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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.

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).

The Annointed Stone

B”H

parashas Vayeitzei 5781

“And he lighted upon the place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep.”

– Genesis 28:11, JPS 1917 Tanach


On his journey to Charan, to find a wife, Jacob rested at hamakom (the place). He placed a stone underneath his head, went to sleep, and dreamt of a ladder spanning earth and heaven. Angels ascended and descended upon the ladder. When he awoke, he said “this is none other than the house of G-d, and this is the gate of heaven.’ And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it” (Genesis 28:17-18, JPS).

According to the Talmud, it is here that the Foundation Stone was located, since the beginning of the earth’s creation; for it was from hamakom (the place) that the world itself was created (Yoma 54b). According to Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer, this stone was given the name evehn shetiyah (foundation stone), many generations later.

This stone symbolizes the center of the world, from where all the earth was created. Jacob poured oil on this stone, so that it could be used as a mizbeach (altar), later, when he would return from his journey to Haran. This location is also where the first and second Temples stood, many generations after Jacob. Additionally, this is where the third Temple will be built in Jerusalem.

What is the significance of the foundation stone? “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, A tried stone, a costly corner-stone of sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16, JPS). Actually, the original Hebrew verse is written in the prophetic past tense; Rashi comments, “a decree has been decreed before Me, and I have set up the King Messiah, who shall be in Zion as an אֶבֶן בּוֹחֵן, a fortress stone, an expression of a fortress and strength” (Complete Jewish Tanach with Rashi Commentary).

Wisdom Like Water

parashas Toldos 5781

“And Isaac digged again the wells of water, which they had digged in the days of Abraham.”

– Genesis 26:18, JPS 1917 Tanach

Meor Eynayim explains, that these wells are symbolic of G-d’s wisdom that flowed during the lifetime of Abraham; yet, after his death, his wells were stopped up by the Philistines, representative of the powers of darkness and ignorance, inasmuch that they also impeded the spread of this wisdom (Meor Einayim, Toldos 19; sefaria.org). Symbolically, when Isaac redug the wells of his father, Abraham, he also reopened the flow of divine wisdom into the world.

The wellsprings of wisdom, must be dug within ourselves, until we reach the place where the source of the wisdom flows. This is the essence of the teaching from Meor Einayim. In reference to the verse, “they have forsaken me, the source of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13), he explains that “Blessed G-d is the source from whom comes the flow of life-force to all living things in all manners” (Meor Einayim, Toldos 18; sefaria.org).

Thus, the source of life continually flows from G-d; yet, as the result of sin, we cause a blockage of that source, and are likened to “broken cisterns.” Consequently, we are unable to connect to our “upper root,” the source above us that nourishes our soul. Additionally, our own ignorance compels us to search elsewhere in this world for the truth; yet, here is much spiritual malaise as the result of sin in this world. Our own path should be to turn from the the darkness, towards the light, so that our souls may be renewed with G-d’s wisdom.

Tradition teaches that preceding the time of Moshiach (Messiah), there will be a decline in spiritual understanding, as a result of sinking to “the fiftieth level of impurity.” However, at the beginning of his reign, “it shall come to pass in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem” (Zechariah 14:8). Pirkei deRabbi Eliezer, explains that in the future, within Jerusalem, a newfound well that will arise of its own accord, will water all of the surroundings. “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the L-RD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Chayei Sarah 5781

“The L-RD, the G-d of heaven, who took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my nativity, and who spoke unto me, and who swore unto me, saying: Unto thy seed will I give this land; He will send His angel before thee, and thou shalt take a wife for my son from thence.”

– Genesis 24:7, JPS 1917 Tanach

“Therefore, I know that He will send His angel to make Your way prosper, to fulfill His promise to me.”

