Daniel Taub has compiled a list of parasha commentaries with a diplomatic twist and Jewish humor anecdote. Offering a “fresh and diplomatic approach to the week’s Torah reading,” Taub adds a quotation from an Israeli leader or diplomat to each week’s writings. This entire site can be viewed at parashadiplomatit.com. Links can be found to the individual weekly parashiot on this page.
Thanks for coming and enjoy.
- Mishpatim – Fostering leadership
One of the Torah’s commandments that is least obeyed is in this portion: Do not ridicule your judges and do not curse the leaders of your people. Maimonides, Rabbi Menachem Recanati and Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin present three different ways cursing leaders can be negative.
- Yitro – In the eyes of the beholder
Moses’ father-in-law – the non-Jewish Yitro, arrives and is the antithetical sympathetic supporter to Amalek, of whom the Jewish people were just told to wholeheartedly blot out.
- Beshalach – Taking the first step
Very little time passes from the successful Egyptian exodus and the next event in Jewish history – trapped between the Egyptian army and the impassable Red Sea. At least at first, until God miraculously splits the sea.
- Bo – The beginning of Jewish history
The peak of the Exodus story is encountered via 9 dramatic plagues descending on Egypt, with the 10th just about to happen. Simultaneously God gives Moses the very first Torah commandment of fixing a calendar starting with the exodus and the significance of that.
- Va’era – Ordinary people, extraordinary achievements
Moses is depressed since his attempts to save the children of Israel from slavery have failed and he has worsened their situation, with their hardships escalating. This portion marks the beginning of the story of the Exodus.
- Shemot – Three tests, three signs
Moses – who is anyway known to be a man of self-doubt – is extremely concerned about his mission to take on the leadership role of liberating the Jewish people from their Pharoah-engineered slavery. In response to this, G-d displays for him 3 miraculous signs that take place at the Burning Bush. These are: Moses being able to successfully battle the Egyptian taskmaster who is beating a Hebrew slave; Moses’ intervention in two Hebrews fighting the next day and finally Moses’ fleeing to Midian where he defends the 7 daughters of Jethro when they come to water their sheep at the well and are being driven out by local shepherds.
- Vayechi – Diaspora Jewish leaders in the Bible
Through Joseph’s character we see that with hard work and talent, a poor immigrant Jew can get to high office in a foreign country. Ultimately this aids not only the country but also the entire Jewish people. The Bible has two other stories like this: Esther and Daniel. It is these 3 stories that teach us about the role and nature of Diaspora Jewish leaders today.
- Vayigash – One small step for man
Climactic part of Joseph’s story as he faces his brothers and places a goblet in his brother Benjamin’s sack, thereafter demanding he remain his slave. Judah then pleas mercy for his brothers and in one small singular step, ‘Vayigash Yehuda – and Judah drew near,’ which represents a turning point both for Joseph’s story and for the history of the entire Jewish people.
- Miketz – Coping with crisis
Here we encounter the contrast of Joseph’s rise to power (in Egypt) versus his family’s descent into famine (in Canaan). Their father Jacob has to inspire them to act with the phrase “lama titra-u” which has a variety of meanings including to see, to look at yourself or to make yourself appear in a certain way.
- Vayeshev – The reality of dreams
There are 9 dreams discussed in the Torah; 6 of these are associated with Joseph, which provide us with a revealing insight into his personality and on a wider scale, teach us about the fulfillment of dreams.
- Vayishlach – The hardest battle
Jacob prepares to meet his brother Esau, following a 20-year hiatus that occurred after his brother’s promise to kill him. The discussion centers around the 3 ways Jacob prepared for the meeting and the strange encounter that occurred the night prior to the meeting.
- Vayetze – A dream with two meanings
Jacob’s somewhat puzzling dream of angels going up the ladder (whereas if angels are in heaven, they should start by descending a ladder). The dream depicts the rise and fall of the empires that have oppressed the Jews. It is a promise to Jacob as a man and as a patriarch of the entire Jewish people for generations to come.
- Toledot – Re-digging the wells of our forefathers
Understanding why and how the forefathers are given their particular association, despite apparent characteristics to the contrary: Abraham: loving kindness; Isaac: heroism and Jacob: truth.
- Chaye Sara – the first negotiation
Abraham engages in a negotiation for the Hebron Tomb of the Patricarchs (Cave of Machpela), which begs the question, if God promised this land to him, why the need for negotiation? Abraham wishes to strike a commercial deal, insisting he be given no favors and thus does not try to negotiate the price at all.
- Vayera – the stranger among us
The message in this portion is the huge dichotomy of how strangers are treated: on the one hand there is openness and hospitality and then quite on the other side of the spectrum we are faced with fear and oppression. Through the Mamre versus Sodom societies, where Abraham and Lot reside respectively, we see how these are played out and how they are very much the reality in our lives today as well.
