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Yom Sheini, 30 Kislev 5775

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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

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT Travelin' Man — Finding God in the Wilderness

 Posted on November 26th, 2014

The urge to journey out into the unknown is a major motivation in the Torah. We saw it with Abraham a few weeks ago. We find it in the lives of most of our ancestors. And we encounter it perhaps most powerfully in the story of this week's great Torah portion of Vayeitzei.

At the start of the tale, Jacob leaves his family and his home, both of which happen to be in Be'ersheva, and journeys towards Sumeria—today's Iraq. He has nothing with him at all, not even a bedroll, and is forced to lay his head on a rock to sleep.

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

SAMUEL COHEN TALIT There's No Trouble Like Family Trouble

 Posted on November 19th, 2014

 Rebecca is pregnant with twins, who are struggling against one another even in the womb. Like so many—perhaps every—pregnant woman before and after her, our mother Rebecca  is physically miserable. It gets so bad that she cries out, "God, why am I alive?" roughly the equivalent of "Just shoot me now." But unlike every other woman in such straits, God  answers her.

 God says to Rebecca, "Two nations are in your belly; two peoples will spread out from your womb; one will overcome the other; the elder will serve the younger." It is not clear why this  should prove comforting to Rebecca, but she seems to be calmed by these words. And when she gives birth to two healthy boys, the younger is indeed clutching the heel of the elder,  seeking from the beginning to supplant him.

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

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