Author: Avi Shafran

Pathetic Persecutors – parshas Shemos

As the Jewish population in ancient Egypt swelled, the Torah tells us that vayakutzu — The Egyptians “were disgusted” (Shemos 1:12).  Rashi explains that “they were disgusted with their [own] lives.” A superficial reading...

Parshas Vayechi – The Real Man in the Moon

In a good example of Talmudic humor, Rav Nachman reacted to Rav Yitzḥak’s recounting of what Rabi Yochanan said, that “Our patriarch Yaakov did not die,” with a wry question: “So was it for...

Parshas Vayigash – Being Pushed, Being Loved

One of the hardest of life’s lessons to learn, a truth born of challenges we all first encounter in childhood but that persist well beyond, is realizing that being shouldered with responsibility needn’t bespeak...

The Supreme Court Did Its Job

An opinion piece I wrote for NBC about recent Supreme Court rulings on religious gatherings can be read here. And, although I can’t post my weekly Ami column here, links to them can be...

Parshas Miketz — Lying Eyes

A botanist named Joseph Banks who was aboard Captain James Cook’s 1770 voyage recorded in his diary that while the 106-foot-long Endeavour sailed along the east coast of Australia, native fishermen totally ignored the...

However, Reality

The Hebrew word for “mourning” is introduced in Vayeishev to describe Yaakov’s response to the apparent death of his son Yosef: “Vayis’abel (Beraishis 37:34). The word “eivel” — “mourning” — is composed of the...

Thinking Out of the Box

Yaakov famously sequestered Dinah his daughter in a box as he prepared to meet Esav his brother. That, according to the Midrash Rabbah brought by Rashi (Beraishis 32:23). His reason for hiding Dinah, the...

Undeserving (Parshas Vayeitzei)

Some people’s default attitude in life is “I really deserve more than I have”; others are prone to feeling that “I really don’t deserve what I have.” Most people fall somewhere on the spectrum...

“If Only…”

It’s human nature, when faced with something tragic, or even just disturbing, to say to oneself, “If only…” “If only I had done this… or we had done that… or not done this… or...

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