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Limited Leverage: You Can’t Force God’s Hand
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Parashat VaYetze opens as Yaakov runs for his life: He had been told that his brother Esav has murder on his mind, that he intends to take revenge on for Yaakov’s deceptive acquisition of blessings that he felt were rightly his own – and Yaakov doesn’t stick around to see if Esav will make good […]
Carry On, My Wayward Son
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Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) was a leading spiritual, intellectual and communal figure in his day. Among his many accomplishments was the creation of an educational format that put individuals, both male and female, in the center. Not coincidentally, in his commentary on Parashat Toldot, Rabbi Hirsch took aim at the second generation of our […]
Walking Together
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Yitzchak, our second patriarch, is an elusive character, especially when compared to his father, Avraham, and his son, Yaakov, our other patriarchs. There is simply far less narrative and dialogue involving Yitzchak in the Torah. Nonetheless, from the scant details provided by the text, we can piece together a profile of his personality. Avraham was […]
The Chosen
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The concept of “a chosen people” evinces different reactions from different people; in fact, many consider it a double-edged sword. For some, it is a source of pride, mission, and responsibility; others believe it to be a divisive and damaging concept that leads to an inflated sense of self-importance and false superiority. Perhaps a better […]
On a Mission from God
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Avraham lived in interesting times.[1] He had to overcome myriad challenges just to survive – but mere survival was never his goal. Avraham had a vision, a mission: His goal was to spread knowledge of God, both “horizontally” and “vertically” – to his own generation and to future generations. Sometimes, though, Avraham faced challenges (referred […]
Noach: “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”
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The beautiful, brand new world quickly devolved – perhaps not in a physical sense, but certainly in a moral sense. Adam and Eve had only one prohibition to avoid, but they failed miserably. Their children, Kayin (Cain) and Hevel (Abel), were the first of many siblings with dysfunctional relationships; in their case, the result was […]
The Beauty of Yosef
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Parashat Vayigash begins as Yosef and Yehudah approach a showdown: Soon Yosef will reveal himself and send for his father. Throughout the generations, scholars have been perturbed by Yosef’s seeming callousness: Why did it take Yosef so long to orchestrate this reunion? One could argue that the primary victim of this delay was Yaakov, who […]
Yosef HaTzaddik
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The story of Yosef is well known: As the favorite son, Yosef becomes the object of the jealousy and derision of his brothers. He is sold into slavery, and, after many trials and tribulations, rises to the second most powerful position in Egypt. Many years later he confronts his brothers, and the visions for which […]
Parshat Vayeshev: The Light of Mashiach
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Parashat Vayeishev begins with an almost-cryptic statement: בראשית לז: א וַיֵּ֣שֶׁב יַעֲקֹ֔ב בְּאֶ֖רֶץ מְגוּרֵ֣י אָבִ֑יו בְּאֶ֖רֶץ כְּנָֽעַן: Yaakov settled in the land in which his fathers dwelled, in the land of Canaan. (Bereishit 37:1) Yaakov had come to the point in his life when he could finally settle down. The Hebrew term for “settled” is vayeishev, […]
The First Matriarch
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Parashat Chayei Sarah marks the transition of the matriarchy from Sarah to Rivkah. A great deal of the narrative is devoted to the death and burial of Sarah on the one hand, and the search for a wife for Yitzchak on the other. Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik zt”l once noted that with the death of […]