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Hannah Caspar-Johnson

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Buddish temple in China, visited by the author

This week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, is often read in terms of reconciliation and reunification: Joseph forgives his brothers for selling him into slavery, Jacob learns his favorite son is alive, a family comes together. All in all, a nice, clean happy ending.

It turns out, however, that there is much more action happening in the background and, through some research, I happened upon the intriguing story of Serah.

Step-daughter of Asher, one of Jacob’s 12 sons, Serah is mentioned only twice in the Torah: among the 70-person party traveling from Canaan to Egypt later in this...

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Partial handprint on wood

“And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” -- Deuteronomy 26:8

Well-known and often-quoted, this phrase recalls the long-awaited liberation from Egypt, the ultimate symbol of God’s power to save the Jewish people by lifting us out of bondage with just a single hand. But this popular image provides only half the picture, begging the question, what was God doing with the other hand?

This week's Torah portion, Eikev, offers a glimpse into a broader perspective of this moment. Answering the Israelites' concerns for safety amid strange...

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