Vayetze

Vayetze

CREATING HOLINESS When Jacob wakes up, after dreaming of a stairway to heaven with angels ascending and descending, he exclaims: “How awesome is this place. This is none other than the House of G-d and this is the Gateway to Heaven.” [Bereishit 28:17] Jacob realized that the place he had chosen for his sleep was already a holy site. Actually, it was the same site where his father, before him had rested his head when he was bound on the altar. Jacob could foresee that this site would be the place of the future Temple. The Temple location was intrinsically...

Toldot by Rabbi Mendel

Toldot by Rabbi Mendel

Where are you most comfortable being yourself? Who is the real you? At home? Or at work? Reading the newspaper? Or the Torah? Today we read how Jacob disguises as Esau to receive Isaac’s blessing of material goodness. There were specific reasons why the blessing had to come in this way. Indeed, for us, it is a reminder we must wear a facade and have a duplicity. Yes, we need to work and engage in material pursuits, but we are disguising as Esau, like hungry hunters. Our true selves underneath, the mystery’s of a Spiritual seeking Jacob. Parsha thought from Rabbi...

TOLDOT

TOLDOT

THE PERFUME OF PARADISE When Jacob came before his father to receive the blessing, he brought the goat meat that his mother had specially prepared to resemble venison. He also brought some wine. He dressed in the special clothes that Esau always wore when he waited on his father. Following his mother’s instructions, he also wrapped goat hide around his arms and neck so that the texture would make him more similar to his hairy brother. He announced himself to his father, inviting him to partake of the food. Isaac asks to feel him first, commenting that: “The voice is...

Sefer Hayashar, the other name to the book of Genesis

Sefer Hayashar, the other name to the book of Genesis

Sefer Hayashar, the other name to the book of Genesis Having just got up from Shiva for my beloved father, of blessed memory, the one thing that sticks in my mind is the way in which he invariably led by example. He was a role model through and through, though he never forced Judaism upon us. He just lived Judaism in a manner that meant my siblings and I learning almost by osmosis and recognising its inherent beauty through his transparent ways. We can recognise similar role models in the portions of the Torah we are currently reading. We are...

Chayei Sara

Chayei Sara

PARSHA PALINDROME Rashi comments at the beginning of the sidra that Sarah’s age on death, expressed as one hundred years and twenty years and seven years (instead of one-hundred-and-twenty-seven years), is to indicate that when she was twenty years of age, she was as beautiful as a seven year-old, and when she was one hundred, she was as free of sin as she was at twenty. Other Midrashim make a similar point but comparing beauty at one hundred and sin at seven. Rav Joseph Baer Soloveitchik and others explain that this indicates Sarah’s capacity to live on different levels throughout...

Vayera

Vayera

ABRAHAM WAS SITTING Our sidra begins by telling us the G-d appeared to Abraham who was sitting at the entrance of his tent (Bereishit 18:1). Rashi here quotes a strange Midrash: Abraham was seated and wanted to get up, but G-d told him, “Remain seated and I shall stand. And the fact that you are seated symbolizes something that will happen in the future.” Noting that judges must sit when they accept testimony in the courtroom and render decisions, Rashi then continues, G-d said, I shall stand and the judges will be sitting, as the verse says, “G-d stands in...

Lech Lecha

Lech Lecha

ABRAHAM’S PATH TO G-D Jewish history begins with G-d’s call to Abraham at the beginning of this week’s sidra, telling him to leave his land, his birthplace, and go to the land which G-d will show him. The Torah tells us that Abraham is seventy-five years old when this happens. What has taken place in Abraham’s life previously? The Torah is silent here but Jewish tradition fills in the gaps. Abraham is regarded as the first person who came to G-d as a result of his own intellectual questioning. Maimonides (Laws of Idolatry 1:3) provides the following narrative regarding Abraham’s...

Noach

Noach

DOVE TALES ON SHABBAT Whilst many of the Zemirot (Shabbat-table songs) were composed to be sung throughout the year, others were written with a particular Shabbat in mind. A classic example is the song composed by the great medieval Spanish poet, Judah Halevi (1075-1141), to be sung, especially,on this Shabbat. It is called: Yonah Matzah Vo Mano’ach – “the dove found rest on it (the Shabbat.)” The poem draws on the passages in the parsha where Noah sends out a dove on three occasions to see if the flood waters have subsided. The first time the dove returns not having...

Bereishit

Bereishit

WHAT ADAM LACKED When challenged by G-d as to how he could have eaten of the forbidden fruit, Adam replies, “The women, whom You gave to be with me – she gave me of the fruit and I ate.” (Gen 3:12.) Rashi, quoting the Talmud, tersely comments: “Here Adam shows his ingratitude.” If, in the biblical account, Adam is supposed to be the first man, created by G-d Himself, how could he display such an ungratefulness to G-d who had given him life and a wife? The Sefer Hachinuch (13th century) observes that qualities like gratitude are learned behavior. We...