Vayeishev

Posted on December 4th, 2017

Genesis 37:1−40:23

D'var Torah By: Edwin C. Goldberg for ReformJudaism.org

Practice Positive Pessimism and Partner with God

 

Most of us have grown up with the power of positive thinking. We've been warned about negative outlooks and what popular psychologists call "catastrophizing." To have a successful outcome when facing a problem, we're told that we need to avoid the bad and focus on the good.

But there is another point of view. The leadership guidebook, Great by Choice,1 discusses the responsible need to practice "productive paranoia." In other words, worry a little bit because there are things that can hurt you. (The book, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson, is also useful in its own way, but sometimes the small stuff isn't so small.) Julie Norem, author of a highly counterintuitive book called The Positive Power of Negative Thinking2 suggests that upbeat strategies don't always work. In fact, they may make some people—those who are naturally anxious—more nervous than ever.
 
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Vayishlach

Posted on November 27th, 2017

Genesis 32:4 - 36:43 


BY RABBI LAURA GELLER for myjewishlearning.com 


The Silence of Dinah and Other Rape Victims


The Bible focuses on Jacob's and his son's reactions, but not on those of the victim herself.

 

After 20 years, Jacob is coming home. Anticipating that the reunion with the brother he cheated all those years ago will be disastrous, he sends messengers laden with presents ahead to his brother.

But just to be on the safe side, he divides his camp in order to minimize the losses should he come under attack. The story continues: “That same night, he got up, took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his 11 children, and crossed at a ford of the Jabbok [river]. … Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him” (32:23-25). The nocturnal wrestler wounds and blesses him and gives him a new name–our name: Yisrael, one who wrestles with God. Jacob’s wrestling with God is a powerful image and legacy. We never know with whom Jacob is wrestling: is it himself, his conscience, his brother, God, or all of these parts of himself and of his life? Jacob names the place “Peniel,” meaning “Face of God,” for, as he states, “I have seen God face-to-face” (32:31). Somehow, alone, separated from his “two wives” and his “eleven children,” Jacob discovers the face of God in his adversary — and Jacob is blessed.

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Vayeitzei

Posted on November 20th, 2017

Genesis 28:10−32:3

D'var Torah By Rabbi Edwin C. Goldberg for ReformJudaism.org

Wherever You Go, There God Will Surely Be

 

We live in a self-indulgent time. One of the best examples of our era's trend toward self-indulgence is the "Travel List Challenge's 100 Places to Visit Before You Die."1 On this Web page, users are asked to check off which of the 100 author-recommended places in the world they have visited. The places range from North American sites like the Smithsonian Museum, the Washington Monument, and the Empire State Building to exotic, faraway destinations like the Taj Mahal in India, Machu Pichu in Peru, and the Great Wall of China. It's an interesting exercise, allowing us to recall some great memories of places we've seen.

But like much of what we find on social media, it's also a way show that our life is OK—maybe even better than OK—in comparison to that of our friends.

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Toldot

Posted on November 13th, 2017

Genesis 25:19-28:9

D'var Torah By: Edwin C. Goldberg for ReformJudaism.org

 

What Would You Hold Onto - At Any Price?

The show, Pawn Stars, is a runaway hit on the History Channel. It tells the story of three generations of the Harrison family and their Las Vegas pawnshop. There's Richard, the patriarch (affectionately known as the "old man"); Rick, the son (who really runs the business); and Rick's adult son, Corey (who wants to become a tough businessman like his father and grandfather).

The setup is simple: Every customer who walks through the door, intending to pawn or sell some family heirloom, has a tale. Sometimes the item is worthless, other times priceless. Rick can always tell the difference.

When he does pronounce that the medieval knight's helmet is really a 19th-century reproduction, the item's owner must make a choice: Sell it for less than the asking price or call the whole deal off. Often, customers call off the deal because the item's sentimental value has just exceeded its actual value.
 
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Chayei Sara

Posted on November 6th, 2017
BY RABBI KERRY M. OLITZKY for myjewishlearning.com 


Was Abraham’s Second Wife Really Hagar?

 

None of the commentaries questioned the legitimacy of the relationship between Abraham and Keturah.


Following the death of his beloved Sarah, Abraham wed a second time. The Torah records it this way, “Abraham took another wife, whose name was Keturah” (Gen. 25:1). It is the Torah’s style only to add detail when necessary. Otherwise, it is up to the reader to discern the import of the Torah’s cryptic statements. In this case, there is no extensive discussion or lengthy debate. There is no explanation of Keturah’s lineage. Some suggest that she was Hagar. Others say that she was a different woman entirely.

Taking his lead from a variety of rabbinic sources, the great commentator Rashi boldly suggests that Keturah is Hagar: “She was called Keturah because her deeds were as pleasing as incense and because she tied up her opening [explanations emerging from two rabbinic folk etymologies on her name]; from the day she left Abraham, she did not couple with any man.”

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