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Parasha Insights

Parasha Insights


A zoo-keeper noticed the orangutan was reading two books: The Bible, and Darwin's Origin of Species. Surprised, he asked the ape, "Why are you reading both those books?"

"Well," said the orangutan, "I just wanted to know if I was my brother's keeper or my keeper's brother."

In two consecutive Torah portions, Vayishlach (last week) and Vayeshev (this week), the term "Eesh," meaning "man," is used. Yet Rashi's commentary, based on the tradition of our sages, varies from one extreme to the other on this word.

Last week, in Vayishlach, we read, "And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn." Rashi explains that this “man” was… Read More »


A young Jew seeking spiritual enlightenment joined a particularly strict sect in a monastery. At his indoctrination, the head monk told him that they were sworn to TOTAL silence. However, every five years, they could speak two words. After the first five years, the head monk indicated it was now time for him to speak his two words. The Jewish kid said, “Food bad!” and resumed his silent meditation and study. After another 5 years, the head monk again indicated it was time for him to speak his two words.

The Jew said, “Bed Hard!” Then he resumed his silent study and meditation. Another 5 years passed and the head monk again indicated it was time for him to speak his two words. The Jew said, “I… Read More »


Bill received a hospital bill for his surgery, and was astonished to see a $900 charge for the anesthesiologist. He called the doctor’s office to demand an explanation.

"Is this some kind of mistake?" he asked the doctor.

"No, not at all," the doctor said calmly.

"That's awfully costly for just knocking someone out!"

"Not at all," replied the doctor. “I knock you out for free. The $900 is for bringing you back around.”

This week’s Torah portion, Vayetzei, says that Jacob was tricked into marrying Leah. Yearning for her husband’s love, she gave her first four children names representing this hope. In the meantime, Rachel, his first and most beloved choice, was… Read More »


A teen approached his dad: “Pa, I have a date Saturday night... but I ran out of my allowance. Could you, you know, advance me a little bit of next week’s allowance?”

“How much?”

“Well Pa, today you take out a girl, you need $200.”

The father gave his son the cash.

“Pa,” said the son, “today you can’t take a girl on the bus or subway, and you can’t walk... can I borrow the car?”

“Sure. Take the car,” said the dad.

“Pa, just one more thing. That new sports jacket you bought is a real beauty. I'd look smashing in it. Can I wear it?”

“Sure, sure, take the sports jacket, the car, and the money.” As his son walked… Read More »


Debbie, refusing to give in to looking old, bought a new line of expensive cosmetics guaranteed to make her look years younger.

After a lengthy session before the mirror applying the "miracle" products, she asked her husband Jerry, "Darling, honestly, if you didn't know me, how old would you say I am?"

Looking her over carefully, Jerry replied, "Judging from your skin, 20; your hair, 18; your cheeks, 20; your hands, 15; your eyes, 30; your stature, 35."

"Oh, you flatterer!" she began to gush, when Jerry suddenly interrupted her—

"Hold on there, sweetie! I haven't added them up!"

The name of this week's Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, means the Life of Sarah. However, only the first… Read More »


A Jewish couple was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. During the feast, the woman stood up and said: "I'd like to make a toast to myself for sticking it out with this man for 50 years. Let me tell you, our 50 years of marriage felt like 2 days!"

The crowd was very moved by her words. One man asked, "Why like two days, and not like one day?"

"The 50 years," replied the woman, "felt like two days: Tishah B'av and Yom Kippur."  (The most challenging fast days in the Jewish calendar.)

This week's Torah portion, Vayera, tells of the famine that broke out in the Land of Israel, and how Abraham and his wife Sarah headed to Egypt. As they approached Egypt, Abraham voiced his fear to his… Read More »


I once wanted to be an atheist, but I changed my mind—they have no holidays.

Jewish life is saturated with holidays. If you are Jewish, you don’t stop partying and eating, because there is always another holiday ahead of or behind you. In fact, the only month without a holiday is the one we presently find ourselves in: Cheshvan. Cheshvan has no special days, neither feast nor fast. It is the most boring month in our calendar.

What is more, this month follows the holiday-laden month of Tishrei. From a great spiritual high, we leap into the ultimate downer. Why?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe answers this based on the opening verse of this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha.

The entire history of Judaism commences with the… Read More »


A very successful businessman had a meeting with his new son-in-law. "I love my daughter, and now I welcome you into the family," said the man. "To show you how much I care for you, I'm making you a 50-50 partner in my business. All you have to do is go to the factory every day and learn the operations."

The son-in-law interrupted, "I hate factories. I can't stand the noise."

