The Midrash teaches that Abraham and Sarah won many converts to their religious views. How did they succeed?
Shalom. I hope your school year has been going well, and I wish you all the best. Here are a few items of importance for members of the University Network of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals.
1. Please make sure that we have your correct mailing address on file. You may go to our website, jewishideas.org, and check your My Account page. We mailed out the new issue of Conversations (Orthodoxy and Ethics) in early September, and I hope that you've received your copy.
"How full of awe is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." (Bereishith 28:17)
Shalom members of the University Network of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. In light of the ongoing efforts of Israel's enemies to demonize Israel, I thought it would be important for you to read this open letter from the Chief Rabbi of South Africa, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, which he wrote to Archbishop Tutu. Please feel free to share this letter with fellow students and family members. Best wishes.
"I am not worthy of all the mercies and all the truth which You have shown unto Your servant." (Bereishith 32:11)
Jacob had a remarkable curriculum vitae. He was the patriarch of a large family. He possessed an impressive amount of livestock and was quite wealthy. By external standards of success, Jacob had achieved a lot during his years with Lavan.
When Jacob and family set out for the land of Egypt to re-unite with Joseph, the Torah informs us that Jacob sent Judah ahead "to show the way before him unto Goshen" (Bereishith 46:28). The Midrash offers an interpretation: Judah was sent ahead in order to establish a center for Torah study and "hora-ah"--a place for giving definitive halakhic rulings to guide the family in their new setting. This anachronistic interpretation (the Torah wasn't given to the Israelites until hundreds of years later!) reflects an interesting rabbinic insight.
The Talmud posits an important principle: the Heavenly court deals with us by the exact same standards that we use to deal with others (Sotah 8b). If we are kind and compassionate, we can expect to be judged by God with kindness and compassion. If we are cruel and unfairly critical of others, we can expect the Heavenly court to deal with us with the same qualities we have shown to others.
When ten of the spies reported that the Promised Land was inhabited by undefeatable giants and fortified cities, the people of Israel immediately lost heart. Panic swept the community. They cried all night. They complained that they would rather have died in Egypt. They even thought of appointing a new leader to take them back to servitude in Egypt. To them, that seemed preferable to entering Canaan only to be murdered by the powerful Canaanite nations.
This week's Torah portion includes a strange episode. In response to Moses' request that others share leadership with him, God rested the spirit of prophecy on 70 elders. Two men, though, continued to prophesy after the others had stopped. " But there remained two men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad; and the spirit rested upon them...and they prophesied in the camp." When Joshua was informed of the irregular situation, he called upon Moses to arrest Eldad and Medad; he wanted them silenced. Moses responded: "Are you jealous for my sake?