1932–2009; professor of Jewish History at Harvard and Columbia University) asserts the Jewish people remembers through re-enactment.  So on Sukkot, we […]

Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:1-16:34)

“It is a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you shall afflict yourselves; an eternal decree.” (Leviticus 16:31) The Torah reading for Yom Kippur describes the ritual for purification of the mishkan (tabernacle).  The Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, takes two identical goats, and casts lots to determine their fates.  One goat is sacrificed […]