Sustaining Our Hearts

Sustaining Our Hearts

Nov 12, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Vayera

On its face, this midrash may seem to state the obvious: that eating bread gives one energy. After all, a look at our food packaging today reveals the ingredients and nutrients contained in any given product. This text, however, teaches that not all nourishment comes in physical form. The deceptively simple statement that “bread strengthens the heart” and the prooftexts that follow it actually provide a subtle commentary to the notion that “man does not live on bread alone” (Deut. 8:3); indeed, we derive sustenance at least as much from our gratitude for the company we keep and for the blessing of hospitality.

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Subverting Abraham As a Knight of Faith

Subverting Abraham As a Knight of Faith

Oct 26, 2007 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Vayera

In a world in which so much violence and pain are caused in the name of religion, how can we read the story of “the Binding of Isaac” as anything but what Phyllis Trible would call a “text of terror”?

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The Original Walking Man

The Original Walking Man

Nov 15, 2008 By David M. Ackerman | Commentary | Vayera

On the topic of walking, the rock ‘n’ roll references come fast and furious. From Lou Reed’s teasing nudge to “take a walk on the wild side,” to the Rolling Stones’ and Peter Tosh’s advice to “keep on walking and don’t look back,” and from the Grateful Dead’s reflection on “walking around Grosvenor Square,” which leads to the revelatory insight that “once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right,” to James Taylor’s evocation of the “walking man,” who “doesn’t do nothing at all,” but walk, our popular culture sees the very basic human act of walking in very personal and highly symbolic terms. 

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Is Seeing Believing?

Is Seeing Believing?

Oct 23, 2010 By Deborah Miller | Commentary | Vayera

Is seeing believing? Or, to put it another way, is seeing necessary for believing? I am not asking a theological question, but a psychological/social/emotional one.

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Not a “Yes Man”

Not a “Yes Man”

Nov 11, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayera

Dr. Yohanan Muffs, a beloved teacher of Bible at The Jewish Theological Seminary, discusses the essential qualities of a prophet in his seminal article “Who Will Stand in the Breach?” Far from merely being the divine messenger, the prophet has the duty to act as an empathetic sounding board for God. More than that, the prophet must exercise his/her own free will in an effort to calm the divine temper. First and foremost, it is the responsibility of the prophet to push back on God. As one of my students in Atlanta pointed out this past week, it is as if the prophet is God’s ezer k’negdo, “a helper against himself.” The prophet does not stand passively by, mirroring divine emotion, but rather must be willing to access the gumption to confront God.

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Confronting God

Confronting God

Nov 15, 2003 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayera

The tension and ultimate destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah stand at the core of Parashat Vayera. God’s quality of justice is ironically put on trial. One midrash places the following words in the mouth of Abraham as he encourages God to think twice about the immanent destruction of these towns: “If You seek to have a world, strict justice cannot be exercised; and if You seek strict justice, there will be no world . . . You can have only one of the two. If you do not relent a little, the world will not endure” (Genesis Rabbah 39:6).

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Abraham’s Love

Abraham’s Love

Oct 26, 2002 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Vayera

vi, our three and a half-year-old son, went to work with his Abba the other day. Though he spent a good deal of the day in the company’s child care center, he and his dad traveled on the subway together (watching the “local” and “express” trains), had lunch together, and then came home together. And these “father and son” experiences have become more and more frequent in the last year – Abba giving Avi a bath, Abba taking Avi to minyan with him, and of course, the nightly singing of “Abba Shema” before Avi goes to sleep. These experiences are endearing to me because I watch the flowering of the special relationship between our son and his father.

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Avraham the Avatar

Avraham the Avatar

Oct 7, 2009 By Carol K. Ingall | Commentary | Vayera

Although many of us recognize the word avatar as a representation of the self in computer games (a “mini-me,” or so my granddaughter tells me), in fact the term originates in Hindu mythology. An avatar is a personification or embodiment of a divine principle. While we traditionally refer to Avraham as avinu, our father, perhaps we would get a more nuanced view of this biblical hero by imagining Avraham as an avatar.

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In Every Moment, the Choice Is Ours

In Every Moment, the Choice Is Ours

Oct 16, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayera

Sight and vision play an important role in the two opening narratives of Parashat Vayera.

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Going Toward the Present

Going Toward the Present

Nov 11, 2011 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Vayera

Martin Buber, the great 20th-century Jewish theologian, observed a powerful literary connection between the beginning of Abraham’s life and the end. God first speaks to Abraham suddenly, seemingly without introduction, and commands: “Go forth (lekh lekha) from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Gen. 12:1). With these few words, God introduces God’s Self to Abraham and it is with these words that their relationship is founded.

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