– Rashbam, sefaria.org

When the time arrived for Abraham to find a wife for his son, Isaac, Abraham sent his trusted servant Eliezar on the mission, back to the land where Abraham had lived. Abraham explained to Eliezer that H’Shem would “send his angel” before him on the journey. When Eliezer arrived, he prayed, “‘O L-RD, the G-d of my master Abraham, send me, I pray Thee, good speed this day, and show kindness unto my master Abraham” (Genesis 24:12, JPS 1917 Tanach). In this manner, he prayed in the merit of Abraham, as per the tradition even today, regarding the prayers of the chassidim, in the merit of their Rebbes.


What is fascinating to note, is that within this parashas, there is another mentioning of prayer in the merit of a righteous person. Preceding Eliezer’s return, “Isaac went out to meditate in the field at the eventide; and he lifted up his eyes, and saw, and, behold, there were camels coming” (Genesis 24:63, JPS 1917 Tanach). Tradition infers that the field where Isaac meditated, i.e., “prayed,” was the field of the cave of Machpaleh, where Sarah was buried. Therefore, commentary speaks of him, praying in the merit of his mother (the matriarch of the Jewish people) for Eliezer’s mission to be successful.


“The angel of the L-RD encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them.”

– Psalm 34:8, JPS 1917 Tanach

Vayeira: Commitment

“And He said, “Take your son, your favored one, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the heights that I will point out to you.”

– Genesis 22:2, JPS 1985 Tanach

The epitome of the Akeidah, the Binding of Isaac was the resolve necessary on the part of Abraham, to follow through with G-d’s commandment to bring his son, Isaac as an offering to the mountain shown to him. This was the tenth and final test of his faithfulness towards G-d, as proved by his obedience to carry out His will. Previously, Abraham trusted in G-d, to follow His directives, despite all of the prevailing challenges, ramifications, and risks involved. Now, he acceded to the command to give up Isaac, his only son, who was destined to carry on the legacy, mission, and message of the One True G-d. Yet, Abraham trusted in H’Shem; perhaps, knowing that He would be able to resurrect Isaac, as implied by the Zohar, whereof the beracha, “Blessed is He who quickens the dead,” is attributed to Abraham, right before he was about to offer up Isaac.

The tension point between Abraham and Isaac occurs when Isaac asks his father, Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a [olah] burnt-offering?” Abraham responds, “‘G-d will provide Himself the lamb for a burnt-offering, my son.'” Then, the narrative conveys the resolution to Isaac’s concern: “So they went both of them together” (Genesis 22:7-8, JPS 1917 Tanach). The challenge of Isaac was to be in one accord with G-d’s will. As the sages explain, “it was at this moment that Isaac realised that he was to be the offering; even so, he was one within the intentions of his father. They went together to the mizbeach (altar), prepared on Mount Moriah. Rashi comments, “with equal intentions to fulfil the will of the Creator” (sefaria.org). Therefore, let not Isaac’s commitment be diminished, for he willingly went with his father Abraham, up the mountain. “He carried the wood on his back, like a man bearing his cross” (Genesis Rabbah 56).

Lech Lecha 5781

Abraham was the first monotheist. According to the midrash, he arrived at the realisation of G-d’s oneness after a thorough intellectual inquiry. In considering the sun that rules during the day, and the moon at night, he realised neither ruled completely; hence, they must have a Creator who created them. Through this reflection, he raised himself up above the idolatrous beliefs of his countrymen. His newfound belief could only be nurtured, by removing himself from his environmental milieu, so that he would not continue to be influenced by idolatry. So that when G-d called him to lech lecha (literally, go forth to yourself), he was ready to go.

