Archives for December 2011

Torah Reflections: December 25 – December 31, 2011

Parashah (portion) Vayigash – Soul To Soul
Genesis 44:18 – 47:27

This week’s Torah portion opens in Pharaoh’s quarters where Joseph, who has yet to reveal himself to his brothers, is receiving them after a “stolen” goblet (planted by Joseph) was discovered in Benjamin’s sack. Judah steps up, understanding that Benjamin (Jacob and Rachel’s only other son and Joseph’s brother) was sure to become a slave to Pharaoh, and begs Joseph to spare his step brother. He pleads:

… we said to my lord, “We have an old father and a young child of [his] old age; his [full] brother is dead. He alone is left from his mother, and his father loves him”… We said to my lord, “The youth cannot leave his father, for should he leave his father, he will die… And now, if I come to your servant my father and the youth is not with us–since his soul is bound up with his soul–it will happen that when he sees the youth is missing he will die… [Gen. 44:20-31]

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Chanukah 2011

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Torah Reflections: December 18 – December 24, 2011

On the Holiday of Chanukkah – The Next Messiah

The holiday of Chanukkah is a celebration of light, the commemoration of an ancient miracle. It is a time for us to reflect on the light in our life, and be reminded of the miracle that is life. Chanukkah means “dedication.” It marks the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem to Jewish worship by the victorious Maccabee rebels, after its desecration following the Greek pagan invasion and takeover. The rebellion came at the end of 150 years of the Jews living under Greek dominion. The Greek leaders cared mostly about keeping themselves in power, concentrating wealth in as few hands as possible, and imposing their culture, their values, upon everyone else. Chanukkah is a story of the uprising of people living under a rule that didn’t resemble them, that didn’t reflect their values as a nation. The revolt broke out because Jews felt disenfranchised, alienated, disrespected and spiritually crushed. Theirs was a struggle to maintain a way of life that they saw being systematically eradicated. There are times when history seems to be repeating itself. I believe ours is such a time.
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Torah Reflections: December 11 – December 17, 2011

Parashah (portion) Vayeishev – The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Joseph
Genesis 37:1 – 40:23

Meet Joseph. Joseph is Jacob’s favorite son, to whom he gave the famous coat of many colors. Though we meet him at seventeen as our Torah portion opens, Joseph is described as a lad, a youth. Why? Rashi (11th century French Rabbi) tells us: “He would do things associated with youth; he would fix his hair, he would groom his eyes, so that he should look attractive.” In other words Joseph was an extremely self-centered teenager who had yet to grow beyond the narcissistic stage of his evolution. Joseph sought to outshine his eleven siblings not only by creating this peacockish self-image, but also by putting them down in front of his father every opportunity he had. Early in the portion we read that “Joseph would bring malicious reports about them to his father.” (Gen. 37:2) Even the way he shares his prophetic dreams–seeing his brothers, father and mother bowing down to him–betrays his desire to feel superior, his need to humiliate others in order to elevate himself. Perhaps the best thing that ever happened to Joseph was that his brothers sold him into slavery.
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Torah Reflections: December 4 – December 10, 2011

Parashah (portion) Vayishlach – Being Present to Our Fear
Genesis 32:4 – 36:43

In the previous Torah portion we read about Jacob’s vision of the ladder that came to him in a dream. At the end of that vision God appears to him to say: “And here I am, with you. I will guard you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this soil.” (Gen 28:15) Toward the end of that portion spanning over 20 years of Jacob’s life, God appears to him again and orders him back home, saying: “Return to the land of your ancestors, to your birthplace, and I will be with you.” (Gen 31:2) In both cases one can’t help but notice that God insists on telling Jacob that He will stand as his protector; that He will be with him, on his side. Why is God so insistent on this point? This week’s Torah portion might shed some light:

Jacob now sent angels ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, in the country-side of Edom… When the angels came back to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and he, too-accompanied by four hundred men-is marching to meet you.” Jacob was terrified. [Gen. 32:4-8]

God insisted on this point because He knew that Jacob needed to be reassured, to know that He would stand as his shield when the time came to meet his brother Esau. But even with both Divine affirmations, Jacob is still terrified. Wouldn’t a person of faith be able to face the upcoming confrontation with equanimity and composure? Wouldn’t an enlightened person have transcended his/her fear? Isn’t Jacob displaying a lack of faith, denying God’s power, disregarding God’s promise through his irrational behavior?
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Torah Reflections: November 27 – December 3, 2011

Parashah (portion) Vayeitzei – Vision Quest
Genesis 28:10 – 32:3

It is undeniable that some stones in Jerusalem radiate a certain energy. We, as Jews, come to pray at the Western Wall of the ancient Holy Temple built on Mount Moriah. We touch the stones of the Wall with our hands, our forehead, our lips, our tears; and one can’t help but feel the vibrations the Wall transmits. In Islam, the golden-domed mosque atop the Temple Mount is called the Dome of the Rock, because in its center is a rocky surface called the Rock of Moriah from which–Muslim legend has it–the prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven accompanied by the angel Gabriel. For Jews, that rock is believed to be where the Holy of Holies once stood in the ancient Temple. One can only imagine the energies radiating from this rock.

The idea that stones radiate energy isn’t new. We read in this week’s Torah portion:

And Jacob departed from Beer Shava and went to Haran. He encountered the place and spent the night there because the sun had set; he took from the stones of the place and he put [them] around his head, and lay down in that place. And he dreamt…
[Gen. 28:10-11]

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