By Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh, January 27, 2011

The Hebrew word frequently used for angel in the Tanach means "messenger" or "emissary". Using the divine name of Adonai Tzevaot, best expressed in translation as "Commander of the Hosts of Heaven" as a starting point, the angel is sent on a divine mission from the heavenly hosts to do God's bidding in the human world.

In Parashat Mishpatim the angel, who is unnamed, fulfils a dual purpose: to the Israelites it is a guide, but also a manifestation of God as it bears the divine name, and to the Canaanites it is the vanguard of terror, destruction and dispossession.



By Sally Berkovic, January 20, 2011

Isaiah's encounter with God in this week's haftarah is an evocative parallel of Moses's experiences in the corresponding Torah portion. Isaiah's reportage is fantastical: God sits upon a high and lofty throne, his robe filling the Temple with six-winged angels surrounding Him. Moses is similarly awed as went up to God (Exodus 19:3) to receive instructions before the giving of the 10 Commandments, the central motif of this week's portion.



By Rabbi Benjamin Rickman, January 13, 2011

The exodus from Egypt is not merely an historic event retold yearly during Pesach but a vital part of our daily lives. We mention several times a day during prayer and Grace after meals. But leaving Egypt was only the first stage of the exodus and the easier one.

Far more challenging was taking Egyptian culture and theology out of the minds of the liberated Israelites. The seventy souls who came with Jacob had become a nation; the next stage was to develop consciousness of God.



By Rabbi Miriam Berger, January 6, 2011

A five-year-old in the community came to see me to complain that God cannot be very nice if He killed Pharaoh's son. The theology behind the hardening of Pharaoh's heart has challenged Jews of every age and throughout the generations.

Resh Lakish, a talmudic sage, is quoted as saying, "When God warns someone once, twice and even a third time and that person does not repent, then and only then does God close the person's heart against repentance and exact punishment for his sins."



By Rabbi Pinchas Hackenbroch, December 29, 2010

The concept of free will is basic to human existence - the ability to make conscious decisions and to decide, to some extent, our fate. The entire notion of reward and punishment for the choices we make hinges on this principle. Yet God's hardening of Pharaoh's heart seems to undermine not only the principle of freewill but call into question the ability we have at any time to do teshuvah, to repent for our misdeeds.



By Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh, December 22, 2010

So much takes place in the first sidrah of the book of Exodus, so many events over so many decades squeezed into so few chapters, that it is all too easy to miss Exodus 4.24, describing something that occurred just before Moses returned to Egypt to lead his people from slavery to freedom. Having been given his instructions by God, having been told the dreadful end to which the process would lead for the Egyptians, Moses and his family depart from Midian for Egypt.



By Sally Berkovic, December 16, 2010

Sleep is an act of faith – "a 60th of death" (Talmud Berachot 57b) or more poetically "little slices of death", according to Edgar Allen Poe - and the miracle of waking up the next morning is acknowledged with Modeh Ani, some of the first words a child learns. The litany of bedtime prayers include the verse "The Angel redeeming me from all evil" - Jacob's blessing to Ephraim and Menashe - said with children as they drift off to sleep.



By Rabbi Benjamin Rickman, December 9, 2010

If the Torah narratives were made into a TV series, this week would be the finale. After more than 20 years of agonising separation, Jacob and Joseph are reunited. But how you might direct that reunion scene is not so simple for commentators are divided as to what took place..



By Rabbi Miriam Berger, December 2, 2010

Pharaoh is often portrayed as the bumbling leader who needs to be shown the way by the dashing Joseph but in Parashat Mikketz we can see a shrewdness in Pharaoh that our politicians would be sensible to emulate.



By Rabbi Pinchas Hackenbroch, November 25, 2010

Joseph, resisting the advances of his master Potiphar's wife, says that it was improper for him on two counts: firstly, because of the debt of gratitude that he owed Potiphar and, secondly, because it would be a terrible sin against God to commit adultery.

Rav Mordechai Gifter (1915-2001) raises an interesting question. Why, when repelling Potiphar wife's advances, did he not state why it was wrong and inappropriate for her, rather than him, to commit such an act? Rashi quotes a talmudic statement that even before the Torah was given, non-Jews were commanded against immorality.