parashas Va’eira 5781

“And moreover I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage; and I have remembered My covenant.” – Exodus 6:5

            A covenant was made with Abraham, many years before his descendants entered Egypt: “And He said unto Abram: ‘Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years” (Genesis 15:12-13, JPS 1917 Tanach).

             H’Shem sent Moshe, whom He spoke to at the burning bush: “‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people that are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their pains; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.” (Exodus 3:7-8).

            For H’Shem heard the cry of His people; he “descended to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians” (Exodus 3:8, Complete Jewish Bible, chabad.org).  Such is His love for His children, that he “descended to rescue them.”  Even though, He is thought of in Talmudic thought as sitting on His throne in Seventh Heaven, He heard our cries from there.

            The Talmud further explains that He can even hear the penitent whisper prayers in the synagogue: for He is not only transcendent; He is also immanent.  This explains to some degree how He can be the Master of the Universe, as well as the One who effects miracles to release His people from bondage. 

The Burning Bush

parashas Shemot 5781

“And the angel of the L-RD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush; and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.”

  • Exodus 3:2, JPS 1917 Tanach

While tending to a stray sheep in Midian, Moses encountered the burning lowly thornbush. G-d humbled himself by appearing within the form of the lowly thornbush, as if to say that He understood the suffering of Israel, represented by the thornbush itself. The thornbush was in flames; yet, was not consumed. Symbolically, this phenomenon represented the nisyanos (troubles) that Israel endured, without succombing to destruction.

When Moses began to step closer towards the burning bush to investigate, he was commanded to refrain from doing so, “Do not come closer to here, remove your shoes from your feet, for the place upon which you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). By removing his shoes, Moses was being shown that at this juncture in his life, he was to fully commit to the mission G-d chose for him without any reservations (R’Hirsh).

Figuratively, it was required of him to recognize where he stood, as a person, in relationship to G-d. He had been born a Hebrew, grew up as an Egyptian in Pharaoh’s palace, and spent at least forty years as a Midianite shepherd. The “holy ground” that he stood upon was the soil of his deepest roots.


When G-d appeared to him within the burning lowly thornbush, there was a sanctity of the present moment, wherein Moshe accepted his role, on H’Shem’s terms, not his own. We too, are called, each and every day to seek the vision of G-d that He intends for us: for “whosoever shall call on the name of the L-RD shall be delivered” (Joel 2:32, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Waiting for Salvation

parashas Vayechi 5781

“For Your salvation I wait, O L-RD.”

– Genesis 49:18

During Jacob’s prophetic review of the tribes, encapsulated in the blessings given to his twelve sons, his expectation is to gain a glimpse of the final redemption. He predicts that “Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel” (Genesis 49:16). He foresees that Samson will descend from the tribe of Dan; yet, the victory of Samson is short lived; Samson is given his moment in the history of Israel, raised up to defend Israel against the Philistines. Yet, he is not the redeemer who will appear at the end of the age. Rather, as is written in Pirkei Avot, “every man has his hour.”

Upon realising this, he cries out, “For Your salvation I wait O L-RD” (Genesis 49:18). Targum Yonaton paraphrases, “When Jakob saw Gideon bar Joash and Shimshon bar Manovach, who were established to be deliverers, he said, I expect not the salvation of Gideon, nor look I for the salvation of Shimshon; for their salvation will be the salvation of an hour; but for Thy salvation have I waited, and will look for, O L-rd; for Thy salvation is the salvation of eternity” (Targum Jonathan on Genesis 49:18; sefaria.org).

Why would Jacob be concerned about the final redemption, when he prophetically knew of the impending descent of his descendants into the abyss of Egypt, and their subsequent slavery? Shouldn’t his immediate concern have been in regard to the first redeemer, who would bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land? Yet, he himself said, before blessing his children, “‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the end of days” (Genesis 49:1).


His prime concern was not for a limited historical perspective, concerning only the next five hundred years, nor even the next two thousand years. His ultimate concern was for the eternal salvation of Israel, as mentioned (above) in Targum Yonaton. Therefore, his vision spanned from the nation of people that would arise from his seventy member family in Egypt, all the way until the “end of days,” whereof the final deliverance of that nation would be at hand. “For Your salvation I wait, O L-RD” (Genesis 49:18).

Joseph: The Continuing Saga

parashas Vayigash 5781


Joseph’s identity, hidden from his brothers, was revealed to them in a moment of time, wherein they had a private audience with the Egyptian ruler, who knew them, yet, they did not recognise him. Previously, up until that moment, they had seen him as a cruel ruler, who held his authority over them, inasmuch as he could do as he pleased: through intimidating them by placing them in jail three days; demanding that they return with their youngest brother; otherwise, they would not be able to see him, thereby obtaining necessary food during the famine; and, finally, taking Benjamin as a servant, under false charges. Their perception of him changed, when he said, “I am Joseph” (Genesis 45:3).

