Breishit (Genesis)The Book of Genesis is concerned with beginnings: the creation of the world and the origin of humanity. It quickly shifts its focus from universal history to the history of the Jewish people beginning in chapter 12, with the introduction of Abraham, the first Jew. The remainder of the book focuses on the lives of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Rachel and Leah, and Joseph. The book ends with the entire family of Jacob descending into Egypt. There are fifty chapters, divided into twelve parashiyot. The parashiyot in Breishit are: Breishit, Noah, Lech Lecha, VaYera, Chaye Sarah, Toldot, VaYetze, VaYishlach, VaYeshev, Miketz, VaYigash and VaYechi.


VaYigash: The dynamic tension of different cultures can be a source of great creativity, or painful polarization.

Picking up directly from where last week's portion ends, Benjamin stands before Joseph accused of the theft of a chalice. In a very moving plea on behalf of his youngest brother, Judah offers himself in place of Benjamin, so that Jacob should not be bereft of both of his two youngest sons, the only sons of his beloved Rachel. Moved by this act of selflessness, Joseph clears the room and emotionally reveals himself to his brothers. He alleviates their guilt over their past actions by revealing God's hand in all that has happened. Joseph arranges for the entire family to be reunited under his protection in Egypt. The brothers are provided with generous provisions and sent back to Canaan to tell Jacob about Joseph. Jacob decides he must go see his lost son immediately, and he and his entire family, a total of 70 people. along with all their livestock and possessions, go down to Egypt, where Jacob and Joseph are reunited after 22 years. Jacob and some of his sons are introduced to Pharaoh, who settles the family in the Egyptian region of Goshen. The portion concludes with a review of the story of Joseph's experience in Egypt.

Copyright: Kolel, The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning.

These summaries and introductions are used with permission of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, Canada. Kolel is a dynamic, pluralistic, egalitarian institution where men and women engage in Jewish learning which values both traditional and liberal interpretations. Kolel is a gateway into a richer expression of Judaism for each individual, wherever their journey of Jewish discovery may take them.

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