Parsha Thoughts: Rabbi Jay Kelman

VaYishlach: Where Was Rivka?

One of the fascinating (and, at times, frustrating) aspects of the Torah is how much information it does not tell us. We know nothing of Abraham’s first 75 years, are left in the dark regarding most of Moshe’s first 80 years and so many of the laws of the Torah are written in a way that is somewhere between obscure and incomprehensible. Of course, this is intentional; and analyzing what makes it into the text and why, and what does not, is itself an important aspect of Torah study.

Vayezei: Making One Pray

"And G-d saw that Leah was hated, and He opened her womb" (Breisheet 29:31). Apparently, Leah—as was the case with Sarah, Rivka, and Rachel—was meant to have difficulty conceiving, but as "compensation" for being hated, G-d granted her easy conception.

The inability to have children when one desperately wants to can be a source of great sadness and suffering. How one reacts to such a predicament can be quite revealing. Our matriarchs present us with varied reactions to their infertility. 

Toldot: A Wonderful Sin!

"When Eisav heard his father’s words he let out a most loud and bitter scream" (27:34). Our Sages sensitive to even minor failings of our Biblical heroes, coupled with their keen textual analysis saw a parallel between this verse and one appearing well over a thousand years later. "And he [Mordechai] let out a loud and bitter scream" (Esther 4:1). The pain and suffering caused to Eisav by Yaakov would cause his descendants under Persian rule to bear great pain and suffering. Our actions, for better or worse, do ultimately bear consequences.

In Memory of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt"l

I had the honour of sharing a few words in honour of Rabbi Sacks zt"l at the moving program Mizrachi of Canada organized this week. I share my words below. 

I am honoured and unworthy to be asked to say a few words in memory of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l. 

What made Rabbi Sacks so special? Why did so many people look to him for inspiration?

VaYera: Family Ties

“Take your son, your only son, the one you love, v'lech lecha, and go for yourself to the land of Moriah” (Breisheet 22:2). So begins the command of G-d demanding the sacrifice of Yitzchak. After waiting so long to have a child with Sarah, Avraham was commanded to take his child and return him to G-d. In the face of such a command Avraham was silent—or shall we say speechless?—unable to comprehend the Divine will even as he arose early to carry it out.

Haazinu: The Joy of Sinning

Sinning is meant to be enjoyable. If not, there would be no point to it. How ironic, then, when a person sins and does not derive any pleasure. A person experiments with non-kosher food and does not like the taste. Or, one decides that in order to get ahead financially, one must work on Shabbat. And, lo and behold, one is passed over for a promotion, which instead goes to your Shabbat-observant colleague. 

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