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December 2015 Torah Notes

Torah Notes

Here is just a taste of the Torah you can look forward to in the month ahead.  For the real thing, be sure to join us each Shabbat morning at 9 am for a lively discussion of the meaning and implications of the weekly portion.  All are welcome.


December 5             VaYeshev                 Genesis 39:1-40:23

This Torah portion begins the narrative focusing on Joseph.  We begin with the early years which are fraught with jealousy and sibling rivalry.  Joseph receives a beautiful coat from his father and he reports to his family his dreams which seem to portend his future rise to greatness.  Of course, the brothers hate Joseph; so much so that they can't even say "hello" to him.  The brothers plot to kill Joseph, but at the last minute they are convinced to sell him instead to traveling merchants heading to Egypt.  The brothers tell Jacob that Joseph has been attacked and killed by a wild animal.  The narrative is interrupted by a story about Joseph's brother, Judah, which emphasizes the need to take responsibility for one's actions.  Meanwhile, back in Egypt, we hear of Joseph's adventures (and misadventures).  Joseph is sold to the Pharaoh's chief steward, Potiphar, and rises quickly through the ranks.  Potiphar's wife, however, tries to seduce Joseph but is rebuffed.  She charges Joseph with making sexual advances and he is sent to the dungeon.  While in prison, Joseph meets the Pharaoh’s cupbearer and the baker, each of whom have a dream they don't understand.  Joseph's skills at dream interpretation come in very handy and he explains their dreams to them

December 12 Miketz                                    Genesis 43:16-44:17

The dream theme continues to play a significant role in Joseph's life.  The Pharaoh has a perplexing dream that no one can interpret.  The cupbearer (now restored to his position as foretold by Joseph) remembers Joseph's uncanny interpretive skills.  Joseph explains to Pharaoh the meaning of his dream and the importance of planning for the seven years of plenty and famine as foretold in the dream.  Joseph is made second in command to Pharaoh, is given an Egyptian wife, and has two children.  When the famine begins, Egypt is the only place to get food.  Jacob sends his sons down to procure provisions for the family.  As the familiar story goes, the brothers appear before Joseph, who recognizes them, but, of course, they don't realize that they are dealing with their long lost brother.  Joseph manipulates a situation to test the brothers to see if they have changed.  Baby brother Benjamin is framed with a silver goblet in his bag and the portion concludes with Joseph asserting that he will hold in Egypt the one who is discovered with the goblet in his possession.

December 19 Vayigash                  Genesis 46:28-47:27

This parasha relates the dramatic and poignant reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers.   When Joseph realizes that his brothers will not abandon their brother Benjamin, he is moved by their loyalty and reveals his heretofore concealed identity.  They hug and kiss and weep together.  Joseph instructs his brothers to bring his father down to Egypt because of the famine.  There is an emotional reunion and the family increases in numbers and wealth while living there.

December 26 VaYechi                    Genesis 49:27-50:26

Jacob's time to die draws near and he prepares by blessing his grandchildren and children.  Jacob brings Menasheh and Ephraim to their grandfather for a blessing, but Jacob switches his hands and the blessings, giving (once again) the blessing of the older to the younger.  Jacob then gathers all his sons together for the final blessing.  Jacob wants to be buried in the cave of Machpelah, where his ancestors are buried.  Joseph promises to do so and fulfills his promise after his father's death.  Joseph lives 110 years and is buried in Egypt.

With this event, the book of Genesis comes to a close.  Chazak, Chazak vnitchazek!  May we go from strength to strength and be strengthened by our study of Torah.

Israeli Innovations Essay and Art Contest for Teens Sponsored by the Israel Matters Committee. Prizes are $200, $100 or $50. Submissions Due Thursday, June 1, 2017 Posted May 6, 2017
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