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Parshat Vayigash

General Overview: In this week's Torah reading, Vayigash, Yeudah responds to Yoseph's demand that Benjamin remain enslaved in Egypt, pleading to be taken as a substitute. Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers. At Yoseph's request, Yacov and his family come down to Egypt.

First Aliyah: In the end of last week's Torah reading, Yoseph demanded that Benjamin remain behind in Egypt as his slave. This week's reading opens with Yeudah approaching Yoseph and appealed to him to allow Benjamin to return to his father Yacov in Cenaan. He spoke of Yacov's reluctance to allow Benjamin – Rachel's only remaining child – to make the trip to Egypt, and the great love Yacov harbored for his youngest son.

Second Aliyah: Yeudah continued: "When [Yacov] sees that the boy is gone, he will die." He explained to Yoseph that he, Yeudah, had taken personal responsibility that Benjamin would return unharmed to Cenaan. And as such, he asked to remain as a slave in stead of Benjamin. At that point, Yoseph could not restrain himself any longer. He asked all the Egyptians present to leave the room, and he revealed his identity to his brothers: "I am Yoseph! Is my father still alive?!" He then reassured them, and asked them not to be upset about selling him into slavery: "For it was to preserve life that G‑d sent me before you. For . . . another five years there will be neither plowing nor harvest, and G‑d sent me before you to ensure your survival in the land..."

Third Aliyah: Yoseph directed his brothers to quickly return to Cenaan and bring Yacov and their families back to Egypt, where Yoseph promised to provide them with food until the famine ends. Yoseph embraced his brothers and cried. Pharaoh was informed that Yoseph's family had arrived, and he, too, instructed them to come to Egypt where he would give them the "best of the land." The brothers went to Cenaan – laden with gifts from Pharaoh and Yoseph – and informed Yacov that Yoseph was alive, indeed he ruled over all of Egypt. "And the spirit of their father Yacov was revived."

Fourth Aliyah: Yacov and his entire family left Cenaan and headed to Egypt. En route they stopped in Beer-Sheva, where G‑d told Yacov not to fear going to Egypt, for it is there that he will be made into a great nation. Furthermore G‑d told him: "I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up."

Fifth Aliyah: This section names the seventy members of Yacov's family that went to Egypt.

Sixth Aliyah: Yacov arrived in Egypt, to the province of Goshen that Pharaoh had allotted his family. Yoseph went there to greet his father. Yoseph prepared his family for meeting Pharaoh, and instructed his brothers to tell Pharaoh that they are shepherds, who only wish to tend to their flocks in Goshen until the famine ends. Indeed the brothers followed this script, and Pharaoh acceded to their request. Yacov was then brought before Pharaoh, and Yacov blessed him.

Seventh Aliyah: While Yoseph supplied his family with food, the rest of Egypt was in a desperate plight. First they expended all their money in exchange for food that Yoseph sold them. Then their money ran out, and they paid for provisions with their cattle. Finally, when they had no money or chattel left, they sold their land and themselves to Pharaoh into servitude in exchange for provisions. Meanwhile, in the land of Goshen, Yacov's family prospered and multiplied exceedingly.

Parshat Miketz

General Overview: Yosef interprets Pharaoh's dreams, becomes viceroy over Egypt, and implements his plan to save the region from famine. Joseph is harsh with his brothers who come to Egypt to buy food, and demands that Benjamin be brought to Egypt. When Benjamin eventually comes he is framed and accused of theft.


First Aliyah: Pharaoh had a dream: seven fat cows arose from the Nile, followed by seven emaciated cows. The gaunt cows then consumed the robust ones. He then had a second dream, wherein seven healthy ears of grain were eaten by seven thin and parched ears. In the morning, none of Pharaoh's wise men were capable of interpreting the dreams to Pharaoh's satisfaction. Pharaoh's butler approached and related his past jailhouse experience, when a Hebrew boy, Joseph, successfully interpreted dreams. Pharaoh ordered Joseph's release, and he appeared before the king.


Second Aliyah: Pharaoh recounted his dreams to Joseph. Joseph told Pharaoh that both dreams contained a singular message: seven years of plenty were destined to come upon Egypt, followed by seven years of severe famine. Joseph proposed a plan to store the excess grain of the years of plenty, to serve as a reserve for the famine years to follow. Pharaoh was greatly impressed by Joseph's wisdom.


Third Aliyah: Pharaoh appointed Yosef as viceroy of Egypt, and placed him in charge of the impending food collection operation. Thirty-year-old Joseph was placed second-in command of the Egyptian empire, accountable to no one but Pharaoh himself. Indeed, the seven years of plenty arrived as foretold by Joseph, and Joseph skillfully oversaw the collection of the surplus grain. Yosef married Osnat, the daughter of Poti-phera, and she bore him two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim.


Fourth Aliyah: Then the famine predicted by Yosef commenced, a grave famine that affected Egypt and the entire Mediterranean region. Exactly as planned, Yosef had sufficient stores of food, which he personally sold to all who needed. Meanwhile, in nearby Cenaan, Yosef's father, Yacov, dispatched his eldest ten sons – all of them excepting Benjamin – to Egypt to purchase food provisions. The brothers arrived and stood before Yosef, but did not recognize him, as his boyish appearance had changed in the interim years. When the brothers broached their request to purchase food, Yosef dealt with them harshly, accused them of espionage, and incarcerated them all for three days.


Fifth Aliyah: On the third day, Yosef released them all, aside for Simon, whom he held hostage. He bid the rest of the brothers to return to Cenaan and return with their youngest brother, Benjamin, and thus establish their innocence. The brothers recognized that this was punishment for the sale of Joseph, and expressed regret for their deed. Yosef instructed his servants to place the monies the brothers had paid for the food in the sacks of grain they were given. The brothers arrived back in Canaan and recounted the entire episode to Yacov. Yacov was highly disturbed and initially refused to send Benjamin, unwilling to consider the possibility of losing Rachel's only remaining son. Eventually, though, after the food provisions ran low, and Yeudah personally guaranteed Benjamin's safe return, Yacov acceded to send him. He sent them to Egypt with a prayer on his lips, and armed with a gift for the Egyptian ruler.


Sixth Aliyah: The brothers arrived in Egypt. Yosef instructed his palace supervisor to invite the brothers to join him for the afternoon repast. The brothers arrived at Joseph's residence where they were reunited with Simon. Yosef arrived, and the brothers presented him with the gift they had prepared, and they exchanged pleasantries.


Seventh Aliyah: Upon seeing his brother Benjamin, Yosef was overcome with emotion, which he concealed. The brothers sat down and enjoyed a feast, and Yosef presented them all with gifts—Benjamin's gift greater than all the others'. In the morning the brothers departed, but not before Yosef had his royal goblet planted in Benjamin's sack of food. Yosef then dispatched a posse to confront the brothers and "uncover" the planted goblet. The brothers were all brought back to Yosef, who demanded that the "thief," Benjamin alone, remain behind as his slave.

Parshat Vayeshev

 In this week's reading, Vayeishev, Yosef relates to his brothers his grandiose dreams of greatness, arousing their jealousy. He is consequently sold into slavery to an Egyptian master. After defying his Egyptian master's wife, Yosef is thrown into jail, where he interprets the dreams of Pharaoh's cup-bearer and baker. The story of Yehuda and Tamar is also related at length.


First Aliyah: Yacov and his family settled in Canaan. Of all his sons, Yacov favored Yosef, the firstborn of his deceased beloved wife Rachel, and he made for him a special robe of fine wool. Joseph's brothers were jealous of the favoritism, and avoided talking to Yosef. Yosef related to his brothers two dreams he had, both implying that he would eventually rule over his brothers.


Second Aliyah: Yosef's brothers were away tending their father's sheep, when Yacov sent Yosef to see how his brothers and the flocks were faring. When Yosef's brothers saw him approaching they plotted to kill him. Reuven, however, implored them not to shed blood, advising them instead to cast him into one of the nearby pits. Reuven's plan was to later return and rescue Yosef from the pit.


Third Aliyah: Yosef arrived and his brothers immediately stripped him of his fancy robe and cast him into a pit. Upon Yehuda's advice, they sold him to an Ishmaelite caravan traveling to Egypt, who in turn sold him as a slave to Potiphar, Pharaoh's chief butcher. Meanwhile, the brothers dipped Yosef's robe into blood, and showed it to Yacov, who assumed that Yosef was devoured by a wild beast. 


