Sidrahs

Vayeshev

By Rabbi Yoni Sherizen, December 18, 2008

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age” Genesis 37:3

Favouritism has forever torn apart families, unravelled communities and divided entire peoples. So when this week’s sidrah begins with Israel (Jacob)’s favouritism towards Joseph, we know the story is likely to take an unpleasant turn. But what made Joseph more loved than any of the other children and what can we learn from how Israel came to favour one child over all others?

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Vayishlach

By Dr Leya Landau, December 11, 2008

“Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn” Genesis 32:25

Setting oneself apart from the community generally has negative connotations in Jewish tradition. Part of the process of atoning for the sin of evil gossip involved the offender withdrawing temporarily from the camp of Israel. In Ethics of the Fathers (2: 5), Hillel warns: “Do not separate yourself from the community.”

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Vayetzei

By Rabbi Chaim Weiner, December 3, 2008

“And she called his name Reuben” Genesis 29.32

What’s in a name? The economists Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner note that the most popular names in each generation are the names of successful people in the generation before. Names hold the wishes and the aspirations of parents for their children. We learn what is really important to a person by the names he or she chooses.

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Toldot

By Rabbi Daniel Levy, November 27, 2008

"And may the Almighty give you (repeatedly) from the dew of the skies and the fatness of the earth, an abundance of corn and wine" Genesis 27:28

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Chayei Sarah

By Rabbi Nancy Morris, November 20, 2008

"He had scarcely finished speaking, when Rebecca...came out with her jar on her shoulder. The maiden was very beautiful" Genesis 24:15-16

There is no doubt that beauty is a valued quality in women in the Torah. It is, however, fascinating how lacking the Torah is in physical description of "beautiful" women. Often, we have no idea what they look like. Scratch a little deeper and we must conclude that the Torah has rather interesting notions about what constitutes beauty in a woman.

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Vayera

By Rabbi Yoni Sherizen, November 13, 2008

"And Abraham stepped forward and said: ‘Will You also wipe away the righteous with the wicked?'" Genesis 18:23

A Jewish student recently returned from extensive volunteering in Uganda and proudly reported that a surprisingly high percentage of the aid and relief leaders came from Jewish roots. I was pleased to hear this news but wasn't terribly surprised as we have always been a people that confront challenges with little fear or shame.

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Lech Lecha

By Rabbanit Chana Henkin, November 6, 2008

Infertility is one of the most painful trials a couple can face. Thankfully, modern medicine has bestowed the blessing of children upon countless families, and one source of infertility affecting Jewish couples - a woman's conception date preceding her mikveh date - is being dealt with effectively today by Nishmat's yoatzot halachah (women halachic advisers). But Sarai did not have recourse to modern solutions and, like so many women since then, she blamed herself for her childlessness.

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Noach

By Rabbi Chaim Weiner, October 30, 2008

"All on Earth had the same language and the same words" Genesis 11:1

People working together on a building project - what's wrong with that? Why destroy the tower of Babel and punish those who wished to build it? Don Isaac Abravenel was the leader of Spanish Jewry at the time of the expulsion from Spain. He scaled the ladder of success many times, and saw it all end in failure. He has a unique understanding of the fall of this tower.

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Bereshit

By Rabbi Daniel Levy, October 23, 2008

"Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel"
Genesis 4:1

How much is really enough? Cain was the master of agriculture - real estate and property. Abel, having declined to work the land, for it had been cursed, was an expert shepherd - commodities and tradable assets.

The entire planet earth lay before them. Each was ready to build financial dynasties for the rest of mankind. All descendants would either be from the real estates and property family (Cain) or the commodities and tradable assets family (Abel).

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Ha’azinu

By Rabbi Chaim Kanterovitz, October 6, 2008

"My lesson shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew, as rains upon the grass, and as showers upon herbs" Deuteronomy 32:2

The midrashic anthology, the Yalkut Shimoni, commenting on the above verse, says that one should gather the words of Torah just as rain is gathered into a pit. In order to teach Torah to others, it is not sufficient to posses a partial knowledge or sparse understanding of Torah.

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