Pinchas 5781-2021

"Loving the Land of Israel”
(updated and revised from Pinchas 5762-2002)

In parashat Pinchas we read about the five trail-blazing daughters of Tzelafchad who approach Moses claiming legal rights to their deceased father's property in the land of Israel. The Al-mighty rewards the women's passionate commitment to Israel by declaring that the daughters shall inherit their father's land. How does Tzelafchad's daughters' great love of Zion compare with contemporary Jewry's, at best, casual commitment to the State of Israel?

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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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Vayigash 5781-2020

“Joseph Helps His Brothers Repent”
(updated and revised from Vayigash 5761-2001)

Why did Joseph have to be so cruel to his brothers? Joseph apparently felt that it was necessary to put his brothers through an agonizing test in order to determine whether his brothers were truly Ba'alei T'shuva--fully penitent. Joseph brilliantly recreates the circumstances where Benjamin is now in the exact position that Joseph was in when he was thrown in to the pit by his brothers and sold to the Ishmaelites. Will the brothers this time stand up for Benjamin, or will they abandon the lad, as they did Joseph?

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Vayeishev 5781-2020

“Judah, The Paradigm for Jewish Future”
(Updated and revised from Vayeishev 5762-2001)

The two words that Judah utters, צָדְקָה מִמֶּנִּי--"Tzad'kah mee'meh'nee"--“she [Tamar] is more righteous than I,” when he admits that he impregnated his daughter-in-law, Tamar, changes not only the course of history for Judah, but the entire destiny of the Jewish people. It may very well be the reason that, at least in part, our people are called "Jews" because of the profound act of penitence of our forefather, Judah.

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Vayechi 5780-2020

"The Critical Importance of Timing"
(updated and revised from Vayechi 5760-1999)

When blessing his children, Jacob says of Reuben that he has all the natural advantages of the firstborn child in rank and in power. Retreating suddenly, Jacob declares that Reuben is impetuous like water and therefore cannot be the foremost. As we study the actions, deeds and words of Reuben, we find that he is a good person, who is extremely good-hearted and well-intentioned. Reuben is always ready to do the right thing. Unfortunately, his timing is off, intending to do the right thing, but at the wrong time. As important as actions and words are, timing is at least as critical.

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Vayigash 5780-2019

“The Reunion of Jacob & Joseph: An Immortal Lesson about Love”
(updated and revised from Vayigash 5760-1999)

After 22 years of mourning for his lost son, the rabbis state that when Jacob and Joseph are reunited, Jacob could not kiss his son because he was reciting the Shema prayer. What was the reason for Jacob’s odd behavior? Couldn’t he have prayed before or after the reunion with his son?

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Mikeitz 5780-2019

“Who is Osenath the wife of Joseph?”
(Updated and revised from Mikeitz 5760-1999)

The Midrash relates that Dina, who was raped by Shechem, gave birth to a child, Osenath. This child, who was driven from Jacob’s home, is eventually adopted by Potiphar and his wife. Despite the terrible tragedy, Dina’s daughter, Osenath, marries Joseph and becomes the progenitor of two tribes of Israel--Ephraim and Menashe. It is Osenath, the secret heroine, who raises these two children, and keeps them from assimilating in Egypt.

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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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Vayigash 5779-2018

“The Innocent Victim”

When Joseph asked, "Is my father still alive?" he was asking his brothers how could they have been so unconcerned for the feelings of their poor father Jacob, who for 22 years, was inconsolable over the loss of Joseph.

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Vayigash 5778-2017

“Jacob’s Enhanced Joy from Joseph His Righteous Son”

Jacob’s reunion with his beloved son Joseph, after a separation of 22 years, was enhanced by the knowledge that Joseph had remained true to his faith during that long separation from his family.

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Vayigash 5777-2017

“No ‘Man’ was with Joseph”

Why does Scripture emphasize twice that no man (“Ish”)stood with Joseph when he revealed himself to his brothers?

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Vayeishev 5777-2016

“The Voice Within Us”

At the moment of supreme passion, when Joseph was about to yield to the temptations of Potiphar’s wife, the vision of Jacob appears before his eyes, causing Joseph to flee from seduction. Those visions and voices of parents or influential role models are available to all who need help during times of challenge.

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Vayigash 5776-2015

“Joseph’s Intense Economic Policies”

Joseph, now the viceroy of Egypt, proves himself to be an astute administrator, nationalizing untold wealth to benefit Pharaoh’s monarchy. Could it be that Joseph’s harsh actions led to the eventual enslavement of the Jews in later years, and provided much fodder (although unjustified) to many future generations of anti-Semites?

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Vayeishev 5776-2015

“The Rise and Fall and Rise of Joseph”

The story of Joseph is not a simplistic narrative. It is a profound handbook of life’s lessons and meanings.

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Vayechi 5775-2014

“Jacob Remembers Rachel”

Although Joseph had already sworn to his father, Jacob, that he will bury his father in Canaan, Jacob unexpectedly raises the issue of Joseph’s mother, Rachel, and the fact that Jacob had failed to bury Rachel in the Machpelah Cave together with the other Matriarchs and Patriarchs.

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Vayigash 5775-2014

"Joseph Calms His Brothers"

With his terrified brothers standing before him expecting the worst, Joseph not only reveals himself but gently and generously calms them, attempting to relieve them of feelings of guilt and vengefulness.

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Bereshith 5775-2014

“The Sad Destiny of the Firstborn Children”

A prominent feature of the book of Genesis is the struggle for dominance between the first born and the younger siblings. In each instance, the younger sibling is chosen to serve as leader.

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Pinchas 5774-2014

“The Battle for Women’s Rights”

Especially among those who have limited familiarity with the original scriptural sources, it is often perceived that women are regarded by Jewish tradition as being submissive and subservient to men, eager to fulfill the men’s will. Rabbi Yaakov Philber shows that this is a thoroughly incorrect perception.

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