By Rabbi Dr Michael Harris, February 2, 2012

One intriguing approach among Jewish thinkers to the famous passages in our sidrah, and in chapter 25 of Deuteronomy, concerning the trans-generational struggle against Amalek is exemplified by Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) in his commentary on Beshallach.

For Hirsch, the war of Israel against Amalek is not a physical confrontation but rather an uncompromising contest between two conf



By Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris, January 26, 2012

In a parashah that provides us with the substantial theological conundrum of how far human free will extends, we must also contend with another great theological challenge: why does God slaughter innocents? The problem here is not why God allows such an act to happen, but rather that it is God who appears to do the slaughtering - not some intermediary, but God.



By Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman, January 19, 2012

God assures Moses that He will redeem the Jewish people from the slavery of Egypt and bring them to the Land of Israel which they will inherit forever. Rabbi Yaakov ben Asher, the 13th-century commentator known as the Baal Haturim, points out that there are only two places in the Torah which speak about a morashah - an inheritance.



By Rina Wolfson, January 12, 2012

In this week's parashah, Moses leaves the privileged confines of Pharaoh's palace and witnesses an Egyptian attacking an Israelite slave. Moses looks around, sees no-one and beats the Egyptian to death.

Rashi offers a literal explanation, suggesting that Moses looked around and killed the Egyptian once he was sure that he could not be seen.

This literal reading is problematic.



By Rabbi Dr Michael Harris, December 29, 2011

Jacob leaves the Holy Land once again, this time to travel to Egypt, where he is to be reunited with his long-lost son, Joseph. Before he leaves, God promises Jacob that He will both accompany him there and return him to his homeland.



By Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris, December 22, 2011

The famine in the land had already begun when Jacob realised that there was food to be had in Egypt. And so he instructed his sons to go procure rations in order that they should not starve. But Jacob uses an uncommon word for these rations, shever.



By Rabbi Dr Moshe Freedman, December 15, 2011

Jacob's special treatment of Joseph, together with the dreams he recounted, not only engendered feelings of jealousy and animosity but were interpreted by his brothers as an attempt to usurp leadership from the firstborn.



By Rina Wolfson, December 8, 2011

The theme of division runs through this week's sidrah, which opens in a place named Machana'im (literally, two camps), where Jacob prepares to meet his estranged brother Esau. Jacob divides his entourage into two groups. Although there is resolution of sorts between the brothers, they cannot live together and go their separate ways.

Division and separation are not new to Jacob.



By Dr Erica Brown, December 1, 2011

We feel relieved when Rachel finally has a son. After years of sister-envy and fertility struggles that undermine her own self-worth, Rachel gives birth to Joseph. Joseph, son of the favoured wife, naturally becomes the favourite of Jacob's sons, causing yet more jealousy and enmity to riddle through this large and important family.

We might think this moment is one to celebrate.



By Rabbi Dr Michael Harris, November 24, 2011

A haunting midrash cited by Rashi's commentary to this verse traces the origins of Isaac's blindness to the Akedah. At the moment when Abraham was about to sacrifice his bound son, the ministering angels witnessed the scene and wept. Their tears fell on Isaac's eyes, weakening them in his later life. This midrash might be read metaphorically.