Monday, December 21, 2009


Today's questions are based in large part on "Teaching Torah", by Sorel Goldberg Loeb and Barbara Binder Kadden, one of the must-have resources for anyone who teaches Torah to learners of any age.  Here are some of the issues raised in the chapter on VaYigash:

  • We remember how the brothers felt about Yosef, caused, we agreed in our conversations, by his father Ya'akov's favoritism.  It seems from the text that Binyamin has taken Yosef's place as his father's favorite.  What evidence do we have about their feelings toward Binyamin?  
  • Yehudah is to become a prime ancestor of the Jewish people - even his name and the name of his tribe are to be the name of the people in the future (Yehudah/Yehudim).  How has he grown into this role through the story until now?
  • Teshuvah is a big part of understanding this parasha.  Which of the personalities has (or have) done teshuvah?  What is the evidence?
  • Some stories are told multiple times in this parasha and in those preceding it.  Are they exactly the same each time they are told?  What are some of the reasons a story changes with retelling?  How do we define "history" if the story changes over time?
  • The people of Yosef's family are to live separately in the area of Goshen, not totally integrated with the Egyptian population in the rest of the country.  Do you think this is an accident or is it part of a plan?  Explain why you think so.  How does living apart affect a group?  Why do some people choose to live mostly with people who share their identity (homogeneous community) while others prefer a more heterogeneous community?  
  • Serach is a granddaughter of Yaakov.  I have a friend who recently added the name "Serach" to her own name.  I invite you to read about Serach and try to figure out why she may have done this.  Serach Bat Asher is a study guide from which, while intended primarily for use around Pesach, is a thorough examination of this character.  Serach is Model for Jewish Memory  is an essay by Rabbi Neil Gilman of the Jewish Theological Seminary.
I urge you to share your thoughts about these questions with other readers by posting a comment.  We learn best when we learn together.

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