Monday, December 28, 2015


Exodus 1:1−6:1

Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

To Know

This Shabbat we begin the book of Shemot with Parashat Shemot. In the beginning of the parasha we read: "A new king arose over mitzrayim (Egypt) who did not know Joseph. And he said to his people, 'Look, the Israelite people are much too numerous for us. Let us deal shrewdly with them, so that they may not increase; otherwise in the event of war they may join our enemies in fighting against us and rise from the ground.' (Exodus 1:8-10) " And so the stage is set for the beginning of the Israelite enslavement in mitzrayim.

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Monday, December 21, 2015


Genesis 47:28–50:26

Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

Birthright and Brotherhood

This week's parashah, Vayhi, brings to a close the book of Bereshit/Genesis. In this chapter all that has been wrong is made right. Or has it?

Yes, Joseph and his brothers all reunite. Yes, Joseph and his beloved father Jacob are also reunited. But the reunion is all too short, for soon thereafter Jacob is on his deathbed. He has seen his beloved Joseph and now he can die in peace - or as much in peace as is possible for a man who has lived as he has. For Jacob has spent his whole life either running from a brother whom he had wronged, working in order to finally marry the woman he loved or mourning the loss of his favorite son. The days of peace and tranquility in Jacob's life have been few and fleeting. And yet, the name of this parashah - Vayhi - means "and he lived." True, the name is simply taken from the first word of the parashah, but perhaps it is meant to teach us something.

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Monday, December 14, 2015


Genesis 44:18−47:27

Rabbi Lewis Eron for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities


One of the abiding themes of the book of Genesis is that of family conflict and reconciliation. Each biblical generation tells its own version of the story of sibling rivalry, from the disastrous conflict between Cain and Abel at the beginning of Genesis, to the happy reunion of the sons of Jacob at the end of the book. In a broader context, this story is the story of all humanity and symbolizes the biblical dream for the now feuding human family to be reconciled with each other as loving brothers and sisters. In the specific context, each version of the story is a case study in family dynamics and ethics. Each time that Genesis replays the story, it holds up a mirror within which we can study our lives.

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Monday, December 7, 2015


Genesis 41:1−44:17

Rabbi Elizabeth Bolton for Jewish Reconstructionist Communities

Joseph, the Favorite Son

Joseph, the dreamer and interpreter of dreams, is the son of a dreamer. It is no surprise that he is Jacob's favorite son. Young Jacob dreamed of a stairway reaching to heaven, traveled by angels. In a dream-like state, Jacob wrestled.

Yet Joseph's dreams of a heavenly connection are far more earth-bound in their implications. His dreams place him at the center of a universe in which every one in his sphere paid him homage, a scenario that was actualized, apparently, through his dream-interpretation skills for the Egyptian Pharaoh. As poet Ruth Brin, in her collection A Rag of Love, speaks the connections: "Joseph stood before the King of Egypt / as his father, Jacob had stood before the Wrestler."

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