Terumah: Preparing For a Mishkan, What and Why

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Terumah opens with Gd’s call to the Jewish people to gather materials for a Mishkan, a “home” for Gd’s Presence. Moshe is told to take collections from the people, of money and materials, and how to put those together, yielding the structure. What Was Collected Voluntarily The Torah speaks of those materials as coming from everyone asher yidvenu ...

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Mishpatim: Gd, and Human Relationships

by R. Gidon Rothstein The name and content of Mishpatim alert us to this portion’s focus on laws. At the same time, Rashi in particular and Onkelos to a lesser extent, remind us of Gd’s role even in the realm of human justice. We will see a few of those comments, then some on how the human realm of law would work ...

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Yitro: Gd Really at the Center

by R. Gidon Rothstein The Revelation at Sinai sits central to Yitro, and the first of the Dibberot Gd reveals declares the fact of Gd’s being Gd, as statement or commandment. [A program note: I dislike the translation Ten Commandments for the Aseret Ha-Dibberot; I usually write the Ten Utterances of Pronouncements. Here I’ll just use the Hebrew.] Many of the comments of Onkelos, ...

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Beshalah: It’s Not Easy to Build a Relationship with Gd

by R. Gidon Rothstein Onkelos’ Focus on Prayer Three times in the parsha, Onkelos treats a communication with Gd differently than the simplest reading of the text. Before Gd splits the Sea, 14;15, Gd says to Moshe, mah titz’ak elai. Mah usually indicates a question, probably why Rashi understood the phrase as a reprimand, Moshe should have known it was time for action. Onkelos, ...

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Bo: Jews, Egyptians, and the Nature of Time

by R. Gidon Rothstein It Was Hard to Get Out of Egypt, For Some The Jews leave Egypt by the end of Parshat Bo; our commentators show complications in the process we might not have seen. Ramban to 12;42, while arguing the Jews actually spent more time in Egypt than Gd had told Avraham they would (as we will see below), ...

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Va-Era: Don’t Be Relaxed About Meeting Gd’s Standards

by R. Gidon Rothstein Gd makes clear about the central goal of the process of the Exodus, bringing the Egyptians (and Jews, although it was a little easier with them) to accept the full truth of Divine Providence, Gd’s existence, involvement with the world, and power to engineer any chosen result [as a personal aside, not a bad list for ...

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Shemot’s Main Characters

by R. Gidon Rothstein Parshat Shemot: Gd, the Egyptians, and the Jews Taken broadly enough, the three major actors in the Exodus are named in the title to this essay (if we put Par’oh with the Egyptians, Moshe with the Jews). Onkelos, Rashi, and Ramban draw our attention to aspects of each, a fitting way to start our review of ...

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Va-Yehi and Building Blocks of a Good Life

by R. Gidon Rothstein The tale of the end of Ya’akov’s life, his blessing Yosef’s sons, his own sons, his passing and its aftermath, VaYehi shows us elements of how to live well. Wisdom Is Not Always Easy to Recognize Ya’akov’s dealings with Yosef and then Reuven in the parsha show us ways wisdom is not always easy to spot. Yosef presented his sons ...

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VaYigash: Human Emotion on Display, and Miracles Not on Display

by R. Gidon Rothstein VaYigash ends the tension we have undergone since VaYeshev, shows us the reunion of Ya’akov and Yosef. Along the way, comments of Onkelos, Rashi, and Ramban I noted in previous years seem to me to highlight the emotional elements of people’s lives more than usual. Ya’akov and Yosef’s Connection The verse describes Ya’akov’s spirit as coming alive upon ...

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Intellect or Supernatural Insight, and Choices in Building Societies in Parshat Miketz

by R. Gidon Rothstein Yosef is clearly the central character of Miketz; our commentators invite us to investigate the extent to which the insights that fueled his rise in Par’oh’s administration were given by Gd or came from his own intellect. The Dreams Guided Yosef Onkelos seems to come down on the side they were Gd-given. When Par’oh proposes elevating  Yosef ...

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