Category: Sefer Bereshit / Book of Genesis

The Rabbis' Boogeyman: Learning About Forgiveness

The Rabbis’ Boogeyman: Learning About Forgiveness

What can we learn about forgiveness from the Rabbis' boogeyman? Esau is that boogeyman but we can learn from his relationship with Jacob.
Jacob and Esav: The Original Yom Sport

Jacob and Esav: The Original Yom Sport

The story of Jacob and Esav's relationship is a paradigm of biblical “Color War” and what really winning actually means.
Dinah: An Unexpected Trans Story

Dinah: An Unexpected Trans Story

Based on rabbinic midrash from tractate Berakhot, Dinah can be read either as a trans woman or, as this piece argues, a closeted trans man.
Finding Quiet Solace in a Stormy World

Finding Quiet Solace in a Stormy World

Caleb Brommer, RS '24, speaks on finding quiet solace in a stormy world, for his JTS senior sermon, on Parashat Vayishlach.

How do you Solve a Problem Like Esav?

Rabbi Mordechai Rackover teaches: Life is not a zero-sum and one of the keys is to recognize that people grow and change.
Jerusalem's Temple Mount - at sunset

The Right Time for Atheism

The story of Avraham is full of tragedy but also the great gift of speaking truth to power and knowing when not to believe.
In the Name of All of Israel

In the Name of All of Israel

Building on ideas of Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev and Maimonides - Avraham showed us a path to repair even in the darkest of times.

The Torah of the Summer Barbecue

Summer barbecues are great for relaxation and rejuvenation, and an opportunity to extend and receive hospitality like Abraham and Sarah.
Parashat Vayechi Haftarah: On Loss

On Loss

This week's haftarah juxtaposes King David preparing for his own death with both Jacob and Joseph's preparations for their own deaths.
Parashat Vayechi Study Guide: My Wife or Your Mother?

Study Guide: My Wife or Your Mother?

In this week’s parashah, Jacob asks Joseph to swear to bury him not in Egypt but rather lay him to rest with his ancestors.
True Lovingkindness

True Lovingkindness

Parashat Vayechi chronicles the deaths of Jacob and his son, Joseph, both of whom provide explicit instructions regarding their burials.
Parashat Vayigash Haftarah: Reversals


Parashat Vayigash continues a long narrative of sibling relationships. The reconciliation focused on here, reflects in this week's haftarah.
Parashat Vayigash Study Guide: A Good Long Cry

Study Guide: A Good Long Cry

Joseph, after revealing his identity to his brothers, invites the family to Egypt. They share an emotional reunion and a good long cry.
Laden Wagons

Laden Wagons

In parashat Vayigash the patriarch Jacob learns the truth about his son Joseph, in realizing Joseph's laden wagons.
Parashat Miketz Haftarah: Golden Bowls and Grand Concepts

Golden Bowls and Grand Concepts

In making sense of details we begin to construct the grander concept and we realize we are in the presence of something bigger.
Parashat Miketz Study Guide: The Perfect Gift

Study Guide: The Perfect Gift

The brothers need more food but were told not to return without their youngest brother, whom their father refuses to part with.
Glimmers of an Incandescent Light

Glimmers of an Incandescent Light

In parashat Miketz, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt, but unbeknownst to his sons, the ruler dispersing rations is their younger brother, Joseph.
Parashat Vayeshev Haftarah: Reading Critically

Reading Critically

Many of our sacred texts are deeply unsettling. Our ancestors are deeply flawed people and their stories do not present easy takeaways.
Parashat Vayeshev Study Guide: It's All in The Telling

Study Guide: It’s All in The Telling

Study guide for Parashat Vayeshev, following the story surrounding Joseph and his interaction with his master's wife.
From Despair to Repair

From Despair to Repair

In this week’s parashah, Judah's daughter-in-law Tamar tricks him into sleeping with her after she is not able to conceive with his sons.
Parashat Vayishlach Haftarah: Compassionate Fantasies

Compassionate Fantasies

In the haftarah for Vayishlach, from the Book of Obadiah, we read the story of God rebuking the nation of Edom, rather than Israel.
Parashat Vaysihlach Study Guide: A Dotted kiss

