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Reconciliation

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.

Facing Our Faults on the Other Side of the River

The stories in Genesis are heavy with human experience; they turn on every conceivable emotion, and life and relationship challenge. In this way, Torah in general, and the Book of Genesis in particular, provide a spiritual mirror that reflects back to us our best, and sometimes most disappointing selves. ...In Jacob, who, in this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, wrestled with the night messenger, we see ourselves struggling with great challenges that bring pain, but from which we might extract blessing.

D'var Torah By: 
Emerging from Our Struggles to Embrace Change
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Joseph R. Black

This week’s parashahVayishlach, so beautifully interpreted by my colleague, Rabbi Dan Moskovitz, teaches us about the necessity to embrace change – even when it is difficult. Jacob/Yaakov becomes Israel/Yisrael after wrestling with a mysterious stranger. He is both wounded and empowered by his mystical encounter. Our text provides us with a glimpse into our progenitor’s ability to look deep within himself and his soul, and to find the courage to adjust to the rapidly changing world around him.

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.

 

When Ben-Oni Becomes Benjamin: Rachel’s Midrashic Monologue

In Parashat Vayishlach, we read of the death of our matriarch, Rachel, who does not survive the birth of her second child, a boy whom she names Ben-oni. As she lay dying, the baby’s father, Jacob, renames him Benjamin (Gen. 35:16-18). The Torah does not tell us why this change is made. We imagine Rachel, in her final moments, whispering to her newborn:

D'var Torah By: 
What’s in a Name?
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Rachel Kaplan Marks

Shakespeare asks rhetorically, “What’s in a name?" According to our biblical tradition there’s significant meaning in our names. In their commentary on Parashat Vayishlach, Rabbis Bearman and Kipnes present a beautiful midrash on Rachel’s thoughts and feelings about Jacob having changed their youngest son’s name (Gen. 35:18). 

How the Living Serve the Dead

In Va-y’chi, we hear the final requests of Jacob, and then Joseph, to bring back their remains to be buried in the land God promised to their ancestors. In carrying Joseph’s bones, Moses moves draws closer to his progenitor, giving us the opportunity to reflect on our connections to our forebears. 

D'var Torah By: 
The Importance of Planning Ahead
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Ethan Prosnit

In this week’s Torah portion, Va-y'chi, both Jacob and then Joseph ask the children of Israel to carry their bones back to be buried in Canaan. Both men teach us the value of planning and sharing our wished with the next generation.

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.” 

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. 

The Power and Protection of Angels

For as long as I can remember, I have believed in guardian angels.

D'var Torah By: 
Striving to Be More Like Angels
Davar Acher By: 
Daniel N. Geffen

For as long as I can remember, I have not believed in guardian angels. Whether it is the result of hyper-rationalism or simply a lack of imagination, I am sadly not a believer.

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?

In Place of God? In God’s Place?

After a natural calamity or terrorist attack an understandable question presents itself: Where is God in all this?

D'var Torah By: 
Be a Place Where God Is
Davar Acher By: 
Laura Geller

Joseph's response to his brothers seems to suggest that whatever happens is meant to happen: "Am I in place of God? Though you intended me harm, God intended it for good . .

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