Conversion: Then and Now

Conversion: Then and Now

Nov 27, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Vayishlah

During my recent visit to Israel, the Israeli Supreme Court issued a decision of great import on the subject of conversion.

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Facing Our Struggles

Facing Our Struggles

Dec 12, 2003 By Joshua Heller | Commentary | Vayishlah

The story of Jacob wrestling with the angel is surely among the most puzzling in the Bible. Ancient and modern commentators debate the identity and motivation of Jacob’s mysterious attacker. Is it a divine representative? Esau’s guardian angel? Esau himself? Or, perhaps, the struggle is internal, played out in the realm of dreams. I am struck by a more basic question. The text records that the attacker sets upon Jacob only after he has sent the rest of his camp over the Jabbok river, and Jacob is left alone. Given the number of people in his camp, how did Jacob end up alone in the first place? The answer reveals something essential about human nature.

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Finding a Prayer Voice

Finding a Prayer Voice

Dec 13, 2008 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Vayishlah

This past Sunday, the New York Times ran an article on praying for “God’s bailout.” Accompanying the article was an image of hundreds of worshipers gathered at the Greater Grace Temple in Detroit praying for the miraculous resolution to the imminent bankruptcy of the auto industry. Gripping much of the country and the world, this recession is particularly impacting the communities of metropolitan Detroit-autoworkers, executives, and salespeople alike. All find themselves searching, through whatever inspiration and revelation possible, for an end to the financial crisis. As the article reported, “While Congress debated aid to the foundering Detroit automakers Sunday, many here whose future hinges on the decision turned to prayer” (New York Times, December 7, 2008, “Detroit Churches Pray for “‘God’s Bailout'”). Delivering a sermon entitled, “A Hybrid of Hope,” Bishop Ellis of the Greater Grace Temple said to his congregants, “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but we need prayer. When it’s all said and done, we’re all in this thing together.” 

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Wrestling Over Sacred Issues

Wrestling Over Sacred Issues

Dec 9, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Vayishlah

Appropriately enough, this week’s Torah reading is Parashat Vayishlah.

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Personal Transformation

Personal Transformation

Nov 20, 2010 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Vayishlah

A close examination of Genesis 34 and contemporary responses to its narrative will show how one of the Torah’s most troubling passages can inspire us to take action. We must, in the words of Proverbs 31:8, “speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” We must address similar injustices in today’s society in order to protect the living.

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A Painful Embrace

A Painful Embrace

Dec 10, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Vayishlah

Rarely do I find a midrash like the one above that reflects love and hate, admiration and anger, in a single passage about how Jews relate to Christians. While the two rabbis quoted here agree that a peculiar scribal feature is crucial to understanding Jacob and Esau’s reunion, they fundamentally disagree about what that detail signifies.

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Jacob’s Struggle Is Our Struggle

Jacob’s Struggle Is Our Struggle

Nov 24, 2007 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Vayishlah

“In olden times when wishing still helped, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, which was seen so much, was astonished whenever it shone in her face.”

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True Power

True Power

Dec 13, 2003 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Vayishlah

Power – who has it, how it’s used, and what it results in, is a major theme in the Bible. In an early example of the use of power, Cain overpowers Abel and kills him. The first murder is immediately preceded, though, by a non-use of power. God warns Cain:

Surely, if you do right, there is uplift. But if you do not do right, sin couches at the door; Its urge is toward you, yet you can be its master. (Genesis 4:7)

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