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Divine Dialogue
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As we ended last week’s parashah, Moshe had ascended Mount Sinai in order to receive the Tablets of Testimony – which means that we begin this week’s parashah with a simple, technical problem that must be solved: What are we to do with a gift bestowed upon us from Heaven? Where shall we place the […]
Upwardly Mobile 
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Every society seems to have its “desirables” and “undesirables,” mainstreamers versus outliers. Sometimes it is the “haves” and the “have-nots;” rich as opposed to poor; upper class, working class, or criminal class; natives as opposed to newcomers or strangers. For most of history, people were labeled at birth; more often than not, you were born […]
A Holy Detour
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Six weeks after leaving Egypt, the Jews arrived at Mount Sinai.  In retrospect, this destination seems obvious. But how obvious was it to those who made the trip? Did they know there was a planned stop along their route to the Land of Israel? Did they fully understand the purpose of this stop? We may […]
Songs of Freedom
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The transition from slavery to freedom is sudden. As the parashah begins, the emancipated slaves take up arms (13:18), and brace themselves for the inevitable showdown with their erstwhile masters. Their arms are primitive; from a logical perspective, they stand little chance against the mighty Egyptian war machine. Pharaoh and his army bear down on […]
The Steps of Freedom
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Leaving Egypt was not a quick fix; it was a slow process, made up of many stages. While each plague made Pharaoh more defiant, more stubborn, the Jews, who looked on in awe at the humbling of Egypt, were strengthened in their belief in the God of their fathers and mothers. God’s sudden involvement in […]
Pointing a Finger
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It begins: As God had promised Avraham hundreds of years earlier, the Jews will be extricated from Egypt – but the exodus will not be instantaneous. Rather, it will unfold slowly, deliberately: Moshe is sent to “negotiate” the release of the Jewish slaves, but Pharaoh denies any knowledge of the God of the Jews (Shmot […]
Forgetting – and Remembering – Yosef
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As we begin a new book, we are introduced to a new king – and to a storyline that seems, to modern Jewish readers, all too familiar. The new Pharaoh is acutely aware of the presence of the Jews in his kingdom; so aware, in fact, that he feels he must devise a “final solution” […]
Who is First?
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In the penultimate scene of Yaakov’s life, Yosef is summoned to his ailing father’s sick bed, and he brings his two sons with him. Previously, Yaakov had made Yosef promise to bury him in the Land of Israel. As his final days slip away, Yaakov stands poised to bless Yosef’s sons and grant them equal […]
A Cherished Chalice
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As a young man, Yosef was a dreamer of dreams. There were those who considered these dreams nothing more than delusions of grandeur, but Yosef knew the dreams would come true. As a dreamer, Yosef knew how to read symbols; he understood things others often missed, enabling him to see into the future with clarity. […]
Worse Than You Thought
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One of the most horrific episodes in the book of Bereishit, and perhaps in the entire Torah, is the sale of Yosef. Jealousy morphs into hatred, which leads to the brink of murder: Brothers who seem devoid of any fraternal love, at first plot to murder, and then “settle for” selling Yosef into slavery-or worse. […]