There is much in this episode that is hard to understand, much that has to do with the concept of holiness and the powerful energies it released that, like nuclear power today, could be deadly dangerous if not properly used. But there is also a more human story about two approaches to leadership that still resonates with us today.
he first 11 chapters of Genesis teach us many fundamentals of faith; Exodus to Deuteronomy is about revelation and redemption. But what are Genesis 12-50 about?
We believe that God created each of us, regardless of color, class, culture or creed, in His image.
Sukkot's duality is that it's the most universalistic and the most particularistic of all festivals
When Jacob was chosen, Esau was not rejected; G-d does not reject.
Even before they were born, Jacob and Esau struggled in the womb. They were destined, it seems, to be eternal adversaries. Not only were they different in character and appearance, they also held different places in their parents’ affections.
The most influential man who ever lived, does not appear on any list I have seen of the hundred most influential men in history. He ruled no empire, commanded no army, His name, of course, is Abraham
Jacob’s blessing of Ephraim over Manasseh had nothing to do with age and everything to do with names
Rebecca, hitherto infertile, became pregnant. Suffering acute pain, she went to inquire of the Lord – “vateilech lidrosh et Hashem” (Bereishit 25:22). The explanation she received was that she was carrying twins who were contending in her womb. They were destined to do so long into the future.
There is a fascinating detail in the passage about the king in this week’s parshah. The text says that, “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he must write for himself a copy of this Torah on a scroll before the levitical priests” (Deuteronomy 17:18). He must “read it all the days of his life” so that he will be God-fearing and never break Torah law. But there is also another reason: so that he will “not begin to feel superior to his brethren” (Kaplan translation), “so that his heart be not haughty over his brothers” (Robert Alter). The king had to have humility. The highest in the land should not feel that he is the highest in the land.
The name Bezalel was adopted by the artist Boris Schatz for the School of Arts and Crafts he founded in Israel in 1906, and Rav Kook wrote a touching letter in support of its creation. He saw the renaissance of art in the Holy Land as a symbol of the regeneration of the Jewish people in its own land, landscape and birthplace. Judaism in the Diaspora, removed from a natural connection with its own historic environment, was inevitably cerebral and spiritual, “alienated.”
Could we understand the history of Israel without its prehistory, the stories of Abraham and Sarah and their children?
All agree that Jews ARE different. How? Why? The Bible's answer is surprising and profound.
It is not difficult to understand the care Joseph took to ensure that Jacob would bless the firstborn first.
A fundamental principle of leadership is being taught here.
By delegating the judicial function downward, Moses would bring ordinary people – with no special prophetic or legal gifts – into the seats of judgment. Precisely because they lacked Moses’s intuitive knowledge of law and justice, they were able to propose equitable solutions.
Pagan prophets like Bilam had not yet learned the lesson we must all one day learn: What matters is not that God does what we want, but that we do what He wants.
t was not Joseph but Judah who conferred his identity on the people; Judah who became the ancestor of Israel’s greatest king, David; Judah from whom the messiah will be born. Why Judah and not Joseph? The answer undoubtedly lies in the beginning of Parshat Vayigash,
Moshe wasn't the last of the prophets. How would Israel discern his true successors from the false?
In the Torah, law and narrative are intertwined for the very profound reason that G-d’s law is not arbitrary. It speaks to the human condition, arising out of human history.
If you seek to understand an accusation, look at the accuser, not the accused. That is the key to the Korach affair and to understanding anti-Semitism.
From Joseph we learn three principles. The first: Dream dreams. Second: Leaders interpret other people’s dreams. Third: Find a way to implement dreams:
The search for perfect justice is not for us, here, now. It is – as Moses taught the Israelites in the great song he sang at the end of his life – something that faith demands we leave to G-d, who alone knows the human heart, who alone knows what is just in a world of conflicting claims, and who will establish perfect justice at a time, and in a way, of His choosing, not ours.
Laban’s behavior is the paradigm of anti-Semites through the ages. It was not so much what Laban did that the Haggadah is referring to, but what his behavior gave rise to, in century after century.
There is something moving about seeing Moses, at almost 120, looking forward as well as back, sharing his wisdom with the young, teaching us that while the body may age, the spirit can stay young