Posts

Showing posts from December, 2016

Bit by Bit

Parashat Vayeitzeh, Human Rights Shabbat 2016 Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz

Bit by Bit

When Jacob left Beer-Sheva and journeyed towards Charan, he was truly and utterly free. Not even gravity could constrain him, as he laid his head to rest on a pillow of stone and dreamt of the angels ascending and descending the ‘sulam’, the ladder to the heavens. Jacob was on an intrepid adventure, a quest for liberation. He needed to get away from the limitations of his own upbringing and the mistakes that bound him to his past. In that freedom, he found vision in the night, courage in his fear.
Yet, only a chapter later, he found himself in subjugation to his uncle Laban’s deception. Wanting to marry his cousin Rachel, the beautiful younger daughter, Laban contracted him to work for seven years before allowing him to marry her. The Torah tells us that Jacob agrees with the terms and conditions of this arrangement and narrates: ‘Vayavod Ya’akov b’Rachel sheva shanim va’yihyu be’einav k’yamim echadim b’aha…

A Legacy of Kindness

Parashat Chayei Sarah Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
A Legacy of Kindness
Abraham is bereft. Not long after the events of the Akeidah, the binding of Isaac, he hopes to return with his son to the normalcy of family life. However, he will find that all his changed and  his legacy challenged, as he loses his beloved Sarah.
Midrash Tanchuma, a late midrash from the 9th century C.E. connects the two events of the Akeidah and Sarah’s death and establishes a causality between them. The Midrash posits that Satan appeared before Sarah disguised as Isaac, when Isaac and Abraham were still upon Mount Moriah. Satan goes on to describe in painstaking detail how Abraham intended to slaughter their precious son. Even before Satan has completed his account, Sarah died from sheer horror.
Both the p’shat – the plain text – of the Parashah and the rabbinic imagination of the Midrash confront us with a deep sense of irreversible loss. ‘Vayavo Avraham lispod le’Sarah v’liv’chotah’ – ‘And Abraham came to mourn for…