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Posted December 23, 2016 - 7:03am

And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. (Genesis 37:24)

Parashat Vayeishev begins the story of Joseph. When we first encounter him, he is a seventeen year old young man. We learn that his father, Jacob, had a special love for him above all of his eleven brothers. He was loved so much so that his father had given him a special, and highly recognizable garment that distinguished him from among his brothers. It was this disproportionate love that stirred up jealousy from his brothers and fostered their resentment toward him. That resentment eventually turned to a genuine hatred of Joseph and caused his brothers to eventually plot to do away with him.

As the story goes, one day Jacob tells Joseph to go out to the land of Shechem where his older brothers were watching over the flock. He was to check in on them and see how they were doing and then report back to his father. His father knew he would give him the scoop on what his other sons were really doing while they were away from home with the flock. His brothers probably called him the Little Snitch. And being his father’s spy didn’t earn him any brownie points with his brothers. It only stirred up more hatred toward him.

Posted December 16, 2016 - 8:40am

This week’s parashah covers a lot of territory. We begin reading about Jacob preparing to meet his brother Esau after his departure from the house of Laban. From there we read about him wrestling through the night with what appears to be an angel of God. Jacob then encounters Esau and things go much better than expected. Esau is cordial and Jacob doesn’t get killed, so he skirts around his brother’s territory and heads over to Succoth. But after this we read of a sad incident in which his daughter, Dinah, is seduced and defiled by a man named Shechem. It is this incident that we will examine a little more closely.

When Shechem first saw Dinah he immediately desired her. He knew he needed to do whatever it took to get her. Our English translations make it appear that he simply found her alone and had his way with her. It says, “he seized her and lay with her and humiliated [or ‘violated’] her” (Genesis 34:2). The next verse, however, seems to indicate that Shechem had a genuine love for Dinah. It says, “And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob. He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her” (Genesis 34:3). Even more confusing is the midrash’s account of how Dinah was rescued from Shechem. Commenting on the Torah’s account that they “took Dinah out of Shechem's house,” Rabbi Judah says, “They dragged her out [against her will] and departed” (Midrash Rabbah 80:11 commenting on Genesis 34:26).

Posted December 9, 2016 - 8:54am

Our parashah begins by telling us, “Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran” (Genesis 28:10). Rashi makes a keen observation on this verse. He asks a question that should be obvious to us: “Why does the Torah mention Jacob’s departure from Beersheba?” If we’ve been paying attention we should remember that the Torah had just mentioned this fact a few verses prior. Verse seven says, “Jacob had obeyed his father and his mother and gone to Paddan-aram.” Haran is located within the region of Paddan-aram. Therefore, we’ve been told twice within a few sentences that Jacob went toward Haran. If the Torah doesn’t waste words, then why does it repeat itself in this case? Rashi says that we are supposed to learn an important lesson through this repetition. He quotes the midrash by saying:

This tells us that the departure of a righteous man from a place makes an impression, for while the righteous man is in the city, he is its beauty, he is its splendor, he is its majesty. When he departs from there, its beauty has departed, its splendor has departed, its majesty has departed. (Rashi’s reference to and quotation of Genesis Rabbah 68:6)

According to Rashi, the repetition of Jacob’s departure is to teach us “that the departure of a righteous man from a place makes an impression.” When Jacob left Beersheba, his absence was felt. The people in that region missed him terribly and realized that his presence made a difference in their lives. When he was with them there was nothing lacking. Maybe they didn’t necessarily recognize the benefit of his presence while he was with them and only noticed the void when he departed. Nevertheless, once he had left, his absence was palpably felt. The departure of a righteous person should be obviously noticeable.

Posted December 5, 2016 - 7:11am

Note: This Dust of the Master is a revised and updated version of an article from three years ago. Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2.

No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins. (Mark 2:21-22) 

In Part 2 of “Old Disciples, New Disciples,” we took a look at the popular interpretation of these parables to see if it was congruent with Yeshua’s other teachings. We discovered that these parables had nothing to do with the contrast of Christianity against Judaism, as is traditionally taught, and that this interpretation is inconsistent with Yeshua’s emphasis on a return to Torah (repentance) and the coming of the Messianic Era (the Kingdom of Heaven). Let’s now begin to unpack the meaning of these parables.

If we return to the sequence of events in each of the Gospel accounts that we examined at the beginning of our series, we find that these parables are always told in connection to Yeshua’s calling of Matthew Levi. They are Yeshua’s response to the Pharisees’ accusations against his association with “tax collectors and sinners.” Yeshua uses these parables to explain his mission of calling the “sick” rather than calling the “well.” Pirkei Avot, a well-known tractate of the Mishnah, has some interesting parallels that will help us better understand these parables:

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The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

The Koren Ani Tefilla Siddur is one of the latest in Koren’s growing collection of siddurim (prayer books) geared towards a specific demographic. Koren describes Ani Tefilla as “an engaging and thought-provoking siddur for the inquiring high school student and thoughtful adult.” Koren says that Ani Tefillah has been developed in order “to help the user create their own meaning and connection during the Tefilla [prayer] experience.” The name of the siddur is connected with its objective. Ani Tefilla means “I pray.” 

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