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Sunday, November 28, 2010


Joseph is the first Jewish fellow who lives outside the land of Israel and seems to forget he's Jewish.  He dresses like an Egyptian, talks like an Egyptian, marries an Egyptian woman, and even gives his first child a name that means, in the Egyptian language, "the person who makes me forget my past."  In fact, I bet if he lived in your city today he would probably have been celebrating Christmas with his friends.

In spite of this, Joseph is called a tzadik, a wise man.  How can this be?  After all, we are reading this during the week of Hanukkah, the holiday that is all about safeguarding the Jewish religion when Antiochus wanted to force us to give it up.

Click here to Read this article about Hanukkah and you may find out some things that you didn't know before, even though you have been celebrating Hanukkah your whole life.

  • What surprised you about what you read?
  • What bothered you about what you read?
  • What do you want to know more about?
  • How has your thinking about Hanukkah changed as a result of reading this article?
  • What do you think is the connection between the story of Joseph and story of Hanukkah?
What do you think?
Be sure to share your answers by commenting on this blog

Monday, November 22, 2010


In this section of the Torah there is a long and detailed story about Yosef and his brothers that you have probably read and talked about many times before.  We all know the story - Yosef is his father's favorite child, his father Yaacov treats him better than the other brothers, they hate him, they sell him to a caravan, his father thinks he's dead, yadda, yadda, yadda.
When the caravan gets to Egypt Yosef is sold to a wealthy man and serves in the household as a slave until Potifar's wife accuses him of behaving badly and is sent to jail.  There he interprets dreams and eventually is freed (but that doesn't happen until next week's installment)

This is the longest story about an individual in the entire Torah (except for Moshe, and that's a different story, since Moshe is traditionally understood to be telling the whole thing).  It lasts through four parashot, four weekly Torah readings, and has much more detail than most stories.

Here's the question:  What's so important about Yosef that he gets such a long story?

  • Is it about how bad it is to be jealous of your siblings?
  • Is it about how important it is for parents to treat their kids fairly?
  • Is it about how a kid who is pretty spoiled can turn out OK?
  • Is it about how sometimes bad things can turn out to have good endings?

What do you think?
Be sure to share your answers by commenting on this blog

Monday, November 15, 2010


You may be an only child, or you may have siblings.  If you are an only child, you probably think sisters and brothers always get along well.  If you have siblings, you know this is NOT the case!!  In this week's parasha we read about a meeting between the two brothers, Jacob and Esau, who have not seen each other in years.  When they were together the last time, they had a horrible fight - so horrible that Jacob ran away afraid for his life.  (If you don't remember what they fought about, go back and read chapter 27)  Time has passed, both brothers have been successful as adults, but you have to wonder how they feel about seeing each other after such a long time.
Here's what it says in the text:
Genesis, Chapter 32  verse 4) And Jacob sent messengers ahead to Esau his brother...  5) [And he told them to give Esau this message,  "This is your servant Jacob's message - 'I have been living with Lavan.  6) and I have oxen, and donkeys, and sheep and servants, and I sent them ahead to give you this message so you will be happy to see me.

  • How do you think Jacob feels?  

And the messengers came back to Jacob, and this is what they said:
7)...We came to your bother Esau, and he's coming to meet you with four hundred men
  • How do you think Jacob feels now?
Some arguments are simple - you have them and then they are over.  But some are much more serious.  Did you ever have an argument like that?
  • Why was the argument between Jacob and Esau so serious?  Do you think it can be solved?
  • What advice would you give Jacob now?
  • What advice would you give Esau? 
What do you do when you have a serious argument with someone?

What do you think?
Be sure to share your answers by commenting on this blog

Monday, November 8, 2010


Rachel and Leah in this story are sisters.  Like most sisters, they probably love each other.  And like most sisters, they are probably jealous of each other from time to time.  Their jealousy is more complicated than most - since according to the text they are married to the same man - Jacob.  That couldn't happen today in our world... or could it?  In this article from Kenya, read what actually happened in one family.

From an article at the site there is an explanation of the rule in Judaism against one man marrying sisters.
we see how important it is in the eyes of the Torah for children to get along with one another. The Torah bans two sisters from marrying the same person for the simple reason that the Torah does not want siblings to fight with each other. Whether we are ourselves siblings or whether we are parents who have children who are siblings, we all know that this is indeed a very big challenge.
What do you think about this idea?  

In the United States and in Israel (and in most modern countries today) no person is allowed to have more than one wife or husband at the same time.  In your opinion, why do you think the rules were different in the past?  What changed?

Monday, November 1, 2010


Do you have any sisters or brothers?  Do you ever think your parents are not being fair?  Here are two verses from this week's Torah portion.
Genesis, Chapter 25, verse 27: And the youths grew up, and Esau was a man who understood hunting, a man of the field, whereas Jacob was an innocent man, dwelling in tents.  28  And Isaac loved Esau because [his] game was in his mouth, but Rebecca loved Jacob.
What's going on here?  Is it possible that the Torah says that Isaac, their father, loves one son more and  Rebecca, their mother, prefers the other?  How can that be?  Aren't parents supposed to love their children equally?  Or maybe it just feels that way to them!

What if the text read this way:
So the kids grew up, and one was really good at sports - captain of the soccer travel team, champion tennis player, fastest runner on the track team.  The other one wasn't so good at sports - but did really great in school - all advanced classes, on the honor roll every quarter, bringing home 100's on practically every test.
Do you think these two kids could possible be siblings?  I bet they could, and they probably are!

Which kid are you most like - Jacob or Esau?
How can you be the best possible Jacob?  the best possible Esau?
How can you help your siblings (or friends) be the best people they can be?
What would you like to say to Isaac and Rebecca if you had the chance to talk to them?

What do you think?
Be sure to share your answers by commenting on this blog