Among the chosen with whom, in biblical times, the Lord had conversations, Moses was special. “Your brother,” God says to the rebellious Miriam in Numbers, Chapter 12, “is a familiar within my household. With him I speak not in riddles but mouth to mouth.”
Joseph’s story might be a study in the making of a successful man. He has not only God’s but also his father Jacob’s special favor. If there was ever a child made to feel good about himself, it is the boy Joseph. He wears the outward token of parental love, the coat of many colors thought to have been the sort of ornamented tunic that distinguished marriageable royal princesses. Nor was it like some Shabbat best. It’s what he wears out in the fields when Father sends him to check up on the brothers.
The modern imagination feels at home with the moral question raised by the Job story: Why do bad things happen to good people? It is a question that does not arise in Deuteronomy, which foresees punishments of spectacular awfulness in retribution upon a nation disobedient to God’s law.
The first commandment, which says God is the only God, that He is the God of the Children of Israel whom He brought out of Egypt; that we must worship no other gods and obey His laws, precedes, in order and import, the law to which intuition gives pride of place, the commandment not to kill.God, like the state, can command us to kill. “Whoever
How interesting that the animal offered for sacrifice was required to be physically flawless, and that the Lord, looking into men’s hearts for a future king of Israel, elected the handsomest and tallest. Can man’s relation with the divine depend on the body‘s soundness and health? There are instances when un-health is
We must not speculate about the motivations of the ineffable God, but there are the times when He chooses to explain them Himself. Speaking in the ear of Moses, the Lord says that He hardened Egypt’s heart — to its natural degrees of hardness, we might well suppose — so that it required His spectacular interventions to achieve the Children
Joseph dreams and interprets dreams that are understood to be communications from God. They foretell God’s intention and move God’s narrative forward. If we want to look for human motive, we had better do it in the form of suppositions: Was it innocence, was it a phenomenal lack of tact, or was it testosterone that made young
The Bible’s stories tell of lives lived so long ago, in such a different clime, we look for difference and find types of ourselves.There are the women of today who choose to be childless, and there are women for whom childlessness is a calamity. Does their calamity compare with that of the Bible’s barren women? Sarah is born into a
On his 120th birthday, Moses addresses the Israelite people encamped outside Jericho: I don’t walk as well as I used to, he tells them. (Elsewhere we learn that his powers are divinely undiminished, but we had better be willing to accept two truths for the price of one in life as well as in story.) And he says, you are about to cross
The sadness of reading Torah without benefit of Hebrew has small compensations: I’m forced to look for — to participate in — the struggle of translators wrestling every last meaning from the original in order not to miss the god in the detail.The first half of the first sentence of this week’s portion offers an example of