<i>Mishpatim</I>: The Order of the DayThis week's <i>parsha</i> contains 53 <i>mitzvot</i>. It follows on the heels of the <i>Aseret HaDibrot</i>. You may ask: "Why aren't the 10 Commandments enough? Why engage in 'overkill' by legislating every possible nuance of human behavior?"
<i>Bo</I>: I See the LightOf all the Ten Plagues, I find Darkness (<i>Choshech</I>) the most intriguing. After all, we experience darkness every night (or during our periodic power outages). So, while locusts or fiery hail or giant frogs may be quite shocking, what is all that terrifying about darkness?
<i>Vayigash</I>: In the Name of the FatherThe confrontation between Yosef and Yehuda - first at the pit, now in the palace - is played out with high drama. The stakes are great. Yehuda not only knows that he is placing the lives of all the <i>shvatim</I> (tribes) at risk; he is also prepared, with his brothers, to go to war against Egypt and to try to wipe them out.
"Pure" JudaismThe saga of Yosef - which will now occupy us until the end of <i>Sefer Breisheit</i> - is one of the most dramatic and compelling stories not only in <i>Tanach</i>, but in all of literature. Sibling rivalry; a fall from grace; suffering; reunion and redemption - it's all here, folks.
"And Yakov Stood Alone""I lived with Lavan," says Yakov, and Rashi comments that Yakov "remained a stranger, keeping the 613 <i>mitzvot</i>."
<i>Vayetze</i>: A Little <i>Sechel</I> Goes a Long WayThere was always a fifth, unwritten volume of the <i>Shulchan Aruch</i> inside our heads, a bell that would go off when we needed to know how to react in any given situation. As the U.S. Supreme Court said in its landmark ruling on pornography: "We may not be able to exactly define it, but we know it when we see it."
A Man for All ReasonsYakov, to borrow a term, was a true "Renaissance Man." He seemed to embody all the features of the ideal Jew: Scholar, fighter, lover, businessman, father of a very diverse family. He had a "feminine side" - sensitive and empathetic - as well as a masculine one.
<i>Chayei Sarah</I>: The Son Also RisesThis week's <i>parsha</i> pays tribute to Sarah - the role model extraordinaire for Jewish womanhood. Beautiful, kind, forceful, sensitive; she blazed the Jewish path no less than her illustrious husband, Avraham.
<I>Vayera</I>: Our Soul HeroesThis week's <i>parsha</i> - containing both the destruction of S?dom and the episode of the <i>Akeida</i> - defies our understanding.
On a Wing and a PrayerI have often said that there is very little in this world - and certainly the next - that we understand with full clarity or certainty. It is just beyond our scope.
<i>Noach</I>: Men of StealThe creation of the world brings with it such grandeur, such promise of eternal blessing. But alas, in record time, the situation deteriorates into crisis and catastrophe.
Be Happy - That's an Order!That popular little ditty, "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" might be reversed on Jewish Festivals, when we're commanded, "Be happy - don't worry!"
Let's Make a DealHow should we approach G-d on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? What should be our posture on these most awesome of days? Should we be pushy or penitent? Tough or tentative? Bashful or bold?
<I>Ekev</I>: A"Well-Heeled" People<i>Ekev</i> is known as <i>"parshat Eretz Yisrael"</i> due to its strong emphasis on Israel as the focal point of Jewish history. G-d, Torah and Israel are a matching set. Only when they coalesce as one unit can Judaism find its complete expression and our destiny be fulfilled.
We Want <i>Moshiach</I> (Soon)Yes, we mouth all the right words and sing all the appropriate slogans. But deep down, does it really make a difference in our lives? Do we turn our attention to creating the environment that will sustain a <i>Bet HaMikdash</i>, do we nourish the spiritual soil in which a <i>Moshiach</i> will sprout, or do we rather work overtime to improve the material world in which each of us dwell?
<i>Tazria</I>: It?s in the BloodWho among us understands the mystery of life and death, or <i>tuma</i> and <i>tahara</i> (impurity and purity), the main subjects of this week's <i>sedra</i>? Not many, I dare say.
<i>Vayakhel</i>: ?Reflections? on the <i>Sedra</I>Rashi explains the provenance of these mirrors: when their husbands would return exhausted from slave labor in Egypt, the women would fix them a meal and then bring them in front of the mirror. Teasingly, seductively, they would say, "I'm prettier than you!" This would entice the men to have relations with their wives, and produce a new generation of Jews. Thus, the rather strange term <i>"mar'ot