Toledot 5769-2008

"The Blessings of a Tzaddik"

Isaac wants to bless his son Esau. Rebecca feels that Jacob is more deserving of the blessing. Does a tzaddik (a righteous person) really have the power to bestow blessings on others? Don't all blessings really belong to G-d?

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Toledot 5768-2007

"Esau's Loud and Bitter Cry"

When Esau realizes that he has been deceived of his blessing, he lets out a loud and bitter cry. Our commentators struggle to understand the cause and repercussions of this bitter cry. Some of the commentators suggest that all future generations pay for causing undue pain to Esau, expressed in his loud and bitter cry.

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Vayishlach 5766-2005

"When a Jew Comes to the City"

The arrival of a tribal family to an established culture, is always a challenging experience for the newcomers. When Jacob and his family arrive in Shechem, there are many adjustments that need to be made, both on the part of the new Jewish inhabitants and the native non-Jewish residents.

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Vayeira 5766-2005

"Confronting Adversity, Lessons from Father Isaac"

Especially when compared to the lives of the dynamic Abraham and Jacob, Isaac's life seems to be one of passivity and tragedy. And yet, with his unique ability to arise boldly from challenge and emerge from darkness, Isaac's life serves as a most valued example to his progeny. It is the model of Isaac that most closely parallels the history of the Jewish people.

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Vayishlach 5765-2004

"The Encounter"

The encounter between Jacob and Esau is often seen as a metaphor of the battle between Judaism and Rome (pagan or secular values). The battle may also be within the Jews themselves--to maintain the correct and valid interpretations of Torah and tradition.

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Vayishlach 5764-2003

"Who Was Esau?"

It's hard to imagine why there is an entire chapter of the Torah dedicated to the genealogy of the descendants of Esau, Jacob's wicked brother. Yet, a remarkable lesson is to be learned from this seemingly out-of-place chapter. Through the hints that are found in the text, a people is better understood, their way of life elucidated, and as a result, the worthiness of the nation of Jacob, that is the people of Israel, is underscored.

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Vayeitzei 5764-2003

"In Praise of Humility"

Perhaps, the greatness of Jacob, our forefather, lies in the fact that he recognized the need to "nullify" himself before G-d in order to come ever closer to Him. Humility, seeing who one really is in relation to G-d, and removing one's ego from the picture, is a trait that is aspired to in every generation by Jewish leaders and laymen alike.

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Vayishlach 5763-2002

"We Can Forgive the Arabs for Killing Our Children..."

As we delve into the study of Torah, we often find that seemingly insignificant verses in the Torah contain revolutionary insights about life. In 1972, Golda Meir made a widely acclaimed statement: We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but we can not forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. Who would ever imagine that our commentaries find a similar message in parashat Vayishlach?

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Vayeitzei 5763-2002

"The Transformation of Jacob"

At first glance, Jacob appears to be a congenital deceiver. He takes the birthright from his brother then steals Esau's blessing. Even Isaac describes the taking of the blessing by Jacob as an act of deception. Jacob however undergoes a transformation in which he realizes that evil cannot be deceived, but must be confronted directly. For this reason, Jacob is to be regarded as a particularly exalted figure, for teaching humankind how one is to deal with one's own shortcomings.

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Toledot 5762-2001

"The Deception of Isaac"

How is it possible that the great patriarch Isaac wished to give the blessing to his son Esau rather than to the more deserving Jacob? A possible approach to this quandary may be found in the suggestion that Isaac never intended to give the Abrahamitic blessing of inheriting the land of Canaan to Esau. What he merely wished to promise Esau was wealth, success in the field and dominion over his brothers. Rebecca, however, was unaware of Isaac's true intentions. Unfortunately, Rebecca is unable to approach Isaac directly, resorting to a clever plan in order to make certain that Esau does not receive the blessings of Jewish destiny.

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Vayishlach 5760-1999

"The Massacre of Shechem: Can it be justified?"

The rabbis have a hard time with the rape of Dinah and the massacre of the men of Shechem. They try valiantly to explain why Dinah was fated to suffer so horribly. They also debate whether the actions of Simeon and Levi can in any way be justified.

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Toledot 5760-1999

"A Lesson from Jacob and Esau: Understanding and Accepting Differences"

There are differences in children, and differences in parents' attitudes towards children. Some of the commentators note that the difficulties between Jacob and Esau may be due to the fact that not enough attention was paid to the innate differences in the childrens' natures, and that they were both given the same cookie-cutter educational experiences. There is a great price to pay for not recognizing each child's individual needs.

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