Vayeishev

Vayeishev

TORAH DREAMS This week, instead of telling you about someone who had dreams in the Torah, I am going to tell you about someone who had dreamed about a Sefer Torah! In the video version of this message, I am standing in front our open ark right by our largest Sefer Torah. It towers over the other scrolls in our ark. I would like to share with you the special history behind this scroll. A number of years ago, when Russia was still under communist rule, there was a man who lived in the town of Chernowitz. He wanted to...

Vayetze

Vayetze

HEAVY LIFTING One of the most striking visual images in the Bible is found in the second portion of this week’s parasha. Jacob arrives at Charan. He sees shepherds gathered at a well with a large boulder covering its opening. He notices that they won’t be able to remove the rock themselves, until more shepherds come. Suddenly, his cousin Rachel arrives at the well with her flock, seeking water. On seeing her, Jacob strides forward, single-handedly removes the boulder, and waters Rachel’s sheep. Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) makes three observations on this passage. First, we notice Jacob’s sense of...

Toledot

Toledot

DON’T BE A PHILISTINE To call someone a philistine today is to label them as indifferent to culture and the arts. [The usage seems to have originated from a conflict between the cultured university students and the townspeople in 17th century Jenna, Germany.] The original Philistines are referred to in this week’s parasha. We encounter them stopping up the wells that Abraham had dug. Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz (the great twentieth century communicator of Torah who died a year ago) makes the observation that we never find that the Philistines poisoned any wells. They simply sealed them. Sitemum. (Bereishit 26:15.) They...

Chayei Sarah

Chayei Sarah

LIVING THE GOOD LIFE The first verse of our parasha seems unnecessarily repetitive in its use of the word,‘years’: “And Sarah’s lifetime was one hundred years, twenty years and seven years, the years of Sarah’s lifetime.”(Bereishit 23:1) Our major commentator, Rashi (d. 1105) makes an observation that, at first glance, strains credulity. He says: The repetition of “the years of Sarah’s lifetime” teaches us that all were equally good. How can Rashi say this? Surely, by any standard, Sarah lived a very difficult life. At age sixty-five, she was uprooted from her birthplace to travel to a distant land. Twice,...

Vayera

Vayera

JONATHAN SACKS’ LEGACY This coming week, on 20th Marcheshvan, is the first yahrzeit of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, z”l. At shul we are holding an evening of learning, music, and words of inspiration in his memory this Wednesday, 27th October.  Please join us in this tribute to him. He passed away on the Shabbat of Vayera, last year. Let me share with you a thought that formed part of the hesped, the eulogy that I gave for him at the levaya the following day. I recall him giving a sermon a number of years ago on the sidra of Vayera....

Lech Lecha

Lech Lecha

ABRAHAM AND SARAH’S DISCIPLES When Abram and Sarai came to the land of Canaan, they didn’t come by themselves. They arrived with Lot, Abram’s nephew. They arrived with all their possessions. Then the verse adds: “and with the souls they had made in Charan.” (Bereishit 12:25.) Rashi (in his second explanation) observes that the straightforward meaning of this phrase, is that it refers to the retinue of servants that they had acquired. But Rashi’s first explanation is that the word “souls” refers to converts Abram and Sarai had made whilst in Charan. The example they had displayed of faith, trust...