Vayetze 5775: Poverty, Race, and Thanksgiving

And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted his voice and wept (Gen. 29:11, R. Alter trans.). Why is Jacob crying? The simplest explanation would seem to be relief. After fleeing in terror from his enraged brother, experiencing strange visions in the night, and vowing anxiously to repay God if he ever makes it home, Jacob has…

Toledot 5775: Isaac’s Midlife Premonition of Death

Did you ever notice the strange thing that Isaac says to Esau in sending his elder son out to hunt for his blessing? Isaac has gone blind in his old age, but what troubles him most is uncertainty about his death. He said, behold, I have aged, and I know not the day of my death (27:2). He…

Hayyei Sarah 5775: Bringing the God of Heaven Back to Earth

Where is Abraham, the paragon of compassion, when we need him most? Reading the news this week, when antagonists in the holy land have succeeded in spewing hatred in newly violent ways, let’s think about Abraham, the symbol of compassion, of חסד, and try to embody his grace for the sake of all of his…

Vayera 5775: Laughter Lost by our Wounded Warriors

What became of laughter in the home of our first family? Abraham fell down laughing when he got the news that he and Sarah would finally have a child. Sarah too greeted the annunciation with laughter (it never feels fair that only Sarah was criticized for laughing). Even at an advanced age, and after a…

Patriarchs in Search of Peace: Lekh Lekha 5775/2014

One of my favorite songs by the late great Arik Einstein is called אוהב להיות בבית (listen here; lyrics below). He describes the heroic adventures of many people who go off climbing mountains and riding horses, and then says that he, however, prefers to be at home, “with my lemon tea, old books, the same…