Giving Women a Voice

Giving Women a Voice

Nov 7, 1997 By Anne Lapidus Lerner | Commentary | Vayera

I did not celebrate my bat mitzvah on parashat Vayera; in fact, I never celebrated it at all. My birthday on 19 Heshvan gives me, as a legitimate birthright, permission to indulge in constant grappling with this incredibly rich and complex text. Yet I have never voiced that connection with a proper celebration of my Jewish coming of age.

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Learning Through Torah

Learning Through Torah

Nov 3, 2001 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Vayera

The five books that form the most sacred writings of the Jews are called by various names in various languages. Only the Hebrew name conveys exactly the content and not just the structure of these books. “Torah” means teaching. One of the aspects of the Torah that has made it so compelling for so many people over so long a time is that it not only is a teaching but teaches about teaching. The Torah, in its own terms, is both God’s teaching for human beings and the handbook for people to teach each other.

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The Politics of Genesis

The Politics of Genesis

Nov 7, 1998 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayera

It was during my sabbatical in Israel in 1974-75 that I first began to sense the political thrust of the book of Genesis. The messianic order of Gush Emunim, the radical young nationalists destined to take over the National Religious Party, had not been dimmed by the near debacle of the Yom Kippur War. The melancholy and self-doubt that pervaded Israeli society did not dilute their resolve to settle the West Bank. The effort to mobilize the sacred texts of Judaism to reinforce the ideal of a Greater Israel was well underway. Where we live undeniedly impacts on the way we see things. Only in America, with its worship of the self, would we ever come to regard the biblical saga of our ancestors as the mirror of our own dysfunctional families.

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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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Our Ancestors in Egypt

Our Ancestors in Egypt

Jan 27, 2001 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayera

We are accustomed to thinking of our ancestors in Egypt as people of virtue and character. Neither in times of prosperity nor persecution did they abandon the unconventional faith of their progenitors. It is a view that we owe to the Passover Haggadah, which each year affirms for us at the Seder that despite the long sojourn in a foreign land, the identity of our ancestors remained undiluted. The midrash that constitutes the form in which we narrate the story of the Exodus to our children, expounds the phrase, “and there [in Egypt] he became a nation (Deuteronomy 26:5),” as referring to Jewish distinctiveness. The underlying force of the Hebrew word for nation, “goy,” denotes a national group bearing its own identity. In other words, as the descendants of Jacob grew in number, their undiminished sense of apartness welded them into a cohesive and visible minority. The world-class civilization of Egypt did not swallow them through assimilation.

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The Test of Abraham

The Test of Abraham

Oct 22, 2002 By Joshua Heller | Commentary | Vayera

Ever since I was a child, I’ve struggled with a fundamental question about Abraham’s personality, a question which is posed by this week’s parashah, Va-Yera. When God comes to Abraham to inform him that the city of Sodom is to be destroyed for its wickedness, Abraham responds aggressively by shaming God into agreeing to spare the city if fifty righteous can be found within it, saying, “Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18:25). Then, with a bargaining style that would be the envy of any used-car buyer, teenager or trial lawyer, he lowers the number to forty-five, to thirty, to twenty, to ten.

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The Past Leading to the Present

The Past Leading to the Present

Oct 30, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayera

The unusual Hebrew phrase “lekh lekha” occurs only twice in the entire Tanakh: at the beginning of last week’s parasha when God instructs Abraham to leave Haran, and this week, when God asks him to offer up his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice (Genesis 12:1; 22:2).

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Visiting the Sick

Visiting the Sick

Nov 15, 2003 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayera

During World War II and the Korean War, my father served as the civilian Jewish chaplain at the sprawling army hospital at Valley Forge, not far from his pulpit in Pottstown. Every Wednesday he would walk its endless halls visiting wounded Jewish servicemen. On Thursday evenings he returned to conduct a prayer service for them accompanied by a few women from the synagogue sisterhood who had prepared a collation of kosher deli. No part of my father’s rabbinate gave him more satisfaction because no Jews ever needed him more than this pitiful refuse of military carnage. Their numbers were large and their condition often shattering. My father assuaged their pain with warmth, wisdom and faith. In 1918, as a teenager in the German army on the Western Front, he had witnessed the devastating brutality of mechanized warfare and the chaos of defeat. That experience brought him to choose the rabbinate while his empathy for victims of misfortune made him an ideal pastor. He turned the mitzvah of bikkur holim (visiting the sick) into a fine art.

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Examining the Word Moriah

Examining the Word Moriah

Nov 11, 2006 By Robert Harris | Commentary | Vayera

Years ago, in a national television program called Laugh In (yes, I lived during the Stone Age — the Rolling Stone Age. Never mind.), a comedian lampooned the song “They Called the Wind Moriah” from the Broadway show Paint Your Wagon.

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Sitting in God’s Presence

Sitting in God’s Presence

Nov 6, 2009 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Vayera

What do we find ourselves doing when God’s Presence suddenly appears to us?

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