Study Guide: A Dotted Kiss

A study guide for Parashat Vayishlach, focused on the midrashim surrounding the parashah and the reunification of Jacob and Esau.
The Struggles That Shape Us

The Struggles That Shape Us

On the eve of Jacob’s meeting with his brother Esau, he finds himself wrestling with a divine figure, winning, and receiving a new name.
Parashat Vayetzei Haftarah: "Mostly Dead is Slightly Alive"

Mostly Dead is Slightly Alive

As we read the stories of Jacob, it is worthwhile to pay attention to the interplay between hope and God as the redeemer us from ...
Study Guide: Dual Loyalty

Study Guide: Dual Loyalty

In the situation that revolves around Rachel and Leah's respective marriages to Jacob, a question of loyalty to family is asked.

A Spiritual Exercise

After leaving his father's home, Jacob dreams of God and experiences prayer for the first time. Learn about living in dialogue with God.
Parashat Toldot Haftarah: Pushback


In the haftarah for Parashat Toldot, the Book of Malachi describes a dialogue of pushback between God and the people of Israel.
Study Guide: Let's Eat to That

Study Guide: Let’s Eat to That!

Discuss commentary on Jacob and Esau's interaction in Toldot. This study guide discusses the transaction of Esau's birth right.
The Blinding of Isaac A Blessing in Disguise

The Blinding of Isaac: A Blessing in Disguise

In Toldot, Isaac, now the family patriarch, bestows the blessing of the firstborn on Jacob instead of Esau, when Jacob tricks him.
Parashat Chayei Sarah Haftarah: Modifying Memories

Modifying Memories

With memories ever-changing, how do we trust what we remember and what is shared with us? How do we trust the memories of Torah characters?
Study Guide: Inheritance or Gift?

Study Guide: Inheritance or Gift?

Study guide: Why does Abraham focus so much on Isaac? What about Abraham's other children and should they receive inheritance as well?
A Crown of Glory

A Crown of Glory

Parashat Chayei Sarah describes the final years of Abraham’s life, following the death of his wife Sarah and culminating in Abraham’s own death.
Passing it on

Passing it on

In Vayera's haftarah, we read the story of Elisha and a big deal woman in Shunem reflecting three different models of hospitality.
A Laugh That Hurts in The Belly

Study Guide: A Laugh That Hurts in The Belly

Study Guide: What really happened when the angels visited Abraham and Sarah? Why did Sarah laugh when she heard what they had to say?
When Mercy Seasons Justice

When Mercy Seasons Justice

Parashat Vayera is about a tense and dramatic conversation between God and Abraham about the destruction of Sodom.
To “Steelman” Idolatry

To “Steelman” Idolatry

In Lech Lecha's haftarah, we are given a vision of what our lives might have been, if only they’d been a little different.
Study Guide: Right or Left? East Is Not an Option

Study Guide: Right or Left? East Is Not an Option

Study Guide: Unpacking the disagreement between Avram and Lot when they had to split the land they were on.

Men Count the Stars, Women are From Venus

Parashat Lech Lecha depicts an acute marital crisis between Abraham and Sarah that occurs at a particularly difficult moment in their lives.
Haftarah Understanding the Flood

Understanding the Flood

In the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem and the First Temple, God explains that God has not in fact abandoned Zion.
Study Guide Is it safer to attack god

Study Guide: Is it Safer to Attack God?

Study Guide: What kind of society created the Tower of Babel? Would we want to live in that society? What did Rashi say?
A Trail of Crumpled Papers on the Floor

A Trail of Crumpled Papers on the Floor

We learn in Parashat Noach: God comes to appreciate, the problem was not creating human beings, but having unrealistic expectations of them.
Parashat Bereshit Haftarah creation continued

Creation Continued

If creation was ongoing but no one observed it, did it actually still happen? Did creation cease when God disappeared?
Study Guide bereshit a little less is a lot more

Study Guide: A Little Less is A Lot More

Study Guide: In the context of Creation, what is the connection between blessing, deficiency, and Shabbat?
the moon is always female

The Moon is Always Female

In the beginning, according to God’s original plan, the Sun and the Moon were two who ruled alongside one another. What happened?