Parashat Vayeishev introduces the Joseph saga. When it begins, Jacob’s 11th son, Joseph, is a 17-year-old shepherd working in the fields alongside his older brothers. The text’s description of him as a “youth,” na-ar, is apt, both biologically and emotionally. As Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg writes: “Joseph behaves with the narcissism of youth, with a dangerous unawareness of the inner worlds of others” (Zornberg, Genesis: The Beginning of Desire [Philadelphia: JPS,1995], p. 253). He consciously tells Jacob malicious tales about the brothers and by wearing the beautiful, multicolored coat (or ornamental tunic) that Jacob has given him, flaunts the fact that he is the favorite son. It is thus not surprising that when Joseph’s brothers see that their father loves him more than they, they come to hate Joseph (Genesis 37:4).
Many years ago, I taught an adult education class on biblical heroes. Among those we studied was Joseph. We focused on Parashat Mikeitz and discussed Joseph’s contentious relationship with his older brothers and their later reconciliation.
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).
As we near the end of Deuteronomy, prepare to begin the yearly Torah cycle anew, and celebrate the finale of the fall holidays, we are poised for a remarkable spiritual climax. This week’s Torah portion, Haazinu, includes Moses’ dramatic theological poem – a powerful cry of the heart because he wants to ensure that the community understands the core principles of what it means to be an Israelite.
More than any other Jewish holiday or ritual, I love the audacity of Sukkot. After the many profound words and seemingly endless prayers of the High Holidays, Sukkot offers a very different holiday mode. The main theme and ultimate goal of the holiday is to achieve climactic joy throughout the holiday, including the intermediate days, which are known as Chol HaMo-eid Sukkot.
Is it possible that there were other worlds in existence before this one? Some of the Rabbis say yes!
After God sends seven plagues upon the Egyptians, Pharaoh still will not free the Jewish slaves. God sends two more plagues, but Pharaoh still will not let the people go. God warns Moses about the killing of the first born and the Israelites put blood on their doorposts so that the angel of death will pass over them (That's where the word “Passover” comes from!). Listen now to find out what happens when Pharaoh’s son is killed.
In last week’s parasha, the Israelites were told they could leave Egypt, but now Pharaoh changes his mind! The Israelites still leave but with little time to prepare; an exciting exodus ensues. Then they're in the desert - listen to learn about that, too!