Wells, water, history and peace. Seems like as much as the world changes, advances and develops, some things remain intact, remain essential to our future. In the midst of this week’s parasha, Toldot, within the stories of familial strife among Isaac, Rebecca and their twin sons, Jacob and Esau, in between the pain, we have a scene that brings hope, if not for the immediate pain of the Torah’s story, then for the future, perhaps for us today.
This week’s Torah portion begins: “YHVH appeared to Abraham as he was sitting at the entrance of the tent … looking up, he saw: behold, three men standing opposite him.
Parshat Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18) God is present when two people commit their lives to each other and become one family.
Parshat Vayera (Genesis 18:1-22:24) May we, like Abraham the Patriarch, be comforted by the appearance of what Abraham Lincoln called, "the better angels of our nature" as they come to transform our country into the caring community for which we pray every day.
Parshat Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1-17:27) Lech Lecha begins with God telling Abraham, "Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, from the house of your father to the land that I will show you."
In the Israeli film "My Father My Lord," the secular or casually religious Jew encounters a world whose mindset and lifestyle might as well be thousands of miles and centuries away. It is the world of the charedi, or ultra-Orthodox, community, in which every action, every thought, is determined by God's law, as elucidated by the sages.
Throughout our history, my family's descendants have been mistreated, traumatized and deceived (just like me), yet somehow, we always survived. We always insisted, either physically or metaphorically, on "staying in the land and digging wells," despite "the famine." So perhaps our people refer to themselves by the names of my father and son, but their inner character and strength as tough survivors comes from me, Isaac. It is my story -- the story of a survivor -- that is really their story.
We have the chance, each and every week, to take the journey of Abraham, listen for the call of God and then find ways to answer that call.
Man is a meaning-seeking animal. Hardly a second goes by in which our mind does not stop its routine activities to ponder the meaning of the input it receives from our senses or from its own activities.
I reached back to cover the asparagus fern I had placed just behind the front seat. (At that time I was told no out-of-state plants were allowed.) The car swerved, ran over the embankment and careened down a ditch at top speed.
The episode of the Akedah, or the binding of Isaac, presents so many difficult questions. One of the most basic is: For whom is this human and Divine drama staged?
Scott Steindorff is a happy man. A successful movie and TV producer, his NBC series, "Las Vegas," just got picked up for another season; he won an Golden Globe for the HBO miniseries, "Empire Falls," starring Paul Newman, and produced the feature film of Philip Roth's "The Human Stain" with Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman. Upcoming on Steindorff's slate are adaptations of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "Love in the Time of Cholera," TC Boyle's "The Tortilla Curtain," Michael Connolly's "The Lincoln Lawyer," "Penelope" starring Reese Witherspoon and remakes of the classic films "Ikiru" and "Rififi." All this and he's only been in the film business six years.
Man's quest for a perfect form of government started at the dawn of civilization and is still far from conclusion.
In this week's Torah Portion, Shelach Lecha, Moshe Rabbeinu designates an advance party of 12 scouts to survey the Promised Land. The Jews are approaching their destination and the fulfillment of their destiny, and Moshe opts to have a team of prominent Jewish leaders, comprised of one delegate from each of the 12 tribes, investigate and report back.
Why is it that the Torah tells us that Abraham is sitting in the opening of the tent?
In introducing us to the patriarchal family of Isaac, son of Abraham, this week's Torah portion of Toldot begins: "And these are the offspring of Isaac son of Abraham -- Abraham begot Isaac." Since Torah is not given to redundancy, this opening passage raises the question:
Years ago, one of my colleagues had the awesome task of officiating at the funeral of a 9-year-old girl killed by a car while riding her bicycle.
David Klinghoffer's biography of the patriarch Abraham rides on a new wave of interest in the Bible, and a growing sense of the Abrahamic heritage that Christians, Jews and Muslims share.
And the verdict is: not guilty, by a razor-thin margin. An audience of more than 400 people had a chance to flex their "Law & Order" muscles while serving as the jury in the mock trial of Abraham -- that's right, our founding forefather -- held at the University of Judaism (UJ) Nov. 24.
At the sold-out event in the Gindi auditorium, Abraham was tried for the attempted murder of his son, Issac. The case was based on the Akedah, in the book of Genesis, otherwise known as the binding of Isaac, in which Abraham takes his son to a mountain and prepares to sacrifice him, only to be stopped by an angel.
Every week I go on two walks that I absolutely treasure. Each Sunday, my husband and I walk through a different section of Los Angeles. We have no destination, but our purpose is to exercise. We could choose other forms of exercise. We could be on a treadmill, moving in place without moving in space. Yet this is not as gratifying as walking outside. The walks along the beach or in the hills around the city create another dimension of being.
There in my darkened doorway were two men in black mid-length coats with long, curly beards and black hats; a younger and an older man, with eyes burning so clear and bright that they seemed to be reading from an inner script. There was about their smiling countenances such a sense of purpose, that the word "messenger" sprang to mind. They knew and I knew. They had come for me.
We believe in a God who dreams. The Torah is the story of the transaction between God's dreams and human reality. God dreams of a world of goodness. God creates humanity - fashioned in the divine image - to share the dream. But human beings betrayed God's dreams. We filled the world with violence and murder. God despaired of having created humanity and decided to wash the world clean. But one human being caught God's eye - one good man. So God saved Noah and his family, together with a set of earth's animals to begin the world again.
"At the moment of conception," says the Talmud, "an angel takes the drop of semen from which the child will be formed and brings it before God. 'Master of the Universe, what shall be the fate of this drop?' asks the angel. 'Will it develop into a strong person or a weak one? A wise person or a fool? A wealthy person or a poor one?' Whether the person will be wicked or righteous, this he does not ask."
Why not? Why doesn't the angel ask God if the soon-to-be-formed person will be wicked or righteous?
"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant, I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."-- Mark Twain
We laugh at this quote because we can sense its truth. Each of us passes through stages of life in relation to our parents. Whether they are alive or deceased; whether we live in close proximity to them or across the country; whether we are emotionally close to them or have grown distant -- an ebb and flow often characterizes our relationship to our parents. Parental separation is necessary, but painful. God knew this when, on the second day of creation, after the division of the waters above and below, God refrained from saying "and it was good." Our struggle to separate begins at the womb and continues way beyond the grave.
Who was the first Jew? All of us learned in Sunday School that thefirst Jew was Abraham. It was our father, Abraham, who detected thepresence of the one true God and championed monotheism in a paganworld. It was with Abraham that God established the Covenant,defining our identity, our mission, our destiny. That's true. But thefirst Jew wasn't Abraham. The first Jew was his son Isaac.
A Letter to Sarah