Opening Minds, Bridging Differences, Living Jewish Values.

Parashat HaShavua

Parashat HaShavua - Terumah

וְעָשׂוּ לִי, מִקְדָּשׁ; וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם (שמות כ״ה:ח)

Build Me a holy place and I will dwell among them. (Exodus 25:8)

Yesterday, I celebrated Rosh Hodesh Adar by leading tefillah b'yahad for second graders and their parents. The teachers and I had silly hats and a few tricks up our sleeves, which we had merrily planned last week to teach the students about the teaching that משנכנס אדר מרבין בשמחה, once Adar is upon us, it is our job to increase joy. But the smiles on our faces were more forced than we had expected, because we had all gotten up in the morning and read the newspaper. Suddenly it was a lot harder to embody the happiness of Adar.

This week we read Parashat Terumah, including God's command to the Israelites to build a Diving dwelling place "וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם," and I will dwell among them. The rabbis point out that the Torah does not say וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכו meaning I will dwell inside of it, inside of the Tabernacle, but rather, וְשָׁכַנְתִּי, בְּתוֹכָם, and I will dwell inside of them. Even though God is commanding the people to build a particular space, in the end, God doesn't dwell inside of the place but rather inside of each human being as they are engaged in the work of building something sacred. My daughter in 11th grade has been studying a sugya from Sanhedrin this year which includes a related teaching from Rabbi Akiva:

כל מי שהוא שופך דמים מעלים עליו כאלו הוא ממעט את הדמות מאי טעמא? "שופך דם האדם באדם דמו ישפך" מפני מה "כי בצלם אלהים עשה את האדם"

Everyone who sheds blood, it is as if they have diminished God's image, as every human being is created in God's image.

Killing a person, Rabbi Akiva teaches, in addition to being a tragic diminishment of humanity, is actually an irreversible diminishment of the Divine image in the universe. It definitely feels like there has been a profound diminishment of Divinity, holiness and goodness in our world as we take in the fact that seventeen Divine images have been wantonly destroyed in the blink of an eye. Scrolling through the pictures of one beautiful, smiling high school student after another (in addition to the teacher who was a Jewish camp counselor and probably sacrificed his life for the life of a student by being brave enough to usher him in through the door to the classroom) you get a visceral sense of what is meant by the expression בצלם אלהים ברא אותם, that we are, all God's image. I am also feeling an added layer of despair and anger because it seems so clear that nothing will change as a result of this tragedy and there will continue to be more school shootings, just as nothing changed after Sandy Hook and after the 273 school shootings that have occurred since then.

A derasha -- a dvar Torah -- is supposed to end with a nechemta, a gesture towards redemption, towards hope. What possible nehemta could there be this week? Yesterday afternoon, some faculty members gathered for a monthly reading group on equity, justice and inclusion. Many of us had just heard the news and were a little bewildered about how to begin. We decided to dedicate our learning to the hope and the intention that our study could enable us in some small way to increase goodness in the world. It was not much, in view of the magnitude of the diminishment of goodness that had just occurred. But at least it offered us some small inkling of a way forward, towards another month of Adar when we might feel the happiness of the season with fuller hearts.

Rabbi Anne Ebersman
Early Childhood/Henry Lindenbaum Lower School Judaic Studies Programming Director & Director of Hesed and Tzedek


Parashat HaShavua - Mishpatim

Much is made, justifiably of course, of the role that Theodor Herzl played in galvanizing modern Zionism; much less, though, of the roles played well before him by Yehuda Alkalai and Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, two intellectual and religious pioneers. "Behold," we read this week in Parashat Mishpatim, "I am sending an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared / הִנֵּ֨ה אָֽנֹכִ֜י שֹׁלֵ֤חַ מַלְאָךְ֙ לְפָנֶ֔יךָ לִשְׁמָרְךָ֖ בַּדָּ֑רֶךְ וְלַֽהֲבִ֣יאֲךָ֔ אֶל־הַמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֲכִנֹֽתִי." (Ex. 23:20) For almost two thousand years, the Jewish people held precisely this view of how they would return to Israel, awaiting God's initiative and protection before embarking on our journey.

