Parsha Thoughts: Rabbi Jay Kelman

Vaera: It Took A While

Moshe was frustrated. Having been coerced by G-d to redeem the Jewish people, things were not going as planned. As Moshe confronted Pharaoh, demanding—as G-d had instructed—that he let them go free, Pharaoh worsened the conditions for the Jewish people. Moshe could not take it and cried out, “O Lord, why do You mistreat Your people? Why did You send me? As soon as I came to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he made things worse for these people, and You have not saved Your people” (Shemot 6:27). 

Shemot: Irrational Thinking

Amongst the unsung heroes of the Jewish people are Shifra and Puah. Despite the genocidal decrees of the Egyptian regime against Jewish newborns, these two unknown women risked their lives to save the lives of others. This is all the more remarkable according to those commentaries that claim that Shifra and Puah were non-Jews, and thus, the first of the Righteous Gentiles.

Vayechi: Time for a Kiss

People often mistakenly think that truly righteous people are somehow different, perhaps not totally "normal".  Somehow we assume that, unlike regular people, tzadikim (to paraphrase Shakespeare) "don't bleed or feel like we do". This approach is alien to Judaism.  Yaakov called for Yosef to come to his bedside so that he could impart a final message to him. Yosef hurriedly came, bringing his sons Ephraim and Menashe to be with their grandfather. Upon seeing his grandchildren, Yaakov kissed and hugged them. The Torah does not de

Miketz: Home weet Home

That one has a natural love for one's place of birth is a truism long recognized by our Talmudic sages. Emigration is never an easy prospect, even for those who do so willingly. How much more difficult and traumatic is a forced exile? We are all aware of the great difficulties many Jews fleeing anti-Semitism had in integrating into their new-found countries. And perhaps most painful is being forced to leave at the hands of their own brethren.

VaYetze: From Yaakov to Yisrael

“And Yaakov was a pure man, dwelling in the tents” (Breisheet 25:27). Like his father before him, Yaakov had little interest in the wider world surrounding him, preferring to remain near home, engrossed in study. He was the direct opposite to his twin brother, who was “a man of the field”. The fact that Yaakov was cooking soup while his brother was out hunting exemplifies their very different personalities.  But as is often the case, circumstances have a profound effect on one's initial plans. The quiet life of Yaakov would not last long. 

Toldot: The Strength of Yitzchak

Our Sages identified each of our patriarchs and matriarchs with the character traits that they best exemplified. Avraham, the master of hospitality, is the exemplar of chesed, loving-kindness. Yaakov, who learned the effects of mistruth the hard way, is identified with the trait of emet, truth. While practicing distortions, even if legitimate, he suffered his whole life from the deception of others; yet Yaakov is our role model for the faithful, honest employee, giving heart and soul to his unscrupulous boss Lavan.

Chayei Sarah: Growing Old, Staying Young

"And Sarah lived one hundred years, twenty years and seven years; these are the years of Sarah's life” (Breisheet 23:1).

A famous rabbinic comment elucidating the triple expression of years teaches that Sarah maintained her stunning beauty, intuitive wisdom and sinless innocence throughout her life. Furthermore, the seemingly superfluous ending of the verse “these are the years of Sarah’s life” teaches, in the words of Rashi, that her years "were all equally good".   

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