By Elaine Robinson, February 11, 2010

This verse is one of my favourites in the Torah. The command not to oppress a stranger appears, according to Talmud Baba Matzia 59b, at least 36 times and, in my opinion, is at the heart of Judaism.

What does this mean practically? Rashi explains why there is a need for the text to use two verbs: to wrong and to oppress. He claims that they each have a different practical application: not wronging means to not taunt them with words; and not to oppress means not to rob them of their money. Thus we are told not to verbally abuse or shame, or to economically deprive the stranger.



By Rabbi Natan Levy, February 4, 2010

At last, the giving of Torah at Mt Sinai. That singular moment where divine touches human, and the Jewish purpose becomes manifest. Yet, the sidrah opens with the rather pedestrian tale of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, coming with Moses’s wife and sons to the encampment of Israel.



By Rabbi Yisroel Fine, January 28, 2010

This week’s sidrah contains some of the most exciting and uplifting moments in our history; the crossing of the Red Sea, the miracles of the manna and our victory over Amalek.

Yet it is this sidrah which begins with the word “vayehi” — which, according to our sages, is an expression of sadness. How can we possible explain this?

When God summons Moses to announce to Israel that they will go free, their unenthusiastic response is ascribed by Targun Yonatan to their unwillingness to leave behind those gods which they worshipped together with their Egyptian neighbours.



By Rabbi Brian Fox, January 21, 2010

While one might go along with medieval commentators and limit this verse to proselytes or to Passover laws, for many that is just not good enough. We see this in the context of the Holiness Code of Leviticus 19 (verse 34): “The strangers who reside with you shall be to you as your citizens.”



By Rabbi Gideon Sylvester, January 14, 2010

Judaism is about revolutionary change. It is about mending the world according to the rule of God, making it a just, compassionate and holy place. But it is sometimes hard for us to set aside our mundane concerns for such a grand and inspiring vision. In this week’s parashah, God promises to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt to a magnificent future in the Promised Land. But when Moses relays the news, the Jewish people are deaf to his words.



By Elaine Robinson, January 7, 2010

Who were these midwives who did not carry out the King’s command to kill the male babies of the Israelites, but rather “saved the boys” (Exodus 1:17)?



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”.