Then along came Rabbis Alkalai and Kalischer to say otherwise, towards the middle of the 19th century. They were remarkable in that, on the one hand, their commitment to Israel was deeply rooted in tradition; while, on the other, their enlightened modern perspectives caused them to embrace the notion that we should take the initiative to ourselves make the return to Israel happen.

Yehuda Alkalai's approach was the more gentle of the two. "Let our eyes behold your return in mercy to Zion," he quoted from the Amidah, "וְתֶחֱזֶינָה עֵינֵינוּ בְּשׁוּבְךָ לְצִיּוֹן בְּרַחֲמִים." It was important to him and his reader that the starting point be rooted in tradition. However, he opined, it cannot be that God would return to a land without a significant number of Jews already living there: "Upon whom should the divine presence rest? On sticks and stones?" Rather, "Redemption must come slowly. The land must, by degrees, be built up and prepared." (See Arthur Hertzberg, The Zionist Idea, pp. 105-7)

Zvi Hirsch Kalischer's exhortation was far less restrained. "The redemption of Israel," he wrote, "is not to be imagined as a sudden miracle. The bliss and the miracles that were promised by God's servants, the prophets, will certainly come to pass – everything will be fulfilled – but the Redemption of Israel will come by slow degrees and the ray of deliverance will shine forth gradually... Cast aside the conventional view that the Messiah will suddenly sound a blast on the great trumpet and cause all the inhabitants of the earth to tremble." (See Shlomo Avineri, The Making of Modern Zionism, pp. 111-14)

Of course, he too bases his position on tradition, quoting Isaiah: "In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel shall blossom and bud / הַבָּאִים֙ יַשְׁרֵ֣שׁ יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב יָצִ֥יץ וּפָרַ֖ח יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל." (Is. 27:6) What, according to Kalischer, will cause Israel to blossom? That some will go there first to take root. This integration of tradition and modernity by both men in the service of modern Zionism was extraordinary.

It is usually said that Herzl was awakened by the Dreyfus affair to the intractable suffering of the Jews and our need for a home as a result. According to some, however, Herzl first learned from his grandfather, Simon Loeb Herzl, the notion that Jews could bring about our return to Israel. And from whom did his grandfather hear this? Yehuda Alkalai.

May we, in our lives, have the strength and the vision to initiate steps towards the achievement of our dreams with regard to Israel, the Jewish people and ourselves; and then, once we have, receive the help we need to make them into a reality.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Jack Nahmod
Middle School Judaic Studies Head
Rabbinic Advisor N-8


Parashat HaShavua - Yitro

This is my favorite time of year. In the weeks following our celebration of the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., I visit the kindergarten classes and talk about my experience as a person with a physical difference. I ask the students what they imagine is hard about being an adult who is much shorter than other adults and I invite students to ask questions. This past week, one student in kindergarten could not understand why people might make fun of me when they first see me. He said: "why would people laugh? You're just a person like everyone else."

Embedded in this beautiful sentiment expressed by this child was a deep understanding of what it means to be created בצלם אלוהים in the Divine Image. At such a young age, this child understood that no matter our differences, we share something so important and so core to our being, and that is our humanity.

How is it then that the concept of צלם אלוהים of being created in God's image which is core to the narrative of Creation (in Genesis) appears to be absent from the Ten Commandments and from Revelation at Sinai which are at the center of this week's Torah reading?

The Ten Commandments are traditionally divided into two. In doing so, the first five are referred to as falling under the category of מצוות בין אדם למקום commandments guiding our relationship with God, and the second five guiding our relationship בין אדם לחברו with each other. The fifth commandment is to honor one's parents. Does its placement in the former category (commandments that guide our relationship with God) not challenge these groupings?

Ramban (13th century, Spain) teaches that in the fifth commandment, God is drawing a parallel between honoring one's parents and honoring one's creator. Ramban writes:

כאשר צויתיך בכבודי כן אנכי מצוך בכבוד המשתתף עמי ביצירתך.

Just as I commanded you to honor Me, so too I command you to honor those who partner with me in your creation.

