"And they said, should they make our sister like a harlot?" (Breisheet 34:31). So ends round one of the debate between Yaakov on one side, and Shimon and Levi on the other, over the killing of the people of Shechem for the rape of Dinah. The Torah moves on to record Yaakov's return to Beit El as the family enters a new phase in their travels. It is on Yaakov's deathbed that we hear his response: "Shimon and Levi, the tools of violence are in their hands...in their anger they killed men" (Breisheet 49:5-6).
The Torah is a most complex work, and nowhere more so than in sefer Breisheet. Story after story lends itself to multiple and contradictory interpretations. The Torah often leaves out crucial details as it narrates the stories, and rarely passes judgment on the actions of the protagonists.
"And there was an argument between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and the herdsmen of Lot's livestock, and the Canaanite and the Perizite were then in the land" (Breisheet 13:7).
Our tradition teaches that the founder of the Jewish people, Abraham, is the one who introduced the notion of daily prayer to the world. “And Abraham awoke in the morning to the place, el hamakom, where he had stood, asher amad sham, before G-d” (Breisheet 19:27). Though prayer is not actually mentioned in the above verse, our sages interpreted the word amad, where he stood, as a reference to prayer, stating that “there is no standing other than prayer”.
The belief in one G-d is perhaps the most fundamental teaching of Judaism. Thousands have died rather than negate this central tenet of Judaism. "In the beginning, G-d created the heaven and the earth" lays down the Biblical perspective right from the beginning. All that exists in this universe has only one source. While this may seem obvious to us, it is not necessarily inherently so. Could it not make more sense to argue that good and evil are a reflection of competing gods?
It is in Parshat Chukat that we meet the second generation of the Jewish nation, the one that would conquer the land of Israel. Yet there is precious little to distinguish it from the first. We are not even formally introduced to them. We first meet them at the death of Miriam, the opening scene of this generation, one that we read about after 38 years of silence.
After reading through Sefer Breisheet and the sibling rivalry we encounter in generation after generation, it is a pleasure to come to Sefer Shemot and witness the beautiful sibling relationships between the children of Amram and Yocheved.