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Why Break the Tablets?
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The scene of Moshe witnessing the sin of the Golden Calf and breaking the luchot is repeated twice – in Shemot and in Devarim. How do they differ? How is the event perceived? The very last words of the Torah praise Moshe for breaking the luchot – why is this the way in which the […]
Menashe and Ephraim: Concluding the Journey
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The journey begins with Lech Lecha and concludes with Yaakov’s children standing around his deathbed receiving his blessing. Why do the families we encounter in Bereshit seem “dysfunctional”? How are we meant to understand that? What is the Torah teaching us? One one level, the patriarchal/matriarchal journey is the journey from tribalism towards family. Bnei […]
Candidates for Leadership
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One of the themes in the story of Yosef (which is the transition of Bnei Yisrael from a family into a nation) is the struggle for monarchical leadership. There are three candidates – the bechor (Reuven), the ish matzliach (Yosef), and the journey (Yehudah). What makes each of these candidates for leadership and why are […]
3 Critical Encounters in the Yosef Story
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Yosef’s first encounter with his brothers for the first time after 22 years. The encounter between Yosef’s brothers and Pharaoh and the way Yosef engineers that meeting. The encounter between Yaakov and Pharaoh – a meeting between two cultures, between two worlds. Download the Mekorot Delivered at the OU Israel Center, April 3, 2019 (27 Adar […]
Why Didn’t Yosef Phone Home?
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Throughout the time Yosef is in Egypt he doesn’t contact his father. Why not – especially after he becomes viceroy! When Yosef sees his brothers for the first time, the first thing he remembers is his dreams – not the fact that they threw him in the pit! Why? The approaches of the Ramban, Rav […]
Confronting Korbanot
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How does the text of the chumash describe the development of korbanot? Hashem turns to Hevel and his korban but not to Kayin and his korban – God’s response is not to the ritual but to the person. What is God looking for at the moment? Korbanot evidently develop as something man initiates, not God. […]
Of Dreams and Dreamers
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In Yaakov’s dreams Hashem speaks to Yaakov directly, in Yosef’s dreams and the dreams he is told, he has to interpret the dreams. The era of Yosef is an era of Hashem operating in the background. Why did Pharaoh believe Yosef? Why does Yosef begin his interpretation with “Pharaoh’s dreams are really one”? Pharaoh rejects […]
The Scene of the Crime
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Who sold Yosef to whom? Who rises to leadership as a result of the sale? Why doesn’t the Torah just tell us explicitly who sold Yosef rather than being deliberately ambiguous? What were the roles of Reuven and Yehudah in the episode? The brothers, the Yishmaelim, the Midyanim, and the Midanim are mentioned as participating […]
Finding Yosef
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What emerges from the text about Yosef is a complex personality that changes over time. The Torah portrays him as charismatic, a person who always rises to the top no matter in what situation he finds himself (in his father’s house, in Potiphar’s house, in prison, in Pharaoh’s court) but at the same time “socially […]
Violence: Condoned or Condemned
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In the story of Shechem and Dinah (Bereshit 34), the text of the Torah seems to be saying that Shechem is willing to do anything to have Dina and a father who is willing to go along with it. They then tell the people of the city that this alliance will be good for them. […]