Fourth Aliyah: The story of Yosef is interrupted by the episode of Judah and Tamar. Judah married the daughter of a local businessman and had three sons. His first son, Er, married a woman named Tamar, but died soon thereafter. Yeudah had his second son, Onan, marry Tamar and thus fulfill the mitzvah of Yibbum, but he sin to Gad and died too. Judah hesitated to give his third son to Tamar, so she returned to her father's home. Yeudah's wife then died, and he embarked on a business trip. Tamar dressed herself like a prostitute and sat by the side of the road. Yeudah didn't recognize her, was intimate with her and she becomes pregnant. A few months later, when her pregnancy became evident, Yeudah ordered her executed for harlotry. As she was being taken out to die, she produced some of Yeudah's personal effects that he had left behind when he visited her. Yeudah admitted that he was the father, and Tamar was spared. Tamar then gave birth to twin sons, Zerach and Peretz.


Fifth Aliyah: We return to the story of Joseph, who was serving in the home of Potiphar. G‑d was with Joseph, and he succeeded in all his endeavors. When Potiphar took note of this fact, he put Yoseph in charge of his entire household and estate.


Sixth Aliyah: Yoseph was exceedingly handsome, and Potiphar's wife was attracted to him. She made many advances on him, but he steadfastly rebuffed her. Eventually she libelously told her husband that Yosef was making advances on her, and Potiphar had Yosef thrown into prison. G‑d was still with Joseph, and he found favor in the eyes of the prison warden, who put him in charge of all the prisoners.


Seventh Aliyah: Two of Pharaoh's officers, his butler and baker, aroused the royal ire and were cast into prison—the same one that Yosef was now administering. One night, they both had odd dreams, and Yosef interpreted them. Yosef told the butler that he'd soon be released and restored to Pharaoh's service. The baker was told by Yosef that he would soon be hung. Yosef pleaded with the butler to mention his plight to Pharaoh, and ask for his release. Three days later, both of Yosef's interpretations came true; but the butler forgot all about Joseph.

Parashat Vayishlach Summary; Genesis; Chapter 32 Verse 4 – Chapter 36 Verse 43

General Overview: Yaacov returns to Canaan, but is fearful of his brother Esav. They meet and make peace. Yaacov wrestles with an angel, and his name is changed to Yisrael. Yaacov's daughter Dina is abducted by the prince of Shechem. Shimon and Levi destroy the city of Shechem and liberate Dina. Rachel dies while giving birth to Yaacov's twelfth son, Binyamin. Yitzhak dies at the ripe age of 180.

1st, 2nd & 3rd Sections: It’s the year 2205 and Yaacov is 97 years old. He sends messengers to greet Esav and is informed that Eiav is approaching, prepared to wage war. He applies a three-pronged strategy in preparation for the confrontation: a) Tefilah – prayer b) diplomacy c) war. Prior to the actual confrontation, Yaacov beats Esav in a spiritual battle with Esav’s Angel, and earns the name “Yisrael.” Due to the wound he sustained in the battle, G-d prohibits Yaacov and his family from eating the ‘Gid Hanashe’ – the sciatic nerve. Yaacov and Esav meet for the first time after a long 34 years.

4th Section: Yaacov introduces his whole family to Esav, with the exception of Dina. Yaacov and Esav agree to separate peacefully. Esav returns to his kingdom of Seir, and Yaacov settles outside of the city of Shechem.

5th Section: Dina is abducted and raped by Shechem the son of Chamor, and Shimon and Levi devise a strategy for successfully killing the entire male population of Shechem. According to our Sages, Shimon and Levi were only 13 years old. G-d instructs Yaacov to move to Beth El. Rivka’s nurse Devora dies, and Hashem confirms the name Yisrael upon Yaacov.

6th & 7th Sections: Rachel dies while giving birth to Binyamin and Yaacov buries her in Bet Lechem. Following Rachel’s death, Reuven switches the bed of Yaacov from Bilha’s tent to Leah’s tent. Although Yitzchak will live another 21 years, the Torah relates his death at the age of 180 (2228). The remainder of our Torah portion lists Esav’s descendants as well as the specific Kings of Seir who ruled prior to King Saul – the first king of Israel (2882).

Haftara: Ovadia; Chapter 1 Verses 1 – 21

Haftara Summary: This week's haftara mentions the punishment of Edom, the descendants of Esav, whose conflict with Yaacov is chronicled in this week's Torah reading.

The prophet Ovadia, himself an Edomian convert to Judaism, describes the punishment destined for the nation of Edom. The Edomites did not come to Judea's aid when she was being destroyed by the Babylonians, and even joined in the carnage. Many years later the Edomites (the Roman Empire) themselves destroyed the Second Temple and mercilessly killed and enslaved their Jewish cousins.

Though the Roman Empire was one of the mightiest to ever inhabit the earth, the prophet forewarns: "If you go up high like an eagle, and if you place your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the Lord. . . And the house of Jacob shall be fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esav shall become stubble, and they shall ignite them and consume them, and the house of Esav shall have no survivors, for the Lord has spoken."

After describing the division of Esav's lands amongst the returning Judean exiles, the haftara concludes with the well-known phrase: "And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esav, and the Lord shall have the kingdom."

Parashat Vayetze Summary; Genesis; Chapter 28 Verse 10 – Chapter 32 Verse 3

Parashat Vayetze Summary; Genesis; Chapter 28 Verse 10 – Chapter 32 Verse 3

General Overview: Yaacov Avinu travels to his uncle Lavan. On his way he stops at the Temple Mount where G‑d appears and assures him that he will return safely to the Land of Canaan. Yaacov stays for twenty years in Charan before returning to Canaan. During his stay he shepherds Lavan's sheep, and survives and prospers despite all his uncle's attempted deceptions. He marries Leah and Rachel, and the first eleven tribes are born.

1st Section: Yaacov experiences the famed prophecy of “Jacob’s Ladder”.

2nd Section: Yaacov arrives in Charan, encounters Rachel, and contracts with Lavan for her hand in marriage.

3rd Section: Lavan switches Leah for Rachel forcing Yaacov to negotiate another 7 years of service for Rachel. Leah gives birth to Reuven, Shimon, Levi, and Yehudah. Rachel marries off Bilhah (her maidservant) to Yaacov who gives birth to Dan and Naftali. Leah marries off Zilpah (her maidservant) to Yaacov, and she gives birth to Gad and Asher.

4th Section: Rachel contracts with Leah for Reuven’s Mandrakes (a Mediterranean plant of the nightshade family, with white or purple flowers and large yellow berries), after which Leah gives birth to Yisachar and Zevulun. Rachel finally gives birth to Yossef, and Yaacov approaches Lavan to negotiate a proper salary for continued service.

5th Section: Yaacov uses his vast knowledge of nature and husbandry to amass a fortune in sheep and cattle. After 6 years he decides with Rachel and Leah to flee from Lavan.

6th Section: They flee and Lavan catches them. Hashem intervenes and Yaacov, while confronting Lavan for his years of duplicity, unwittingly curses Rachel.

7th Section: Yaacov and Lavan separate, and Yaacov arrives at the border of Canaan in 2205.

Haftara: Hoshe’a; Chapter 11 Verse 7 – Chapter 12 Verse 12

Haftara Summary: This week's haftara mentions Jacob's flight from home to the "field of Aram," an episode that is recounted in this week's Torah reading.

The haftara begins with the prophet Hoshe’a's rebuke of the Jewish people for forsaking G‑d. Nevertheless, Hoshe’a assures the people that G‑d will not abandon them: "How can I give you, Ephraim, and deliver you [to the hands of the nations? I will not act with My fierce anger; I will not return to destroy Ephraim."

The prophet discusses the misdeeds of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the future degeneration of the Kingdom of Judea. He contrasts their behavior to that of their forefather Jacob who was faithful to G‑d and prevailed against enemies, both human and angelic.

The haftara also makes mention of the ingathering of the exiles which will occur during the Final Redemption: "They shall hasten like a bird from Egypt and like a dove from the land of Assyria; and I will place them in their houses, says the Lord."