Offering honor and respect to our parents is an extension of the commandment to honor God. Similarly, we can conclude that all commandments that guide our relationships with each other are not actually that separate of a category from commandments that guide our relationship with God. This was the core of the student's message: if I treat each person with the honor and dignity that I would treat God, then surely, I cannot imagine a situation where someone would be mean to another human being based on their difference.

May we all merit the ability to follow in this student's footsteps and may the way we treat each other always give honor to our parents and to God.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Dahlia Kronish
HS Director of Jewish and Student Life

Parashat HaShavua - Beshalach

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, מַה-תִּצְעַק אֵלָי; דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְיִסָּעוּ.(שמות י״ד:ט״ו)

God said to Moses: "Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the children of Israel, that they should go forward" (Exodus 14:15)

The Mechilta teaches that as they stood at the shore of the sea (hearing the Egyptian hoofbeats in the distance) the people of Israel split into four factions. One faction said: "Let us cast ourselves into the sea." A second faction said, "Let us return to Egypt." A third said, "Let us wage war against the Egyptians." A fourth said, "Let us cry out to God."

According to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, these "four factions" represent four possible reactions to a situation in which the prevailing reality is very difficult and even terrifying, as it must have been for b'nai yisrael hearing the Egyptian chariots approaching them at the shores of the sea. One possible reaction is: "Let us cast ourselves into the sea," -- let us submerge ourselves in the living waters of Torah, creating our own insular communities separate from world outside. At the other extreme is the reaction "Let us return to Egypt" -- let us accept reality, and accommodate ourselves to the Pharaohs who wield power in the real world. A third reaction is to "wage war"—to respond with violence -- and a fourth reaction is to say, let's pray to God to save us.

As the Lubavitcher Rebbe points out, God rejected all four approaches. While each may have some value, they insufficient to guide our lives and define our relationship to a world full of challenges and obstacles. But in that case, what is the best approach? He writes: "When a Jew, headed towards Sinai, is confronted with a hostile world, his most basic response must be to go forward. Not to escape reality, not to submit to it, not to wage war on it, not to deal with it only on a spiritual level, but to go forward. Do another mitzvah, take one more step toward the goal."

Somehow, even in the most trying circumstances, we are called find the resources within ourselves to go forward. We can pray, study Torah, resist, and even make compromises based on a hard look at reality. But the most important spiritual practice, the one we cannot abandon, is to go forward. And perhaps it is that movement that will ultimately lead us to the place that the Israelites finally arrive at on the shores of the sea: וַיַּאֲמִינוּ בַּיהוָה וּבְמֹשֶׁה עַבְדּוֹ -- they had faith in God and in Moshe. They are able to finally find a pose of faith that things can change and redemption is actually possible.

Rabbi Anne Ebersman
Early Childhood/Henry Lindenbaum Lower School Judaic Studies Programming Director & Director of Hesed and Tzedek

Parashat HaShavua - Bo

God marks the beginning of our nationhood by renewing our sense of time, while denying the Egyptians theirs as they hurtle towards their demise. For the Egyptians, erasing their sense of time comes with the plague of darkness. The darkness is so thick that it begets even more darkness (Ex. 10:21); it is so thick that Egyptians "did not see each other, and no one rose from his place for three days / לֹֽא־רָא֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ אֶת־אָחִ֗יו וְלֹא־קָ֛מוּ אִ֥ישׁ מִתַּחְתָּ֖יו שְׁל֣שֶׁת יָמִ֑ים" (Ex. 10:23). Thus did the Egyptians also lose their mastery over themselves as they neared the end of their mastery over Bnei Yisrael.

