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Posts by David Ackerman

Parashat Va’era (Exodus 6:2-9:35)

“Plead with the Lord that there may be an end of God’s thunder and of hail. I will let you go; you need stay no longer” (Exodus 9:28). Parashat Va’era describes the first seven plagues God inflicts upon Pharaoh and Egypt. Each time Pharaoh refuses to free the Israelites, God sends another plague. When the … Continued

Parashat Sh’mot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

“A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph.” (Exodus 1:8) Parashat Sh’mot opens the second book of the Torah (also called Sh’mot) by describing Pharaoh’s enslavement of the Children of Israel. God’s choice of Moses to lead them to freedom provides a subtle continuity with the book of Genesis and offers a … Continued

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

“And Pharaoh said, ‘Go up and bury your father, as he made you promise on oath” (Genesis 50:6). Parashat Vayechi describes the end of the patriarchal era: Jacob blesses his sons and dies. Vayechi continues, saying, “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph still nurses hatred for us…’” … Continued

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

“I Myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I Myself will also bring you back; and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes” (Genesis 46:4). Jews throughout history have navigated life between two Biblical mandates: to go out into the world to be a blessing and a light unto the nations (Gen. 12:2 and … Continued

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

“The seven years of abundance that came to pass in the land of Egypt ended.” (Genesis 41:53) Parashat Miketz describes Joseph’s astonishing ascent from prisoner to power. Pharaoh appoints him second-in-command over all of Egypt, providing him with the clothing, ring, and chain that symbolize authority (Gen. 41:41-43). Pharaoh also bestows upon him an Egyptian … Continued

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

“Jacob rent his clothes, put sackcloth on his loins, and observed mourning for his son many days” (Genesis 37:34). Xenophobia is much in the news these days. Parashat Vayeshev, which introduces the Joseph saga, shows the ancient roots of the fear of the other. Joseph’s brothers sell him off to a caravan of Ishmaelites (or … Continued

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

“He set up an altar there, and called it El-Elohei-Yisrael.” (Genesis 33:20) Parashat Vayishlach describes Jacob’s journey home after twenty years. It unfolds in three dramatic episodes: his preparations for meeting Esau, his brother; the nighttime interlude in which he wrestles with a powerful stranger and receives a new name; and his reconciliation with Esau. … Continued

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