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Preview: A short thought: Have you ever noticed the immense irony inherent in the popular children’s song, “Hamalach?” Yaakov’s wish for his grandchildren is that they “be like fish in the midst of the land.” Yet fish don’t thrive on land—quite the contrary!
Preview: Why were the kohanim granted special exemptions from Yosef’s redistribution regime? Might it be because his own father-in-law was a kohen? And might the parallels between Yosef’s role dispensing bread rations as viceroy, and his earlier experience serving in Potiphar’s house, also be relevant in this regard?
Preview: The night that Yaakov wrestled the angel and prepared to reunite with his brother bears uncanny parallels to the day that the first human was created and separated into two beings: Adam and Eve. Much might be said by way of interpreting these literary connections, but, at the most basic level, what they suggest is that the “creation” of a human being is not a one-time event. Although we are given biological life at birth, as we grow up and mature, we eventually come to play an active role in the process of creating our own personalities.
Preview: Study carefully the dialogues of Yaakov Avinu in this week’s parshah and you will notice something strange: Yaakov seems to refer to just about everybody as his “brother.” The sense we get is that, having grown estranged from his biological brother, Yaakov now finds himself searching high and low for “brotherhood” of another sort.
Preview: Serving a “master.” Seeking a “holiday” to offer “sacrifices.” “Three days” of journey. “Seeing” the “face.” Leaving “empty handed.” Role of “ears” and of “males” emphasized. Which Biblical text includes all these details? Six (!) actually: Lavan and Yaakov; Israel in Egypt; the Sinai revelation; the Golden Calf; the pilgrimage law; and the law of severance gifts. How Yaakov’s sojourn in Lavan’s house morphed into the mitzvah of aliyah l’regel and ha’anakah…
Preview: A theory: Eishet Chayil was written by Bat Sheva to warn Shlomo HaMelech against repeating the marital mistakes of his parents. Those mistakes were the ones forewarned about in our parshah. Indeed, read carefully and you’ll discover echoes of these laws playing themselves out throughout the lives of David, Bat Sheva, and Shlomo: (1) Bat Sheva was a quasi-yefat to’ar; (2) Natan’s parable plays off the law of the two wives; (3) Shlomo was apt to become a ben sorer u’moreh; (4) the book of Mishlei records the “mussar” which David and Bat Sheva gave their son to prevent this outcome (hence, for example, the book’s extensive focus on the “mussar” of parents, drawing repeatedly from the exactly language of ben sorer u’moreh); (5) Eishet Chayil—the last chapter in Mishlei—constitutes the climax of this rebuke.
Preview: Who built the Tower of Bavel – and why? Read the story carefully and you might come to a surprising conclusion… (Hint: The story appears in the middle of a particular genealogical account, and describes a particular location where the builders came from).
Preview: Why is Simchat Torah celebrated when it is? Perhaps because that is actually when the world’s very first cycle of Torah study was instituted. In fact, that’s a conclusion we might be able to arrive at using little more than the chronology available to us in the Torah itself.