For Bnei Yisrael, meanwhile, their formation as a nation begins with God granting them a sense of time in several ways. Immediately following the plague of darkness, Bnei Yisrael are told that, "This month will be the first of the months, the first of the months of the year / הַחֹ֧דֶשׁ הַזֶּ֛ה לָכֶ֖ם רֹ֣אשׁ חֳדָשִׁ֑ים רִאשׁ֥וֹן הוּא֙ לָכֶ֔ם לְחָדְשֵׁ֖י הַשָּׁנָֽה" (Ex. 12:2). A one-year old lamb must be chosen at by a particular day (the fourteenth) and slaughtered at a specific time (afternoon); it must then be eaten before dawn. (Ex. 12:5-10)

It is also striking how much time is emphasized in the final plague and our departure from Egypt. Moshe informs the people that God will kill the firstborn occur "at the midpoint of the night / כַּֽחֲצֹ֣ת הַלַּ֔יְלָה" (Ex. 11:4), and then in fact does so (Ex. 12:29). They then leave "the very day" they are told they can / וַיְהִ֗י בְּעֶ֨צֶם֙ הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה" (Ex. 12:41), a point that is repeated verbatim a mere ten verses later.

It is therefore no wonder, in light of our beginnings as a nation, that keeping time is such a significant part of our tradition. Among our many blessings, there is one said perhaps more than any other, for special occasions. In that blessing, we thank God who "gave us life, supported us and brought us to this time / שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִיעָנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה." Thus even on individual occasions we broaden our gratitude beyond that specific event to celebrate the "time" within which it occurs!

In his classic work The Sabbath, Rabbi Heschel observes that, "Jewish ritual may be characterized as the art of significant forms of time, as architecture of time. Most of its observances - the Sabbath, the New Moon, the festivals, the Sabbatical and the Jubilee year - depend on a certain hour of the day or season of the year. It is, for example, the evening, morning, or afternoon that brings with it the call to prayer. The main themes of faith lie in the realm of time. We remember the day of the exodus from Egypt, the day when Israel stood at Sinai; and our Messianic hope is the expectation of a day, of the end of days." (p. 8)

Add to Rabbi Heschel's list that even our eating is time-bound; we count the hours between meat and dairy, and on fast days when no eating is allowed at all, we carefully count the hours between our meals.

Some might argue that we have gotten carried away. Can't this structure create a feeling for us of being at the mercy of time, of a lack of control rather than empowerment? Perhaps. I think, however, that in this era of "not enough time in the day," our deep tradition of designated times provides us with the necessary tools for differentiating and prioritizing different times in our life, for maximizing the time we have rather than just watching it pass by out of our control. We know better than to let time "get away from us." Rather, from our origins as a people until today, we are uniquely positioned to appreciate, as Rabbi Heschel writes so beautifully, that, "There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious." (p. 8)

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Jack Nahmod
Middle School Judaic Studies Head
Rabbinic Advisor N-8


Parashat HaShavua - Va'era

וְלֹ֤א שָֽׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל מֹשֶׁ֔ה מִקֹּ֣צֶר ר֔וּחַ וּמֵעֲבֹדָ֖ה קָשָֽׁה׃

They did not listen to Moshe due to their crushed spirits and hard work.

Last week, Rabbi Anne wrote about the story of the two midwives and directed our attention to the role of vision (the ability to see and discern) in our work towards justice. This week's parsha points us to the importance of listening. It is not easy to make space to listen to others. The Torah portion begins with Moshe once again relaying God's plan of redemption to the Israelites. The Torah states that the Israelites did not listen (לא שמעו) to Moshe due to their crushed spirits and hard work. Some commentators suggest that this means that they literally were not able to listen, and some suggest they listened but were not able to accept (believe) Moshe's promise that redemption was possible.

Chizkuni (13th century French commentator) teaches that when the verse states that the Israelites could not listen because of their working condition, what is actually implied is that by burdening the Israelites with additional hard labor, Pharaoh had succeeded in making them forget their dreams of freedom.

The Israelites' response leads Moshe to once again challenge God's having chosen him as the one to take his people out of Egypt. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks teaches that Moshe's challenge to God should teach us that Jewish tradition places great value on listening to dissenting positions. Rabbi Sacks teaches that if God is willing to listen to Moshe, as well as Abraham and Jeremiah, who challenge His plan or His vision of justice, so too must we, human beings, be open to listen to others who present positions that challenge us and our core values.

