Vayigash

Vayigash

PUBLIC HERO VERSUS PRIVATE HERO The interaction between Judah and Joseph at the beginning of the parasha, sets the scene for two prototypes of greatness: the Judah-type and the Joseph-type. The public tzaddik and the private tzaddik. When, as a result of Judah’s impassion pleas, Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, he does so when no outsiders are present. “No-one stood with Joseph when he revealed himself to his brothers” (Bereishit, 45:1). This incident is characteristic of Joseph. His path to righteousness had been a secret one. The challenge to his fidelity with the wife of Potiphar, took place...

Miketz

Miketz

PHARAOH IN DENIAL One of the major concerns posed by global warming is rising sea and river levels. Only this week, flood provision in the Norfolk Broads was declared seriously inadequate and major problems will occur unless preventive measures are taken. By contrast, the economy of ancient Egypt was governed by the annual overflowing of the Nile River. It was an event that was anticipated and welcomed. The annual surge was exploited to provide widespread irrigation for the agricultural needs of the country. Indeed, so crucial was (and is) the Nile to the economy of the country that it is...

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,...