Shabbat VaYishlakh: Becoming Whole By Becoming Oneself

There’s a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in – Leonard Cohen ז״ל In this week’s parashah, the eponymous ancestor of the People of Israel is given the name Israel. The deceiving, conniving, too smart by half Jacob has apparently achieved some kind of transition. The people Israel has for two thousandContinue reading “Shabbat VaYishlakh: Becoming Whole By Becoming Oneself”

Shabbat VaYeshev: Minority Status

Hanukkah begins on Sunday December 2 at sundown. We always find it in proximity to the parashat hashavua which we study this week, VaYeshev. The word means “he returned” but we might also read it as “here we go again.” One month after the massacre of our fellow Jews joined in Shabbat prayer in Pittsburgh,Continue reading “Shabbat VaYeshev: Minority Status”

Shabbat VaYetze: Can You See It?

Our ancestor Ya’akov, or Jacob as he is called in English, is the most fully developed, most flawed, most human character of all the Matriarchs and Patriarchs of Jewish tradition. Named, basically, for the word “heel” in Hebrew because he was born holding his twin brother Esau’s heel, he acts the part throughout his youth. JustContinue reading “Shabbat VaYetze: Can You See It?”

Shabbat VaYekhi: Your New Day’s Resolution

Taking advantage of what is, interestingly enough after all, only an arbitrary way of calculating a turning point in the counting of our days (why not solstice?), this is the time of year when our society focuses upon the idea of making new year’s resolutions. Jews practice a variation of this idea on Yom Kippur,Continue reading “Shabbat VaYekhi: Your New Day’s Resolution”

Shabbat VaYetze: Give Me Children Or I Will Die

This week’s parashah finds Jacob leaving home, going to a new community and creating family there. The resonance is obvious here for so many of us, for whom it is natural to expect to create our families and our future in a place different from the one in which we grew up. For Jacob, aContinue reading “Shabbat VaYetze: Give Me Children Or I Will Die”

(next week) Shabbat VaYehi: What’s the Last Word?

Our parashat hashavua this week concludes not only the Book Bereshit but also the saga of Jacob, Joseph and his brothers, and that entire generation. One of the most fascinating passages in the parashah describes Jacob, on his deathbed, and his last words to his sons. Although we refer to the scene as Jacob’s deathbedContinue reading “(next week) Shabbat VaYehi: What’s the Last Word?”

Shabbat VaYeshev: Return, O Light, and We will Return to You

This is as dark as it’s going to get. From here on out, the light of the sun returns to us, slowly, day by day. Darkness settles on us human beings like an oppressive cloak. Like Jacob and his sons in our parashat hashavua, we might even lose our grip on what’s real, and what’sContinue reading “Shabbat VaYeshev: Return, O Light, and We will Return to You”

Shabbat VaYishlakh: Gratitude, Not Fear

As Parashat VaYishlakh begins, Jacob survives a confrontation with his brother Esau, from whom he has been estranged for twenty years – a generation, a lifetime, of distance. Jacob has prepared himself for the worst, splitting his family into two camps and sending lavish gifts to his brother in advance – according to the Midrash, heContinue reading “Shabbat VaYishlakh: Gratitude, Not Fear”

Shabbat VaYishlakh: Angels Among Us

Do we believe in angels? It surprises me how often I am asked that question – that, or another one that asks about the “we” of Jews, and the “supposed to” of our beliefs. When you think about it, the whole idea that you are “supposed” to “believe” is already a curiosity. More, it isContinue reading “Shabbat VaYishlakh: Angels Among Us”

Shabbat VaYetze: Trans Torah on Trans Day of Remembrance

On Shabbat VaYetze we read of Jacob’s leaving his family under threat of death from his brother. His escape is hurried and frightened, and his path traces an ironic reversal of Abraham’s, as Jacob has to leave his family home, the homeland promised to his grandfather’s and father’s descendants, and his people just to survive.Continue reading “Shabbat VaYetze: Trans Torah on Trans Day of Remembrance”