Torah Sparks

United Synagogue (USCJ) is proud and delighted to bring you Torah Sparks, with insights and learning materials on the Parasha (Torah portion) of the week. Torah Sparks is produced by the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem.

Each week there will be a Dvar Torah - a discussion on some aspect of the reading, by CY faculty, alumni and friends; a Vort - a short thought from Chasidic rebbes or other thinkers about some point in the text; and Table Talk - questions to stimulate discussion on the Parsha around the Shabbat table. Torah Sparks is available here on the Conservative Yeshiva's Shiurim Online Beit Midrash website, as well as by subscription to weekly graphical emails. Please select the Parasha you would like to see - it will display articles from each year. A printable PDF is linked at the end of each week's presentation.

Vered Hollander-Goldfarb

About Vered Hollander-Goldfarb

Vered Hollander-Goldfarb received her M.A. in Judaic Studies and Tanach from the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University and studied at Bar-Ilan University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. Before making aliyah, she taught at Ramaz School and Stern College in New York. She teaches Tanach and Medieval Commentators.

Vered Hollander-Goldfarb

Written with Rabbi Gail Diamond YM 5773 Selijot Trece Atributos FUENTES YM 5773 Selijot Trece Atributos ESHIUR (English version: Slichot: The 13 Attributes (Midot) – God Teaches Us how to Ask for Divine Forgivenes)

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Introduction To Elijah

It’s …ELIJAH! Welcome! Elijah is undoubtedly one of the most familiar biblical characters, but also one of the most enigmatic ones. We know him as a folklore figure that shows up at the moment of need, but how well does that match his biblical persona? Over the next classes we will explore the biblical narrator’s version […]

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All Around Abraham Welcome

We all know Abraham, but how much thought have we given to the people that surround him?  These secondary characters can be fascinating in their own right.  They also give us a vivid sense of the environment that Abraham functioned in, the challenges he faced, the events that he shaped and that shaped him. Who […]

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The Servant

The Servant Until now we have focused on people with their own agenda surrounding Abraham.  Now let us look at the person who is perhaps closest to Abraham himself:  His trusted servant, the butler. Part I – The Biblical Text His Name: We hear about Eliezer in 15:2.  Who is he?  Why does Abraham assume […]

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The Mishpucha (Family)

The Mishpucha (Family) As has been seen from the beginning of the human history in the Torah, the family unit is very significant.  We enter the Abraham narrative through his family.  Who were his forefathers?  Who were his immediate family?  And why is all of this so important?  If we assume that no one comes […]

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All Around Abraham

The Abraham narrative in Bereshit (Genesis) focuses, naturally, on Abraham. But around the father of the monotheistic faiths are several secondary characters, illuminating him and fascinating in their own right. Let’s take a look at the family that he leaves behind, the nephew that joins and leaves him, the wife that does not bear children and the wife and child he is forced to give up. We will consider the local political and cultic powers that he deals with. What does a close reading of the Tanakh tell us about these people? How do later traditions understand them?

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One of the most colorful biblical characters, the prophet Elijah burst on to the scene with a declaration of a drought – and disappears, leaving us to debate if it was God or Elijah that decreed the lack of rain. We will follow him up into Phoenicia (Lebanon) and down to the Negev. We will observe his relationships with people, whether ordinary or royal. We will discuss the moral dilemmas raised in the Biblical narrative. Finally, we will look at the place that Elijah has in Jewish tradition, and ask ourselves how he got there.

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Joseph – Oh Brother!

The story of Joseph, the beloved son and hated brother, the slave-turned-prisoner-turned second to the Pharaoh, is too complex to come down to simple answers. Many of us have studied it before, but each time we approach this narrative we discover something new. More important than the answers that we might arrive at in this course, is the dialogue that we have with the text. Take your time and enjoy the process.

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Megillat Esther

Palace intrigues, a decadent court, beautiful queens, and an advisor whose rise to prominence risks an entire nation. Who do you feel is the worst character of the Megilah? And how did Esther and Mordechai get their roles in this story?

Megilat Esther reads (at least in parts) as a chronicle of the Persian court, leaving us to wonder what it is doing in the Canon. During 4 sessions we will explore various aspects of Megilat Esther and try to expand our appreciation of this unlikely holy text. Studying the Megilah will also give us the opportunity to review some rabbinic texts, as well as other biblical texts that influenced the narrative of Esther, texts that the narrator assumed that we know and refer to.

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Recipe for an Empire

The recipe for success of a great king: A capital devoid of the tribal affiliations, and a religious center loyal to the royal family. Season with ambitions, emotions, and intrigues.

The course will study the creation of Jerusalem by David: The establishment of a religious center, the organization of a state, and some of the intrigues of the palace. Then we will watch the missteps of David’s heirs, the splitting of the empire and the rise of a new kingdom just north of Jerusalem. The fledging new kingdom will establish itself as a great power under Omri and Ahab (and Jezebel!), who created the independent capital city of Samaria. (Did they learn something from David?)

The course will focus on the relevant biblical texts from the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles. Whenever appropriate, we will discuss relevant Midrashim and archeological information.

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Temples and Temptations: King Solomon

The wisest of all men, the richest of all kings, and the monarch in whose kingdom people were always happy. The Temple he built was the grandest (but there were others, too) as was, perhaps, his love for women (1000 of them were his wives and concubines.) So why, as soon as he died, did this beautiful dream fall to pieced? Reading the text of the Tanakh, we will examine the myth and the reality of one of the most colorful monarchs in history, finding hints in the text to help us decipher this fascinating man and his reign

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(Some) Villains of Tanakh

These guys (and gals - they are well represented) can be bad, immoral, quarelsom, seductive, and (maybe) all around evil. Potifar's wife attempted to seduce Joseph, Delilah brought big Samson to his death, Menasseh King of Judah is single handedly responsible for its destruction, Datan and Aviram would have turned Moses in.

These and others are among the evil individuals of Tanakh, those whom we love to hate. But how bad were they? What motivated them? Is there such a things as a purely evil person? Through these characters and others we will explore some well known stories, as well as some obscure ones, from various corners of the Tanakh. We will explore both the biblical text and the rabbinic understanding of these characters. And since bad people are fun, (as long as they don't move in next door) there won't be a dull moment!

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