Exodus 10:1 - 13:16
BY Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster for myjewishlearning.com
Return to the Homeland
In Parashat Bo, the Israelites are freed from Egypt.
One of my favorite U2 songs, “Walk On,” contains the lyrics: “You’re packing for a place none of us have been, a place that has to be believed to be seen.” The song describes the experience of abandoning all that one has known to embrace the promise of freedom and hope, much like the person who leaves exile after several generations to return to a homeland in which she has never lived.
The lyrics convey an understanding that sometimes home may not be the place where you live but where your roots are. Even after generations, the connection remains, growing more mythic the longer the return is awaited. And slowly, each generation confronts the question of what it might be like to actually return home.
Exodus 6:2 - 9:35
Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg for myjewishlearning.com
Who Really Hardened Pharaoh’s Heart?
Was God responsible for the Egyptian leader's intransigence?
When people talk about great philosophical challenges in the Torah , they often cite a verse in Parshat Vaera. These chapters deal with Moses’ attempt to convince Pharaoh to free the Israelite slaves, Pharaoh’s refusal and the first seven plagues that rain down as part of this back and forth.
Towards the end of the portion, after the Egyptians suffer boils, the text says (Exodus 9:12), “And God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not hear them.” The plagues continue, but suddenly they seem much less fair. There are major challenges to the concept of free will here: Did Pharaoh choose to refuse Moses’ request to let the Israelites go, or did God make him do that? Would he have responded the same way had not God intervened? And how on Earth could God continue to punish Pharaoh, given that God Godself caused Pharaoh to refuse to free the Israelites from bondage?
Rabbi Joshua Gutoff for myjewishlearning.com
The Life Of The Oppressed
The antidote to the terror of living in a dangerous world is to participate in the liberation of others.
Here’s part of the Exodus story they didn’t teach in Hebrew school:
Exodus, Chapter Four. Moses, in Midian, has encountered God at the burning bush, received his commission, and is on his way back to Egypt. Then this:
Now it was on the journey, at the night-camp, that God encountered him and sought to make him die. Tzippora took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, she touched it to his legs and said: Indeed, a bridegroom of blood are you to me! Thereupon he released him. Then she said, “a bridegroom of blood” because of the circumcision. (Exodus 4:24-26)
An amazing story. It reads like a passage from Genesis; it has that mythic, mysterious quality. I think of Isaac, meditating in the fields. This is the kind of story that could have happened to him.
Genesis 47:28 - 50:26
BY RABBI MENACHEM CREDITOR for myjewishlearning.com
Abundant Love: The Wisdom of Jacob
On his deathbed, Jacob finally sees his children stand together.
It finally happens. With Parashat Vayechi, the saga of Jacob’s tumultuous life comes to a close. This one-time-deceiver (Genesis 37), son of an almost sacrificed son and grandson of monotheism’s founding father, this transformed man closes his eyes for the last time.
Our question: What wisdom might modern Jews gain from studying the end of Jacob’s life?
First, a rapid review of Jacob’s journey.
Genesis 44:18 - 47:27
BY RABBI CHARLES SAVENOR for myjewishlearning.com
Joseph’s Moment of Truth
Revealing his true identity, the viceroy cannot control his emotions.
The moment of truth has arrived. With Benjamin framed for stealing and sentenced to enslavement, Joseph waits to see how Jacob‘s other sons will respond. Joseph believes that his well-orchestrated ruse will finally expose his brothers’ true colors.
This week’s parsha opens with Judah appealing to his brother Joseph, the Egyptian viceroy, to free Benjamin and to enslave Judah in his place. Judah’s eloquent petition recounts his brothers’ interaction with this Egyptian official as well as the familial circumstances of Jacob’s household. Benjamin, the youngest son in the family, occupies a valued place in their father’s eyes, Judah says, because he is the last living remnant of Jacob’s deceased wife, Rachel. In conclusion, Judah asserts that if he were to return home to Canaan without Benjamin, he could not bear to see his father’s immediate and long-term pain and suffering.