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Posts by David Ackerman

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

“So Jacob lifted his feet and went toward the land of the easterners.” (Genesis 29:1) 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 vows, “…this stone which I have set up as a pillar shall … Continued

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

“Isaac’s servants dug in the valley and found there a well of fresh water.” (Genesis 26:19) Parashat Toldot reads like a soap-opera: parents play favorites with their children, spouses conspire, and brothers end up estranged. It’s no wonder the Rachel-versus-Isaac-and-Jacob-versus-Esau drama draws everybody’s attention. Nechama Leibowitz (1905-1997; scholar who revolutionized the teaching of the weekly … Continued

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

“Sarah’s lifetime—the span of Sarah’s life—came to one hundred and twenty-seven years.” (Genesis 23:1) Parashat Chayei Sarah describes a family in distress: Sarah dies in the second verse and Abraham and Isaac have not spoken since returning from Mt. Moriah. After Sarah is buried, the text discloses Isaac has settled in a place called B’er … Continued

Parashat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-22:24)

“Arise, lift up the youth and grasp your hand upon him, for I will make a great nation of him.” (Genesis 21:18) Parashat Vayeira never changes from year to year: Abraham always invites strangers into his tent, Sodom and Gemorah always get destroyed, and Isaac always almost gets sacrificed. But the week in which Vayeira … Continued

Parashat Lekh Lekha (Genesis 12:1-17:2)

“And there was a famine in the land and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was grievous in the land.” (Genesis 12:10) The Torah is a sacred text that uses literary techniques to comment on the nature of the world. Parashat Lekh Lekha offers a particularly interesting example of foreshadowing, … Continued

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

“The Lord descended to look at the city and tower which the sons of man had built” (Genesis 11:5). Parashat Noach closes with the Tower of Babel story. It is read both as a parable of the consequences of human arrogance as well as an anti-technology allegory. Rabbi Shai Held (1971- ; scholar, theologian and … Continued

Parashat B’reishit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)

“The Lord God called out to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:9) Parashat B’reishit describes the creation of the world. The foundation stone of the entire Jewish interpretive tradition is found within that description. An omnipotent God could create the world in any number of ways: with a mere thought … Continued

Parashat V’zot Hab’racha (Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12)

“He became King over Y’shurun when the numbers of the nation gathered – the tribes of Israel in unity” (Deuteronomy 33:5). V’zot Ha’bracha, the last parasha, or portion, in the Torah, is read only on Simchat Torah. It comprises two sections: Moses’ final blessing of the Israelites and the description of his death. Moses’ blessing … Continued

Parashat Ha-azinu (Deuteronomy 32:1-32:52)

“Like an eagle arousing its nest/Hovering over its young, Spreading His and taking them/Carrying them on His pinions.” (Deuteronomy 32:11) Parashat Ha-azinu is the last parasha (portion) to be read on a regular Shabbat morning. That is because V’zot Habracha, the last parasha of the Torah, is read only on Simchat Torah. Ha-azinu includes soaring … Continued

Parashat Vayelech (Deuteronomy 31:1-31:30)

“And the Lord is Who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not fail you or forsake you. Fear not and be not dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) Parashat Vayelech begins the end. Moses knows he will die shortly so he writes out all the laws in Deuteronomy and passes them on to … Continued