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Father Favors (Vayigash)

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?

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Empty Handed (Vayetze)

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

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The Wheel Deal (Pesach)

Preview: A famous midrash claims that “a maidservant at the Sea of Reeds saw/perceived what even Yechezkel son of Buzi did not.” What’s motivating this midrash? Perhaps it’s the pointed parallels between the splitting of the sea and Yechezkel’s “vision of the chariot.”

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Just Do More (Vayeshev)

Preview: At every turn, Yosef succeeds because he does more than is asked of him: when searching for his brothers, when wardening in Egypt, and when interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams.

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Double Blind (Toldot)

Preview: The “sibling swap” Rivkah orchestrates against Yitzchak is simply a version of the very same ruse he had orchestrated a chapter earlier, against Avimelech. In fact, all of the major stories from sefer Bereshit through the beginning of sefer Shemot may have their roots in the ruse that the patriarchs pulled on Avimelech/Pharaoh – and the literary links are there to demonstrate it.

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The Seven Year Plan (Re’eh)

Preview: Why does the Torah, in this week’s parshah, legislate the seven-year agricultural cycle known as “shemittah?” Might it have anything to do with an earlier such cycle: the seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine, over which Yosef presided as viceroy of Egypt?

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Seeing Stars (Ki Tissa)

Preview: Rashi, citing the midrash, claims that Pharaoh foresaw the incident of the Golden Calf during the plague of locusts. Underlying that claim are a series of remarkable textual parallels between the two incidents: locusts and Golden Calf. What are they, and what do they mean?

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Rise and Shine (Pesach)

Preview: How the rabbinic rules surrounding the recitation of shema play off the Biblical account of the plague of darkness.

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The Men in the Middle (Balak)

Preview: Yitro and Bilaam were both religious leaders of Midian. One became a good friend of Israel’s while the other set out to destroy them. Why?

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Heavy Hearts (Bo)

Preview: Besides for Pharaoh, the only other people whose hearts become “hardened” during the exodus are his servants. It happens only once – and immediately after, the servants issue their one and only petition for Pharaoh to free the slaves. Sounds like the metaphor of the “hardened heart” doesn’t mean what we typically think it does…

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