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Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
Rabbi Suzanne Singer for myjewishlearning.com
Does One Crime Justify Another?
Understanding why God hardens Pharaoh's heart.
God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus 10:1 presents a theological problem on two levels. First, if God is the agent of Pharaoh’s behavior, what does that imply about Pharaoh’s free will? Second, if God hardens Pharaoh’s heart in order to demonstrate God’s power, we must ask: At what price the Israelites’ liberation? Indeed, the ultimate result of Pharaoh’s stubbornness is the murder of every first-born Egyptian male. Even if we consider this to be retributive justice, payback for Pharaoh’s earlier order to kill all newborn Hebrew males, we still must ponder: Does one heinous crime justify another? And how do we come to terms with killing innocent children?
Exodus 6:2 - 9:35
Dr. Sharon Koren for myjewishlearning.com
The Shechinah: A Supernal Mother
A Kabbalistic interpretation of the suffering of the Jews in Egypt and their ultimate redemption.
The signs and wonders (or “plagues”) described in Parashat Vaera must have been extremely frightening for both the Egyptians who suffered and the Israelites who bore witness to God’s might for the first time. Thirteenth-century Kabbalists believed that when the Children of Israel braved the agonies of slavery and the ten displays of divine might that devastated Egypt, they did not do so alone. Rather, the Israelites knew that the Shechinah, the pre-eminent feminine aspect of God, dwelled alongside them in Egypt. Medieval Kabbalists often portrayed the feminine Shechinah as a loving mother who suffers along with her children Israel in exile. She toils with her children while they are slaves in Egypt and protects them in the wilderness after they are liberated.
Rabbi Michelle Missagieh for myjewishlearning.com
Stop Making Excuses and Step Up to the Plate
Moses' excuses at the Burning Bush parallel three great human fears.
We often make excuses: “I’m too tired — I’ll just skip exercising this morning” … “It’s been a long week — maybe my co-worker won’t miss me at tonight’s shiva minyan for his father,” … or “It’s been months since I raised my voice to my child — she probably forgot, and I don’t need to apologize.”
Excuses often roll off the tip of our tongue. We’re too tired, frazzled, insecure, unsure, overwhelmed or distracted. Showing up emotionally and physically when we are called upon counts for a lot. Which is why it’s intriguing that Moses and God have such an intense connection at the Burning Bush, and then when God asks for Moses’ help in freeing the Israelites from slavery, the last thing Moses wants to do is show up and help God.
Genesis 47:28 - 50:26
Rabbi Laura Geller for myjewishlearning.com
Blessing Our Daughters
Why did Jacob not bless his daughters before he died?
Vayehi speaks of blessings, of a grandfather blessing his grandsons, a father blessing his sons. Imagine the scene at the end of the Torah portion: Jacob, whose name has been changed to Israel, calls his 12 sons to his deathbed and blesses each one of them. But his real concern, according to our rabbis, is that his sons will abandon his God after he has died. In the Midrash, his sons respond to this unstated fear with words that have become familiar to us: “Shema Yisrael (Listen, [Dad–whose name is] Israel!): Hashem is our God, only Hashem.” Hearing this, the dying patriarch sighs quietly: “Baruch shem k’vod malchuto I’olam va’ed (Blessed is the glorious Name whose kingdom is forever and ever)!” (Midrash B’reishii Rabbah 98-4).
Genesis 44:18 - 47:27
BY RABBI ANDREW BACHMAN for myjewishlearning.com
Achievement And Action
Joseph teaches us to use our material success in the service of those who are needy.
In this week’s Torah portion, we encounter Joseph, at the peak of his ascent in Egypt, long after having been left for dead by his brothers and ransomed by desert traders. Joseph’s purpose, as Judah approaches him, seems to be concerned with wringing repentance from the siblings who abandoned him.
Now a Man
This once-precocious lad was too much for his brothers to bear in their youth; and now, unrecognizable by his brothers, Joseph has come into his own and made himself a man. He is described in rabbinic midrash as wise, learned, as Joseph the Righteous, and indeed the power he has gained over Egypt is deserved. For our generation of readers, Joseph represents a type of materially and morally successful Diaspora Jew.
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