Parashat Toledot Summary; Genesis; Chapter 25 Verse 19 – Chapter 28 Verse 9

Parashat Toledot Summary; Genesis; Chapter 25 Verse 19 – Chapter 28 Verse 9

General Overview: This week we read about the birth of Esav and Yaacov. Yitzhak relocates to Philistine where he digs wells, resulting in friction between him and the locals. Rivkah and Yaacov successfully deceive Yitzhak, tricking him into giving to Yaacov the blessings he had intended for Esav.

1st Section: Yitzhak is 40 years old (2088) when he marries Rivkah. After 20 years, Esav and Yaacov are born. The Torah portion jumps from their birth to Yaacov’s purchase of the firstborn rights from Esav at the age of 15, (2123 – the same day Avraham died).

2nd Section: The Torah portion returns to the story of Yitzhak and Rivkah and the famine which forces them to settle among the Philistines. Yitzhak, like his father before him, has a moral confrontation with Avimelech (the king of Philistine), after which his fields are uniquely prolific and financially successful.

3rd Section: Yitzhak’s financial success leads to jealousy with his Philistine neighbors. He re-digs Avraham’s wells, resulting in a confrontation with the Philistines over water rights. He moves back to Beer Sheva.

4th Section: G-d reveals Himself to Yitzhak in a dream and confirms the future of his children. Avimelech and his General, Phicol, approach Yitzhak to make a peace treaty.

5th Section: The treaty between Yitzhak and the Philistine is celebrated. The Torah returns to the story of Yaacov and Esav. Esav’s marriage to two Canaanite women at the age of 40 (2148) brings disappointment to Yitzchak and Rivkah. In 2171, when Yaacov and Esav are 63 and Yitzhak is 123, Yitzhak blesses Yaacov and Esav. The Torah details the duplicity of Yaacov and Rivkah in fooling Yitzhak.

6th Section: Yitzhak blesses Yaacov with spiritual and material gain, after which Esav returns to discover Yaacov’s plot. He receives his own blessing for material gain, and is determined to kill Yaacov. Rivkah, fearful for Yaacov’s life, convinces Yitzhak to send Yaacov to her brother Lavan in search of a suitable wife. Yitzhak confirms on Yaacov the future of the Jewish nation before his departure to Lavan.

7th Section: Yaacov departs for Padan Aram, and Esav marries the daughter of Yishmael, (his half cousin).

Haftara: Malachi; Chapter 1 Verse 1 – Chapter 2 Verse 7

Haftara Summary: This week's haftara opens with a mention of the tremendous love G‑d harbors for the children of Jacob, and the retribution He will visit upon the children of Esav who persecuted their cousins. This follows the theme of this week's Torah reading, whose two protagonists are Jacob and Esav.

The prophet Malachi then rebukes the kohanim (priests) who offer blemished and emaciated animals on G‑d's altar: "Were you to offer it to your governor, would he be pleased or would he favor you? . . . O that there were even one among you that would close the doors [of the Temple] and that you would not kindle fire on My altar in vain!"

The haftara ends with a strong enjoinder to the kohanim to return to the original covenant that G‑d had made with their ancestor, Aaron the High Priest. "True teaching was in his mouth, and injustice was not found on his lips. In peace and equity, he went with Me, and he brought back many from iniquity."

Parashat Chaye Sarah Summary; Genesis; Chapter 23 Verse 1 – Chapter 25 Verse 18

Parashat Chaye Sarah Summary; Genesis; Chapter 23 Verse 1 – Chapter 25 Verse 18

General Overview: In this week's Torah reading, Chaye Sarah, Sarah dies and Avraham purchases the Cave of Machpelah as a burial plot for his wife. Avraham's servant Eliezer travels to Aram to find a wife for Yitzhak. Yitzhak marries Rivkah. Avraham dies.

1st Section: Sarah dies at the age of 127. Avraham negotiates with Ephron the Hitite to purchase the Cave of Machpelah as a burial place for Sarah. Tradition says that this is also the burial place of Adam and Chava.

2nd Section: Avraham sends Eliezer, his trusted servant, to Aram Naharayim, (between the Tigris and the Euphrates) to find Yitzhak a bride.

3rd Section: Leading a caravan of supplies and riches, Eliezer arrives to the city Nachor. While resting by “the well”, he plans a test to ascertain the worthiness of a potential mate for Yitzhak. Rivkah (Yitzhak’s 1st cousin once removed) meets all the criteria and Eliezer presents her with the appropriate gifts.

4th Section: Eliezer is invited into Betuel’s home (Rivkah’s father) and he relates the entire story of his mission and his encounter with Rivkah. Eliezer asks for her hand in marriage to Yitzhak. Betuel and Lavan (Rivka’s brother) agree.

5th Section: Rivkah expresses her desire to depart immediately. Her family blesses her, and Eliezer brings her to Canaan. Yitzhak marries Rivka in the year 2108.

6th Section: Avraham remarried and fathered several more children. Before his death, Avraham gave gifts to his other children and sent them all away, and bestowed all the rest of his possessions to Yitzhak. Avraham died at the age of 175, and was buried by Yitzhak and Yishmael in the cave of Machpelah beside his wife, Sarah.

7th Section: Yishmael’s progeny are detailed in this section. Yishmael passes away at the age of 137.

Haftara: Kings 1; Chapter 1 Verses 1 – 31

Haftara Summary: This week's haftara describes an aging King David, echoing this week's Torah reading, which mentions that "Abraham was old, advanced in days."

King David was aging, and he was perpetually cold. A young maiden, Avishag of Shunam, was recruited to serve and provide warmth for the elderly monarch.

Seeing his father advancing in age, Adoniahu, one of King David's sons, seized the opportunity to prepare the ground for his ascension to his father's throne upon the latter's passing, despite King David's express wishes that his son Solomon succeed him. Adoniahu recruited two influential individuals, the High Priest and the commander of David's armies, both of whom had fallen out of David's good graces, to champion his cause. He arranged to be transported in a chariot with fifty people running before him, and invited a number of his sympathizers to a festive party where he publicized his royal ambitions.

The prophet Nathan encouraged Bat Sheva, mother of Solomon, to approach King David and plead with him to reaffirm his choice of Solomon as his successor. This she did, mentioning Adoniahu's recent actions of which the king had been unaware. Nathan later joined the Bat Sheva and the king to express support for Bat Sheva's request. King David acceded to their request: "Indeed," he told Bat Sheva, "as I swore to you by the Lord God of Israel saying, 'Surely Solomon, your son, shall reign after me and he shall sit on my throne in my stead,' surely, so will I swear this day."

Parashat Vayera Summary: Genesis; Chapter 18 Verse 1 – Chapter 22 Verse 24

General Overview: This week the Torah starts with recounting the visiting of three angels to Avraham and Sarah. Rashi explains that each of them had a specific mission to fulfill; the first to inform them that Sarah would give birth to a child despite her advanced age, the second to destroy the evil city of Sedom and the third to heal Avraham from his recent circumcision. Then the third angle (Rafael) saved Lot and his daughters out of Sedom. Later, Avimelech king of the Philistines, attempts to take Sarah as a wife, but through Divine intervention she is released unharmed. Yitzhak is born and Yishmael is expelled from Avraham's household. Avraham makes a peace treaty with Avimelech. The story of the "Binding of Yitzhak" is recounted – Yitzhak’s "near-sacrifice" experience.

1st Section: The three angels appear to Avraham and foretell the birth of Yitzhak. Upon hearing the news, Sarah laughs to herself.

2nd Section: The angels depart to destroy Sedom, and Hashem tells Avraham about His plans for destroying Sedom. G-d’s proclaims His confidence in Avraham to teach the world the concept of justice. Avraham negotiates, unsuccessfully, on behalf of Sedom.

3rd Section: The story of the destruction of Sedom is told. Lot’s generosity to the “two visitors” is rewarded and he, his wife, and only two of their daughters are saved from Sedom.

4th Section: Lot’s wife looks back upon the destruction of Sedom and dies, and Lot and his two daughters escape into the mountains. Lot’s daughters conspire to rebuild humankind, and taking advantage of Lot’s drunkenness, they become pregnant from Lot resulting in the birth of Ammon and Moav. Avraham encounters Avimelech after which Sarah gives birth to Yitzhak in the year 2048.

5th Section: Yishmael and Hagar are forced out of Avraham’s home, and an angel reassures Hagar of Yishmael’s destiny.

6th Section: Avimelech and his general Phichol resolve their conflict with Avraham over water rights, and they “sign” a covenant of peace.

