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The Formation of a People

Parashat Vayak’heil/P’kudei is a double Torah portion that concludes the Book of Exodus. The paired Torah portions describe the building of the Tabernacle and the anointing of the priests. The parashiyot are primarily contain many verses of detailed plans and descriptions of rituals, some of which are hard to visualize sitting in such a different world today. 

D'var Torah By: 
Finding Humanity and Divinity in the Other
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Linda Bertenthal

Parashat Vayak'heil/P'kudei describes the process of building the Mishkan (Tabernacle), which serves as a model for building Jewish community. The cherubim on the kaporet (ark cover) of the Mishkan that faced each other remind us that we should face one another and listen. 

Revealing Oneself in Order to Heal

As Parashat Vayigash begins, Joseph still has not revealed his identity to his brothers. With Joseph having framed his younger brother Benjamin for stealing his divining goblet, and consequently declaring that as punishment, Benjamin will be enslaved in Egypt, his brother, Judah, now beseeches Joseph to enslave him instead (Genesis 44:33). His plea comes after Judah reminds Joseph that he has an elderly father and describes in detail, why Benjamin did not initially go down to Egypt with the brothers and why, should he not return to Canaan, their father literally would die (Genesis 44:31). 

D'var Torah By: 
Taking Initiative on the Road to Peace
Davar Acher By: 
Jeremy Simons

Joseph’s reconciliation with his brothers is not an obvious outcome. This is, after all, the same Joseph who “brought bad reports of [his brothers] to their father” (Genesis 37:2) and the same Joseph who had no compunction about telling them of his dreams in which he was the star of the show. And that was all before he found himself alone in an Egyptian dungeon as a result of their actions. Between his ego and their actions, it’s pretty extraordinary that 20 years later he can make peace with them. 

The Making of a Covenant with Men and Women

Almost 25 years after God calls Abram to leave his home in Mesopotamia and go to the land of Canaan, God formally establishes a covenant with him (Genesis 17:4ff.). Like that established with Noah, his descendants, and all living beings (9:8ff.), it is unconditional, everlasting, includes blessings and promises, and carries with it a sign decided upon by God. However, unlike the rainbow, placed in the clouds and passively received by humanity, the sign of God's covenant with Abraham — male circumcision — is something with which Abram and his descendants, not God, are entrusted. They are to circumcise their sons and other male children in their household on the eighth day after birth as a physical sign of the covenant. The punishment for failing to do so is severe. "An uncircumcised male who has not circumcised the flesh of his foreskin," says God, " … shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant" (17:14).

D'var Torah By: 
A Series of Tests that Lead to the Covenant
Davar Acher By: 
Bruce Kadden

The covenant God establishes with Abram in Genesis 17 originates in God's call to Abram at the beginning of Parashat Lech L'cha: "Go forth from your land, your birthplace, your father's house, to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and it shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will pronounce doom on those who curse you; through you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3).

As enticing as these promises are, it must have taken significant courage for Abram to set out from Haran for an unspecified land. But without asking a single question, Abram went forth from Haran with Sarai, his nephew Lot and their possessions for the land of Canaan.

Leadership and Letting Go

Can you say chutzpah? How about arrogance? Or is ignorance a more appropriate word for people behaving badly?

D'var Torah By: 
Breaking the Cycle of Dysfunction
Davar Acher By: 
Neal Katz

I remember learning the beautiful phrase "spiritual bacteria," from Rabbi Sam Stahl in San Antonio, Texas.

Joseph the Educator

In this week's Torah portion, Mikeitz, Joseph, now the viceroy of Egypt, receives a visit from his brothers

D'var Torah By: 
Joseph’s Tears
Davar Acher By: 
Adriane Leveen

Rabbi Goldberg points out that Joseph forgives his brothers only after they have illustrated their repentance for the wrong they did to him.

Worrying about More Than Ourselves

As we read Genesis, we find it refreshing to encounter the so-called heroes and heroines of the narrative struggling with their own characteristically human feelings, failings, and frailties.

D'var Torah By: 
Jacob Wrestles with More Than Angels
Davar Acher By: 
Judith Erger

In his old age, when continuity of habit and consistency of comfort should define normalcy, Jacob finds himself in a hammerlock of life-altering change as he once again must fold his tent and

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