Towards the beginning of our Torah portion, right before God articulates to Moshe the four stages of redemption (ארבע לשונות גאולה), God tells Moshe that God has heard (שמעתי) the cries of the Israelites and has therefore remembered God's covenant. Certainly God must have been aware of the suffering in Egypt. God needed to listen to God's people, make space to truly hear their cries, in order to prepare to begin to bring about redemption.

As we prepare to celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., may we be inspired by his commitment to broadcast the cries of African American people in our country and by his demand that we listen.

Rabbi Dahlia Kronish
HS Director of Jewish & Student Life

Parashat HaShavua - Shemot

וַתִּפְתַּח וַתִּרְאֵהוּ אֶת-הַיֶּלֶד, וְהִנֵּה-נַעַר בֹּכֶה; וַתַּחְמֹל עָלָיו--וַתֹּאמֶר, מִיַּלְדֵי הָעִבְרִים זֶה.(שמות ב:ו)

She opened it and saw a child, crying, and she felt compassion for the child and said, "This must be one of the Hebrew babies." (Exodus 2:6)

In discussing the book of Shemot, which we will begin to read this Shabbat, Aviva Zornberg has noted: "by contrast with the Genesis saga, the absence of women from the book of Exodus...is quite striking." The one breathtaking exception to this unfortunate state of affairs is this week's parasha, which portrays a chain of female heroes who form a kind of underground railroad to shepherd Moshe safely to his destiny. As we approach Dr. King's birthday as well as our school's celebration of its namesake during Heschel@Heschel week, we will read a parasha that is populated by women who take risks for justice and can be credited with the first recorded acts of civil disobedience in Western history. The midwives refuse to comply with Pharaoh's dictum to kill the male Israelite babies, Pharaoh's daughter decides to adopt the baby she finds in the reeds knowing full well that he is an Israelite child, and Moshe's sister bravely speaks up to the princess, arranging for the child to be nursed by his mother.

What enables these women to have such moral clarity about the distinction between משפט (law) and צדק (justice)? One of the key words in the opening chapters of Shemot is לראות, to see. Pharaoh instructs the midwives what to do וּרְאִיתֶן עַל-הָאָבְנָיִם -- when they see the children being born. (The irony is of course that when they see what truly matters, they make a very different choice). Moshe's mother makes her desperate attempt to save her child after seeing his essential goodness -- וַתֵּרֶא אֹתוֹ כִּי-טוֹב הוּא. And Pharaoh's daughter makes the choice to save the child upon seeing the child crying וַתִּרְאֵהוּ אֶת-הַיֶּלֶד וְהִנֵּה-נַעַר בֹּכֶה.

Vision, the ability to see clearly, seems to be the critical first step in working towards justice. When Carl Stern asked Rabbi Heschel what motivated his commitment to the Civil Rights Movement, he responded: "I was very fortunate in having lived as a child and as a young boy in an environment where there were many people I could revere, people concerned with problems of inner life, of spirituality and integrity. People who have shown great compassion and understanding for other people." Heschel's memories of his childhood focus on the people in his life who looked beneath the surface, who saw clearly the suffering of other human beings. In this way, they were like Pharoah's daughter, who first sees the child crying, then feels compassion, then takes action. It is vision, the women of Shemot teach us, that is the beginning of redemption.


Parashat HaShavua - VaYigash

Present experience, writes Daniel Stern in his book The Present Moment in Psychotherapy and Everyday Life, "must be able to alter the past, by diminishing its influence, by reselecting which past elements will play the major influencing role, or simply by changing the past. If the present cannot do that there can be no therapeutic change." (197) In Yosef's past, he encounters many challenges: he is thrown into a pit and then sold by his brothers; framed by Potiphar's wife and imprisoned; and, finally, forgotten in prison by the butler until finally being remembered and redeemed. How does this past impact his interactions with his brothers in this week's Parashah and beyond?

Yosef, at first, seems stuck in "inflexible patterns that appear resistant to change from new present experiences." (201) By harshly accusing and then imprisoning his brothers, the traumas experienced by Yosef seem to have rendered his "past experiences relatively immune to the influence of the present."

