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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0 Comments13 Minutes

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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0 Comments8 Minutes

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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0 Comments9 Minutes

Vayigash 5774-2013

“The Dreams and the Divine Covenant”

As Jacob’s entire family bows down before Joseph, all of Joseph’s dreams finally come true. But not only Joseph’s dreams come to fruition, the prophesies and predictions of the Covenant between the Pieces have also begun to be realized.

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0 Comments8 Minutes

Vayeishev 5774-2013

"Reuben is Credited with Saving Joseph’s Life"

Why was Reuben credited by scripture for saving Joseph’s life, when it was really Judah who advised the brothers to sell Joseph rather than kill the lad?

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Vayigash 5773-2012

"Is My Father Still Alive?"

From his own childhood experience of studying the story of Joseph and his brethren, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik teaches a most profound lesson about appreciating parents, and cherishing their spiritual legacy.

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0 Comments13 Minutes

Vayechi 5772-2012

"The Scepter Shall Not Depart from Judah"

The commentators are divided over whether Jacob’s statement, that the scepter shall not depart from Judah, was intended as a decree or as a promise.

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0 Comments8 Minutes

Vayigash 5772-2011

"Joseph and Judah: A Confrontation for Posterity"

The confrontation between Judah and Joseph was not only intended to achieve the release of Benjamin, but was a struggle for the leadership of Israel between two larger-than-life brothers.

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0 Comments8 Minutes

Vayeishev 5771-2010

"Tamar: The Paradigm of an Heroic Woman”

Two women play key roles in parashat Vayeishev. One of them, Tamar, emerges as a paradigm of an heroic woman and goes on to impact profoundly on the destiny of the people of Israel.

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0 Comments11 Minutes

Vayigash 5769-2008

"Deferred Punishment for the Sale of Joseph"

The rabbis attribute the martyrdom of the ten righteous Torah scholars in the time of Hadrian to the sale of Joseph. What is the connection, and why was the punishment so long in coming?

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0 Comments12 Minutes

Vayechi 5768-2007

"The Struggle Over the Birthright"

It cannot be mere coincidence that in every single instance in the book of Genesis the firstborn child never emerges with the birthright. The Torah wishes to teach that it is not an accident of birth that determines one's stature, but rather personal merit and the quality of one's life.

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0 Comments6 Minutes

Vayigash 5768-2007

"And Jacob Sent Judah Ahead"

Jacob sends Judah ahead to Egypt to prepare for the family's arrival in Goshen. Why does Jacob specifically choose Judah, and what exactly is the purpose of Judah's mission?

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0 Comments8 Minutes

Vayeishev 5767-2006

"What's in a Name?"

Parashat Vayeishev contains the extraordinary story of Joseph and his brethren. At perhaps the most dramatic moment, the story suddenly pauses. A new saga of Judah's falling-out with his family is told. This saga is communicated not only by the words of the text, but also by a careful analysis of the names of Judah's sons, which have much to reveal to us.

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0 Comments12 Minutes

Vayigash 5766-2006

"And Judah Approached"

In parashat Vayigash, scripture tells us that Judah approached "him," probably meaning Joseph. Our commentators struggle to understand the meaning of the word "Va'yee'gash." Whatever the meaning of the word, the context of the biblical story calls on every person to assume the mantle of courage and leadership, and to step in where necessary to show a sense of responsibility toward all Jews.

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0 Comments7 Minutes

Vayigash 5764-2003

"The Secret of Jewish Survival in Exile?"

From Jacob's plans to bring his family to Egypt to be with his long-lost son Joseph, we learn a profound lesson about Jewish continuity. Jacob sees to it that the people of Israel will be securely ensconced in Goshen, the suburb of Egypt, that is to be their new home. What Jacob regards as essentials for the survival of his family in his day, are truly timeless needs that Jews must meet in every one of the lands that Jews call home.

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0 Comments8 Minutes

Mikeitz-Chanukah 5764-2003

"Chanukah--The Struggle of Joseph and Judah"

Clothed in his coat of many colors, Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and eventually sold to Egypt. His subsequent involvement in Egyptian society is contrasted by Judah's purist, more conventional philosophy. These two viewpoints are echoed in the struggle of Chanukah, as Jews throughout the ages question how much to participate in the culture of the day.

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0 Comments10 Minutes

Vayeishev 5763-2002

"Judah Emerges as the Leader of Israel"

As the natural, charismatic leader, Judah's brothers abide by his suggestion to sell Joseph rather than kill him. But now that father Jacob is inconsolable, the brothers blame Judah for their father's misery. Judah has a falling out with his brothers and departs from his household ostensibly renouncing his family connections. He marries a local woman, has three sons, two of whom die after they are married to Tamar. Unknowingly, Judah has a sexual relationship with Tamar who becomes pregnant. After sentencing Tamar to death by burning, Judah, rising to the occasion, admits his guilt and spares Tamar's life. Judah thus becomes the first Ba'al Teshuvah (penitent) and emerges as the leader of Israel.

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0 Comments12 Minutes

Vayigash 5762-2001

"The Virtues of Assimilation"

Once the brothers arrive in Egypt, there develops a difference of "philosophy" between Joseph and his siblings regarding assimilation and the possible loss of national identity while in Egypt. The brothers prefer to avoid any hint of permanent settlement in Egypt. By not establishing comfortable homes in Egypt, they hope to assure Israel's eventual exodus. Joseph, however, was optimistic about his family being able to lead a productive Jewish life in Egypt. Joseph does not see assimilation as total evil, but rather as a possible source of cultural enrichment, without resulting in a loss of personal identity.

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0 Comments12 Minutes

Vayeishev 5762-2001

"Judah, the Paradigm for Jewish Future"

The two words that Judah utters, "Tzad'kah mee'meh'nee" (she 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 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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0 Comments11 Minutes

Vayishlach 5761-2000

"The Proper and Improper Use of Zealotry"

We read of the very painful and distressing story of the rape of Dinah, by the ruler of Shechem. Employing subterfuge in order to avenge the attack on their sister, Dinah's brothers, Simeon and Levi, demand that the men of the city be circumcised if they want to marry any Jewish women. While recovering from their surgery, the men are attacked by the sons of Jacob and killed. Jacob condemns Simeon and Levi for their violence and never seems to forgive them until the day of his death. However, the tribe of Simeon seems to bear that condemnation forever, whereas the tribe of Levi becomes the spiritual leader of Israel. Why their different fates?

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Vayechi 5760-1999

"How Important is Timing?"

When blessing his children, Jacob says of Reuben that he has all the natural advantages of the firstborn child in rank and in power. Jacob then retreats suddenly, declaring that Reuben is impetuous like water and therefore cannot be the foremost. As we study the actions, deeds and words of Reuben we find a good person--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, unfortunately, at the wrong time. As important as actions and words are, timing is just as critical.

Read More


0 Comments11 Minutes