7th Section: In the year 2085, when Avraham was 137 and Yitzchak was 37, Avraham is commanded to sacrifice Yitzchak. This amazing story heralds the end of Avraham and Sarah’s era, and the beginning of Yitzhak and Rivkah’s era.

Haftara: Kings 2; Chapter 4 Verses 1 – 37

Haftara Summary: In this week's Torah reading, G‑d promises a child to Avraham and Sarah, despite childless Sarah's advanced age. This week's haftarah describes a similar incident that occurred many years later, the prophet Elisha assuring an elderly childless woman that she will bear a child.

The haftarah discusses two miracles performed by the prophet Elisha. The first miracle involved a widow who was heavily in debt, and her creditors were threatening to take her two sons as slaves to satisfy the debt. When the prophet asked her what she had in her home, the widow responded that she had nothing but a vial of oil. Elisha told her to gather as many empty containers as possible borrowing from neighbors and friends as well. She should then pour oil from her vial into the empty containers. She did as commanded, and miraculously the oil continued to flow until the last empty jug was filled. The woman sold the oil for a handsome profit, and had enough money to repay her debts and live comfortably.

The second miracle: Elisha would often pass by the city of Shunam, where he would dine and rest at the home of a certain hospitable couple. This couple even made a special addition to their home, a guest room designated for Elisha's use. When the prophet learned that the couple was childless, he blessed the woman that she should give birth to a child in exactly one year's time. And indeed, one year later a son was born to the aged couple.

A few years later the son complained of a headache and died shortly thereafter. The Shunamit woman laid the lifeless body on the bed in Elisha's designated room, and quickly summoned the prophet. Elisha hurried to the woman's home and miraculously brought the boy back to life.

Parashat Lech Lecha Summary; Genesis; Chapter 12 Verse 1 - Chapter 17 Verse 27

General Overview: Avram and Sarai travel to Canaan. Due to a famine in the land they temporarily relocate to Egypt, where Pharaoh unsuccessfully attempts to keep Sarai as a wife. They return to Canaan with great wealth and Avram parts with his nephew Lot. Avram defeats the armies of the four kings who had taken his nephew Lot hostage. G‑d seals a pact with Avram, bestowing the lands of Canaan to his descendants. Childless Avram marries Hagar and she gives birth to Yishmael. G‑d changes Avram's name to Avraham, and Sarai becomes Sarah. Abraham is circumcised at the age of 99.

1st Section: Avram is instructed to leave Charan and travel 400 miles to the Land of Canaan. (Charan was 600 miles from Ur Casdim). Upon arriving, they are forced to leave Canaan, due to a local famine, and travel to Egypt in search of food.

2nd Section: Avram plans for his encounter with the amorality of Egypt. His and Sarai’s confrontation with Pharaoh is detailed. Avram and Sarai return home.

3rd Section: Avram separates from his nephew / brother-in-law Lot, due to Lot’s defection from the teachings of Avram. Hashem reassures Avram that he will have children, “like the dust of the earth”, who will inherit the Land and carry on his work.

4th Section: Avram is forced to rescue Lot from captivity. In so doing, he adjusts the balance of power in Canaan and is recognized by the other political leaders for his military and moral strength. His encounter with Malki Tzedek (Shem) is in stark contrast to his confrontation with the King of Sodom.

5th Section: Hashem again reassures Avram that he will have genetic children (not just students) who would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.

6th Section: The monumental “Covenant Between the Halves” takes place during which the next 430 years of Jewish history is revealed. Avram is 70 years old. Sarai instructs Avram to marry Hagar. The story of her conflict with Sarai, her encounter with an angel, and the birth of Yishmael in 2034 is told. Following the birth of Yishmael, Avram’s name is changed to Avraham.

7th Section: Avraham is presented with the Mitzvah (commandment) of Circumcision (Brit Milah). Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah, and Hashem assures Avraham he and Sarah will have a son called Yitzchak. It is the year 2047 and Avraham circumcises himself (at the age of 99), Yishmael (at the age of 13), and his entire household.

Haftara: Isaiah; Chapter 40 Verse 27 – Chapter 41 Verse 16

The haftara for this week discusses Avraham's journey to the land of Canaan at G‑d's behest, and touches upon Avraham's miraculous battle against the four kings, both of which are described in this week's Torah reading.

The prophet Isaiah addresses Israel's complaint: ""My way [of serving G‑d] has been ignored by the Lord, and from my G‑d, my judgment passes [unrewarded]."

Isaiah reminds Israel of the Creator's greatness. The time will come when "He will give the tired strength, and to him who has no strength, He will increase strength. Youths shall become tired and weary, and young men shall stumble, but those who put their hope in the Lord shall renew [their] vigor, they shall raise wings as eagles; they shall run and not weary, they shall walk and not tire." Nevertheless, "there is no comprehension of His wisdom," and as such, at times we cannot understand why He chooses to delay the reward of the righteous.

The haftara then turns its attention to the idolatrous nations of the world. Isaiah reminds them of Avraham's greatness, how after arriving in Canaan he pursued and defeated four mighty kings. "The islands saw and feared; the ends of the earth quaked." Nevertheless, the nations who witnessed these miracles did not abandon their ways. "The [idol] craftsman strengthened the smith, the one who smoothens [the idol] with the hammer strengthened the one who wields the sledgehammer; the one who glues its coating says, "It is good," and he strengthened it with nails that it should not move..."

G‑d promises the Jewish nation to reward them for their loyalty to G‑d. "Do not fear for I am with you; be not discouraged for I am your G‑d. . . Behold all those incensed against you shall be ashamed and confounded; those who quarreled with you shall be as naught and be lost."

 

Parashat Noach Summary; Genesis; Chapter 6 Verse 9 – Chapter 11 Verse 32

Parashat Noach Summary; Genesis; Chapter 6 Verse 9 – Chapter 11 Verse 32

General Overview: In this week's Torah reading, Noach and his family, along with at least one pair of each living creature, survive the Flood by taking refuge in an Ark. The erection of the Tower of Babel angers G‑d, and leads to the dispersal of Noach’s descendants. Abraham and Sarah are born.

1st Section: Noach, a righteous man, is introduced in contrast to a generation that “has perverted its ways”. G-d instructs him to build, and outfit the Ark.

2nd Section: Noach is told to enter the Ark along with all the animals. The flood began on the 17th of the month of Cheshvan in the year 1656 (since the birth of Adam) – which corresponds to October 27th 2106 b.c.e.

3rd Section: For 40 days and nights the waters increased, destroying all living things. The water raged upon the surface of the earth for 150 days, and then diminished for the next 150. The ark rested upon Mt. Ararat on the 17th of Nissan (May 23rd). Noach sends out the Raven and then the Dove, and on the 27th of Cheshvan 27 (October 27), exactly 1 solar year after the flood began, the earth was dry.

4th Section: Noach and his family exit the ark, and offer sacrifices to G-d. They are commanded to keep the 7 Noachide laws.

5th Section: G-d promises to never again destroy the world and designates the rainbow as the symbol of that covenant.

6th Section: The story of Noach, the vineyard, and the subsequent blessings and curses is related. The descendants of Cham, Yefet, and Canaan are listed.

7th Section: The story of the Tower of Babel in 1996 (since the birth of Adam) and Nimrod’s world dominance is told. The 10 generations of Shem, culminating in the introduction of Avram (later to be known as Avraham) and Sarai (later to be known as Sarah), are listed. The year is 2023. Note that Avram was 48 years old when the Tower of Babel took place and he was 56 years old when Noach died.

Special Maftir: This Shabbat is actually Shabbat Rosh Chodesh, and therefore after the seven sections of this week’s Parasha are read, we read the special Torah portion that is read on Rosh Chodesh (Numbers; Chapter 28 Verses 9-15).

Haftara: Isaiah; Chapter 54:1 – 55:5

Haftara Summary: This Shabbat we read about Israel in the aftermath of the destruction of the Temple as afflicted, barren, and inconsolable. The Navi assures the people that Hashem’s kindness and love for them is ever present, protecting, and sustaining. This is the same Haftorah as Parshat Ki Tetzei. (the 4th Haftara of Consolation)

Verse 54:9 refers to the destruction of Jerusalem as “…this is like the waters of Noach to me…” The Navi lets us know that destruction occurs when Hashem’s kindness and protection is removed from the world and from Israel. “For a brief moment I forsook you…” (54:7) “…for a moment I hid my face from you…” (54:8)

The Navi concludes with the reassurance that Hashem remembers His covenant with the world and the Chosen People. Consequences are the result of Hashem’s presence being more or less manifest in society. The degree to which we reveal Hashem’s influence in our lives is the degree to which His protection and supervision is realized. Our job is to reveal Hashem through doing His commandments and learning His Torah.

