Does Esau get a bad rap? Through his unique lens of evolutionary psychology, Rabbi Dr. Paul Shrell-Fox, Lecture in Family and Community Studies, explores the different personalities of Esau and Jacob. How much do nature and nurture influence their wildly different personalities?
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons, illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible, Gerard Hoet (1648-1733) and others, published by P. de Hondt in The Hague in 1728
In this week’s Torah portion, Vayera, it is many years later. Abraham and Sarah live in Hebron, about 40 miles South of Jerusalem, when he is called with the same words “Lech Lecha”, but this time he is told exactly where he is going and why – to the Land of Moriah, the same spot where the Temple and Dome of the Rock would later be built, to sacrifice his son Isaac. The journey that began years earlier for Abraham’s benefit is ominously transformed, and the extra, emphatic word, “Lecha” has a different meaning. Abraham is told to look into himself in order to summon the strength for this final test.
In my book Ideology and Landscape, which is about reinterring Zionist leaders in the homeland, I devoted a chapter to the reburial of Baron Edmond de Rothschild in Ramat Hanadiv. He and his wife Ada (Adelheid) were reinterred there in April 1954 in an imposing public ceremony. An Israeli battleship brought the coffins from Marseille to Haifa, and from there they were transported to the majestic burial estate south of the Carmel.
The Kotel belongs to the entire Jewish people; and “Who is a Jew?” is not an Israeli issue but rather an issue facing Klal Yisrael, the collective Jewish people throughout the world.
Within ancient Hebrew manuscripts, scattered among libraries throughout the world, one can find some surprising treasures, like previously unknown and unpublished pieces of writing. The unusual midrash we will examine here is one of these. It appears in a manuscript that is part of the Firkovich collection, which resides in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg.
I am officiating at the wedding of a young couple in the near future. In preparing the ketubah [marriage contract], I learned that the groom’s father was born Jewish, but the groom converted at age four, along with his mother. The groom would like his name to appear in the marriage contract as “X the son of the names of his two parents,” since they are all Jewish now; but his father would like it to appear as “X the son of Abraham and Sarah,” since that is how his son was named at his conversion. What is the halakhah in this case?
Asked by Rabbi Rachel Schwartz on the behalf of a pupil at a Hebrew school in the United States: Why is the kittel worn on the High Holy Days? When were Torah scrolls first dressed in white for the High Holy Days and what prompted this change?
May an uncircumcised Jew have an aliyah, serve as a sheliah tzibbur, have a Bar Mitzvah, a Jewish wedding or burial? Does it make a difference if he or his parents refused to circumcise him for ideological reasons or if he was prevented from having a brit milah [circumcision] by outside forces, such as the Soviet regime?
At the Schechter MA graduation ceremony in Jerusalem a few months ago, the master of ceremonies, Jacky Levy, a well-known Israeli media personality, asked a poignant question in the context of the awarding of the Rabbi Marc and Dr. Henia Leibhaber Prize for Religious Tolerance in Israel, of which he himself is a recipient. The Liebhaber Prize was established 18 years ago in the wake of the political/religiously motivated assassination of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
How should a young Jewish Israeli girl celebrate her bat mitzvah? The answer to this question is clear to members of the Conservative and Reform movements. The young girl will celebrate the same way her brother does his bar mitzvah. She will learn the blessings for being called up to the Torah, and may also learn the cantillation marks for reading the haftarah and perhaps the Torah portion. She may write a bat mitzvah address to be given on the Shabbat morning when she is called up to the Torah, or at the party. The aliyah can be seen as a recapitulation of being present at the revelation at Mount Sinai, and by being called up to the Torah, the bat mitzvah, like the bar mitzvah, expresses her commitment to Jewish tradition and to the Jewish people.