CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 7

Vayeishev

Miketz

(Amy Scheinerman)

(David Novak)

When we read the account of the birth of Perez
and Zerah to Tamar (Genesis 38:27-30), we
cannot help but think of the birth of Jacob
and Esau to Rebekah (Genesis 25:19-26).
The similarities are striking: Both stories tell
us v'hineih t'omim b'vit'nah / Behold there
were twins in her womb! Zerah emerges with
a crimson thread tied onto his hand by the
midwife, and Esau emerges red all over. Esau
becomes the progenitor of the Edomites, with
whom the clan of Zerah is associated (Genesis
36:17 and I Chronicles 1:37). Jacob, born
second, receives and transmits the covenant;
Perez, who should have been born second,
but pushed his way out first, is the direct
ancestor of David. God explains to Rebekah the
significance of her pregnancy and travail, but
what about Tamar?

Interpreting dreams is not for the faint of heart. This is especially true when it leads to complex
human interactions, such as those between Joseph and his brothers, and between Joseph
and Pharaoh. That Joseph is raised from the dungeon to interpret Pharaoh's dream reinforces
Joseph's pattern: his brothers cast him into a pit and then raised him out to sell him. He was
cast down into the dank dungeon and is now being raised up to find himself in the most unlikely
scenario: face-to-face with the most powerful ruler in his world, and providing him counsel.

B'reishit Rabbah 38:17 understands Tamar's
scheme and its outcome to have come about
by God's intervention in the form of an angel
that ensured Judah would notice Tamar
and engage her as a prostitute in order to
produce-ultimately-not just David, but the
Messiah.
Throughout Genesis, the role of women in
determining who will receive and transmit the
covenant and lead the next generation remains
intact with Tamar. Sarah employs coercion,
insisting upon Isaac over Ishmael; Rebekah
chooses Jacob over Esau as the fulfillment
of God's message to her and, accordingly,
deceives Isaac; Tamar tricks Judah into
fathering the line that will give rise to David.
Aside from textual questions around the history
of these stories, this engenders philosophical
questions, such as means versus ends, and
social leadership questions, such as how we
can recognize those who have insight and
intuition we should follow.

Dreaming is an important neurological function. Contemporary neurologists tell us that
dreaming is our minds at work while we sleep, making sense of what we experienced during
our waking hours. We all dream. Sometimes we remember our dreams vividly and other times
we regain our conscious state without remembering anything. The ability of the human to
dream is also a powerful narrative tool to advance the story. A skill once used perversely-the
ability to interpret dreams-now brings salvation: the one who taunted his brothers on the basis
of his dreams now ensures his family's very survival, as well as the survival of all Egypt.

Vayigash
(Amy Scheinerman)
The reunion of Jacob and Joseph is tender and poignant.
Joseph hitched his chariot and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel; he presented
himself to him and, embracing him around the neck, he wept on his neck a good while
(Genesis 46:29).
Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev comments in K'dushat Levi: "Why does Torah bother to tell us
that Joseph hitched his chariot? Would it not have sufficed to say that he went up to greet
his father? We find here advice to keep an open eye on all our deeds. We are not meant to
be mere animals, but to weigh our actions, deriving from them wise hints about how to serve
God."
Joseph is not the animal who pulls the chariot. He is the person who drives it with mindfulness
and intentionality, a reminder of how we should live our lives. But who can live in a perpetual
state of spiritual awareness? Even Levi Yitzchak acknowledges, "You sometimes get so tired
that your own corporeal self begins to fade. Then a spirit flowing forth from God comes upon
you. The light that you encounter is like seeing God's own face...."
When we are most exhausted-emotionally and spiritually-if we can "hitch our chariot" and remind
ourselves that everything we do and say has the potential to create k'dushah and make a meaningful
difference, that in itself will energize us. Note that no sooner does Joseph "hitch" his chariot then he
"goes up" and "sees" Jacob. For Jacob, this makes all the difference in the world: Then Israel said to
Joseph, "Now I can die, having seen for myself that you are still alive" (Genesis 46:30).

Va-y'chi
(Fred Davidow)
Va-y'chi describes the deathbed scene of
Jacob. He calls his sons and gives each a
final blessing. Afterward, Jacob charges his
sons to bury him with Abraham and Isaac in
the Cave at Machpelah. Then Jacob "expired
and was gathered to his people." The Torah
uses the very same wording to describe the
death of Abraham (Genesis 25:8) and Isaac
(Genesis 35:29).
The haftarah connected to this parashah
describes the deathbed scene of David. He

summons Solomon and gives him some final
instructions. Then David dies, but another
idiom similar to the idea of being gathered to
one's people is used: "Then David slept with
his fathers" (I Kings 2:10).
The idioms "to be gathered to one's people"
and "to sleep with one's fathers" emphasize
the importance of continuity: our life as
a people is to go on from generation to
generation. Of course every individual will
"go the way of all the earth" (I Kings 2:2),

but the bitterness of a death is diluted by
believing that burial with one's relatives is a
way of returning to the people to whom we
belong. Whenever I walk through the Jewish
cemetery of my hometown, I feel in my
bones what it means to be gathered to one's
people, for there lie the graves of forty-two
kinfolk. Instead of the earlier pangs of grief,
there is now sweet joy in the memories of
lives well lived and in the prospect of lives
still to come.

VOICES OF TORAH (Continued on page 9)
7



CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013

CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 1
CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 2
CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 3
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CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 5
CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 6
CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 7
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CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 9
CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 10
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CCAR Newsletter Nov-Dec 2013 - 12
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