Portion


In the Time of the Plagues

By Burton L. Visotzky

A couple of years ago, my family and I vacationed in Egypt. In Cairo, we stayed at the Marriott Hotel in Zamalek, a former palace situated on an island in the Nile. At night, kept awake by the constant din of automobile traffic, we could gaze at the reflection of the lights on that mighty river. In the morning, there it was, just outside the window — the River Nile! We stepped out on the balcony to get a better look at the famous river, took a deep breath at the awesome sight, and then coughed and coughed while our eyes stung from the pollution.Read More


The Subversion of Myth

By Gary A. Rendsburg

A major finding of modern biblical scholarship is the extent to which the narrative in the book of Exodus is informed by the ancient Israelites’ knowledge of Egyptian culture, religion and literature. The birth story of Moses in Exodus 2:1-10 provides an excellent illustration of both the extent of and the transformation involved in such borrowing.Read More


Modernity Starts Here

By Henry Bean

 Jacob sits on his deathbed; his feet, one thinks, must be on the floor. He is speaking to his favorite son, Joseph, who sits nearby, perhaps at the foot of the bed. Despite the press of time, Joseph betrays no impatience. He could, it seems, sit quietly all afternoon.Read More


The Moments That Still Live

By David Curzon

When Joseph introduces Pharaoh to his father, Jacob, Pharaoh asks him, in the 1917 Jewish Publication Society translation of Genesis 47:8, which is here, as is often the case, much closer to the Hebrew than more recent translations: How many are the days of the years of your life?Read More


Prophet and Loss Statement

By Jeffrey Fiskin

A small consulting room. The Nile is visible through the window. A gentleman in white pleated skirt, khepresh headdress with cobra, and lapis collar lies on the couch as he recounts a dream. He punctuates the conversation with the swish of his flail, a jab of his scepter. Seated just behind his head in an early iteration of the Eames lounge chair and ottoman, a gentleman in a handsome multicolored robe.Read More


A Spoiled Child

By Lore Segal

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.Read More


Jacob’s Camps, Jacob’s Gifts

By Peretz Rodman

More than one Jewish summer camp director has a jocular placard in his office displaying this half-verse from Psalm 27: “Though a camp be encamped against me, my heart will not fear….” Okay, true, that’s a somewhat wooden translation of the verse, which might be more clearly rendered: “Should an army besiege me, my heart will not fear….” What makes the joke work is that the Hebrew term for camp, machaneh, has a semantic range like that of its English equivalent, extending from the military (“Camp Pendleton”) to the recreational (“Camp Mohican”). In modern Hebrew, it encompasses the political sense of “camp,” as well.Read More


I Believe

By Judy Bolton-Fasman

As it is said, in Genesis 28:16: “And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said: ‘Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not.’”Read More


Accepting the World

By Dimitri Milch

In Sophocles’s play “Ajax,” the eponymous hero exclaims to his son, “Lad, may you be more fortunate than your father, but like him in everything else!” This could well have been Isaac’s blessing for both Esau the hunter and Jacob the fire-keeper. This week’s portion, Toledot, is ostensibly the story of Isaac, but it concentrates on his two sons, which tells us more about Isaac than a straightforward chronicling of his life ever could.Read More


A Room With a View

By Daniel M. Jaffe

‘Your parents bought us burial plots beside theirs?” Cassie brings hand to face in disbelief. “Without asking us first? Who buys someone burial plots without asking first?”Read More





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  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
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  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
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