Parashat Noach

Noah, the complete, righteous soul of his generation, gets himself good and drunk after the flood experience has passed. He has planted a vineyard, acted as his own vintner and sommelier, and become so inebriated — perhaps publicly in the open field, perhaps lying asleep in bed — that he is stark naked (Genesis 9:20-21).

Noah’s son, Cham, sees the remarkable sight and rushes to tell his brothers Shem and Yafet, both of whom modestly clothe their ...

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Parshat Lekh L’kha

Interesting, how people journey — almost aimlessly — yet en route encounter their kismet

“And G-d said to Abram: ‘Go forth, for your [best interest], from your land and from the place of your birth and from the house of your father to the land I will show you.’”

— Gen. 12:1

Our Torah reading this week begins with G-d bringing Abram to an unknown destination, leading him away from the security ...

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Parshat Vayera

The Kids Are Watching

This week’s Torah portion, Vayera, begins with our Patriarch Avraham sitting outdoors, in front of his tent, recovering from his recent circumcision. Hashem is visiting with him, thereby teaching and modeling for us the mitzvah of bikur cholim – visiting the sick.  In Tractate Sotah 14a, the Talmud teaches us that we are commanded to walk in Hashem’s ways. Thus, as Hashem clothed the naked Adam and Eve, so we should clothe the naked and care for the needy.  He comforted Yitzchak, when he mourned Avraham’s ...

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Parshat Chayeh Sarah

In Parshat Chayeh Sarah, Avraham Avinu is confronted with the responsibility to find his son a wife.  His formula is surprising.  Turning to his major domo, the Canaanite slave Eliezer, in whom he has entrusted supervision over all that he has, Avraham sends him on a journey into history with these words: “[Do] not take a wife for my son from the daughters of Canaan in whose midst I reside.  Rather, go to my land and to my birthplace, and take [from there] ...

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Parshat Toldot

In Parshat Toldot, we encounter the remarkable event described in Genesis 27, as Yitzhak prepares in blindness to confer an eternal blessing on one of his twin sons.  He wants to extend that blessing to the viscerally evil Esav, who nevertheless always has acted with the utmost respect for his father.  Esav has Yitzhak figured out, and Yitzhak really loves him.  By contrast, Rivkah is devoted uniquely to the simpler, gentler, less charismatic Yaakov.

Why the dichotomy?  We have met ...

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Parshat VaYeitzei

In this week’s parasha, Yaakov flees for his life, departing from Beersheva back to Charan — back to the beginning. How optimistic it had been when Avraham came to Israel two generations earlier, abandoning Charan presumably forever (Genesis 11:32-12:6). Avraham “went, took and passed.” He was journeying to a grand destiny on blessed land, where God promised he would become a great nation, blessed with wealth, with a name made great and famous.

Not so here. Vayetzei — not with a bang but with ...

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Parshat VaYishlach

Was it Mort Sahl who said, “Just because I’m a paranoid, doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get me”?

In this week’s parsha, the narrative begins with the drama of Yaakov and his tender flock — two wives, two quasi-wives, 11 sons, a daughter — preparing to meet with an oncoming army, imposingly headed by his anything-but-fraternal “twin” brother, Esav. Yaakov fears the worst, and even as he prays to Hashem for protection and sends gifts to appease Esav, he ...

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Parshat Miketz

It happens to all of us. You are with friends, engaged in small talk, and then someone makes a disparaging comment about a common acquaintance. You didn’t see the insult coming, but there it is. It’s entered the conversation.

What should you do? Should you challenge the slight or let it go by unaddressed?

Before you can process your thoughts, the small talk has moved on to another subject — the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the latest ...

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Parshat VaYigash

After the Golden Calf, Moshe prays to God, begging forgiveness. In the course of his prophetic dialogue with the Creator, Moshe asks to see God’s glory. God responds that no person can see His face and live. However, He will allow Moshe to see His back (Exodus 33:17-23). Rashi, citing the Talmud, understands God’s offer literally. As we sing in the An’im Z’mirot hymn toward the end of Shabbat morning services: “He showed [Moshe] the humble one the [rear] knot ...

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Parashat VaY’chi


The Torah is a book of laws, 248 positive mitzvot and 365 negative commandments that set forth Jewish practices from birth to death. When the Torah relates narratives and ìBible stories,î those accounts are included to teach us how to live in practical terms. Our guiding aphorism is ìMaíasei avot siman la-banimî: our ancestorsí deeds signal us, their children, how to live. Yet, the Torah is sparing in many story details, leaving unspoken that which ìgoes without saying.î

It ...

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