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Posts by David Ackerman

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

“The length of time that the Israelites lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.” (Exodus 12:40) Parashat Bo describes the final two plagues, darkness and the slaying of the Egyptian first-born, the last of which causes Pharaoh to capitulate, finally, and release the Israelites from slavery. As they prepare to leave, they follow … Continued

Parashat Va’era(Exodus 6:2-9:35)

“Then the magicians said unto Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God…’” (Exodus 8:19) Parashat Va’era pits God’s might against Pharaoh’s stubbornness.  The first several plagues convince Pharaoh’s sorcerers to give up their wands (Ex. 8:19), but Pharaoh remains resolute. Moses tries to warn Pharaoh of God’s power.  He and Aaron go to the palace … Continued

Parashat Sh’mot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

“God said to Moses in Midian, “Go, return to Egypt, for all the people who seek your life have died.”  (Exodus 4:19) Parashat Sh’mot is the first parasha, or portion, in the book of Exodus.  It describes the abrupt change in status of the Children of Israel while in Egypt and narrates the precipitating event: … Continued

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

“Jacob was told, “Behold!-Your son Joseph has come to you.” So Israel exerted himself and sat up in bed.” (Genesis 48:2) Jacob dies a good death in Parashat Vayechi. Or does he? Jacob lives in Goshen seventeen years in good enough health until now. Surrounded by his sons and grandsons, he manages a final word … Continued

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

“…Thus the total of Jacob’s household who came to Egypt was seventy persons.” (Genesis 46:19) Parashat Vayigash describes Joseph’s emotional reconciliation with his brothers who then return to Canaan to tell Jacob, their father, the good news. Jacob is overjoyed to learn Joseph is still alive and leaves Canaan for Egypt. And the first exile … Continued

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

“Joseph said to Pharaoh, “The dream of Pharaoh is a single one; what God is about to do, He has told to Pharaoh.” (Genesis 41:25) Something astonishing happens in Parashat Miketz. It’s not Pharaoh’s dreams of fat and skinny cows or healthy and withered stalks of grain. Nor is it the cupbearer’s recommendation of Joseph … Continued

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

“Once Joseph had a dream which he told to his brothers and they hated him even more.” (Genesis 37:5) Parashat Vayeishev introduces the saga of Joseph and his brothers, the longest narrative in the Torah. It is dramatic and suspenseful. It’s easy to read it as one more cautionary tale of sibling rivalry (don’t the … Continued

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

“God said to him, “You whose name is Jacob, you shall be called Jacob no more, but Israel shall be your name.” (Genesis 35:10) Parashat Vayishlach is pretty suspenseful: Jacob is set to meet his brother Esau after twenty years. He’s worried Esau still wants to kill him for stealing his blessing, so he prepares … Continued

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

“And Jacob went out from Beer Sheva and went toward Haran.” (Genesis 28:10) Why are Jews called Jews (as opposed to Reubenites, or Levites, or Benjaminites)? Parashat Vayeitzei provides one answer. Jacob flees from Canaan to escape his brother’s Esau’s anger and arrives in Haran, where his uncle Lavan lives. Jacob spends the next twenty … Continued

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

“But the children struggled in her womb , and she said, ”If so, why do I exist?” and she went to inquire of God. ” (Genesis 25:22) Parashat Toldot introduces Jacob’s and Rachel’s twin sons, Esau and Jacob, who become archetypes for evil and good, respectively. This is surely a rabbinic construction; there’s nothing in … Continued

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