Investigation and Surmise

In next week’s Torah portion, Jacob is brought the many-colored coat he’d given his favorite son, Joseph. The coat has been dipped in goat’s blood to trick Jacob into believing Joseph was torn by a wild animal, rather than that his own brothers sold him into slavery (Genesis 37:23-36). “We found this; identify, if you […]

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Legends of Luz

This week’s Torah portion, Vayeitzei (Genesis 28:10-32:3), opens with Jacob, en route from his parents’ home to the land of his mother’s people. He stops for the night and dreams of a ladder, its top in heaven and its bottom on earth, with angels traveling up and down. In the dream, God is “standing over […]

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Seven Days or Seven Years: Why Don’t Reform Jews Know?

How long was Jacob married to Leah before he also married Rachel? This question came up in discussion at Temple Micah‘s Kol Isha group this week concerning Jacob and his wives (Parashat Vayeitzei, primarily). We were confused, since participants had been taught different basic facts: Some remembered clearly being taught as children that Laban demanded […]

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Vayechi: A Path to Follow

In one of her studies of Vayechi, “Jacob’s Testament,” Nechama Leibowitz* discusses Joseph’s reluctance to swear to Jacob’s burial wish: The Midrash aptly explains the difference between Joseph’s behavior and that of Abraham’s servant [when asked to swear, regarding finding a wife for Isaac]: Said Rabbi Isaac: The servant acted servilely and the freeman as […]

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Vayigash: Language and Translation

The language in verses 30 and 31, at the opening of this portion draw a number of commentaries. [44:30] [And] Now [v’atah], therefore when I come to thy servant my father and the lad is not with us — seeing that his life [nefesh] is bond up in the lad’s life —

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Vayishlach: A Path to Follow

Twice in this portion, Jacob is told he will henceforth be called “Israel”: “Not Jacob shall your name hence be said, but Israel, for you have striven with God and men, and won out,” Jacob is told after his wrestling match on the bank of the Jabbok river (Genesis/Breishit 32:23-31). In Genesis/Breishit 35:9-10, we read: […]

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Vayishlach: Great Source(s)

The uterine struggle between Jacob and Esau [Genesis/Breishit 25:22-26] prefigures the momentous struggle with the angel [Gen. 32:23-31]. It is through wrestling in the night with a divine being that Jacob acquires the nation’s name. “They name shall be no more called Jacob, but Israel,” says the divine opponent, “for as a prince hast thou […]

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Vayeitzei: Great Source(s)

And Rachel saw that she had borne no children to Jacob, and Rachel was jealous of her sister, and she said to Jacob, “Give me sons, for if you don’t, I’m a dead woman!” and Jacob was incensed with Rachel, and he said, “Am I instead of God, Who has denied you fruit of the […]

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