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Parasha Insights


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 »
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