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Torah Parshiyot

Parashat Haye SarahNovember 7, 2015 – 25 Cheshvan 5776

Sarah dies; Abraham mourns for her, then purchases the Cave of Machpelah to bury her. Abraham asks his servant to find Isaac a wife in the land of Haran. After a long journey and much prayer, the servant finds a kind woman who feeds him and his camel. The servant receives permission to take the woman, Rebecca, to Be’er Sheva to marry Isaac. Rebecca’s presence is a great comfort to Isaac. Later, we read that Abraham married again and had more children. Abraham dies and is buried by Isaac and Ishmael in Machpelah.

Parashat ToldotNovember 14, 2015 – 2 Kislev 5776

Rebecca, agonizing from being pregnant with twins, is told by God that her older child will one day serve the younger child. Rebecca favors Jacob, the younger twin, while Isaac prefers Esau, a brash hunter who brings his father game. One night, Esau returns home famished and agrees to give Jacob his birthright in exchange for stew. Isaac’s ventures during adulthood mirror those of his father; he pretends his wife is his sister to protect his family from King Avimelech. Later, Isaac and Avimelech make a treaty surrounding the wells that Isaac had dug.

Fearing imminent death, Isaac asks Esau to hunt him game, after which he would bless his elder son. Rebecca overhears and tells Jacob to kill an animal and impersonate his brother. Isaac is blind and, though suspicious, gives Jacob the bless- ings he had intended for Esau. When Esau returns and learns what had happened, he threatens to kill his brother. Jacob flees Be’er Sheva to look for a wife, while Esau, after disappointing his parents by marrying a Hittite woman, finds another wife among the family of Ishmael.

Parashat VayetzeNovember 21, 2015 – 9 Kislev 5776

Fleeing from his angry brother, Jacob falls asleep and dreams of a ladder with angels ascending and descending, and God promising Jacob the blessings of his ancestors. Inspired, Jacob names the place Beth-El and continues to Haran. Jacob falls in love with Rachel, and her father, Laban, agrees to let them marry if Jacob works for him for seven years. But Jacob is tricked into marrying Rachel’s older sister, Leah, and only marries Rachel once he agrees to work another seven years.

Jacob favors Rachel, but she is barren; Leah bears Jacob several sons. Jacob also has sons with Rachel’s and Leah’s hand- maidens. Finally, Rachel gives birth to Joseph; after years of sibling rivalry, Jacob has 11 sons and one daughter.
Jacob seeks independence from Laban after serving him for 20 years. Laban uses nefarious means to stand in Jacob’s way, but they eventually reach an agreement.

Parashat VayishlahNovember 28, 2015 – 16 Kislev 5776

Finally free from serving his father-in-law, Laban, Jacob is informed of a new challenge: his estranged twin brother, Esau, is on the way to visit him with 400 men at his side. Jacob is fearful, and with good reason; the last time Esau was nearby, he was threatening Jacob’s life. Jacob springs into action in three ways: he separates his traveling party into two halves, prays to God for safety, and prepares gifts for his brother. But no matter how much energy he expended preparing for his brother’s approach, nothing could have prepared him for his midnight encounter. Jacob, now standing alone, is met by a mysterious being, and the two wrestle until daybreak. Jacob proves to be stronger, but not before his opponent strains Jacob’s hip socket. Victorious nonetheless, Jacob demands a blessing, and the unknown being changes Jacob’s name to Israel, because he had “striven with beings divine and human, and … prevailed.”

Limping back to his camp, Jacob sees Esau and his party approach. But instead of attacking, Esau arrives with open arms, kissing Jacob and speaking of journeying together. Jacob, however, remains polite yet cautious, insisting that Esau accept his gifts, and asking to travel at a slow pace behind Esau’s company. Jacob and Esau reunite only once more: to bury their father, Isaac, who dies at the age of 180.

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