Parshat Vaychi: Did Joseph and his Brothers Reconcile?

In this week’s class we discuss a number of questions:

Did the brothers ever truly repent for their actions, and did Joseph ever truly reconcile with them?

Why isn’t their reconciliation (or lack thereof) made clear in the text?

What of Joseph’s second dream; did it ever come true?

What of Leah – what happened to her, and why is the Torah silent about her fate?

For a discussion of these questions, click the link below:

Parshat Vayechi – Did Yosef and His Brothers Reconcile

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Channukah: Judaism’s Most Minor ‘Major” Holiday

Channukah is the only ‘major’ holiday in Judaism that has no requirement of eating, drinking or joy.  Why didn’t Chazal make Channukah like Pesach or Sukkot or even Purim?

For that matter, why celebrate Channukah at all?  The miracle of the oil doesn’t seem to warrant an 8-day holiday, and many opinions suggest it wasn’t even necessary?  And the miracle of the war was quite short-lived; within 200 years Judea was back under Roman domination.

In this class, we discuss the problem Channukah posed to Chazal, its historical roots,  and its role in Judaism today.




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Parshat Miketz – Why Didn’t Yosef Call Home?

In this week’s class we look at the question of Yosef’s decision not to tell his father he was alive.  After all, Yosef was promoted to a powerful position in Egypt – why not send a message to his beloved father that he was alive and well.  Did Yosef not want any further contact with his father?  Was he afraid to contact Yaakov, and if so, why?

In this class we explore both classical and contemporary approaches to this question.

Parshat Miketz Why Did Yosef Not Call Home


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Parshat Vayeshev: Who Sold Joseph?

In this week’s class, we do a close textual analysis and discuss whether or not the brothers sold Joseph into slavery.  We build (and critique) a case for suggesting they did, we build (and critique) a case for suggesting they did not.  Finally, we discuss the nature of ambiguity in the text and suggest a possibility as to why the story is present in this way.

Parshat Vayeshev – Who Sold Yosef

Vayeshev Sources – Who Sold Yosef


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Parshat Vayishlach – Dinah

In this class we examine the Incident of Dinah as address the question of ambiguity in the text.

Who are the “good guys” and “bad guys” in the story?
Is Yaakov passive or biding his time?
Are the brothers murderous or zealously avenging their sister’s honor?
Are Shechem and Chamor honest brokers caught in an impossible situation or shady con men looking to take advantage and prey on the credulous House of Yaakov?
And what of Dinah herself – what were her actions and emotions throughout the story?

To understand these and many more questions, we closely examine the text, first from the perspective of Yaakov, then the brothers, and finally from the medrash. The results are somewhat surprising, and provide some insight into the perspectives of Yaakov and the sons of Leah in advance of the sale and saga of Yosef.

Parshat Vayishlach – Dinah

Vayishlach Sources FINAL

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Parshat Vayetze: Is Lavan a Good Guy, A Bad Guy, or an OK Guy?

In this week’s class we discuss the character of Lavan.

Is he a caring father and uncle, or a liar and a cheat?  Does his character change over the 20 years Yaakov remains at his house?

How is he viewed by the text?  How is viewed by the medrash?   How do we account for the differences between the two approaches?

All this and more in this week’s class.

Pashat Vayetze – Lavan

Vayetze class sources

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Parshat Chayei Sara – Why A Whole Chapter on Avraham Buying a Burial Plot?

This week, we analyze and discuss Chapter 23 of Bereshit.  Why does the Torah spend a full chapter detailing the negotiations of buying the land?  Why is Abraham discussing the sale with the entire tribe of Heth, and not just the land’s owner? Why is each side sabotaging its own negotiating position?  And why does Sarah’s name disappear during the entire course of the negotiations?  All this and more is discussed in the ling below.

Parsha 2013 – Cayei Sara – Sale of Cave of Machpela

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Parshat Vayera – Why was Ishmael Expelled from the House of Abraham?

We’re starting a new series of classes on the weekly parsha!  This week, we look into the text and some medrashim on the story of the expulsion of Ishmael and Hagar from the house of Abraham.  Why was Ishmael expelled for laughing, and who was he laughing at?  Why was Sarah so upset at Ishmael’s actions, and why was she so concerned about Isaac’s “inheritance”?  Why is this story eerily similar to a story from five chapters earlier?

For a discussion of all these questions and more, click below:

Parsha 2013 – Vayera – Expulsion of Ishamel

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Jewish Sources on Gun Rights and Gun Control – Source Sheet

GC class sources

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Jewish Sources on Gun Rights and Gun Control

For obvious reasons, ancient Jewish sources don’t say much about guns; but they do say a lot about the arguments that are used by proponents of gun rights and gun control.   A selection of classic Jewish approaches to these thorny and contentious issues are discussed below:

Gun Rights Gun Control

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