Was Yaakov liberal or conservative?

The rape of Dina is probably the most controversial section in the entire Torah. Yaakov's daughter Dinah was raped and held hostage by Shechem and his clan.  Yaakov's son's take control of the negotiations and the rest is history. Shimon and Levi kill the inhabitants of the town and rescue Dinah. The Torah deliberately makes [...]

By | November 25th, 2015|

Yaakov and Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Rashi in this week's parshah (33:4) quotes Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who said, "Halacha (it is a fact) and it is known that Esav hates Yaakov."The war between Esav and Yaakov was seen as some kind of eternal struggle between two ideologies. It seems that Yaakov's strategy in this case was appeasement.  he sent Esav gifts [...]

By | November 24th, 2015|

Yaakov and Golda Meir

I don't know how well Golda Meir knew Rashi's commentary on the Torah, but one of her most famous quotations comes right out of this week's parshah.As Esav approached Yaakov's camp with his 400 men Yaakov was afraid.  The Torah uses two words to describe his fear.  "He was frightened and distressed."  Rashi says, "he [...]

By | November 23rd, 2015|

Lavan and John Kerry

Who is the worst villain in the Torah?  If you had to choose only one Biblical antagonist as the paradigm of the antisemite who wanted to completely destroy the Jews, who would you pick?Pharoah?  Nimrod?  Esav?  Amalek?  Bilaam?  Balak?  Og? All of those at one point tried to destroy us.  But the Haggadah picks someone [...]

By | November 23rd, 2015|

What makes us special

The fourth aliyah of this parshah starts with the strange story of Reuvein going out into the field and collecting some strange flowers to give to his mother. Rashi says that this is to tell the praise of the tribes of Yaakov.  It was the time of the harvest when it would have been easy [...]

By | November 20th, 2015|

Yaakov and Trump

There is an interesting note in this parshah that reminded me of something from Donald Trump's book, The Art of the Deal, which, yes I have read from cover to cover, and yes it is actually a pretty good book.In the parshah Yakov comes to town and sees the shepherd's hanging around by the well.  [...]

By | November 18th, 2015|

From a Distance

This morning I woke up with a thought that inspired me. The parshah begins saying that when Yaakov was on his way out of Israel he encountered "the place." Rashi takes note of the definite article.  He says it reminds us of when Avraham went to do the binding of Isaac, it says that he [...]

By | November 18th, 2015|

More on scandals

My last post was about how Rashi says that God is generally cautious about attaching His name to a person as long as they are alive. The more I think about the Rashi the more I understand it to be a sad commentary on Yitzchak.  It says because he was blind and confined to his [...]

By | November 17th, 2015|

Rashi and Rabbinic scandals

Just a thought that I had on a Rashi from this week's parshah. Background:Hashem appears to Yaakov and says to him, "I am the God of Yitzchak." Rashi finds this strange.  Rashi knows of no other place in scripture where Hashem associates his name, the God of X, while the person is still alive.  God [...]

By | November 17th, 2015|

Did Rebecca really get married when she was 3 years old?

A congregant asked me if I believe that Rivka was really 3 years old when she married Isaac, as some commentators suggest. This is my answer.Rashi likes to play number games with the ages of people given in the Torah. I am not completely convinced that Rashi takes the numbers literally, as much as he [...]

By | November 13th, 2015|