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Parashat Bereshit Summary; Genesis; Chapter 1 Verse 1 – Chapter 6 Verse 8

General Overview: This week we start with the first portion of the entire Torah, Bereshit. G‑d creates the world in six days and rests on the seventh. Adam and Chava eat from the Tree of Knowledge and are expelled from the Garden of Eden. Cain slays Abel and is punished accordingly. Enumeration of the ten generations between Adam and Noah, the birth of Noach, and the degeneration of mankind.

1st Section: The story of creation of the world in six days. On the first day G‑d made darkness and light. On the second day He formed the heavens, dividing the "upper waters" from the "lower waters." On the third day He set the boundaries of land and sea and called forth trees and greenery from the earth. On the fourth day He fixed the position of the sun, moon and stars. On the fifth day fish, birds and reptiles were created. On the sixth day land-animals and then the human being, Adam were created. G‑d ceased work on the seventh day, and sanctified it as a day of rest.

2nd Section: Discusses the events of the sixth day of creation in greater detail. After Adam was formed from the earth, G‑d placed him in a garden just east of Eden. G‑d permitted Adam to eat from any tree in the garden, with the exception of the Tree of Knowledge. Adam named all the animals and birds, and G‑d decided that Adam needed a mate.

3rd Section: G‑d caused Adam to fall into a deep slumber and formed a woman, Eve, from one of his sides. Adam was delighted with his new mate. The serpent, at the time the wisest of all animals, sweet-talked Eve into eating from the fruit of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. Eve shared the fruit with Adam, and imbued with a new sense of knowledge and awareness, they were ashamed of their nakedness and clothed themselves.

4th Section: Adam and Eve were then expelled from the Garden of Eden. Eve gave birth to two sons, Cain and Abel. When Abel's offering to G‑d was accepted, while Cain's was rejected, Cain murdered his brother in a jealous rage. G‑d punished Cain, designating him to be a lifelong wanderer, but postponing his ultimate punishment for seven generations.

5th Section: The sixth generation descendent of Cain was Lemech, who fathered several children who were seventh generation descendants of Cain.

6th Section: Lemech accidentally killed his great-great-great-great-grandfather Cain in a hunting accident; the blood of Abel was finally avenged. Adam and Eve gave birth to a third son, Seth. This section then chronicles the first seven generations of mankind, from Adam to the righteous Enoch.

7th Section: The next three generations are chronicled in this section, concluding with Noah, the tenth generation from Adam. At this point in time, the degeneration of man’s relationship with Hashem and wickedness and immorality reached such proportions that G‑d regretted creating man. G‑d gave the world 120 years to clean up their act or be destroyed. Noach, on the other hand, was an exception. He was righteous and found favor in G‑d's eyes.

Haftara: Isaiah; Chapter 42 Verse 5 – Chapter 43 Verse 10

Haftara Summary: The haftarah of this week's reading opens with a statement by "the Almighty G‑d, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who laid out the earth and made grow from it." This echoes the Torah portion's recounting of the creation of the world in six days.

G‑d speaks to the prophet Isaiah, reminding him of his life's purpose and duty, namely that of arousing the Jewish people to return to being a light unto the nations, "To open blind eyes, to bring prisoners out of a dungeon; those who sit in darkness out of a prison."

The prophecy continues with a discussion regarding the Final Redemption, and the song that all of creation will sing to G‑d on that day. G‑d promises to punish all the nations that have persecuted Israel while they were exiled. The prophet also rebukes Israel for their errant ways, but assures them that they will return to the correct path and will be redeemed.

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Parashat Ha’azinu: Deuteronomy; Chapter 32 Verses 1 – 52

1st Section: Moshe begins by describing the presence of Hashem in nature as being as evident as the rain or dew that nourish the fields and gardens. G-d is entirely just, always good, always compassionate and forgiving. Therefore, all destruction and negativity must be ascribed directly to the ill-fated decisions and actions of His children.

2nd Section: The Jew must always remember that he was chosen from among all other nations to be nurtured by the direct ministrations of the Creator. We were born in a “desolate, howling, wasteland” and protected till we were able to assume responsibility for our unique relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth.

3rd Section: Unfortunately, humankind’s tendency is to forget the degree of their dependency upon Hashem and to create the illusion of self-sufficiency and independence. “Yeshurun thus became fat and rebelled…”

4th Section: We will then be punished with exile and persecution. Chased from our land and sold into slavery, the Chosen People will experience what it means to be independent of Hashem’s direct protection and benevolence.

5th Section: However, the other nations will fail in the very same manner that we did. They will assume that their ability to enslave the Chosen People and ravage Israel is proof of G-d’s impotence and their own prowess and strength. Therefore, they will be punished and destroyed and the Chosen People will again recognize Hashem’s primacy and control.

6th Section: Moshe’s song ends with the Jewish people singing forth their acceptance and understanding of divine purpose and justice.

7th Section: Moshe presents the entire “song” to the nation and reemphasizes that the condition for keeping the Land is adherence to Torah and serving Hashem.

Haftara: Shmuel 2; Chapter 22 Verses 1 – 51

Haftara Summary: This Haftara is always read between Yom Kippur and Sukkot. It is also read on the 7th day of Pesach and is found in a modified form in Psalm 18.

King David is singing the praises of Hashem. He has lived a turbulent yet gifted life, and he is giving thanksgiving to Hashem for his numerous victories and successes. In many respects it reflects the same sense of Hashem’s complete control as in Parshat Ha’azinu.

King David gazes back upon the events of his life with a clarity of vision and understanding. He describes Hashem as his “Rock, Fortress, and Deliverer”. (22:2) David recognizes that he too has merited to fulfill one of G-d’s promises, no less important than bringing the Children of Israel to the borders of the land of Israel. He has given birth to the Davidic line that assures the building of the Temple and the coming of Mashiach.

In more ways than can possibly be counted, all of history, from the beginning of time till that moment, conspired to effect redemption for the world. Through the divine power of David’s song, Hashem is given total credit for every turn and twist of destiny. His every trial and tribulation equals the sum total of Hashem’s constant love and protection. “As for G-d, His way is perfect… He is a shield for all who trust in Him.” (22:31)

The magnificence of David’s song reaches across the millennium to inspire and encourage all of us to recognize Hashem’s love and protection. The final words are familiar because they were incorporated into the conclusion of the Birkat Hamazon.

This Parasha and Haftara perfectly reflect the transition from Yom Kippur to Sukkot. The climax of Yom Kippur is the end of Neilah when we publicly proclaim the absolute mastery of G-d over all human and natural affairs. The term “Hashem” reflects upon the G-d of mercy who is intimately involved in the lives of humanity. The term “Elokim” reflects upon the G-d of justice who maintains the inviolable laws of nature. At the conclusion of Yom Kippur we have reached, if only for a moment, the understanding that the G-d of mercy and justice, the G-d of nature and mankind are one and the same. We are able to accept that the entire universe works in concert with Hashem in responding to man’s actions. Whatever the outcome, Hashem’s purpose is positive and beneficial for both the present and all future generations.

Although this is difficult to accept given the imposed limitations of mortality, we exit from that singular moment of awareness at the end of Yom Kippur and launch ourselves into a two week period of joyous and symbolic service. “And you should rejoice in your holiday,” is a commandment unique to this holiday period. We are to revel in the awareness of our dependency upon Hashem. We are to rejoice in the acceptance of G-d’s goodness.

Both Moshe in Ha’azinu, and David in the Haftara, declare their acceptance of G-d’s justice as the ultimate expression of mercy and compassion. We now act out our acceptance by eating and sleeping in a temporary dwelling reminiscent of the 40 years of total dependency in the Sinai Desert. With the shaking of the Lulav, we bind together the symbolic elements of every individual Jew, as well as the totality of the Jewish people, in a communal acknowledgment of Hashem’s mastery over all things.

