By Rabbi Natan Levy, December 29, 2009

Stop for a moment. Take a breath before reading. We haven’t gone Zen, just taking a lesson from the weekly Torah portions. Each week the sidrah begins with a space between paragraphs, a respite before the next tale. But this week’s reading,Vayechi, is different.

Vayechi begins without a break, in the middle of a paragraph. “Vayechi alone is enclosed [stuma],” comments Rashi. “Because after Jacob’s death the eyes and hearts of Israel became closed to the pain of bondage.” The reader is trapped in the text as Israel becomes entrapped in Egypt.



By Rabbi Yisroel Fine, December 22, 2009

For Joseph to describe himself as a ruler over all Egypt was blatantly untrue and yet it is only this description that the brothers used when they conveyed the news of Joseph’s survival to their father Jacob.

However, the brothers understood this phrase as Joseph had intended: “The land of Egypt has not conquered me. I still maintain my Judaism and the traditions from my father’s home”. The brothers knew that Jacob would not want to know of Joseph’s success in business, if at the same time he had forsaken his faith.



By Rabbi Brian Fox, December 17, 2009

A question: who wrote “Oyb ihr vilt, is dos nit kyn bobe-mayse”? Before we answer (no peeking!), it is appropriate to recall that around 111 years ago much of the Yiddish-speaking world was inspired by the poetry of Morris Rosenfeld.

Rosenfeld was a born loser. No matter where he went, from one centre of Jewish life to another, for him all of Jewish life was past. Dreams belonged to “the other”, the Pharaohs of history. At best we, Josephs all, could only interpret other people’s dreams.



By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, December 9, 2009

Joseph’s ability to resist the allure of Potiphar’s wife led the rabbis to crown him “Joseph the righteous”. But how righteous was he? Rashi explains that Potiphar’s wife’s attempt to seduce him happened on a pagan holiday; Potiphar’s family had gone out to celebrate, but Mrs Potiphar feigned illness, so she was alone in the house when Joseph arrived “to do his work”.



By Elaine Robinson, December 3, 2009

The disturbing incident of the rape of Dinah and its aftermath takes place in this week’s parashah. The aspect that screams out at me is the silence. The silence of the victim Dinah, her father Jacob, and also of God.

Rashi comments that she is referred to as the “daughter of Leah” — and not of Jacob — because Leah’s daughter, like Leah, was “one who went out”, as it says : “Leah went out to greet Jacob in the fields” (Genesis 30:16).



By Rabbi Natan Levy, November 26, 2009

There are many ways of relating to the Divine, but it was Jacob who brought worship indoors. Abraham spoke to God on a mountain, Isaac found Him in the fields, but even when Jacob sleeps out in the rough, he calls that place the house of God.



By Rabbi Yisroel Fine, November 19, 2009

Who would relish the challenge of nurturing and parenting two such contrasting children? The Torah, however, spares Isaac and Rebecca nothing in exposing their deficiencies as parents in the education of Jacob and Esau.


Chayei Sarah

By Rabbi Brian Fox, November 12, 2009

Why did Sarah die? Of the many possible correct answers, Modern Hebrew would confusingly respond “Poh kavur hakelev” (literally, “Here is where the dog is buried”).

Now why the exact burial place of a dog means“You have hit the nail on the head”, I just did not know until a colleague explained it to me as follows: “Everyone knows where people are buried. So, if you know where the dog is buried, you have rare information. You have truly hit the nail on the head”.



By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, November 5, 2009

“My beloved” is the stunning expression used by the prophet Isaiah to describe God’s feelings for Abraham. Why such love? Maimonides tells us that Abraham was a philosopher who spent day and night studying every known religion until he settled on monotheism and founded the Jewish people.

Abraham personifies the highest form of Judaism because his religion was not tainted by any ulterior motives; he simply served God out of intellectual honesty; “He loved truth because it was truth.”


Lech lecha

By Elaine Robinson, October 28, 2009

Almost out of the blue, at the beginning of Parashat Lech Lecha, God appears to Abraham, commands him to travel to the “promised land”, blesses him and promises him that he will become a great nation. However, the Torah never tells us why Abraham was chosen for this great task.