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Posted on December 11th, 2017

Genesis 41:1−44:17

By Rabbi Avraham Fischer, provided by the Orthodox Union, the central coordinating agency for North American Orthodox Congregations for


The Deeper Meaning Of A Name


In naming his sons, Joseph communicates his thoughts on living in Egypt, alone and distant from his family.



Joseph’s transformation from imprisoned Hebrew slave to vizier is sudden and dizzying. Based on his initiative and his abilities as a dream-interpreter and adviser, he is taken from the dungeon of Pharaoh’s prison and placed at Pharaoh’s side as second-in-command. Pharaoh says:

"You shall be over my house, and according to your word shall all my people be sustained; only by the throne will I be greater than you" (Genesis 41:40).

During this critical period in Joseph’s life, the "master of dreams" (37:19) becomes the center of a world of public action. Pharaoh appoints him as supervisor of the national food collection and distribution project, and endows him with all the trappings of service to the king:

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Posted on December 4th, 2017

Genesis 37:1−40:23

By Rabbi Chaim Landau, provided by the Orthodox Union, the central coordinating agency for North American Orthodox Congregations for

Leadership Traits


Yehudah merits the position of kingship because of his ability to acknowledge and overcome his mistakes.



Upon reviewing the stories of two of Jacob’s twelve sons, Joseph and Judah, one may wonder why Judah’s descendants were ultimately crowned with the kingship of Israel rather than those of Joseph.

Stories regarding their chastity are told of both. After her first and second husbands died, both sons of Judah, Tamar dressed as a prostitute and seduced her former father-in-law. Joseph, on the other hand, when confronted by his master Potiphar’s wife, who propositioned him in the privacy of her mansion, ran away. Judah acceded to temptation; Joseph resisted.

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Posted on November 27th, 2017

Genesis 32:4 - 36:43 


Living With Threat

Jacob sends Esau the message that despite having lived with Laban, he has kept the commandments and learned to stand up to powerful figures.

The last time the twins were together, Esau was so consumed by his hatred for Jacob that he prayed, “May the day of my father’s mourning approach so I may kill my brother Jacob,” (Genesis 27:41). And so, Jacob left to learn in Yeshiva and then live with his uncle Laban in Padan-Aram, where he married and raised a family.

Now, more than 30 years later, how does Esau feel? Has his hatred subsided, or has it intensified? Returning home to such an ambiguous situation Jacob realizes that a confrontation with Esau is inevitable, and consequently prepares for whatever might happen.

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Posted on November 20th, 2017

Genesis 28:10−32:3

By Rabbi  Avraham Fischer, provided by the Orthodox Union, the central coordinating agency for North American Orthodox Congregations for

Blaming Society


We should strive to emulate Abraham and Isaac rather than emulating Laban, who compartmentalized his values.

Jacob had been involved in an act of deception, and now he becomes the victim of deception. After seven years of working for his uncle Laban, he wishes to marry Rachel, Laban’s younger daughter.

“And it was in the morning, that behold it was Leah. And [Jacob] said to Laban “What is this you have done to me?  Did I not work with you for Rachel? And why did you deceive me?” (Genesis 29:25)

Laban, the champion deceiver, tricked Jacob by switching Rachel with Leah.

Laban’s Excuses

Laban explains himself; after all, he is a recognized leader in the community. When he presents his excuses, he makes a not-so-veiled reference to Jacob’s own act of deception, in which he took the place of his older brother Esau in receiving their father Isaac’s blessing: “It is not done so in our place, to put the younger before the older.  Complete this one’s [Leah’s] week [of celebration] . . .” (Genesis 29:26-27)

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Posted on November 13th, 2017

Genesis 25:19-28:9

By Rabbi Nathan J. Diament, provided by the Orthodox Union, the central coordinating agency for North American Orthodox Congregations for

Synthesizing The Physical And The Spiritual



Rather than dividing the spiritual and physical blessings between Jacob and Esau, Rebekah saw the need for Jacob to receive both.

Parashat Toldot introduces our Patriarch Jacob as well as his brother Esau, and, from the outset, tips us off to the coming conflict between them. The Torah tells of their "struggle" within their mother's womb, and, as young adults, describes them very differently.

Esau is "a hunter, a man of the field," while Jacob is "ish tam," (a simple/whole man) who sits in tents. These textual descriptions, Rashi and Ibn Ezra point out, indicate that Esau is a "trickster," a man not to be trusted, while Jacob is a "simple" or "naive" shepherd, who spends his days studying Torah.
Who is the Victim?

Yet, the comments of these rishonim (medieval sages), which echo those of Chazal (rabbinic sages) seem to be at odds with the simple understanding of the narrative.

Consider, as events of the parashah unfold, who is the trickster and who is the victim. Even as they were being born, Jacob grasped Esau's ankle, trying to force his way out of the womb first.

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