This concept of acceptance is the single greatest challenge we have in our relationship with the Creator. It is expected that we will struggle with the consequences of divine justice from year to year. Yet, as believers in the reality of “Elokim”, we posture and behave as if we are understanding as well as accepting of G-d’s justice. We too wish to joyously proclaim every day, not just at the end of Yom Kippur, “Shema Yisroel…” “Hear Israel…” the two manifestations of G-d’s reality, Elokim – the G-d of Justice and Hashem – the G-d of Mercy, are really One.

Parashat Vayelech: Deuteronomy; Chapter 31 Verses 1 – 30

Parashat Vayelech: Deuteronomy; Chapter 31 Verses 1 – 30

It’s the 7th day of Adar, 2488, the last day of Moshe’s life. Exactly 120 years earlier the world was graced with the birth of a child who brought redemption to his people and the light of Torah to the world. He became a prophet of unparalleled greatness who led his nation through a miraculous 40 year journey to the edge of the promised land.

Trials and tribulations, rebellions and conspiracies, disillusionment and questions were his lot in life. Yet, Moshe never gave up. He nurtured the Jews “like a mother cares for her child”. He confronted man and G-d in protecting his charges, and succeeded in bringing the people, both physically and spiritually intact, to the fulfillment of a 500 year old promise. Now he had to put his affairs in order, finish his work, and insure an unquestioned transition of leadership to his student Yehoshua. This is the focus of Parashat Vayelech.

1st & 2nd Sections: Moshe emphasized Hashem’s continued presence and protection, even though, Moshe himself would not be with them any longer. Ever since assuming the leadership of Israel, Moshe had the conflicting job of fostering the nations dependency upon Hashem while de-emphasizing their dependency upon him as a leader and provider. Now, as he prepared his final good-bye, it was clear that by day’s end, with Moshe’s death, the nation would have no other choice but to reassess their dependency on Moshe and direct their attention to Hashem.

However, this was far more complex than it seemed. True, Moshe’s death would be a definitive “cutting of the apron strings”; but, living in the Land by the laws of nature rather than miracles would de-emphasize G-d’s overt role in all aspects of their lives.

3rd & 4th Sections: By writing the entire text of the Torah, entrusting it into the care of the Kohanim, and explaining the unique mitzvah of Hakhel, Moshe hoped that the people would retain the perspective of their dependency upon Hashem. The Kohanim represented the continued presence of “G-d in the midst of the camp”. As teachers and role models, they kept an otherwise dispersed and decentralized nation focused on their national and individual missions.

Once every 7 years, the entire nation gathered in the Bet Hamikdash in a recreation of the giving of the Torah. This national expression of devotion would serve as an essential reminder that adherence to the Torah is the reason why the nation occupied and retained the Land.

5th, 6th & 7th Sections: Moshe and Yehoshua were summoned to the Ohel Moed and told the harsh future of their charges. In spite of all the warnings, the people would sin and loose sight of their dependency upon Hashem. They would be punished, and instead of accepting responsibility for the consequences that their neglect of G-d’s commandments caused, they would have the chutzpah to blame G-d’s absence and neglect for the calamities and disasters that had befallen them.(31:17) It would then be the very words of this “Song” which would testify to the reality of their defection from Hashem and the inevitable consequences which occurred, as forewarned in this Torah.

Yehoshua was encouraged to be strong and courageous and lead the nation with the same devotion that Moshe had. The Torah, written by Moshe himself, was then placed in the Ark as proof of the conditions by which the Jewish.

Haftara: Hosea; Chapter 14 Verses 2 – 10, and Micha; Chapter 7 Verses 18 – 20

Haftara Summary: The Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is known as Shabbat Teshuva or "Shabbat of Return (Repentance)." The name is a reference to the opening words of the week's haftara, "Shuva Israel — Return O Israel." This haftara is read in honor of the Ten Days of Repentance, the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The prophet Hosea exhorts the Jewish people to "Return, O Israel, to the L-rd your G‑d," encouraging them to repent sincerely and ask for G‑d's forgiveness. Hosea urges the Jews to put their trust in G‑d, not in Assyria, powerful horses or idols. At that point, G‑d promises to remove His anger from Israel, "I will be like dew to Israel, they shall blossom like a rose." The prophet then goes on to foretell the return of the exiles and the cessation of idol-worship amongst the people.

The haftorah concludes with a brief portion from the Book of Micah, which describes G‑d's kindness in forgiving the sins of His people. "He does not maintain His anger forever, for He is a lover of kindness. He will have mercy on us, He will grasp our iniquities and cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." Micah concludes with an enjoinder to G‑d to remember the pacts He made with the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Parashat Nitzavim; Deuteronomy; Chapter 29 Verse 9 – Chapter 30 Verse 20

Parashat Nitzavim: Deuteronomy; Chapter 29 Verse 9 – Chapter 30 Verse 20

It’s about time we stopped making excuses and took responsibility for who and what we are. It’s long overdue. Here we are at the threshold of a new-year and it’s all about being honest with ourselves. The degree of our commitment to Torah and Mitzvot will be in direct proportion to how many excuses we make for ourselves in avoiding commitment. The more the excuses, the less the commitment. As Moshe continued his final discourse, he confronted the primary excuses we all use in avoiding commitment and responsibility.

1st & 2nd Sections: Moshe presented the entire nation with the basis for our covenant with G-d. Starting with the promise to the forefathers and stretching across 500 years of history, our relationship with G-d had been substantiated through miracle after miracle. Yet, future generations might deny their personal obligation to continue the relationship and its attendant responsibilities. Therefore; Moshe made it absolutely clear that each generation is obligated to educate their children and train them to accept the covenant with G-d. Subsequent generation should not be able to excuse their responsibilities for Torah and Mitzvot due to ignorance.

3rd Section: The next excuse Moshe confronted was the modernization of Torah. In every generation there are those who see Torah as archaic and outdated. “Only by grafting new ideas and practices to the stale practices of Torah will Judaism continue to exist and flourish.” This excuse for changing Torah’s eternal truths will result in the compromise of Torah observance, our land, and our people.

4th & 5th Sections: As history will tragically prove, Moshe’s warnings would be ignored. Subsequent generations would wonder about the destruction and desolation and, in their search for answers, return to the uncompromised truths and practices of their forefathers.

6th Section: As a generation of Baalei Teshuva find their way back, many will be overwhelmed by the seemingly inaccessibility of Torah knowledge. Moshe reassures us that Torah is accessible to all those who truly desire it. Ignorance and a lack of opportunity for learning should never be an excuse.

7th Section: Finally, Moshe presented the bottom line. Endowed with free will we must choose properly. In the end, we are responsible for what happens.

Haftara: Isiah; Chapter 61 Verse 10 – Chapter 63 Verse 9

Haftara Summary: This week's haftara is the 7th and final Haftara of Consolation. Coming before Rosh Hashana, this selection perfectly focuses us on the intended purpose of the High Holy Days.

We are dependent upon Hashem. He is the source of our protection, well being, and purpose. His constant love and attention is evident in the miracle of our survival and the strength of our limited numbers. As the Navi prepared the hope which allows us to place tragedy in perspective, we prepare ourselves to acknowledge Hashem’s providence through prayer and justice. There will soon come a time when we, as the Chosen People, will embrace the gift of G-d’s special attention. At that time the “…nations will see your righteousness and all the kings your glory…”

Glory and honor are the byproducts of devotion and commitment. Our responsibility in the coming days is to “…recount G-d’s mercies and praises…” Our goal is to acknowledge G-d and for G-d to proclaim “…Surely they are my people… (63:8)

Parashat Ki Tavo; Deuteronomy; Chapter 26 Verse 1 – Chapter 29 Verse 8

General Overview: Following the last two Torah portions that focused on Justice and the value of individual rights, Moshe directed the nation’s attention to the realities of what it meant to live in the Land of Israel.

Our behaviors, as well as natural law, are subject to the word of G-d and interface with each other in the most intimate example of cause and effect. As the Chosen People, our lifestyle should manifest the ever-present mastery of the Creator over mankind and the realization of the connection between our adherence of Mitzvot and the laws of nature. This is most apparent in the Land of Israel. As Moshe told the Jewish people in Parshat Ekev, (11:12) “It is therefore a land constantly under Hashem’s scrutiny…” As clearly as the rain and dew fall, the land reflects G-d’s presence. Keeping the Mitzvot of the Torah proclaims in word and deed G-d’s mastery over man and results in nature serving man as her accepted master. By ignoring or opposing the Torah we deny G-d’s mastery over man; and in turn, nature opposes man’s attempts at mastery over the natural world.

