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Parasha Insights

Parasha Insights


An American Jew visits Russia and is asked about life in America. “Thank G-d,” he says, “life's good. How's life in the Soviet Union?” 

“Here,” replies the Russian, “it is also good, but here we don’t say thank G-d. Here we say, 'Thank Putin.'” 

“What will you say when Putin dies?” the American inquiries. 

“Then we will say 'Thank G-d,'” replies the Russian. 

In this week’s Torah portion, Vaeira, G-d tells Moses: "I, too, have heard the moans of the children of Israel, from the slavery that the Egyptians are enslaving them, and I remembered My covenant.” 

What is the meaning of the words, “And… Read More »


A man wanted a boat more than anything. His wife kept refusing, but he bought one anyway. “In the spirit of compromise,” he told her, “why don't you name the boat?"  Being a good sport, she accepted.

When her husband went to the dock for his maiden voyage, he saw the name painted on the side:  “For Sale.”

In this week’s Torah portion, Shemot, the Torah discusses how the Jews came down to Egypt and the long exile began.

We are in the middle of a major snowstorm in New York. Many are asking, how do we deal with vulnerabilities in life?

The Talmud says: The Rabbis taught: A person should always be pliant as the reed and let him never be hard as the cedar.

The Talmud is… Read More »


Ian from my bank left a message for me. When I called back, the bank operator asked for his last name, and I explained he hadn’t left it. When she asked for his department, I said I didn’t know.


“There are 1,500 employees in this building, sir,” she advised me rather curtly. “You must tell me the last name.”


After a few more brusque comments, I asked her for her name.


“Danielle,” she said. “And your last name?” I asked.


“Sorry,” she replied, “we don’t give out last names.”


This week's Torah portion, Vayechi, relates how Jacob sent for his son, Joseph, Prime Minister of Egypt. His end was near, and he… Read More »


The story of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers after decades of bitter separation is one of the most dramatic in the Torah. 22 years earlier, when Joseph was 17 years old, his brothers kidnapped him, threw him into a pit, and then sold him as a slave to Egyptian merchants. In Egypt, he spent 12 years in prison, from where he rose to become viceroy of the country. Now, more than two decades later, the moment was finally ripe for reconciliation.

This week's Torah portion, Vayigash, relates how Joseph could not hold in his emotions. He dismissed all of his Egyptian assistants, "and he began to weep with such loud sobs that the Egyptians outside could hear him. And Joseph said to his brothers: 'I am Joseph! Is my father still… Read More »


In 1970 Chaim immigrated to Jerusalem. He applied for a phone in his apartment, but weeks went by without one. Exasperated, he visited the phone company headquarters in the main Post Office in Jerusalem and asked the clerk when his phone would finally be installed.

"Sir," responded the clerk, "Israel has a major shortage of phone lines. There are government ministers, army generals, and hospitals ahead of you who are also waiting for phones to become available."

“So you are telling me that I have no hope for a phone?"

"Heaven forbid!” said the clerk. As a Jew, I am forbidden to tell you that there is no hope. There is always hope.”

Excited, Chaim repeated, "There is hope, there is… Read More »


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 »

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