Joseph himself had previously told them, in regard to the incident whereof, he kept Simeon as a hostage, until they return with Benjamin, instead of keeping them all in prison, that he fears G-d. No light statement from an Egyptian ruler; yet, the brothers may not have accepted this statement as sincere. Now, they see his sincerity demonstrated, inasmuch that he shows them kindness, forgiveness, and mercy, the very qualities valued in Abrahamic legacy. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do his commandments; his praise endures for ever” (Psalms 111:10, Tanach Bible).

When Jacob arrived in Egypt with his family, his son, Joseph, harnessed his chariot and went out to greet him. Joseph provided for his family to live in the land of Goshen – a land removed from Egypt proper. As a consequence of their living in this location, they were isolated to some extent from the rest of Egyptian society. They had more freedom to follow the patriarchal ways of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and foster the character traits that they represented, as opposed to getting caught up in the idolatrous ways, and immorality of their neighbors.

Yet, even in the midst of the uncertainty, doubt, and fear, that settled in years later, after the children of Israel became enslaved in Egypt, there was the promise of hope in the redeemer. Before Joseph passed away, he told his brother, pekod pekodti, a redeemer will reveal himself to you. “G-d will surely remember you, and bring you up out of this land unto the land which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Genesis 50:24). The first redeemer, Moses, freed us from the shackles of Egypt, and brought us to Sinai, where through the covenant, we became obligated to to following the commandments, the first step in becoming a people unto G-d.

Mikeitz 5781

parashas Mikeitz 5781

According to the Zohar, for every descent, there is an ascent: apropos to this weeks parashas, we see Joseph, whose feet were placed in fetters, His person was laid in iron; until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the L-RD tested him (Psalm 105:19, JPS). Josephs descent to Egypt, and eventually into prison, began with his literal descent into the pit that his brothers callously cast him. He was then sold to Midianite traders, who brought him down to Egypt. He became the servant of Potiphar, who put Joseph in charge of his estate; yet, he was wrongfully accused by Potiphars wife; as a result, he wound up in prison.

Even in prison, Joseph flourished; the L-RD was with Joseph, and showed kindness unto him, and gave him favour in the sight of the keeper of the prison (Genesis 39:21, JPS 1917 Tanach). He gained notoriety as an interpreter of dreams, after correctly interpreting, b’ezrach H’Shem (with the L-RDs help) the dreams of two prisoners who had been in stewardship in Pharaohs court. When the cup bearer, who was restored to his position in Pharaoh’s court, two years later, saw how disconcerted Pharaoh was about his own dreams, he recommended Joseph to Pharaoh.

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph: Forasmuch as G-d hath shown thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou’ (Genesis 41:39, JPS 1917 Tanach). Pharaoh was so impressed with Josephs interpretation, that he elevated him to second in command of Egypt, thereby charging him to care for Egypt during the famine, by developing a means to store food during the seven years of plenty, to be subsequently distributed during the famine that would ensue, according to Pharaohs dream. Thus, Josephs ascent followed his descent, all for the sake of others. Joseph models the qualities of endurance, patience and self-giving.

Light Will Prevail

B”H

3 Teves 5781

eighth day of Chanukah

Light will transcend the darkness in our lives when we cast our gaze towards the flame of truth, the eish tamid (eternal light) that is symbolized by Chanukah. The light of the Menorah in the temple, lit by the small cruze of oil found amidst the debris in the Temple, is the light of hope and renewal.

A little known midrash connects that small cruze of oil to the renewal of mankind, creation, and the earth itself, after the Mavul (Flood). When the dove brought back an olive branch in it’s mouth, according to the midrash, Noah pressed enough olive oil to place inside a small container. This cruze of oil was passed down to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Jacob returned to Beth El, he anointed the foundation stone with this oil. Then, according to the midrash, he hid the small cruze of precious olive oil.

This Place (HaMakom) was none other than Mt. Moriah, where the Temple was eventually established. Yes; because of the miracle of light that lasted for eight days from this precious oil, we celebrate Chanukah today. Midrash is not always meant to be taken literally; therefore, a symbolic viewpoint may be rendered from this particular midrash. One explanation, may have to do with the talmudic saying that the cure precedes the ailment.

Thus, one may conclude that G-d, having foreseen the defilement of the Temple by the Seulicid empire, provided the means for its sanctification, shortly after the near destruction of the earth. The oil, “potential light” was passed down, safeguarded across the generations for its eventual use in re-lighting the menorah in the Temple, signifying the triumph of light over darkness.

The message of hope will be like a small flame illuminating the darkness, despite whatever circumstances may cast a shadow over our lives. Yehi ratzon. May it be His will that the light of hope and renewal throughout the ages will always prevail over darkness. Amein.

Chanukah Lights 5781

B”H

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

erev 3 Teves 5781

erev 8th day Chanukah

Each day of the eight days of Chanukah, a candle is lit, successively, so that on the first day – one candle is lit, then two candles on the eve of the second day, and so on. Yet, if you look at a menorah designed for Chanukah, there are nine candle holders. (Unless the menorah uses oil with tiny wicks, then there are nine repositories for the oil). The reason for a total of nine, is to have a place, usually in the center of the menorah, for the shamash (servant) candle, that is used to light all of the other candles. This candle is lit first; then, it shares its light with the other candles.

