Toledot 5774: Born to Strife?

What determined the respective fates of the twins? Were their futures foretold by Rebecca’s oracle, or rather, by its interpretation? Were their fates traded through the exchange of a bowl of lentil stew for the birthright? Or was it Isaac’s blessing, secured through subterfuge, that sealed the respective paths of the boys? Was it all…

Hayei Sarah 5774: Who Decides for the Girl?

A strange man comes to town, bearing heavy gold jewels, looking to “acquire” a wife for his master’s son. He sees a pretty young woman, finds the responsible man, and they set terms, agreeing that the girl will be sent off with this stranger to a foreign land. That is one way to tell the…

VaYera 5774: Idealism vs. Realism

Puritans ruin everything. That, at least, is one way to summarize the spectacle of the recently ended government shutdown that brought our economy, and perhaps the global financial system, to the brink of disaster. Politicians who are unable to negotiate a compromise, and who are willing to inflict horrific consequences on the public unless they…

What’s in a Name? Lekh Lekha 5774/2013

What’s in a name? Quite a lot, but you need to know the story. My family name, Nevins, is now five generations old, chosen by my paternal great-grandfather Haskell Neviadomsky at the time of his naturalization. He came to this country in 1896, fleeing the czar’s draft, and apparently decided that he would never make it…

Protecting the Image of God: Noah 5774

Following the flood, the Torah returns to a theme that we encountered in the first chapter, צלם אלהים, “the image of God.” We are accustomed to reading this expression metaphorically, since we believe God to be disembodied—אין לו דמות הגוף ואינו גוף God has no body image nor body, as our prayer “Yigdal” puts it. But…