During the 40 years of the desert, the Jews were being prepared to accept the reality of Hashem’s mastery and the responsibility of keeping His Mitzvot. Now, in Parshat Ki Tavo, as they were poised to cross the Jordan river and assume their intended place as “… highest of all the nations on earth.” (28:1) Moshe commanded a number of declarations and ceremonies. These ceremonies would underscore the cause and effect relationship that exists between adherence to Torah, the laws of nature, and the divine responsiveness of the land.

1st & 2nd Sections: The Torah portion begins with the Mitzvot of the first fruits and the completion of the Tithing cycles. Both are accompanied by special declarations of Hashem’s mastery over the land, and man’s responsibility to keep the commandments of Hashem.

3rd, 4th & 5th Sections: Moshe presents a statement of allegiance between Hashem and His People. We are to keep the Torah and Hashem guarantees us praise, fame and glory as the “highest of all the nations”. (26:19) Upon crossing the Jordan river, the Nation will publicly declare its acceptance of Hashem’s covenant by: inscribing the Torah upon twelve stones; erecting them as a monument; and the ceremony of blessings and curses that is to take place between the opposing mountains, Grizim and Eval.

6th Section: Commonly known as the Tochecha, the admonitions and punishments. It describes the consequences that will befall the Jewish people if they ignore Hashem’s Torah and his providence. The custom is for the Reader to read this section more quickly and quietly than the rest of the Parasha.

7th Section: The Torah portion concludes with the beginning of Moshe’s final discourse. He starts by recounting the miraculous nature of the past 40 years and its clear indication of Hashem’s protection, in the present, past and future.

Haftara: Isaiah; Chapter 60 Verse 1 – 22

Haftara Summary: This week's haftorah is the sixth of a series of seven "Haftarot of Consolation." These seven Haftarot commence on the Shabbat following Tisha b'Av and continue until Rosh Hashanah.

In glowing terms the prophet recounts descriptions of what will unfold during the Redemption. Beginning with the resurrection of the dead and the ingathering of the exiles, continuing with the joy and abundance the Jewish people will then experience, as well as the gifts that will be brought to G‑d from all of the nations of the world.

Finally, the Jewish nation will no longer be despised and derided, there will no longer be violence nor mourning, and G‑d will shine His everlasting light on His people.

Parashat Ki Tetze; Deuteronomy; Chapter 21 Verse 10 – Chapter 25 Verse 19

General Overview: This week's Torah portion contains 74 commandments, more mitzvot than any other Torah portion. Some of the commandments discussed are: the law of the rebellious son, the obligation to bury the dead without undue delay, the requirement to return a found object, the prohibition against causing pain to any living creature, the prohibition against prostitution, the laws of marriage and divorce, the procedure of the Levirate marriage, and the obligation to eradicate the memory of Amalek.

1st Section: In an illuminating sequence of emotional and legal circumstances, Moshe forewarned us of the moral and familial dangers of warfare. A soldier brings home a non-Jewish female captive. Disregarding rational and obvious differences, he marries her, has his first son with her, and eventually resents the discord he has fostered upon himself, his “captive wife”, and his extended family. Attempting to deny his responsibility in the “resentment turned to hatred” breaking apart his family, he attempts to deny his firstborn son’s rights. This is illegal.

This can Produce the “Rebellious Son”; a child who does not value the private rights of person or property and will eventually be executed for his crimes against society. It’s a tragedy that begs us to consider the long-term consequences of our actions before giving legal license to the desire and lust within each of us.

2nd Section: The laws regarding: hanging and burial; returning lost articles; the fallen animal; transvestitism; and the birds nest are detailed.

3rd Section: The laws regarding: guard rails; mixed agriculture; forbidden combinations; Tzitzit; the defamed wife; if the accusations against the wife are true; the penalty for adultery; the rape of a betrothed or unmarried girl; the prohibition against marrying a father’s wife; the Mamzer; and the prohibition against marrying an Ammonite or Moabite are detailed.

4th Section: The laws regarding: marriage to Edomites or Egyptians; the sanctity of the army camp; sheltering runaway slaves; prostitution; deducted interest; and keeping vows are commanded.

5th & 6th Sections: The laws regarding: workers eating while they harvest; divorce and remarriage; military exemptions for a new husband; taking a millstone as security for a loan; the punishment for kidnapping; leprosy; general laws regarding security for loans, are detailed.

7th Section: The laws regarding paying wages on time; the testimony of close relatives; concern for the widowed and orphaned; forgotten sheaves of grain; leftover fruit from the harvest; Malkut – flogging; the childless sister-in-law; the assailant and the wife who comes to the rescue; honest weights and measures; and remembering Amalek are commanded.

Haftara: Isaiah; Chapter 54 Verse 1 – 10)

Haftara Summary: This week's haftarah is the fifth of a series of seven "Haftarot of Consolation." These seven haftarot commence on the Shabbat following Tisha B’Av and continue until Rosh Hashanah.

Forsaken Jerusalem is likened to a barren woman devoid of children. G‑d enjoins her to rejoice, for the time will soon come when the Jewish nation will return and proliferate, repopulating Israel's once desolate cities. The prophet assures the Jewish people that G‑d has not forsaken them. Although He has momentarily hidden His countenance from them, He will gather them from their exiles with great mercy. The Haftorah compares the final Redemption to the pact G‑d made with Noah. Just as G‑d promised to never bring a flood over the entire earth, so too He will never again be angry at the Jewish people.

"For the mountains may move and the hills might collapse, but My kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of My peace collapse."

Parashat Shoftim; Deuteronomy; Chapter 16 Verse 18 – Chapter 21 Verse 9

General Overview: This week the Torah addresses fundamental issues pertaining to the leadership of the Jewish people. It begins with a discussion regarding judges, and later gives rules pertaining to kings, prophets and kohanim (priests). Many commandments are introduced in this week’s reading, including: appointing judges, the obligation to follow rabbinic law and the words of the prophets, the obligations of a king, the punishment for perjury, the laws of war, and the procedure for dealing with unsolved murders.

1st & 2nd Sections: Moshe details the most important characteristics of a Judge: the ability to remain objective and the strength to refuse bribery. The singular focus of the Shofet (Judge) must be to carry out the will of G-d as detailed in the Halacha. Nothing must deter him in carrying out his mission of justice.

Idolatrous practices must be eradicated and punished. Idol worship represents the greatest perversion of justice by replacing divine justice with human failings and desires.

The Sanhedrin (The Great Assembly) is our direct link with Divine intent, and as stated in Verse 17:11, we view the rulings and interpretations of the Supreme Court as G-dly directives.

Our Monarch must be selected for his unyielding commitment to G-d, Torah, and the people. This is why he must write his own Sefer Torah and carry it with him at all times. He must be first and foremost a Shofet, a Judge.

3rd & 4th Sections: Moshe again addressed the place of the tribe of Levi, reemphasizing the care and attention due to them by the rest of the nation. They are our teachers. Without their instruction we will neither understand or be able to properly apply justice.

5th Section: For justice to exist, it must be accepted as a Divine ruling. Only G-d’s justice can be trusted to take into account all variables and possibilities. Moshe instructed his nation regarding the true Navi – prophet and the false prophet. No other forms of divination can be used to ascertain G-d’s justice, and all false prophets and methods of divination must be destroyed. The value of human life is determined by our system of justice, and Moshe reviewed the laws of the unintentional killing in contrast with the intentional murder.

6th & 7th Sections: The end of the Torah Portion discusses both proper and false witnesses, as well as the Torah’s approach to warfare. It may be that the judicial quality of a nation can be ultimately assessed by its behavior during war, more so than during times of peace.

The Parasha concludes with the unique mitzvah of the Eglah Arufa (the decapitated calf) and the process through which the community takes responsibility for the unsolved murders. This ceremony, which reflects the priceless value of life, might be the most eloquent expression of G-d’s judicial system.

