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Finding Guidance and Direction from the Voice Within

Joseph, then viceroy of Egypt, decides to hold Benjamin to pressure his brothers to bring their father Jacob to Egypt. His true identity is still hidden from his brothers. But Judah steps forward to intervene (Gen. 44:1-14). As Vayigash opens, in an impassioned plea, Judah offers himself in place of Benjamin (Gen. 44:18-34). Where does Judah, who once lacked strength to protect Joseph, finally find the courage?

D'var Torah By: 
The Challenge to Find Meaning and Connection
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Zachary Shapiro

“You’re Zachary, right?” Grandma asked. “What do you do?” “I’m a rabbi,” I answered. “What do rabbis do?” ... Thirty seconds later, she asked, “What do you do?”  My grandma's repeated questions were difficult to understand and to respond to. In Parashat Vayigash, Joseph reaches out to his brothers, taking a chance to reconnect, even though theirt responses may have been difficults to understand and respond to.  I

Israel in Egypt: From Valued Subjects to Persecuted Minority

Parashat Mikeitz illuminates how the deep bond between Pharaoh and Joseph developed. How is it then that a new Pharaoh, who knew not Joseph, could suddenly enslave the whole Israelite people (Ex. 1:8)?

D'var Torah By: 
Paying Attention to the Afflicted Among Us
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Mark Miller

Some may be shocked to read the poem that opens the commentary by Rabbi Kipnes. Some may be surprised at the overt nature of the connection he makes between our Torah portion, Mikeitz, and current events in our country. Some may be disturbed by the political nature of a moment dedicated to Torah study.

The Challenge of Letting Go of Children

“Lech L’cha: Heartbreak and Hopefulness as Children Go Off and Move On,” is spoken-word poetry to dramatize the wide array of thoughts and feelings that occur to Abram's parents.

D'var Torah By: 
Can You Go Home Again?
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Noam Katz

“Toil on, son, and do not lose heart or hope. ..." is a message in Thomas Wolfe's classic novel, You Can’t Go Home AgainThe same themes apply as Abram embarks on his own road to self-actualization in Lech L'cha.

The True Measure of Repentance

In Vayigash, Joseph now a powerful man in Egypt conceals his identity from the brothers who had sold him into slavery years ago. In so doing, he allows them to confront their past mistakes.

D'var Torah By: 
Taking a Step Toward Renewed Trust and Conflict Resolution
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Ted Riter

What if Joseph, after so many years of separation from his brothers were to write a letter to communicate with his brothers in Parashat Vayigash. What would that letter say?

Jewish Self-Definition: One Size No Longer Fits All

Jewish assimilation — the loss of followers through attrition, absorption into other faiths, or the practice of no faith — harkens back to Joseph, the first Israelite to live in a diaspora. In Mikeitz, we read how Joseph adopted Egyptian customs and clothes, took an Egyptian wife, and was given the Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah (Genesis 41:45), a sign of acceptance into Egyptian society. Joseph offers us a window into the broad spectrum of Jewish affiliation and practice that exists today.

D'var Torah By: 
Adapting to New Circumstances Without Abandoning One’s Beliefs
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Stacy Eskovitz Rigler

In Mikeitz we see that Joseph is not an example of assimilation, but rather an example of acculturation and adaption that defines modern Judaism. Joseph attributed his success to God. He navigated the intersection between Judaism and diaspora, overcoming the desire to focus on the supremacy of self and through him our people grew mighty and numerous.

Searching Oneself on the Way Forward

In Lech L’cha, God commands Abram and to travel on a physical journey “to the land that I will show you.” At the same time, God instructs Abram to look within, taking an inner spiritual journey within himself.

D'var Torah By: 
The Reward of a Journey
Davar Acher By: 
Zachary Herrmann

Looking at Parashat Lech L’cha, Rabbi Pearce analyzes Abraham’s departure and his difficult journeys: one a physical challenge, and the other a spiritual challenge. These journeys end with instant gratification: Abraham is given a new name by God for the spiritual journey and land for the physical journey. This inspires us to put our faith in God and be willing to leave everything we know for the greater good. The problem is that Abraham is rewarded at the end. With this example, are we learning that we should expect a tangible gift at the end of our efforts and journeys?

The Formation of a People

Parashat Vayak’heil/P’kudei is a double Torah portion that concludes the Book of Exodus. The paired Torah portions describe the building of the Tabernacle and the anointing of the priests. The parashiyot are primarily contain many verses of detailed plans and descriptions of rituals, some of which are hard to visualize sitting in such a different world today. 

D'var Torah By: 
Finding Humanity and Divinity in the Other
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Linda Bertenthal

Parashat Vayak'heil/P'kudei describes the process of building the Mishkan (Tabernacle), which serves as a model for building Jewish community. The cherubim on the kaporet (ark cover) of the Mishkan that faced each other remind us that we should face one another and listen. 

Revealing Oneself in Order to Heal

As Parashat Vayigash begins, Joseph still has not revealed his identity to his brothers. With Joseph having framed his younger brother Benjamin for stealing his divining goblet, and consequently declaring that as punishment, Benjamin will be enslaved in Egypt, his brother, Judah, now beseeches Joseph to enslave him instead (Genesis 44:33). His plea comes after Judah reminds Joseph that he has an elderly father and describes in detail, why Benjamin did not initially go down to Egypt with the brothers and why, should he not return to Canaan, their father literally would die (Genesis 44:31). 

D'var Torah By: 
Taking Initiative on the Road to Peace
Davar Acher By: 
Jeremy Simons

Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers is not an obvious outcome. This is, after all, the same Joseph who “brought bad reports of [his brothers] to their father” (Genesis 37:2) and the same Joseph who had no compunction about telling them of his dreams in which he was the star of the show. And that was all before he found himself alone in an Egyptian dungeon as a result of their actions. Between his ego and their actions, it’s pretty extraordinary that 20 years later he can make peace with them. 

The Making of a Covenant with Men and Women

Almost 25 years after God calls Abram to leave his home in Mesopotamia and go to the land of Canaan, God formally establishes a covenant with him (Genesis 17:4ff.). Like that established with Noah, his descendants, and all living beings (9:8ff.), it is unconditional, everlasting, includes blessings and promises, and carries with it a sign decided upon by God. However, unlike the rainbow, placed in the clouds and passively received by humanity, the sign of God's covenant with Abraham — male circumcision — is something with which Abram and his descendants, not God, are entrusted. They are to circumcise their sons and other male children in their household on the eighth day after birth as a physical sign of the covenant. The punishment for failing to do so is severe. "An uncircumcised male who has not circumcised the flesh of his foreskin," says God, " … shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant" (17:14).

D'var Torah By: 
A Series of Tests that Lead to the Covenant
Davar Acher By: 
Bruce Kadden

The covenant God establishes with Abram in Genesis 17 originates in God's call to Abram at the beginning of Parashat Lech L'cha: "Go forth from your land, your birthplace, your father's house, to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and it shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will pronounce doom on those who curse you; through you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3).

As enticing as these promises are, it must have taken significant courage for Abram to set out from Haran for an unspecified land. But without asking a single question, Abram went forth from Haran with Sarai, his nephew Lot and their possessions for the land of Canaan.

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