- Lech Lecha – the longest journey
This portion tells us of the longest journey in Judaic history, starting with a man (Abraham), a woman (his wife Sarah) and a promise (of God assuring the Children of Israel that they will become a great nation. One can also view this message via the construction of the modern State of Israel, deepening our comprehension of God’s promise to Abraham.
- Noach – all in the same boat
A message of globalization, the universal and the particular; what we share as nations and what elements set us apart from each other. A look at the common heritage shared within the world’s nations while remembering the unique message of our own tradition.
- Bereishit – two sins, two exiles
Two stories of exile are recorded here: one of Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden and then Cain being forced to live his life as a homeless wanderer after he kills his brother Abel.”
- Vezot Habracha – a tale with two endings
The Jewish people being a lonely people, even when they enter into the land of Israel and have their own homes. Jewish destiny is made up of loneliness and exclusion and the tension that exists between “being a full member of the family nations and remaining a people apart.”
- Haazinu – between history and memory
The challenge of continuity should be handled through the preservation of the past. Developing the relationship between the past and ourselves renders the past being reflected in our identity.
- Nitzavim – Vayelech – to hear and to write
Understanding the last two commandments of the Torah: Hakhel (Assembly) and writing a Torah. The paradox between the two portions of standing and going (Nitzavim, Vayelech) paralleling the different approaches taken to Jewish teaching and tradition.
- Ki Tavo – a retold story
The story of the slavery in Egypt; the first fruits the Children of Israel offered to the Temple and the connection between the two. The latter story contains omissions of the original account of the Exodus from Egypt.
- Ki Tetze – a bird in the hand
With 70 of the 613 commandments contained in this one Torah portion, it is the most commandment-rich portion. There are few commandments for which we know the reward, but this one we do: shooing away the mother bird before taking her young. The reward is long days. This commentary discusses the deeper meaning of that.
- Shoftim – pursuing justice
Moshe’s famous call of justice to Israel’s judges and how we ensure security on the land (via the moral society we establish). Sovereignty over territory, a just society and “running after justice with justice,” are discussed here.
- Re’eh – the choice before us
The idea of “seeing” in the parsha and the choice the Children of Israel encountered. Do they choose the path of blessing or the path of curse? They make this decision in a truly visual manner, in one of the most powerful psychodramas in the Bible.
- Ekev – manna for all seasons
The manna – the miraculous form of nourishment – is discussed here and the impact of this test on the Children of Israel. This is now recounted by Moshe, since it is similar to the test the people will encounter on entering the land of Israel.
- Vaetchanan – an unanswered prayer
Moshe’s plea to Hashem of going across into Israel. It has been suggested that this was more than just a request to actually enter, but a prayer that through his eyes the land of Israel should always look good.
- Devarim – a manner of speaking
The language of this portion indicates that Moshe’s speech is different from earlier portions. This is because the word “be’er” (expound) is used rather than “diber” (speak). This indicates that Moshe is addressing a new audience.
- Mattot-Masei – the wandering Jews
Moshe’s record of the precise list of all the places the Children of Israel encamped during their wilderness years and the commentators’ different explanations offered as to why this was necessary.
- Pinchas – lessons in leadership
When Moshe hands over the leadership reigns to his successor Joshua, he demonstrates three great qualities: concern for the people above all else, concern for his successor’s success and generosity in handing over the power.
- Balak – a people that dwells alone
Balaam’s prophecy that the people of Israel will be singled out for special treatment is likened to how Israeli diplomats live their lives.
- Chukat – sticks and stones
How Moshe strikes – instead of speaks – to the rock and Rabbi Isaac Bernays’ understanding of this, vis-à-vis two different moment in Jewish history.
- Korach – arguing for the sake of heaven
Understanding the two types of argument (one for the sake of Heaven and one that is destructive). The first one is exemplified by Hillel and Shammai. The second one is seen in this parsha and is the argument between Korach and Moshe that the Mishna describes as an example of a destructive disagreement.
- Shelach Lecha – I spy, with my little eye
An examination of the psychology behind the negative report of the 10 spies, drawing on the works of psychologist rabbi Avraham Twerski and ex-chief Rabbi to the UK, Jonathan Sacks.
- Beha’alotcha – the 7th book of Moses
An analysis of two verses in this portion that seem out of place due to the separation at the beginning and end via an unusual upside down form of the Hebrew letter nun. It has been suggested by the Talmud that it is these two verses which “comprise an entire Book of the Bible themselves.”
- Naso – the blessing, the blesser and the blessed
A look at the blessing parents give their children traditionally on a Friday night, via the role of the blesser, the blessing and the blessed.
- Bamidbar – counting people, making people count
Judaism’s attitude towards counting being that it is only permitted if there is a purpose.