But Moses’ father-in-law said to him: “The thing you are doing is not right. You will surely wear yourself out and these people as well. For the task is too heavy for you. You cannot do it alone.” (Exod. 18:17-18) People who criticize the Bible as being irrelevant to the present are usually the ones […]
Go, worship the Lord your God! Who are the ones to go? Moses replied, “We will all go, young and old. We will go with our sons and our daughters, our flocks and our herds; for we must observe the Lord’s festival.” (Exod. 10:8-9) Jewish tradition declares that “God, Israel and the Torah are One.” […]
God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by my Name [Yod, Hay, Vov, Hay].” (Exod. 6:2-3)
Judaism has always shown its reverence for the name of God by the tradition of not pronouncing it. Thus, the letters Yod, Hay, Vov, Hay are combined with the vowels for Elohim and the pronounced word Adoshem or “Lord” is substituted for the vocalization.
It just takes a few divisive speeches, a few divisive decrees – and the entire society is doomed, even if may take a while, even if it does not realise it yet. Our problem is not the ”Pharaoh who knew not Joseph”, but the modern Pharaohs who ”do not know” of this one, and what he did, and the price that his country eventually paid. Can modern political leaders learn from these lessons?
The Torah portion Va’yechi is the concluding parsha of the first book of Torah, B’reishit. It ends the narrative of the founding mothers and fathers of our folk and faith, and also concludes the complex and compelling story of Joseph. As such, it has many aspects of endings, including Jacob’s death-bed blessings given to his sons and grandsons plus explicit instructions regarding his burial.
The reconciliation between Yosef and his brothers is one of the most eloquent scenes, not just of the Bible, but of all World literature.
Let’s review the facts. After having children with Leah and the 2 concubines, Yaakov finally has a son with his beloved Rachel, who he obviously spoils and overprotects above his brothers. Young Yosef begins to have dreams of greatness, which he tells to his brothers, and as such he wins their hatred.
One day Yaakov sends Yosef to look for his brothers who were delayed. Upon seeing him, they throw him in a well and want to kill him, but in the end they decide not to spill his blood themselves and instead sell him as a slave. They take the special coat that Yaakov had given only to him, stain it with blood, and go and tell Yaakov that Yosef was killed by a beast.
Imagine the pain of the old patriarch!
It is reasonable to assume that no one reading our weekly Torah portion, Vayeshev, will consider these innocuous lines of Torah to be of any particular importance. Coming as they do inside the dramatic first part of the Joseph story, the narrative which will continue until the end of the Book of Genesis, there seems no reason to take special note of this rather curious mention of “a man” meeting Joseph on his way to find his brothers and giving Joseph directions. Rather, the camera is fixed on Joseph, the major protagonist of the narrative, whose tragic life story begins to unfold in our Parasha. Tension mounts as we read about Joseph’s narcissistic dreams, his visions of grandeur, his preferential status in his father’s eyes and his antagonistic relationship with his brothers ending in his being sold into slavery and his eventual imprisonment in Egypt. With all these action scenes to cover in the Parasha, who would possibly pay attention to the few lines describing “the man” giving directions to Joseph.
But Jacob said, “No, I pray you; if you would do me this favor, accept from me this gift; for to see your face is like seeing the face of God and you have received me favorably.” (Gen. 33:10) Few narratives in the Bible have touched me as deeply as does the story of Jacob’s reconciliation with his brother, Esau, as recounted in this week’s parashah.
He had a dream; a stairway was set on the ground and its top reached to the sky. (Gen. 28:2)
Jacob’s dream at Bethel is one of the most famous in biblical literature. Although he envisions angels (Hebrew: Malachei Elohim—literally, “messengers of God”), the text makes it clear that they only provide the setting, but that it is God who stands beside him and reiterates the promises made to his grandfather Abraham (Gen. 12:2) and his father, Isaac (Gen. 26:3-4), that his progeny will be prolific and “all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you and your descendants.”
Were we to compare our patriarchs’ impact on Judaism, Isaac would be a distant third. First place is a tie between his father Abraham, the champion of faith and hospitality, and his son Jacob, the spiritual wrestler. Isaac’s problem lies in how few columns in the Torah are devoted to him. Other than having survived the trauma of the Akedah, the information in parashat Toldot, is basically it. Isaac is best summed up as his father’s son and his son’s father. Like Abraham, Isaac experiences a famine and has his wife taken by a king. Like Jacob, Isaac’s future wife is discovered at a well. Even in Toldot which begins: This is the story of Isaac, son of Abraham. Abraham begot Isaac, the focus shifts in the very next verse to what will develop as Jacob’s story rather than the tale of Isaac.