At some point, however, Yosef is able to pivot. According to Stern, "as each new present moment takes form, it rewires the actual neural recording of the past and rewrites the possible memories of the past." (p. 200) Perhaps the contrition of Yosef's brothers is what eventually enables Yosef to say to them, "do not be upset that you sold me here, for it was to preserve life that God sent me before you / וְאַל־יִ֨חַר֙ בְּעֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם כִּֽי־מְכַרְתֶּ֥ם אֹתִ֖י הֵ֑נָּה כִּ֣י לְמִחְיָ֔ה שְׁלָחַ֥נִי אֱלֹהִ֖ים לִפְנֵיכֶֽם." (Gen. 45:5) The original memories "are changed and no longer exist" the way they were initially recorded. (201)

The way Yosef recalls his past reverberates not only for him and his brothers, but for his descendants in Egypt - our ancestors - as well. They too experience subjugation and enslavement, akin to what Yosef experiences (though to a much greater degree, of course). They are also forgotten, as Yosef was, before finally being remembered and redeemed. One can easily imagine that the story of Yosef continued to resonate throughout their experiences. Perhaps the Israelites were able to draw inspiration, as a source of hope for themselves, from how he rewrote his past. Just as Yosef felt his suffering had been for a reason, so could they; just as his faith in God was rewarded, so would theirs. In this way, they could rely on how he rewrote his past, in a sense rewriting their own as well.

According to Stern, this need not be conscious. There is also a "silent past" consisting of repressed past influences (among them traumas) and non-conscious character traits. "They too," he writes, "are acting in the present, unfelt... Much of our past is ongoing and updated all the time. This 'updated ongoing past' is highly active, though silent." (201-2) "Present experience," he asserts, "can be largely determined by the silent past." (202)

The idea that we can alter the past is both empowering and humbling. The past is undeniably a powerful and important influence on us all, and while we cannot change what actually happened, we can change its impact on the present and the future. May we, when we update our own pasts, do so with wisdom and discretion.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Jack Nahmod
Middle School Judaic Studies Head
Rabbinic Advisor N-8

Parasha HaShavua - Miketz and Hanukkah

In Masechet Shabbat, there is a detailed discussion of where and when to light the Hanukkah candles. Rashi explains the reason for the laws as פרסומי ניסא – publicizing the miracle. In order to ensure maximum publicity, we place the Hanukkiah outside our door at the time when people are returning home from the market. On the Yeshivat Etzion website, Dudi Kehana compares the requirement to publicize the Hanukkah miracle with the requirement to publicize the Purim and Passover stories. Kehana comes to the following conclusion: publicizing a miracle requires two steps: first, one must personally understand the nature of the miracle and second, one must publicize it to the general public. Furthermore, even though Rashi uses the word PUBLICIZE, Kehana emphasizes that the first step, namely – teaching yourself the essence of the miracle by understanding the role God played in history – is the more important component of the mitzvah.

In this week's Torah portion, which is often read on Hanukkah, we read about Pharaoh's dreams and Joseph's rise to power. Throughout this Torah reading, we are troubled. If Joseph has achieved such success, why does he not forgive his brothers? Why does he conceal his identity, send his brothers back to their father empty handed, and then instruct his servants to place a goblet in Benjamin's sack?

Ramban suggests that Joseph does this because when he recognizes his brothers, he also remembers his dreams. While his brothers did bow down to him, for the dreams to be fully realized Benjamin too needs to come down to Egypt before Joseph reveals his identity. Ramban suggests that Joseph recognizes his dreams as Divine prophecy that must be fulfilled. Earlier in the Torah reading, when Pharaoh first summons Joseph and expresses certainty that unlike those who came before him, Joseph will be able to interpret his dreams, Joseph responds: bil'a'dai – Not I, or, without me, – it is God who will answer regarding Pharaoh's well fare.

Twice in this week's Torah portion, Joseph must excuse himself from interactions with his brother, as he breaks down and weeps. This is a very different Joseph than the child-like Joseph who taunted his brothers when sharing his dreams. It seems that Joseph is beginning to recognize that his talent is a Divine gift that ultimately he cannot take credit for. This recognition prepares him to not only re-establish a relationship with his family, but to share with them what he has come to understand: you (my brothers) are not at fault for my coming down to Egypt; God sent me here for life-saving measures."