Parashat Re'eh; Deuteronomy; Chapter 11 Verse 26 – Chapter 16 Verse 17

Parashat Re’eh; Deuteronomy; Chapter 11 Verse 26 – Chapter 16 Verse 17

 

General Overview: In this week's reading, Re'eh, Moshe continues addressing the Jewish people just before he passes away; just before the Jewish people cross the Jordan River and enter the land of Israel. Moshe commands the Jewish people to proclaim certain blessings and curses on Mount Grizzim and Mount Eval after they enter the land of Israel. He directs them to destroy all vestiges of idolatry from the Promised Land. They must then designate a city where the Divine presence will dwell in the Holy Temple, and they are forbidden from offering sacrifices elsewhere. Other topics discussed in this portion are: tithes, false prophets, the wayward city, tattoos, kashrut, the Sabbatical Year, charity, and the festivals.

1st & 2nd Sections: Moshe instructs the Chosen People to eradicate any remnant of idolatry and strengthen all aspects of service to G-d. All offerings must be brought to the “Chosen” place, the Temple, so that worship is an act of humility and selflessness, rather than a self-indulging “need”. An even greater danger to our uniqueness is the innate desire to compromise and assimilate Torah values with other forms of worship.

3rd & 4th Sections: Moshe forewarned the Jews against incorporating any pagan practices, and against the false prophet, idolatrous missionaries, and the Ir Hanidachat – the Apostate City. These must be destroyed along with their material belongings. When using the world in accordance with the wishes of the Creator, we declare the existence of a Creator who has a divine purpose for creating the material world. When we misuse the physical in the service of “gods who are not G-d”, we negate the Creator’s purpose for creating the universe. Therefore, they and all their belongings must be destroyed.

5th, 6th & 7th Sections: The remainder of the Parasha, details those Mitzvot that set us apart from all other nations: Kashrus; Ma’asrot – Tithes; the Shemitah – sabbatical year; the laws regarding lending money; the Eved Ivri – a Jew who is a slave; the consecration of the first born animal, and a review of the main Yomim Tovim – holidays: Pesach, Shavout, and Succot.

Rabbi S.R. Hirsch points out that Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are not reviewed in the book of Deuteronomy because there were no changes in the practices of those holidays when living in the desert or living in the land of Israel.

Haftara: Isaiah; Chapter 54 Verse 11 – Chapter 55 Verse 5

Haftara Summary: This week's haftara is the third of a series of seven "haftarot of Consolation." These seven haftarot commence on the Shabbat following Tisha b'Av and continue until Rosh Hashanah.

G‑d addresses the "afflicted and storm-tossed" Jerusalem "who has not been comforted," assuring her that she, and her people, will be restored to full glory. The foundation, walls and ground of Jerusalem will be laid with precious stones. Her children will be "disciples of the Lord," and will enjoy abundant peace. Any weapon engineered against her will fail.

The prophet then invites the thirsty to acquire "water," namely those who are thirsty for spirituality should study the quenching words of Torah. He promises the nation an everlasting covenant similar to that made with King David. This is also an allusion to the Messiah, David's descendant, who will be revered by all of the nations of the world.

Parashat Ekev; Deuteronomy; Chapter 7 Verse 12 – Chapter 11 Verse 25

Parashat Ekev; Deuteronomy; Chapter 7 Verse 12 – Chapter 11 Verse 25

General Overview: Moshe continues his pep talk to the Jewish people, cautioning them not to fear the Canaanite armies for G‑d will wage battle for them. He also notifies them that their entry into the Land is not due to their own virtues – Moshe reminds them of their many transgressions to emphasize this point – but rather, it is in the merit of the nation's Forefathers. The commandments of prayer and Grace After Meals are mentioned. The second part of the Shema is also found in this portion.

1st Section: Moshe details the general rewards for following the Torah, and encourages the nation to have complete confidence in Hashem’s protection. Moshe forewarns them of the dangers in being overly confident and commands them in the Mitzvah of Birkat Hamazon, the prayer after meals (8:10).

2nd Section: Moshe warns them regarding the pitfalls of prosperity and idolatry, and exhorts them to remain humble in the face of their guaranteed victories. G-d is the one who deserves the credit!

3rd Section: In order to illustrate his point, Moshe reviews the incident of the Golden Calf. He explains why G-d, being a G-d of Justice, will grant the Jewish people a victory over the inhabitants of Canaan. Not because the Jews are deserving, but because the Seven Nations deserve to be punished for their own evil actions. The actions of the Jewish people during the 40 years, such as the Golden Calf, should have resulted in the Jews’ destruction. It was three factors which kept them alive and well so that they could inherit the land.

Hashem’s promise to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaacov.

The Chillul Hashem– desecration of G-d’s name–that would have occurred among the other nations who would question G-d’s ability to protect His nation.

Moshe’s begging for Hashem’s forgiveness.

4th Section: Moshe finishes the story of the Golden Calf by retelling the giving of the Second Tablets.

5th Section: Moshe poses the famous rhetorical question of, “What does G-d want… follow His ways…” and describes other instances of Hashem’s demanding justice.

6th Section: Moshe describes the nature of Eretz Yisroel as demanding and responsive to our following the Torah. The second paragraph of Shema is recorded.

7th Section: Moshe promises the nation total victory if they listen to the commandments and follow the ways of the Hashem.

Haftara: Isaiah; Chapter 49 Verse 14 – Chapter 51 Verse 3

Haftara Summary: This week's haftara is the second of a series of seven "haftarot of Consolation." These seven haftarot commence on the Shabbat following Tisha b'Av and continue until Rosh Hashanah.

The exiled Jewish people express their concern that G‑d has abandoned them. G‑d reassures them that it is not so, comparing His love and mercy for His people to that of a mother for her children, and even greater than that, too.

The prophet Isaiah then touchingly describes the ingathering of the exiles which will occur with the Messiah's arrival and returning to the initial subject matter of this haftara, that of the Jewish people's complaint of being abandoned by G‑d, he reminds them of their rebellious behavior that brought about the exile and suffering. He concludes with encouraging words, reminding us of what had happened to our ancestors, Abraham and Sarah. Just as they were blessed with a child when they had all but given up hope, so too, G‑d will send us the Messiah.

Parashat Vaetchanan; Deuteronomy; Chapter 3 Verse 2 – Chapter 7 Verse 11

Parashat Vaetchanan; Deuteronomy; Chapter 3 Verse 2 – Chapter 7 Verse 11

General Overview: The book of Deuteronomy, Devarim is also called “Mishneh Torah – The Review of the Torah” because it repeats over 100 commandments already mandated in the previous 4 Books. Rabbi S.R. Hirsch explains that of the 100 commandments commanded in this book, more than 70 are new. The repeated commandments focus on areas that will be of greater immediate concern as they encounter the 7 Nations. For example, the prohibition against idol worship. Although already taught, it needed to be reiterated as the Jews would confront the inhabitants of Canaan, who were idolatrous. Those commandments whose application was the same, whether in the desert or in the Land, are not reviewed. In Parshat Vaetchanan Moshe continues his final instructions to the Jewish people.

1st & 2nd Sections: Moshe beseeched Hashem to enter the Land. However, he seemingly blamed the nation when his request was turned down. Moshe explained the foundation of our divine mission, which will be recognized by the other nations. Moshe stressed allegiance to Hashem and the consequences to ourselves and our children if we do not keep the law.

3rd & 4th Sections: Moshe designated the Cities of Refuge, and reviewed the entire experience of Revelation and the receiving of the Ten Commandments.

5th, 6th & 7th Sections: Moshe stressed the reaction of the nation after the giving of the Torah, and forewarned them not deviate from the Torah, either to the right or the to the left. The first paragraph of Shema is recorded. (6:10-15) Moshe warned the people about the dangers of prosperity, and directed them to keep the commandments and remember the Exodus. Moshe forewarned them about the dangers of assimilation and told them to always remember that they are the Chosen People.

Haftara: Isaiah; Chapter 40 Verse 1 – 26

Haftara Summary: This week’s haftarah is the first of a series of seven “haftarot of Consolation.” These seven haftarot commence on the Shabbat following Tisha B’Av and continue until Rosh Hashanah.

This section of Isaiah begins with G‑d’s exhortation to the prophets: “Console, O console My people . . . Announce to Jerusalem that her period of exile has been fulfilled and that her sins have been forgiven.”

Isaiah’s prophecy describes some of the miraculous events that will unfold with the onset of the messianic era, such as the return of the exiles to Jerusalem, the revelation of G‑d’s glory, and the rewards and retribution that will then be meted out.

The prophet then goes on to comfort the people, describing G‑d’s power and might, and reassuring them of His care for His people.

Wed, December 12 2018 4 Tevet 5779