weekly-torah-portion

Vayigash

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 12:00am

Genesis 44:18–47:27


BY RABBI STEPHEN S. PEARCE, PH.D.FOR REFORMJUDAISM.ORG

 

The True Measure of Repentance

 

Vayigash, a Torah portion filled with drama and suspense, offers a profound message about regret, repentance, and forgiveness.


When famine struck the Land of Canaan, Joseph's brothers arrived in Egypt to purchase provisions. Although they had no idea who the thoroughly Egyptianized Joseph who stood before them was, Joseph recognized them immediately. In an instant, Joseph recalled the mockery his brothers had made of the dreams of his youth, and even his father's annoyance at Joseph's imperious demeanor. Joseph understood the irony of his dreams of mastery over the members of his family.

 

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Miketz - Rosh Chodesh Hanukkah

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 12:00am

Genesis 41:1−44:17 
 

By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org
 

Jewish Self-Definition: One Size No Longer Fits All
 

Jewish assimilation — the loss of followers through attrition, absorption into other faiths, or the practice of no faith — harks back to Joseph, the first Israelite to live in a diaspora. In Mikeitz, we read how Joseph adopted Egyptian customs and clothes, took an Egyptian wife, and was given the Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah (Genesis 41:45), a sign of acceptance into Egyptian society. Joseph gave his firstborn son the name Manasseh, meaning,“God has made me forget all the troubles I endured in my father’s house” (Genesis 41:51), and his second son the name Ephraim, meaning,“God has made me fruitful … ” (Genesis 41:52). Joseph’s children could informally be called “Amnesia” and “Success.” Their identities highlight the struggle of living at the intersection of two cultures — one uniquely Jewish and one that competes for a Jew’s loyalty and allegiance. 

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Vayeshev

Mon, 11/26/2018 - 12:00am

Genesis 37:1–40:23 


By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org


Ensuring the Success or Failure of Dreams


All ten dreams recorded in the Torah are found in Genesis, earning the first book of the Torah the subtitle, Book of Dreams. Here are some examples:

1. Genesis 20:3-7: Philistine King Abimelech dreamed that God admonished him for stealing Sarah from Abraham.

2. Genesis 28:12-15: Jacob dreamed of a ladder reaching the heavens with angels ascending and descending on it.

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Vayishlach

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 12:00am

Genesis 32:4−36:43 

By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org
 

Struggling With a Deceitful Heart
 

 

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. In the text we read:

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Vayeitzei

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 12:00am

Genesis 28:10−32:3 
 

By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org
 

But Wait, There’s More!
 

If you grew up watching late-night TV before the dawn of shopping networks, you will remember being bombarded with endless ads to purchase a Veg-O-Matic, Pocket Fisherman, turkey fryers, the Rotisserie BBQ Recipe Collection, dust mop slippers, and so forth. After demonstrating why the product was something that a viewer absolutely could not live without, the TV huckster would announce: “But wait! There's more!” In addition to the advertised product, viewers also would be offered “at no additional cost” a duplicate, handy, travel-size product, supplementary instruction book, and storage unit — all for the price of one, “but only if you act now.”

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Toldot

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 12:00am

Genesis 25:19−28:9 


By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org



Genuine Forgiveness Despite a Grave Wrong



"When the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter [yodei-a tzayid], a man of the outdoors, and Jacob was a homespun [tam] man, keeping to the tents" (Genesis 25:27). The Hebrew word tam, translated here as “homespun,” can also mean “gentle,” “mild-mannered,” or “blameless.”1 Whereas the Bible portrays Esau as "a skillful hunter," further reading of the text reveals that Jacob, the "homespun man," was the wilier of the two. Nevertheless, many prophetic, Rabbinic, and modern commentators view Esau pejoratively and Jacob, the man with serious character flaws, is portrayed affectionately.


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Chayei Sarah

Mon, 10/29/2018 - 12:00am

Genesis 23:1−25:18 


By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org


Adding Life to Years


What is it that most people want to become but nobody wants to be? This paradox is no riddle, it is simply a reality of life. In our youth-oriented culture, almost everyone wants to reach old age but no one wants to be old. Consider the elixirs, tinctures, potions, stairmasters, elyptical trainers, and so many other nostrums and contraptions employed to aid in the search for the fountain of youth whereby we hope to forestall and even halt the inexorable march of time.


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Vayera

Mon, 10/22/2018 - 12:00am

Genesis 18:1–22:24 


By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org


Judge a Society by Its Hospitality


To live in a period when public officials and private citizens demonize “the other” — immigrants, foreigners, strangers, women, individuals of different sexual orientation, and the poor — is to live in tragic times. Whereas welcoming the outsider is the biblical underpinnning of so many Genesis narratives, this sacred principle is not always preeminent because the Bible is a human book that not only promotes ideals, but also notes the failure to live up to them. Vayeira provides such a contrast between depravity and disregard for outsiders on one hand, and kindness, generosity, and hospitality to strangers on the other. 


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