In this way, this week's Torah reading serves as Joseph's recognition of God's role in his life. Next week's Torah reading provides him with the opportunity to share this miracle with his brothers.

May Hanukkah provide us with an opportunity to explore our own journeys and identify our miraculous moments which instill within us awe and gratitude and may we have the courage and joy to share them with others.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Urim Sameach – Happy Hanukkah!

Rabbi Dahlia Kronish
HS Director of Jewish & Student Life

Parasha HaShavua - Vayeshev

הִוא מוּצֵאת, וְהִיא שָׁלְחָה אֶל-חָמִיהָ לֵאמֹר, לְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר-אֵלֶּה לּוֹ, אָנֹכִי הָרָה; וַתֹּאמֶר, הַכֶּר-נָא--לְמִי הַחֹתֶמֶת וְהַפְּתִילִים וְהַמַּטֶּה, הָאֵלֶּה. (בראשית ל״ח: כ״ה)

"When she was brought forth, she sent to her father-in-law, saying: 'By the man whose these are, I am with child'; and she said: Please acknowledge whose these are, the signet, and the cords, and the staff.'" (Genesis 38:25)

In this week's parasha, the saga of Joseph and his family is temporarily put on hold in chapter 38 as the Torah recounts the tale of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar. The story feels strangely placed, interrupting the arc of the Joseph cycle for a seemingly unrelated narrative. Biblical commentator Robert Alter demonstrates that quite the opposite is true. In fact, the two stories are masterfully woven together through language so that the relationship between them highlights the Torah's moral themes.

When Joseph's brothers bring their father his favorite son's blood-soaked coat, they ask Jacob, הַכֶּר-נָא, "Please identify." The verb lehakir means to know, to be acquainted with or aware of. However, what the brothers generate in this moment is the opposite of awareness. Just as Jacob did before them, they deceive their father, they use their their wits and the materials available to induce false awareness, employing Joseph's coat to tell an untrue story.

In the next chapter, we find Tamar left in a desperate situation by her father-in-law, Judah, deprived of any prospect of marriage and children. She takes matters into her own hands, disguising herself as a prostitute, having sex with Judah, and accepting his cord and staff as collateral on future payment. When Judah finds out that his unmarried daughter-in-law is pregnant, he calls for her to be publicly burned for her actions, unaware of his own role. Tamar announces that the child belongs to the man who has left his cord and staff as identification. She turns to Judah and demands, "הַכֶּר-נָא." Please identify. Please acknowledge. Judah, to his credit, in a great moment of integrity, does not evade responsibility. "צָדְקָה מִמֶּנִּי -- she is more in the right than me, he responds, perhaps realizing in that moment the very different ways that the words haker na have been used by his daughter-in-law and himself.

The brothers use their wits and the materials available to conceal the truth and evade taking responsibility for their actions. Tamar uses the same tools to reveal the truth and to make sure that the appropriate person takes responsibility for his actions.

הַכֶּר-נָא -- please acknowledge.

Ashley Judd. Alyssa Milano. Tarana Burke. Selma Blair. Sara Gelser. Anonymous. Taylor Swift. Sandra Pezqueda. Blaise Godbe. Rose McGowan. Wendy Walsh. Lindsey Reynolds. Isabel Pascual. Lindsay Meyer. Juana Melara. Sandra Muller. Susan Fowler. Terry Crews. Megyn Kelly. Amanda Schmitt. Adama Iwu.

These are the names of the silence breakers that Time just named the persons of the year. הַכֶּר-נָא. They insisted that the concealment end, so the truth can be revealed. Acknowledged. Known. Like Tamar. And how does the Torah view Tamar's actions? In the last line of the chapter, we learn that Tamar gave birth to Peretz and Zera. The ancestors of Jesse, who is the father of King David, the messiah. Tamar enables redemption to enter the world. As do these women.

Rabbi Anne Ebersman
EC/LS Judaic Studies Programming Director/Director of Hesed (Community Service) and Tzedek (Justice)