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Grave Mistake (Beshalach)

Preview: “Was it for lack of graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness?” Some see this as the first recorded example of Jewish self-deprecating humor. But maybe the suggestion wasn’t meant sarcastically. Maybe the people meant it seriously. Indeed, they might have had good reason to. To realize why, just think back to Yaakov and Yosef’s deathbed requests…

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Reinventing the Heel (Vayishlach)

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.

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No Other Brothers (Vayetze)

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.

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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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Blessings in Disguise (Vezot Habracha)

Preview: Why are there so many veiled allusions to Esav in Moshe’s parting blessing to b’nei Yisrael? A very quick idea on this week’s parshah, along with an accompanying source sheet.

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Hunger Games (Mikketz)

Preview: If you pay careful attention, you’ll notice that there’s a subtle play on words between the words רעב/רעבון  (hunger) and the words  ערב/ערבון (collateral/guarantee) that takes place in this week’s parshah.

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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 Grandfathers (Shemot)

Preview: There’s a funny midrash about a promise Yitro once asked Moshe to make regarding how he’d raise his children, and it sounds a whole lot like the oath Yaakov makes Yosef take in this week’s parshah. Did Chazal see a relationship here? What’s the lesson for us?

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Fruit and Fragrance (Toldot)

Preview: In many ways, the “stealing the birthright” episode seems to bring us back to “eating the fruit of Eden” episode. In both, it is actually lack of trust and of communication between husbands and wives which produces spiritual breakdown.

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