Vayechi

Posted on December 17th, 2018

Genesis 47:28–50:26 


By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org


How the Living Serve the Dead


Va-y’chi concludes the narratives of Genesis by foreshadowing enslavement and redemption — central themes of the Book of Exodus. As the Genesis narrative draws to a close, Joseph and his retinue journeyed from Egypt to Canaan to fulfill Jacob’s bidding that Joseph bury his father in the Tomb of Machpelah, the burial cave purchased by Abraham for his family from the Hittites (Genesis 23:1-20). After fulfilling this promise, the progeny of Jacob returned to their adopted land of Egypt and their comfortable homes and lives


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Vayigash

Posted on December 10th, 2018

Genesis 44:18–47:27


BY RABBI STEPHEN S. PEARCE, PH.D.FOR REFORMJUDAISM.ORG

 

The True Measure of Repentance

 

Vayigash, a Torah portion filled with drama and suspense, offers a profound message about regret, repentance, and forgiveness.


When famine struck the Land of Canaan, Joseph's brothers arrived in Egypt to purchase provisions. Although they had no idea who the thoroughly Egyptianized Joseph who stood before them was, Joseph recognized them immediately. In an instant, Joseph recalled the mockery his brothers had made of the dreams of his youth, and even his father's annoyance at Joseph's imperious demeanor. Joseph understood the irony of his dreams of mastery over the members of his family.

 

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Miketz - Rosh Chodesh Hanukkah

Posted on December 3rd, 2018

Genesis 41:1−44:17 
 

By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org
 

Jewish Self-Definition: One Size No Longer Fits All
 

Jewish assimilation — the loss of followers through attrition, absorption into other faiths, or the practice of no faith — harks back to Joseph, the first Israelite to live in a diaspora. In Mikeitz, we read how Joseph adopted Egyptian customs and clothes, took an Egyptian wife, and was given the Egyptian name Zaphenath-paneah (Genesis 41:45), a sign of acceptance into Egyptian society. Joseph gave his firstborn son the name Manasseh, meaning,“God has made me forget all the troubles I endured in my father’s house” (Genesis 41:51), and his second son the name Ephraim, meaning,“God has made me fruitful … ” (Genesis 41:52). Joseph’s children could informally be called “Amnesia” and “Success.” Their identities highlight the struggle of living at the intersection of two cultures — one uniquely Jewish and one that competes for a Jew’s loyalty and allegiance. 

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Vayeshev

Posted on November 26th, 2018

Genesis 37:1–40:23 


By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org


Ensuring the Success or Failure of Dreams


All ten dreams recorded in the Torah are found in Genesis, earning the first book of the Torah the subtitle, Book of Dreams. Here are some examples:

1. Genesis 20:3-7: Philistine King Abimelech dreamed that God admonished him for stealing Sarah from Abraham.

2. Genesis 28:12-15: Jacob dreamed of a ladder reaching the heavens with angels ascending and descending on it.

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Vayishlach

Posted on November 19th, 2018

Genesis 32:4−36:43 

By Rabbi Stephen S. Pearce, Ph.D. for ReformJudaism.org
 

Struggling With a Deceitful Heart
 

 

The inner turmoil that marked Jacob’s life of deceitfulness as well as his struggle with his father, brother, and sons are exposed in Vayishlach. After many years of separation, Jacob, about to meet his estranged brother, Esau, slept in a dream-like state of wakefulness on the shore of the Jabbok River where a man wrestled with him until the rise of dawn. In the text we read:

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