In Vayeitzei, Jacob encounters God in a dream, thus advancing the biblical journey of our people learning from and following the instruction of God. After the biblical era, our Sages found a way to expand our understanding of the Torah and its teachings.
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.
Reading Parashat Vayeishev and other dream-filled portions in Genesis, we wonder if it’s possible to influence a dream’s prophecy rather than passively waiting for the outcome to unfold. The upcoming holiday, Hanukkah, provides a clue.
The slogan for the Torah portion known as Yitro should be “we’ve arrived.” The theophany on Mount Sinai – God’s Revelation of the Ten Commandments – is arguably the climax of the Torah (Exodus 20). But the story doesn’t end here – it is the post-Sinai textual journey where we learn that we exist in a perpetual state of arrival, constantly figuring out how to hear Torah as we walk through our daily lives.
The word for “and” in Hebrew is not a separate word: it is a one-letter prefix, the letter vav. Sometimes it is translated as and, other times it is best translated as “but”; sometimes, vav is a participle that doesn’t need to be translated. In the opening sentence of Parashat Mishpatim, the translation used in the Reform Movement’s Chumash discounts the vav that is attached to first word, v'eileh, "these" or "and these."
T’rumah opens with a call for the Israelites to bring to God what the standard English translation calls “gifts”: "The Eternal spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved" (Ex. 25:1-2). After enumerating the precious metals, stones, and materials that would constitute such gifts, we learn the purpose: "And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them" (Ex. 25:8).
Parashat Mishpatim presents a full catalog of laws, rituals, observance, and obligations that guide us in living a Jewish life of moral depth and courage. But, Rabbi Rick Jacobs asks, how do we, as liberal Jews regard these laws – which of them are we obligated to observe, and how?
In Parashat Ki Teitzei, we read the phrase, “you shall not abhor an Egyptian, for you are a stranger in his land.” This statement is read only a few months after Leviticus, when the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians, maki