Vayeitzei 5783-2022

“The Transformation of Jacob”
(updated and revised from Vayeitzei 5763-2002)

At first glance, Jacob appears to be a congenital deceiver. He takes the birthright from his brother then steals Esau's blessing. Even Jacob’s father, 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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Kee Tavo 5782-2022

“Watch Out for Laban, He’s More Dangerous than Pharaoh!”
(updated and revised from Kee Tavo 5763-2003)

As part of the Bikkurim declaration, the celebrants stated that, "An Aramean tried to destroy my father." The Torah thus sees the Aramean, Laban, as more dangerous than Pharaoh. The fact that Pharaoh wants to do us in, is well known, so we can be on our guard. Our brother Laban, however, the wily Aramean, is always out there waiting for us, feigning love, conspiring to defeat us. We need to always be on watch for him.

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Vayechi 5782-2021

“The Debate: Burial in the Land of Israel”
(updated and revised from Vayechi 5762-2001)

In parashat Vayechi, both Jacob and Joseph request to be buried in the land of Israel rather than in Egypt. The Midrash Rabbah records a major debate between the sages regarding whether being buried in the land of Israel for someone who lived in galut is good or bad. The Abarbanel seems to assert that only those people who lived righteous lives outside of Israel are entitled to be buried in Israel, otherwise their bodies defile the land.

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Devarim 5781-2021

“Judging Our People Favorably”
(Updated and revised from Devarim 5762-2002)

The powerful words of Isaiah in this week's Haftarah resound today with surprising relevance, as if they were pronounced only yesterday. Despite Isaiah's harsh assessment of the people, we, like the prophet of old, need to look upon the people of Israel and judge them favorably. After all, contemporary Jews face similar challenges to those of the ancients, and need to be judged favorably as well.

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Vayakhel-Pekudei 5781-2021

“The Original Jewish Renewal Movement”
(Updated and revised from Vayakhel-Pekudei 5762-2002)

On the Sabbath prior to the new month of Nissan, a portion known as Parashat Hachodesh is read, announcing the arrival of the new month of Nissan, the first month of the calendar year. Nissan is the month of redemption and salvation. It is a time when the Jewish people burst forth from darkness and despair to allow the glory of G-d to shine forth. This is the original Jewish renewal movement.

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Vayechi 5781-2021

“Revealing the Time of the Coming of the End of Days”
(Updated and revised from parashat Vayechi 5761-2001)

Parashat Vayechi is the only Torah parasha that has no empty spaces between the beginning of the new parasha and the end of the previous week's parasha. Vayechi is consequently considered a "sealed" parasha. The rabbis say that the reason the parasha is sealed is because Jacob wished to reveal when the end of days would be--when the Messiah would arrive. G-d, however, did not agree that Jacob should reveal this information. The frequent contemporary attempts to calculate the Messiah’s arrival raises many questions. The Malbim offers an engaging response.

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Vayeishev 5780-2019

“The Coming of Age of Joseph: from Lad to Bechor”
(edited and revised from Vayeishev 5760-1999)

When first introduced to Joseph, we are told that he is 17 years old and a lad. It is Joseph’s struggle to mature andbecome less self-centered that is the real story behind the story of Joseph. Joseph eventually overcomes his immaturity and vindictiveness. He becomes a person of compassion and forgiveness, no longer the self-centered teenager who sees the world only through his own eyes. Joseph emerges as the bechor, the firstborn, and the rightful heir of Israel.

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Mikeitz 5779-2018

"Why Did You Treat Me So Badly"

There was but a single instance in Jacob’s life where he complained to G-d about being treated badly. Jacob’s faithful attitude teaches the importance of having faith in G-d at all times, and that even in times of darkness, we must look forward to the dawning of a beautiful sun-filled tomorrow.

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