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Blessing

Objects in Mirror May Be Closer Than They Appear

My car is a philosopher; yours is too. I am certain I am not the first person to look into my passenger side-view mirror and ponder the existential meaning of the message inscribed at the bottom of the frame, “Objects in (the) mirror may be closer than they appear.” In this week’s Torah portion, Va-y’chi, Joseph does essentially the same thing. According to midrash, he revisits the site where his brothers betrayed him and instead of bitterness found blessing.

D'var Torah By: 
Breaking the Chain and Becoming a Blessing
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Kenneth Carr

In his teaching about Parashat Va-y’chi, Rabbi Moskovitz discusses the importance of remembering our history. The lessons of the past should inform our perspective on the present, shaping how we feel and how we act. By avoiding conflict, Joseph's sons model this behavior.

Teaching Children According to Their Own Way

My wife and I have three children, two boys and a girl. ... Each one argues that a certain rule may apply to the other two siblings, but it does not apply to him/her because he/she is our favorite. ... In this week’s Torah portion, Tol’dot, Isaac and Rebekah, the parents of twin boys Jacob and Esau  show favoritism to one child over the other. From the outset we are told that these two children are very different beings.

D'var Torah By: 
Great Growth Can Come From Great Struggle
Davar Acher By: 
Cantor Ellen Dreskin

Parashat Tol’dot rarely goes by without someone asking,“How can we receive our name (Yisrael) from someone as manipulative and easily sucked into deceit as Jacob appears to be in this week’s parashah?” And who is really to blame? In deceiving Isaac, was Rebekah only doing her part to manifest the prophecy that she heard from God? Was Isaac really deceived, or did he also knowingly give Jacob the blessing that was supposed to have been given to Esau, his firstborn? And why did Jacob, our “hero,” dive so willingly into his mother’s plan to lie to Isaac?

The Dramatic Effects of Sound and Silence

In the story of Elijah, this classic text describes the prophet’s encounter with God: “... the Eternal was not in the fire. And after the fire—a soft murmuring sound [kol d’mamah dakah]” (I Kings 19:11-12). The sound of silence—or close to it. The power of the soft whisper, the energy of the absence of sound. Jewish tradition, and the Torah specifically, uses many examples of the drama that can be achieved with sound, 

D'var Torah By: 
The Call to Listen, the Gift to Hear

While the Sephardi Jewish community starts adding penitential prayers to services at the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul, the Askenazi Jewish community formally enters into High Holiday period as the sun sets on Saturday, September 21, 2019, with the recitation of Selichot poems and prayers for Divine forgiveness. For Ashkenazi Jews, the first night of Selichot holds immense spiritual power and weight. This period of time helps Jews enter the Yamim Nora-im, the Days of Awe, with a full heart and an open soul. This may also be the first time we hear the sounding of the shofar since the end of N’ilah last Yom Kippur. It is the wake-up call of our sidrah, Ki Tavo.

The Tension Between Hubris and Humility

In its brief 40 verses, Parashat Nitzavim immediately presents us with tensions between confidence and condemnation, promise and punishment, and ultimately, between humility and hubris. Throughout the text of these two compact chapters—Deuteronomy 29 and 30—Moses consistently oscillates between inspiring the Israelites toward their future and forewarning them about their inherent (and perhaps inevitable) flaws.

D'var Torah By: 
Insights Into the Needs and Fears of Baby Boomers
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Laura Geller
In the beginning of Parashat Nitzavim, we read: “You stand this day, all of you, before the Eternal your God ... "(Deut. 29:9).  As Cantor Sacks notes, Moses’ language in this section, “rouses the people before him to confidence and promise, and to inspiration and importance.” 

Balancing Between Anarchy and Self-Actualization

In the litany of rules and regulations found in Parashat R’eih, we read two commandments that at first glance seem to propose conflicting sentiments. The first is a reproach against personal anarchy. The second promotes the idea of self-actualization. How do we reconcile the two? 

D'var Torah By: 
The Tension Between Individualism and Community
Davar Acher By: 
Cantor David Frommer

Cantor Sacks beautifully outlines the tension in Parashat R’eih between collectivism and individuality, and urges us to balance the two. It’s no easy task, but we can aid ourselves by noticing the different cultural values around us and how they might affect these two divergent impulses.

How to Avoid Getting Stuck in Balak’s Trap

In Parashat Balak, King Balak and the people of Moab, central characters in the weekly Torah portion, are afraid of the Children of Israel. Balak tries to recruit the prophet Balaam to curse the Children of Israel in order to weaken them and save Moab from impending defeat. King Balak sends for his prophet twice and Balaam barely responds. Three times Balak attempts to force a curse on Israel out of Balaam's mouth and three times he fails. It is fascinating to try to understand what causes a king to attempt the same solution, and fail again and again, and despite this, to not change his strategy.

D'var Torah By: 
When We Fail to Learn from Our Mistakes
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Ben Zeidman

As I reflect on Dr. Ruhama Weiss’s words about Parashat Balak, I can’t help but think of this quote from Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World: “Flexibility is the ability to bend when we find ourselves in unworkable positions. A universal characteristic of insanity is inflexibly doing the same thing over and over while hoping for different results. ... “

The Blessing of Dinah

In Parashat Va-y’chi, Jacob blesses his sons as he lies on his deathbed. We note the absence of any blessing for - or mention of - his daughter Dinah. 

D'var Torah By: 
Many Character Traits, Good and Bad
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jocee Hudson

In Va-y’chi, Joseph learns that his father Jacob is sick before Jacob has the chance to call his 12 sons to his bedside (and, in Torah’s account, shockingly misses the opportunity to reconnect with his daughter Dinah). Without invitation, Joseph shows up to visit his dad with his sons Ephraim and Manasseh in tow. What follows are a series of blessings delivered by Jacob to his sons and grandsons that reveal the good points and the failings of these ancestors.

 

Isaac Remembers When He Ended It with Abraham

In Parashat Tol’dot, Isaac is described as having “weak eyes,” which is considered a metaphor for his inability to see what his twin sons Jacob and Esau needed from him (Gen. 27:1). Why was he so poorly prepared to father his boys? In this midrashic monologue, Isaac gives us a clue as he reflects upon his relationship with his own father.

D'var Torah By: 
A Space for Presence and for Love: Be’er-Lachai-Roi
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Ilene Harkavy Haigh

In our Torah portion this week, Tol’dot, we learn that “Isaac had grown old and his eyesight had dimmed” (Gen. 27:1) compromising his ability to differentiate between his two sons. Does this explain how he, “inadvertently” blesses Jacob instead of Esa

The Depths of Human Agency and God’s Surprising Laughter

In this week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim, an aspect of the fundamental genius of Jewish existence is illuminated. In renewing the covenant God's intention is revealed: that human beings are intended to interpret and determine the meaning of Torah.

D'var Torah By: 
Yes, You Are a Good Jew
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jeremy Gimbel

“I’m not a good Jew.” This is a phrase we hear far too often. But in Parashat Nitzavim, we learn that each and every Jew is valued as a part of the community.

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