The Weekly Portion

On Seeing the Face of God – Parashat Vayishlach

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.

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Torah
Parashat Vayeshev

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.

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Torah
On Seeing the Face of God – Parashat Vayishlach

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.

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Torah
The Experience of God – Parashat Vayetze

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.”

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Prayer
Hold Your Own World Union Shabbat Evening Service

Now your congregation can share a few moments with their Reform Jewish brothers and sisters worldwide on Shabbat by using the just-published World Union Shabbat Evening Service booklet. Featuring liturgical passages from services in the U.K., Russia, Spain, Italy, Poland, Holland and France, the service is a great opportunity to learn about communities abroad and generate interest in becoming involved with the World […]

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Torah
Who Are You? – Parashat Toldot

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.

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Torah
A Lesson On Respecting Women – Parashat Hayyai Sarah

We are living in an age when the news is filled with demeaning language and accusations of impropriety in the workplace. Whether it is well-known newsmen, movie moguls or politicians, women are treated as objects and worse. Many of the men assume their positions of power will keep them safe and insulated from accusations. While women who speak their mind are threatened, ridiculed and in some cases fired. It does not matter where you live—North America, Israel or Europe –women are fighting for dignity and respect.

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Torah
Open Your Tents Wide – Parashat Vayera

Imagine Abraham’s surprise!  There he was, minding his own business, resting in his tent in the hills near Hebron. Suddenly, God appears to Abraham. Without warning and without explanation. Looking up, Abraham sees the dust rising in the distance, and soon a group of strangers approach his tent.  Without hesitation, Abraham leaps to his feet, ignoring God, and ignoring the pain he feels from his recent entry into the covenant with God through circumcision, and instead turns to these visitors.

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Torah
Lech Lecha 5778

Noah was destined to be neither the father of the Jewish people nor the founder of our faith. Though the most righteous one in his corrupt generation, he failed to reach out and save human lives besides those of his family. Thus, the Rabbis who were aware of Noah’s disturbing limitations in the terse yet […]

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Torah
Noach 5778

The Torah portion this week is titled Noach. It covers from the time of Noach, through the narrative of the Tower of Babel and then it lists a series of names ending up with Abraham and Sarah. The greatest amount of space in this section, in fact several chapters are devoted to Noach and the Flood. I would suggest that there are two matters that are take home lessons in these multiple verses.

The first point is that when Noach is introduced to us he is termed “a righteous man” – in Hebrew a tzadiq.  The Torah then says, he was blameless in his age.

Hundreds of years later, after the close of the Bible’s covers, the early rabbis pondered what this meant. Yes, he was righteous. Yet, they ask, was he truly righteous, or was he righteous only in comparison to his age?  In short, would he be considered righteous today, or was he only the best example of a pretty miserable lot of people? Was the bar set so low that he looked good, or even very good, but his contemporaries were so awful that his righteousness did not set a very high standard?

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Jewish Law
The Law of Return – is it time for the Return of the Law?

Issues facing the Law of Return almost 70 years after its enactment By Nicole Maor The Law of Return is one the shortest laws in Israel’s legislature – just over one page long.  It exemplifies the Zionist dream and the cornerstone of Israel’s right to exist. Its original version was simple: All Jews are eligible […]

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