Friday, December 29, 2006

Parsha Vayigash - The Big Flip

We begin with Judah pleading that Joseph take him into slavery in the place of his younger brother Benjamin. Joseph is moved. Then like Martin Landau in the old Mission Impossible TV series, Joseph finally ends the cruel deceptions and reveals his true identity to his stunned brothers. All 70 members of daddy Jacob's household relocate to Egypt, though the patriarch himself remains thankless and complaining. In all, it's a very happy almost ending to Joseph's saga. Except of course for the minor problem that Joseph delivers the Egyptians into landless poverty and feudal slavery. But then, this is not their story.


Turning tables

Friday, December 22, 2006

Parsha Mikeitz

Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

Joseph was always Jacob's favorite, the son his beloved wife Rachel. Rabbi Reiss says after Rachel's death Jacob substitutes Joseph as an "object of his special affection." In this comic we imagine that once Jacob believes Joseph dead, Benjamin becomes the object of Jacob's special affection.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, Joseph decides to have a bit of savagely cruel fun at the expense of his father and siblings. - SHABBAT SHALOM! - a & s

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Hazing Gone Wrong

Joseph's brothers did not sell him into slavery. Judah suggested it, but no one agreed. The bros, violent knuckleheads that they were, threw Joseph down a dry well, then ate lunch. Can you blame them? Between his pompous dreams and Jacob's favoritism, we'd have hated Joseph too! This parsha also tells another story. In it Judah thinks he's sleeping with a prostitute, but is really boinking (and impregnating) his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Our hero, Rabbi Moshe Reiss, explains.

Our telling begins with Joseph tossed down a hole because of his dreams and interpretations. It ends with him thrown into a prison cell with guys who needed their dreams interpreted.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Parsha Vayishlach - Gangstas in Parsha

Welcome to the thug parsha. Jacob’s sons are not just old school gangstas, they are Old Testament! Dina must have despised them. She's hanging with her posse and the prince appears. Of all the girls, he chooses her. He sweeps her up, whisks her away and takes her, apparently not against her will. He falls madly in love, lays his kingdom at her feet and promises eternal romance. Then her brothers kill him.

This parsha is also a wonderful example of peacemaking and its dangers. Shechem, his father Hamor and their community did their best to avoid violence. Like Jacob they offered gifts and kind words. They showed genuine remorse. Esau accepted the propitiation. Simeon and Levi, violent, unloving sleazeballs that they are, did not.

Here's to Esau. Like so many other Torah "villains" he proves himself the most righteous of the bunch.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Parsha Vayeitzei - Laban the mensch

Laban is the real hero of this parsha, despite getting dissed by the rabbis. When he hears Jacob is near he runs to greet him, hugs and kisses him. Rashi say Laban was checking Jacob's mouth for jewels, which means, I guess, Laban gave him tongue. He performs the highest act of righteousness for the penniless Jacob by giving him a job. He scams Jacob into working fourteen years which, for Jacob, "seemed but a few days." In return, Laban gives his nephew his most valuable possessions, his two daughters. Had Jacob gotten is wish and only married Rachel, Israel would have been a much smaller tribe. Rachel bore only two sons (and needed a fertility drug for that) and her maid Bilhah had two. Leah, on the other hand, had seven of Jacob's children (including his only daughter, Dina) and her maid Zilpah added two more.

This is probably the happiest story in the Torah so far. Jacob ends up with everything guys could want: sex and wealth in abundance and true love to boot!

BTW - There is a truly wonderful movie about next week's parsha that we HIGHLY RECOMMEND. - SHABBAT SHALOM! - a & s