Parashat Vaeira 5783

January 16, 2023

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah The Presence and Absence of Names A D’var Torah for Parashat Vaeira By Rabbi Robert Scheinberg Last week’s Torah portion, the first Torah person of the Book of Exodus, is called “Shemot,” which means “names.” And in fact, the Torah portion begins with the names of the sons of Jacob who descended to Egypt and had become the ancestors of the Tribes of Israel. But in a Torah portion which is called “Shemot,” there are relatively few personalities in last week’s Torah portion whose names are listed. For example, the birth and very early life of the most significant person in the entire Torah are described as follows in last week’s Torah portion: (Exodus 2) “A man from the house of Levi married a woman who was a daughter of Levi. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw how beautiful he was, she hid him...

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Parashat Va’eira 5782

December 31, 2021

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D‘var Torah A D’var Torah for Parashat Va’eira By Rabbi Cantor Sam Levine (’19) (I am indebted to the invaluable resource for directing me to many of the sources cited below.) Last week, we read in Parashat Shemot Moshe’s demurral at God’s choosing him for the role of liberator. Moshe says לֹא֩ אִ֨ישׁ דְּבָרִ֜ים אָנֹ֗כִי – I am not a man of words (4:10). He then goes on to say in the same verse כִּ֧י כְבַד־פֶּ֛ה וּכְבַ֥ד לָשׁ֖וֹן אָנֹֽכִי – for I am heavy of mouth and heavy of tongue. No further explanation is given, but (the reader is meant to understand) Moshe has diagnosed for himself some inability to communicate God’s message to anyone, least of all a mighty king like Pharaoh. Moshe expresses a similar idea in this week’s parasha. Twice, in 6:12 and 6:30, he refers to himself as עֲרַ֣ל שְׂפָתַ֔יִם, an opaque term alternately translated as “a man of impeded speech” (NJPS), “of...

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Parashat Va’eira 5781

January 15, 2021

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah A D’var Torah for Parashat Va’eira By Rabbi Ariann Weitzman (’11)Parashat Va’eira describes the first public attempts to free the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Moses and Aaron make the first pleas for freedom, Pharaoh pushes back, and most of the plagues are unleashed on the Egyptian people in a cycle of escalating consequences for Pharaoh’s hard-heartedness. Although parashat Va’eira represents the first time the Israelites have had a public leader, a loud and impassioned voice in Pharaoh’s court, arguing for their freedom, it is not actually the beginning of the stirrings of liberation. It is not even the beginning of the fight for liberation. Instead, it represents a final stage of organized Israelite power, the culmination of years of private resistance. We can see the beginnings of this private resistance in last week’s parasha, Shemot. The representatives of that resistance...

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Parashat Va’era 5780

January 22, 2020

A D’var Torah for Parashat Va’era By Cantor Sandy Horowitz (’14) Parashat Va’era begins with a continuation of the interaction between God and Moses from last week’s parasha. This week’s conversation seems to be a “do-over”, perhaps the result of God’s recognition that the relationship with Moses is going to be quite different from the earlier relationships between God and the Genesis patriarchs. When God first appeared to Abraham (then called Avram) in the book of Genesis, God commanded him, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace…to the land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you…” The response was direct and immediate: “So Avram departed” (Gen 12:1-4). Moses is no Abraham. Last week when Moses first encountered God at the burning bush, he was far more reluctant to follow God’s instructions. After the introductory “I am the...

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Parashat Va’era 5779

January 4, 2019

Hearing more voices in the Passover story A D’var Totah for Parashat Va’era By Rabbi Irwin Huberman (’10) The story of the enslavement of Jewish people in Egypt is perhaps one of the most powerful stories within the entire Torah. It is the stuff of heroes and villains, slavery and liberation. It has captured the imagination of those across many faiths and cultural backgrounds, and continues to inspire Passover – perhaps the most observed holiday across all of Judaism. Yet, there are so many gaps and unanswered questions. Indeed, while this week’s Parashah, Va’era (And God appeared) engages us in a thrilling narrative of miracles and plagues, there is perhaps one central perspective which is sorely lacking: “Where are the voices of the Israelites and Egyptians – those who were the most affected by this dramatic story of slavery and human suffering?” Isn’t it interesting that the entire Passover story...

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