This week, we take a longer journey than usual, in order to explain the surprising placement of Chapter 38 of Genesis. It is the story of Judah and Tamar, which, while quite well-known, seems to have little to do with the larger narrative of Joseph in which it is embedded. With some help from Rashi, we attempt to put Chapter 38 into its much larger context, and discover in it a far greater importance than first read would indicate.
On the road home, Jacob suddenly bursts into tears. We are told that it is because Deborah, his mother's nursemaid has died. But, as always, there is more to the story than that.
This week, Jacob innovates a new religious ritual: the stone monument. They seem to be received favorably, at first. But later in the Torah, God suddenly appears to disapprove. What went wrong?
Esau - The Red One. He emerged from the womb, bearing the traits of a killer. But what made him so bad? Did he choose his fate or was he just born that way?
This week Abraham buys a cave in which to bury Sarah his wife. But over time, this cave will come to hold many of the greatest figures in the book of Genesis... including one final surprise guest.
Abraham and Sarah, the perfect pair. But even they had their difficulties...
How they worked past their most troubling times may provide us insight into how we work through our own.
Here is a verse, said Spinoza, that shakes the very foundations of Jewish theology:
Abram passed through the land up to the place of Shechem, at Alon Moreh - and the Canaanites were then in the land. hen in the land. (Gen. 12:6)
Wait…was that it? Abraham’s travel itinerary - what’s the the big deal?
Poor Noah gets such a bad rap. And he saved all the animals! So nice of him! So why do the rabbis mock him every chance they get? Their answers lie either before the flood, or after it.
We begin the cycle of the Torah again, with the Book of Genesis. And just four chapters in, we come across our first murder. Cain kills his brother Abel, but isn't killed by God in return. So what does happen to him? The commentators, as always, have answers.
Elie Wiesel was the great modern articulator of the concept of God's hiddenness from the world, or 'Hester Panim.' But there is a tradition of questioning this hiddenness that stretches all the way back to this week's parsha, and takes surprising twists and turns throughout the centuries of commentary.
Moses is addressing the people for the last time. And as he calls out the different who are there before him, he makes special mention of two workers: the wood-chopper and the water-drawer. This is odd. What is so special about these two people? Well, Rashi has one answer. But we have another.
What was the first language? And if there was one, where did all the other languages come from? As our commentators explore these questions, they reflect on the implications language and translation have for sacred scripture.
As we look into the case of The Hanging Man, we take a tour through the depths of one comment of Rashi's, and witness his brilliance on full display.
A strange verse in Parshat Shoftim has all the commentators speculating on the nature of trees. But it is 20th-century philosopher Martin Buber, not directly commenting on the verse, who may have the best interpretation.
The case of The Tempter in Deuteronomy speaks of the dangers of being lured into idolatry by your loved ones - friends and family members. We are warned against giving in to their influence. But the commentaries of Rashi and the Rashbam point to other tempting forces in our lives - ones which may be harder to resist.
From the Documentary Hypothesis to Lurianic Kabbalah - something for everyone in this week's ParshaNut, as we scour through the stories of Korach's rebellion to find secret connections to an earlier uprising.
How did it take forty years to walk from Egypt to Israel? The distance itself suggests that it could have been done in a month. Well, it turns out they were in one place for a nearly half the time, a place called 'Kadesh.' So how did they get stuck there, and why?
It's time to kill the Midianites. And Pinchas ben Elazar, the priest, will lead the charge. Why is he chosen? The reasons seem obvious at first. But there is more to the story...
God sins. We forgive.
Who would dare say such a thing?! Why, the rabbis of the Talmud, of course.
From Moses to Einstein, this week we take a tour of Jewish thought throughout the ages, and try to pick up on themes that we have been grappling with throughout time.
This week,the Torah goes Dr. Seuss on us. The language that the Torah uses to describe Moses crafting a copper snake seems almost deliberately playful. What is the meaning of this unusual poetic device, and who stuck it in there?
This week, Moses uses a new name for God, "The God of the Spirit of All Flesh." It is a name used only one other time in the Torah. We'll take a look at both contexts, and see what they have in common, and what they tell us about the kind of God Moses wants to believe in.
This week, we return to a classic story from the Torah, the "Sin of the Spies," only to discover there are no spies there at all.
Forgive the poor sound quality this week, folks! The Parsha Nut is traveling, and away from his regular recording studio. But since we're revealing the secrets of the universe this week, I guess it's fitting that they be a little hard to hear.
Who were these princes that appear in this week's parsha to present tributes to the Tabernacle for their tribes? And how did they claim their titles? It turns out there is quite a backstory, but it must be carefully reconstructed from fragments spread out across the Torah.