Yet, not until he departed with Sarah, Lot (his nephew), and his entourage of souls (converts) that they had acquired, did H’Shem appear to him in Shechem. The question is asked, why did H’Shem first speak (vayomer) to Abraham, when he was first called (Genesis 12:1), then appeared (vayeira) and spoke to Abraham in Shechem (Genesis 12:7)? Why is there a differentiation noted in these passages? A direct answer is not given. Yet, accompanying the vision, Abraham was granted greater insight into the nature of H’Shem. For this reason, out of gratitude towards H’Shem, Abraham built the mizbeach (altar) there (Zohar; Sheini Luchot HaBerit). I would add that there is a progressive revelation given to Abraham, beginning with his intellectual realisation. Next, he is called directly by H’Shem, then, after he takes that first step on the journey “to a land that I will show you,” H’Shem appears to him.

Abraham’s initial call, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and thy father’s house” (Genesis 12:1), compelled him to separate from his familiar environs. He became known as an “ivri,” mraning, “other side,” because he was from the other side of the Euphrates River. In terms of his belief, he was on one side of the moral sphere, and the world was on the other side. Incidentally, the transliteration of the word, ivri is Hebrew. Abraham was the first Hebrew, thus becoming the progenitor of the Hebrew people, whom later became known as the Israelites. Yet, the blessings given to Abraham would also include all the families of the earth being blessed through him (Genesis 12:2).

Noach 5781

“And it came to pass at the end of seven days, that the word of the L-RD came unto me, saying: Son of man, I have appointed thee a watchman.”

– Ezekiel 3:17, JPS 1917 Tanach

At the end of seven days, the final seven days, before the door to the ark was closed, the first part of Noah’s mission was completed; the judgment was at hand, for the earth would be consumed by the Mabul (Flood). As mentioned in the Zohar, Noah had warned his generation of the impending doom; all the inhabitants of the earth were given the opportunity for teshuvah. This is also denoted by the Targum, wherein it is written, “if they will be converted, it shall be forgiven them” (Genesis 7:14, Targum Yonaton).

Noah’s role to warn mankind, was given to him at the receiving of the commandment from G-d to build an Ark. Up until that time, as the tzaddik (righteous person) of his generation, he must have been disconsolate, witnessing the vast amount of errant ways upon the earth. He was chosen for a mission that would encompass simultaneously warning others, while building the ark that would become a place of refuge for his family, as well as G-d’s creatures from the animal kingdom, in order to be spared by the Flood.

Ostensibly, anyone who was compelled to take his message to heart would have been forgiven. Yet, the question remains, if that was the case, would forgiveness include being physically spared from the Mabul (Flood)? G-d’s forgiveness pertains to the soul – our condition as humans within the realm of creation, is that our soul is spiritual. Therefore, ultimate forgiveness from G-d’s viewpoint, has to do with the part of us that lives beyond our physical selves. The unrepentant on earth became the rephaim (shades) who descended into gehinnom after perishing in the Flood. “The shades [rephaim] tremble beneath the waters” (Job 26:1). If any of them had repented, would their souls not have descended into gehinnon, even though their bodies perished?

Bereishis 5781

B”H

“And the L-rd G-d took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.”

– Genesis 2:15, JPS 1917 Tanach

G-d had the foresight to provide a remedy before the ailment that still plagues man today. The first act of disobedience, on the part of Adam and Chava (Eve). Adam, whose Hebrew name means man, and is similar the word adamah (earth), is synonymous with the first man, created from the various elements of the earth, with one exception, his soul as mentioned in Torah. “Then the L-RD G-d formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Eve, whose name means life, yet, as a result of her and her husband’s disobedience, brought death into the world. “‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17, JPS). Even so, Adam decided to focus on his wife’s role in regard to all of humanity. “And the man called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20, JPS).

Many questions may be asked in regard to the cryptic language of Torah; for example, what is the nature of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? The Targum, a complete rendering of the Five Books as a paraphrase of the original explains well: “But of the tree of whose fruit they who eat (become) wise to know between good and evil, thou shalt not eat” (Sefaria.org).

Sforno notes, that the Tree of Knowledge was placed in close proximity to the Tree of Life in Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden). Sforno relates these trees to the choice given to mankind: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed;” (Deuteronomy 30:19).