The tradition is reminiscent of the pasuk (verse), “In Thy light do we see light” (Psalm 36:10, JPS 1917 Tanach). H’Shem is the source of life, that bestows light upon us; we are connected, ever dependent upon Him for every breathe we take. “For Thou dost light my lamp; the L-RD my G-d doth lighten my darkness” (Psalm 18:29, JPS). At the darkest time of the year, may we hope to be enlightened by H’Shem, by way of His emes (truth), and chesed (mercy), two key components of Chanukah; for His truth led us in the darkness against our enemies; and, through His mercy, we were spared from capitulation to the ungodly agenda of the opposing force, that tried to erase our belief and practice.

Chanukah 5781

B”H

erev 7th day of Chanukah

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the L-RD of hosts.”

– Zechariah 4:6, JPS 1917 Tanach

The miracle of the oil that lasted eight days, giving light to the Menorah inside of the Temple, not the military victory of the Maccabees (a small group of pious Jewish fighters) over the Syrians is emphasized, as per the ruling of the Sages. We celebrate Chanukah in recognition of G-d’s Spirit enabling us to defeat our enemies, not by our own strength or strategical prowess in battle.

Likewise, in recognition of G-d’s hand in our lives, we may bravely face the day, with Him on our side; yet, at the same time, humbling ourselves before Him, inclusive of accepting His plans for us, replete with an acknowledgment of His guidance. He will not lead us astray; rather, he will lead us into victory time and time again. May we be able to conquer our inner battles, with a little help from Above.

Vayeishev 5781

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a coat of many colours.”

– Genesis 37:3, JPS 1917 Tanach

Joseph was the firstborn to Jacob’s wife, Rachel. Joseph was favored by his father, Jacob who made a coat of many colors for him (Genesis 37:3); the coat was a symbol that demarcated Jacob’s intention of elevating him to the status of the firstborn. Reuben had lost that status because of a previous transgression (Genesis 35:22). This would explain why Joseph was given the responsibility to check up on his brothers who were “feeding the flocks in Shechem” (Genesis 37:14).

Joseph’s brothers were already jealous of him; when he told them of his dreams that foretold that he would rule over them “they hated him even more” (Genesis 37:5). When Joseph was sent to check up on his brothers, they took advantage of the situation. And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph of his coat, the coat of many colors. Then, they threw him into a pit and sold him for “twenty pieces of silver” to a caravan that was passing through Shechem. Joseph’s brothers dipped Joseph’s multi-colored coat into the blood of a goat (Genesis 37:31); then, they took the coat to their father Jacob as evidence of Joseph’s alleged death by way of a wild animal (Genesis 37:20).

When Joseph arrived in Egypt, by way of the caravan of Ishmaelite traders, he was sold as a slave, and became a servant in the house of Potiphar. And, H’Shem was with him with all his undertakings, for he had been put in charge of the household. Yet, he was wrongly accused of indiscretion, by his master’s wife; hence, he was sent to prison. Even there, H’Shem was him, strengthened him, and he was placed in charge off the prison ward. After interpreting two of his fellow prisoner’s dreams, word got out to Pharaoh, two years later when he needed a dream interpretor. Thus, Joseph was brought into Pharaoh’s court; because he was held in high esteem, Joseph was promoted to viceroy.

The Angelic Errand

B”H

parashas Vayishlach 5781

“Jacob sent messengers [malachim] before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the field of Edom.”

– Genesis 32:4, Jewish Publication Society

Previously, the Torah speaks of two camps of angels, one that accompanied Jacob to the edge of the land of Canaan, and another camp that served to accompany him and his entourage once they entered Canaan, the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their descendants (see Genesis 32:2-3). Now, at the beginning of parashas Vayishlach, the Torah alludes to these very same angels that were assigned for protection (Genesis 32:4). The Hebrew word, malachim can mean messengers or angels. In the literal sense, Jacob sent messengers to Esau; yet, on another level, the angels granted to him for protection, may have also gone ahead of Jacob’s entourage to meet Esau.

Nachmanides comments that “this parsha is written to announce that H’Shem saved his servant and redeemed him with a strong arm, and he sent an angel to save him. And we learn more that he was not confident in his deeds, and he made an effort to save all that he could” (Ramban, 32:2, sefaria.org). Jacob himself states, “I am not worthy of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which Thou hast shown unto Thy servant” (Genesis 32:11, JPS).

Jacob did not only rely on divine protection; rather, he made a three-fold preparation for an encounter with Esau: defense, prayers and appeasement. He divided his camp, so that if one camp was attacked, the other would escape; he prayed to H’Shem for deliverance from the hands of Esau; he also sent gifts to Esau. He sent droves of sheep, cattle, and goats ahead as gifts for Esau. His servants went ahead of him with the gifts. Finally, when Esau approached, Jacob went ahead of his family and bowed seven times to his brother Esau. By way of the gifts that Jacob sent ahead, and his own humble posture of subservience to Esau, even calling him, L-rd, out of deference, Jacob brought about a meeting with his brother that became more like a tearful reunion. “Esau’s pity was aroused when he saw him [Jacob] prostrating himself so many times” (Rashi, Genesis Rabbah 78:8, sefaria.org).