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Dangerous Liaisons

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Vayishlach—5777

This is a hard parsha. Please, forgive me, but when I read this Torah reading, I can’t help but imagine what a movie of this episode would look like if directed by Quentin Tarantino. And then I have nightmares. If I have a reader out there who doesn’t know who that is: Bless you, my child. And don’t...

Maharal, Week II: A Time Utterly Different From Our Own

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Maharal bases his ideas of how the days of Mashiach will look in Talmudic texts. He cites them at length, and goes through them step by step, interpreting them in the way that reveals his view of the Messianic world. Those interpretations, however, aren’t simple or obvious, and would take us too much time to engage critically—to read the text itself, then his reading of it and then see the strengths and weaknesses of those readings would take us much more time and space than we have here. Instead, we’re going to mention the texts off which he’s working and his conclusions, leaving for another time the also-productive endeavor of actually learning those texts with Maharal as our...

Rivalry: Toldot 5777

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Oedipus complex and the generation gap. I tried to present a picture of Judaism doing its best to avoid enmity between the generations. However, I left unsaid the nasty problem that does haunt the book of Genesis: sibling rivalry. Da dum! This violent and vile problem begins with the first set of sibs. Fratricide is our first crime against humanity. So, the pages of our Bible and the annals of human history are replete with horrible example of this phenomenon: Cain/Abel, Thyestes/Atreus, Romulus/Remus, Joan Fontaine/Olivia de Havilland, Peyton/Eli. David Levy introduced the term sibling rivalry in 1941, claiming that for an older sibling, “the...

Abarbanel’s Yemot HaMoshiach: Depths of Exile and Wonders of Redemption

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Mashmia Yeshua is a book about the prophets who predicted salvation for the Jewish people. In theory, Abarbanel could have shared only those prophecies that had new information about the Messianic era, and noted in the introduction or conclusion that he’s skipped many prophecies that echo these.

Instead, he decided to go through each of them (although, as he noted, he did not do all of Yeshayahu’s prophecies, since there were too many. He instead chose sixteen), even though there’s much repetition. He does not explain why seeing it in multiple texts is worth readers’ whiles; I suspect it’s because of the anti-Christian element. To convince his fellow Jews that the Christians...

It’s Complex: Vayera-5777

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Many people believe that the central myth of Western civilization is the Oedipus story from ancient Greece. Oedipus was born to King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes. Laius heard a prophecy that his son would end up killing his father and marrying his mother, thereby bringing disaster to his city and family. He wished to thwart the prophecy, so he left Oedipus to die on a mountainside. However, the baby was found by shepherds and raised by King Polybus and Queen Merope of Corinth as their own. Oedipus learned from the oracle at Delphi about the prophecy that he would end up killing his father and marrying his mother but, unaware of his true parentage, believed he was fated to murder...

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