VA-YISHLAH — Many people hold back on religion in their lives because they are uncomfortable with the concept of God. Does God exist? How could bad things happen to good people? Why does evil exist? These are all questions that people have addressed throughout time. Many sophisticated discussions and answers are imbedded in Jewish texts for adults to encounter and wrestle with personally. In this week’s Torah portion, Va-Yishlah, Jacob wrestles all night with a mysterious angel representing God. Because Jacob successfully survives this encounter, his name is changed to Israel. The translation of Israel is “to struggle with God”. The Torah is saying that to struggle with...Read More
VA-YISHLACH — We all struggle. While adults often think of children as having charmed lives, they often struggle to control the raging and contradictory emotions within them. Children don’t yet have the tools that adults have to manage their passionate emotions, and so their wrestling can be particularly intense. At the same time, adults struggle to manage relationships, a household, finances and professions. Jacob, in this week’s Torah portion, struggles mightily. Alone in the middle of the night, separated from his family and possessions, he encounters a stranger. Commentators say it is a divine messenger. They wrestle until dawn....Read More
VA-YETZE — There are times when we all deny the truth, especially when accused. When Adam was accused of eating the apple by God, he blamed it on Eve, and she blamed it on the snake. It’s difficult to confront people directly with the truth when we know they are lying. It can be easier to go along with whatever dishonesty another person is perpetuating rather than confront him or her. We can take a lesson from our patriarch Jacob in this week’s Torah portion, Vayetze. Laban, his father-in-law, tricked Jacob by giving him Leah first as a wife, when...Read More
CHAYE SARAH — In all likelihood, as children we were told to honor our parents. It’s one of those things that parents like, and by now we know why. As parents, we expect our children to listen to and do everything we want them to. In truth, though, honoring parents should not entail giving up one’s own life and dreams. In this week’s Torah portion Abraham’s trusted servant Eliezer approached Rebecca’s father, asking for permission to bring her back as a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. Laban, Rebecca’s brother, in utter disrespect of his father, jumped up and responded...Read More
CHAYE SARAH — Obviously, people are not all the same. We feel differently about how neat to keep our rooms, what we eat, and the activities we like. It’s easy to dwell on the differences, but there are many core similarities that we share, and we need to focus on them. Isaac and Ishmael were Abraham’s two sons. They were half-brothers from different mothers and very different in age, temperament, experiences, mannerisms, and character. Yet this week’s Torah portion, Chaye Sarah, emphasizes that when the time came to bury and mourn for their father Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael did so...Read More
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