The Staff of Moses

The Staff of Moses

Jan 24, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Va'era

In the saga of Israel’s liberation from Egypt, the staff of Moses is more than a prop. Though inanimate, it is nothing short of a lead character, an effective change-agent in the face of determined resistance. To reflect on its ubiquitous role is to gain some insight into the Bible’s view of sorcery.

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Preparing to Hear

Preparing to Hear

Jan 8, 2005 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Va'era

Last week’s parashah, Sh’mot, closes on a discouraging note. Having remained loyal to the command of God, Moses and Aaron stand before Pharaoh conveying the word of God, “Let My people go…” In rage and defiance, Pharaoh not only denies the request, but further embitters the lives of the Israelites as he refuses to provide straw for the slaves. They must now break their backs gathering materials to make the same quota of bricks as before. Though lifted by a moment of hope upon hearing that God had taken note of their plight, the Israelites now become impatient and enraged, even skeptical of Moses’ message. After being reproached by a group of Israelites, Moses turns to God asks candidly, “Why did You bring harm upon this people?” This week’s parashah, Parashat Va–era, opens in a moment of prophetic frustration and divine assurance.

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God of Wrath?

God of Wrath?

Jan 26, 2006 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Va'era

There’s an expression that appears periodically in the popular press that annoys me to no end: “The Old Testament God of wrath.”

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Communicating in Context

Communicating in Context

Jan 24, 2004 By Rachel Ain | Commentary | Va'era

Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar teaches “Do not pacify your colleague when his anger is raging; do not comfort him when his dead lies before him; do not challenge him at the time he makes a vow; and do not intrude upon him at the time of his disgrace.” (Pirkei Avot 4:23) Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar is teaching us an important lesson. We must not only be cautious with the words that we speak, but the context in which we communicate those words to our fellow human beings.

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What’s in a Name?

What’s in a Name?

Jan 4, 2003 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Va'era

The Book of Exodus is entitled “Shemot” in Hebrew, meaning “Names.” In the first parashah of Shemot, we learned the names of the Children of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob. This week, in the second portion of Shemot, we focus on the names of God. The opening statement of Parashat Va—Era has puzzled Torah commentators throughout many centuries . . .

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Being the Stranger

Being the Stranger

Jan 12, 2002 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Va'era

Parashat Vaera opens dramatically with God’s stirring proclamation to Moses: “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai , but I did not make myself known to them by my nameAdonai . I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their sojournings (megureihem ), where they had sojourned (garu )” (Exodus 6: 2-4). God then goes on to make a fourfold promise of redemption. Still, God’s introductory words are striking — linking this promise of redemption to the same promise made to Moses’ ancestors. It is the fulfillment of an ancestral promise. Yet, what is even more profound is the language of Exodus 6:4 — specifically the repetition of the root ger, sojourner.

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Conditioning Our Hearts

Conditioning Our Hearts

Jan 20, 2007 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Va'era

In this week’s parashah, as our narrative draws ever closer to the climactic Exodus from Egypt, we feel the drama building.

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The Doubtful Path to God

The Doubtful Path to God

Jan 21, 2012 By Charlie Schwartz | Commentary | Text Study | Va'era

Parashat Va-era opens with a dejected and depressed Moses, crestfallen after an unfruitful encounter with Pharaoh. From the text it seems that Moses had expected the redemption of the Children of Israel to be a quick in-and-out operation, leading to his dismay when the full extent of his mission became clear. This first verse of the parashah, which our midrash builds upon, forms a kind of pep talk from God to Moses, with the Divine trying to reinvigorate and restore faith to God’s servant.

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