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Birth

Struggling With a Deceitful Heart

The inner turmoil that marked Jacob’s life of deceitfulness as well as his struggle with his father, brother, and sons are exposed in Vayishlach. After many years of separation, Jacob, about to meet his estranged brother, Esau, slept in a dream-like state of wakefulness on the shore of the Jabbok River where a man wrestled with him until the rise of dawn. 

D'var Torah By: 
Confronting Mistakes in Order to Grow
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Sarah Mack

Growth often comes from the things we wish most to avoid. In Vayishlach, that is just what Jacob discovers on that dark night on the banks of the Jabbok river. He confronts his mistakes and in the process transforms from his former self, Ya-akov, which can mean “usurper” or “birthright stealer,” to Yisrael a name meaning “one who struggles with God.” 

But Wait, There’s More!

In Vayeitzei, Jacob encounters God in a dream, thus advancing the biblical journey of our people learning from and following the instruction of God. After the biblical era, our Sages found a way to expand our understanding of the Torah and its teachings. 

D'var Torah By: 
The Awesome Presence of God
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Dan Moskovitz

In Vayeitzei, Jacob learns that he is not the center of his own universe when he encounters God in a dream. Jacob’s understanding of God in this moment is really an understanding of himself as inspirable from the divinity that is all around him and within him.

Genuine Forgiveness Despite a Grave Wrong

In Tol’dot we learn that Jacob, the homespun man, is wilier than his brother Esau, the skilled hunter. While Jewish commentators ascribed many negative traits and behaviors to Esau, a later portion reveals his positive ability to forgive.

D'var Torah By: 
Two Sides of the Same Coin
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Judith L. Siegal

Jacob and Esau had different traits even in the womb. Jacob is the brother who gains the favor of the Rabbis ultimately, but in Tol’dot, he is conniving and conspiring. Esau is viewed by the biblical author as “impetuous and brash” and by later commentators as a “wild beast.” The words in Tol’dot imply that their character was inescapable.  

Judge a Society by Its Hospitality

In Vayeira, The people of Sodom and Gommorah are depicted as inhospitable, and even cruel, in their treatment of visitors and the poor. We can learn to become an open, welcoming society by following the opposite of their example. 

D'var Torah By: 
Individual Courage and the Value of One
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jason Levine

In Vayeira, we learn some of the negative, as well as some of the positive traits of Lot, which are often overlooked. Lot shows us how the positive action of one person can make a difference.

A Biblical Text of Terror

In the midst of this week’s parashah, most of which focuses on Jacob’s return to the land of Canaan with his wives, maidservants, and children, is a lengthy story about Jacob’s only daughter, Dina (Genesis 34). While Jacob briefly appears in this story, he plays a surprisingly insignificant role. Indeed, after Jacob hears that Dina has been raped by Shechem, a local Hivite prince, he neither tells anyone nor takes any action, choosing to wait until his sons, who are in the fields tending to the livestock, return home (Genesis 34:5). 

D'var Torah By: 
Using Our Inheritance to Save and Not Destroy
Davar Acher By: 
David Ariel-Joel

After raping Dina, Shechem, who was in love with Dina, offered to marry her. Four books later we will find out that Shechem is the paradigm of the biblical law. In Deuteronomy 22:28-29 we read that if a man rapes a virgin he has to marry her and pay 50 shekels to her father. Shechem offers much more than that.

So what does not make sense in the story of Dina?

A Strong Ladder to Spiritual Awareness

Parashat Vayeitzei opens with Jacob journeying from Beersheba to Haran. As the sun sets, he decides to spend the night outside in “the place,” hamakom, where he happens to be, resting his head on one of the stones that he has found there. The biblical text doesn’t tell us the name of this place. Presumably, Jacob himself does not know it. Yet it becomes clear in the next few verses that where exactly this place is and what it is called isn’t important. For after Jacob wakes up the next morning from a dream in which he encounters God, he comes to the life-changing realization that the Eternal is present in this place. “God is here although I didn’t know it initially,” Jacob thinks to himself. “Indeed, this awe-inspiring place is none other than the house of God” (paraphrasing Genesis 28:16-17).

D'var Torah By: 
The Challenge of Striving for Spirituality
Davar Acher By: 
Lisa J. Grushcow

How do we feel God’s presence? It’s easy to envy Jacob’s dream, and his waking realization that he has been close to the Divine.

Arthur Green, in his Introduction to the Zohar, describes mystical experiences as, “striving toward oneness, a breaking down of illusory barriers to reveal the great secret of the unity of all being.” I think about Jacob’s experience in that light. It is a moment in which he understands that he is part of something bigger, and that his life’s journey has meaning.

Family Discord and Distrust

Friendships among siblings can be close and long-lasting. Many times, however, they are difficult to achieve or sustain. This week's parashah provides insight into the latter.

D'var Torah By: 
A Struggle from Birth and Throughout a Lifetime
Davar Acher By: 
Lisa Kingston

In Parashat Tol'dot, Jacob certainly appears as if he is born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Being born into the prophecy that Dr.

Covenantal Models of Protest and Submission

Vayeira is an especially challenging and memorable Torah portion for it provides us with two very different models of what it means to live in covenantal relationship with God.

D'var Torah By: 
Learning Assertiveness
Davar Acher By: 
Darah R. Lerner

Standing up for the rights of others is a hallmark of Jewish tradition. But how do we measure up when the need is in our own homes or for our own families?

What Would You Hold Onto – At Any Price?

The show, Pawn Stars, is a runaway hit on the History Channel. It tells the story of three generations of the Harrison family and their Las Vegas pawnshop.

D'var Torah By: 
Our Sacred Preservation Project
Davar Acher By: 
Shoshanah Conover

Not long ago, I heard Robert Krulwich of the podcast Radiolab1 reflect on his experiences at two different ancient temples—one in Kyoto and one in Athens.

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