From Podcast to Parashah

From Podcast to Parashah

Nov 26, 2021 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Vayeshev

Many of us have become podcast connoisseurs during the pandemic. For me, the interview format has proven most appealing, and within that genre, The Axe Files stands out. Why? Like many interviewers, David Axelrod speaks to authors, politicians, thought leaders, and public figures. What sets his questioning apart is his ability to elicit the background story of his guests: Where were their grandparents from? Where did they grow up? What was their family life like? What challenges did they face in their early lives? And how did this impact the people they have become?

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To Fulfill a Mitzvah

To Fulfill a Mitzvah

Dec 20, 2019 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Vayeshev

There is an interesting moment in this week’s parashah during Joseph’s search for his brothers. Initially, Joseph seeks them in Shechem, where Jacob supposes them to be. As Joseph fruitlessly seeks his brothers, a man who perceives that Joseph is wandering aimlessly asks Joseph the purpose of his search. When Joseph replies that he is seeking his brothers, the man tells him he has heard that they are headed for Dothan. Joseph then follows his brothers there, and the story unfolds of his sale as a slave and his descent to Egypt.

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Judah and Tamar: Writing the Story

Judah and Tamar: Writing the Story

Nov 30, 2018 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Vayeshev

One of the most gripping stories in the entire Bible appears in this week’s parashah. Chapter 38, a self-contained unit, interrupts the ongoing Joseph saga to tell the story of Judah and Tamar.

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Yosef: A Light in the Darkness

Yosef: A Light in the Darkness

Dec 8, 2017 By Eitan Fishbane | Commentary | Vayeshev | Hanukkah

Parashat Vayeshev takes us deep into the pain and alienation of being human, of yearning from a low place of darkness and suffering. And yet the narrative also conveys the power of hope—a longing for God and redemption, for spiritual and moral healing in our human relationships.

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Being Raised from the Pit

Being Raised from the Pit

Dec 23, 2016 By Simeon Cohen | Commentary | Vayeshev | Hanukkah

Three years ago, Jewish novelist Dara Horn published her fourth novel, A Guide for the Perplexed. Borrowing its title from Maimonides’s quintessential work of Jewish philosophy, the book follows two sisters, Josephine and Judith, as they struggle with issues of faith, reason, memory, and sibling rivalry. Josephine and Judith serve as stand-ins for Joseph and Judah; in a sense, the novel functions as an extended midrash on a key biblical incident which can be found in this week’s parashah, Vayeshev: the casting of Joseph into the pit at the hands of his brothers. Ultimately, Horn’s Josephine and the biblical Joseph arrive at the same conclusion: through suffering, which both characters experience in their respective tales, one can ultimately come to achieve greatness.

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Whose Words?

Whose Words?

Dec 23, 2016 By Jeremy Tabick | Commentary | Vayeshev

[W]e push through the crowd, heading somewhere. Bodies clear frame and we see the HOMELESS MAN sitting on a park bench. His sign reads: “THEE END”. The Homeless Man smiles into camera. We continue forward and in a slow, mysterious, subtle fashion his face slowly transforms into the very pleased, FACE OF GOD, who winks and we CUT TO BLACK.

—Script for Bruce Almighty by Steve Koren, Mark O’Keefe, Steve Oedekerk

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Rituals and Ethics in our Food

Rituals and Ethics in our Food

Nov 27, 2010 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Vayeshev

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than forty-five million turkeys are cooked and eaten in the U.S. at Thanksgiving. In 2010, more than 242 million turkeys are being raised with an average liveweight per bird of twenty-eight pounds. By contrast, in 1970, only 105 million birds were raised, with an average liveweight of seventeen pounds.

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The Refuge of Judaism

The Refuge of Judaism

Dec 8, 2001 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayeshev | Hanukkah

In his richly thoughtful one-volume History of the Jews in Modern Times, Professor Lloyd P. Gartner observes that “few Jews in the world of 1950 lived in the city or country where their grandparents had lived in 1880” (p. 213). Like the rest of the world, Jews in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were on the move, to burgeoning cities in the countries where they lived or to lands abroad that beckoned with opportunity. By 1915, the Jewish population in the United States had mushroomed from 280,000 to 3,197,000.

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“Who Is Mighty?”

“Who Is Mighty?”

Nov 26, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayeshev

Ben Zoma, a second-century sage, died so young that he never attained the title “rabbi.” Yet his wisdom exceeded his years. As proof, I offer his tantalizing paradox: “Who is mighty? One who conquers his evil impulse!” How contrary to the popular culture of contemporary America where strength – physical and external – is defined as a manly trait, to be measured competitively. The young Ben Zoma, in contrast, defines strength as an inner quality of a moral nature, equally applicable to women and men. The real challenge of life is not to subdue others but to subdue ourselves. Self-mastery is the epitome of true strength.

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The Fragility of a Nation’s Unity

The Fragility of a Nation’s Unity

Dec 7, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayeshev | Hanukkah

Jacob fathered twelve sons, but singled out Joseph for special favor, setting off the family dynamic which would eventually land Jacob’s clan in Egypt. The verbal flow of the text foreshadows the intimacy: as our narrative begins the name of Joseph appears directly after that of Jacob. No extraneous word is allowed to loosen the bond. “These are the begettings of Yaakov. Yosef, seventeen years old, used to tend the sheep along with his brothers (Genesis 37:2 in the translation by Everett Fox).” It is as if the history of Jacob comes down to the fate of Joseph.

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