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A Reform Jewish Community for all of Tucson
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Yom Shabbat, 6 Iyyar 5775

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Posted on December 31, 2014

This week we complete the story of Joseph—and of his great father Jacob, also known as Israel—with the final Torah portion of the book of Genesis, Vayechi. It begins with the description of the death of Jacob, and perhaps even more importantly, the final blessings that Jacob gives to his many sons. But one of the most interesting aspects of this section is a brief episode in which Joseph, who knows his father is dying, brings his own two sons, Jacob's grandsons Ephraim and Menasseh, to him for a blessing.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Weekly Torah Talk on Vayechi 5775


Posted on December 29, 2014

This week's Torah portion of Vayigash begins with the climax of the great Joseph story that fills the last sections of the book of Genesis. Joseph is the powerful ruler of Egypt, richest country in the ancient world. His miraculous ascent from slavery and prison to the heights of political power is the stuff dreams are made of, and he is the master of all he surveys, subservient only to a Pharaoh who trusts him completely. He is handsome, rich, hugely powerful, with a wife and two fine sons, completely assimilated into Egypt's elegant culture, and still comparatively young. The world sits at his manicured feet.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Weekly Torah Talk on Vayigash 5775

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT Hide and Seek with Jewish Identity

 Posted on December 17, 2014

 In this week's Torah portion of Mikeitz we are in the midst of the fabulous story of Joseph, now shorn of his Technicolor dreamcoat and locked away in an  Egyptian prison.

 Dreams play a central role—not for the first time in Genesis, and not for the first time in the Joseph story. In Mikeitz Pharaoh, the king of Egypt dreams a  famous dream: seven fat cows emerge from the Nile River, and then are eaten by seven skinny cows; then seven fat ears of grain are devoured by seven lean  ears of grain. What does it all mean?

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Weekly Torah Talk on Mikeitz 5775


Posted on December 10, 2014

Beginning with this week's sedrah of Vayeishev, Joseph, the last of the patriarchs, becomes the principal character for the final four weekly portions in Genesis. A more complete narrative than any that has preceded it in Genesis, the story of Joseph is also a developmental transition that leads the literary way to the long narrative of Moses that fills the rest of the Torah.

The Joseph story has been called the first truly modern piece of literature, filled with contemporary authorial techniques in the delineation of character and plot. Each segment ends in a cliffhanger, and the interplay of story lines and locations make the whole narrative vibrant and rich and exceedingly compelling. This modernity of style is particularly impressive since the book of Genesis was written at least 2500 years ago.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Weekly Torah Talk on Vayeishev 5775

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT Wrestling with Holiness

 Posted on December 3rd, 2014

We are currently in the midst of sequence of splendid Torah portions, rich in complexity, action, and misdeed, all blended together with some serious family dysfunction. This week's sedrah of Vayishlach in Genesis continues the tale of Jacob, the most intriguing of the patriarchs, a man who rises above his own duplicitous nature to become the father of almost all of the tribes of Israel.

As our story begins this week Jacob is returning home to Canaan, having made good in the old country of Sumeria—today's Iraq. He has four wives, 12 children—including 11 sons—flocks of sheep and herds of cattle, great wealth in that day. As he is about to cross into Canaan he learns that his brother Esau, whom he wronged so seriously just before leaving home in a rush twenty years before, is coming to meet him with an army of 400 men. Jacob is panicked by this news, deducing that Esau is not heading his way with 400 men with spears just to welcome him home.

Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon's Weekly Torah Talk on Vayishlach 5775

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