When is a Coat More Than Just a Coat? Dr. Tamar Kadari on Parshat Vayeishev


Jacob is blessed with many children but is it too much of a good thing?  Using an example of the midrashic technique of notarikon – rearranging or deriving meaning from the individual letters of a word – Tamar Kadari, Senior Lecturer in Midrash, teaches how Joseph’s famous (technicolor dream) coat ended up becoming a source of division in his family.

Dreaming in Color Dr. Shula Laderman on Parshat Vayetze


Is Jacob caught in a dream or in reality in Parshat Vayetze? Dr. Shula Laderman, lecturer in Judaism and the Arts, collaborated with world renowned artist, Avner Moriah, to create The Illuminated Torah, a collection of 54 paintings representing each of the weekly Torah portions. How do the colors in the painting and the position of the ladder influence our understanding of Jacob’s dream?

Does Love Always Have a Happy Ending? Eitan Cooper on Abraham and Isaac in Parshat Vayera


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.  

Who Will Put Out the Fire? Dr. Paul Mandel on Parshat Lech Lecha


Why Abraham? In Parshat Lech Lecha God appoints Abraham to be the leader of nations. What made Abraham stand out? While on a trip to Italy, Dr. Paul Mandel, Senior Lecturer in Midrash and Aggadah, saw an ancient building that reminded him of a rabbinic parable where Abraham witnesses a building burning. With all the terrible things occurring in the world who will put out the flames? Find out how Abraham responded.

The Book of Chronicles and the Ephraimites that Never Went to Egypt


Did the story of the exodus really happen? Did the entire Israelite people suffer slavery in Egypt before arriving in the land of Canaan? Many historians question this. They point to the lack of solid archeological evidence. More traditional scholars argue that the lack of evidence is an argument from silence. It is only natural that the Egyptian kings and scribes would fail to document the humiliating story of the Israelite rebellion and exodus. There is, however, a third alternative to the question of the exodus’ historicity.

The Complexities of Purim


Purim is a holiday whose meaning is shrouded in mystery. The only clear element is what we are commanded to do on Purim as set forth at the end of the Scroll of Esther: read the Megilla, hold a festive meal, and give gifts to the poor. This last mitzvah is not an administrative detail of a system of social justice. Yes, the Jewish people are commanded to pay a tax of half a shekel, as we read onShabbat Shekalim, the Shabbat preceding Rosh Chodesh Adar. But gifts to the poor are another matter; giving charity is an expression of the direct, mutual economic responsibility between people.

Visual Midrash on the Parting of the Red Sea: Parashah Beshalach


The splitting of the Red Sea and the Children of Israel’s rescue from Egypt in Exodus 13-16 is the climax and conclusion of the long episode of the Exodus from Egypt that starts in Exodus 4. The Children of Israel’s escape from the Egyptians is described as a double miracle – God “split” the sea to enable the Children of Israel to cross it and then brought the waters down to finish off the Egyptians. The Children of Israel are commanded to observe this double miracle in order to testify to future generations about the Divine salvation they were privileged to experience. They respond to the event by singing the “Song of the Sea”, which expresses the greatness of the miracle, the survivors’ joy and the praise for God in their hearts. Jewish, Christian and Muslim artists throughout history dealt with the splitting of the Red Sea. The great interest in this episode surely stems from its inherent drama and visual elements. But as we will see below, artists interpret the event very differently emphasizing various themes.