Joseph’s Three Encounters

Joseph’s Three Encounters

Dec 17, 1999 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayiggash

Parashat Va-Yiggash opens with the dramatic encounter between Joseph and his older brother, Judah. Judah, who years earlier had cooperated with his brothers to betray Joseph, seems to be on the verge of losing his father’s other favored son, Benjamin, as well. Judah makes an impassioned plea to Joseph, offering himself as a hostage in Benjamin’s stead. As it turns out, Judah’s altruism is more than Joseph can withstand. While he was able to hold back and hide his identity numerous times, letting his brothers squirm in discomfort before the strange Egyptian man, this time is different. Joseph reveals his identity. The moment is one of closeness, of reconciliation, and of Joseph’s recognition that it was not his brothers’ deeds but rather God’s plan that had guided the events of his latter years.

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Welcoming the Stranger

Welcoming the Stranger

Oct 30, 1999 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayera

Parashat Va-Yera opens with two seemingly unrelated narratives: first, ‘three men’ appear mysteriously to Abraham, bearing the news that his wife, Sarah, will soon conceive. Next we read of God’s destruction of the cities of S’dom and Amora for their immorality and corruption.

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Abraham’s Struggle to See

Abraham’s Struggle to See

Oct 23, 1999 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Lekh Lekha

Visual perception figures prominently in the week’s parasha, Parashat Lekh L’kha . Indeed, the verb ‘to see’, re’eh, repeats itself time and again – declaring its presence as the leitwort (‘leading word’ — a concept central to Martin Buber’s writings on the Bible) of the Abraham narrative. God commands Abraham to go forth “from your father’s house to the land that I will let you see” (Gen. 12:1); Abraham is concerned for his life “when the Egyptians see” Sarah (Gen. 12:12); and after the division of land between Lot and Abraham, God says to Abraham “Pray, lift up your eyes and see from the place where you are, to the north, to the Negev, to the east, and to the Sea” (Gen. 13:14). And although the Torah is silent on the particulars of God’s election of Abraham, many commentators credit Abraham’s keen sense of observation for pointing him in the ‘right’ direction. As will become evident through traditional and modern commentaries alike, this visual perception is at once Abraham’s greatest strength and most profound weakness.

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