"I see," replied the man. "Well, then you'll work in the office and take charge of some operations."

"I hate office work," said the son-in-law. "I can't stand being stuck behind a desk all day."

"Wait a minute," said the father-in-law. "I just made you half-owner of a moneymaking… Read More »


On the sixth day of Creation, G-d turned to the angel Gabriel and said, "Today I am going to create a land of outstanding natural beauty called Israel. It will have rolling hills, and mountains full of goats and eagles, a beautiful, sparkling, clear ocean full of sea life, and high cliffs overlooking sandy white beaches. I shall make the land rich in oil to allow the inhabitants to prosper. I shall call the inhabitants "Jews," and they shall be known as the friendliest people on the earth."

"But," asked Gabriel, "Don't you think you're being too generous to these Jews?" "Not really," replied G-d. "Wait and see the neighbors I will give them."

There is a fascinating, enigmatic… Read More »


It was Yom Kippur eve, and the Jews in the city of Berditchev were gathered in the synagogue of the holy Rabbi Levi Yitzchak. Hundreds of men, women, and children waited anxiously for the saintly Tzaddik to begin the Kol Nidrei service. But as they watched him, they couldn’t help noticing how deeply troubled he appeared.

Reb Levi Yitzchak stood and asked the congregants to recite Tehillim, psalms, and to pour out their hearts and seek divine mercy. His usual look of joyful optimism was replaced by an expression of deep anguish and concern. He stood in the corner praying with great distress. Time passed—but still no Kol Nidrei service.

Finally, a long while later, the Rabbi’s expression shifted to one of… Read More »


A little boy talked to himself as he strutted through his backyard, wearing his baseball cap and toting a bat and ball. “I’m the greatest hitter in the world,” he announced. Then he tossed the ball in the air, swung at it, and missed.

“Strike one!” he yelled. He picked up the ball and said again, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” He tossed the ball in the air, swung, and missed. “Strike two!” he cried.

The boy then paused to examine his bat and ball carefully. He spit on his hands and rubbed them together, straightened his cap and said once more, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world!” He tossed the ball up and swung. He missed. “Strike… Read More »


One Shabbat a cowboy went to shul. When he entered, he saw that he was the only congregant. The rabbi asked if he wanted him to give the sermon. The cowboy said, “I'm not a learned man, but if I went to feed my cattle and only one showed up, I'd feed him.” So the rabbi began.

One hour passed, then two, then two-and-a-half hours. Finally, the rabbi finished and asked the cowboy how he’d liked the sermon. The cowboy answered, “Well, I'm not a learned man, but if I went to feed my cattle and only one showed up, I sure wouldn't feed him all the hay.”

This Shabbat is the last Shabbat of the year 5777. On Wednesday night, September 20, we begin the holiday of Rosh Hashanah and the New Year, 5778.… Read More »


A little girl asked her mother for $2 to give to an old woman in the park. Her mother was touched by the child's kindness. "Here you are, sweetie," said the mom. "I guess she is too old to work?"

"Oh no," came the reply. "She sells ice cream."

This week's Torah portion, Ki Tavo, opens with a discussion of the Mitzvah of Bikkurim, the First Fruits. Upon the ripening of the first fruits of the season (any of the seven species associated with the Land of Israel), a farmer would fill a basket with the ripened fruits and bring it to the Temple in Jerusalem, and offer it as a gift to the Kohen, to declare thanks to G-d for the goodness He bestowed upon the farmer.

This Shabbat, when we read about the… Read More »


A professor in a military class asked his students, "What is the difference between an engagement and a battle?" 

No one offered any answer. The professor was frustrated. “Didn’t anyone read the material in the book?” he thundered.

Finally, one guy spoke up. "An engagement is the thing that comes before marriage," he said, "and the battle is what follows it."

Ben was the real rebellious type that always did his own thing and didn’t care about anybody. Some said it started at birth.

At five, he was already spelling out dirty words in his Alpha-Bet cereal. At seven, Ben carved snake tattoos into his sister’s Barbie doll.

 At ten, he and a couple of friends spent… Read More »


A young boy asked his mom about their ancestry. She told him of her illustrious background, back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

“Where did they come from?” "Adam and Eve." "And they?" “G-d created them.” The boy wrote it down and then went to his dad.

“Where do we come from?” he asked. “Ah, we come from the apes. After millions of years of evolution we evolved into humans.”

“And the apes?” “Ah, they evolved from other primates.” “Where did it all begin?” “It all began with bacteria.”

The confused boy went running back to his mom. “Mom, you said we come from Adam, Eve and G-d.

Dad said we come from the… Read More »

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