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Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the website.  We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given.  For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website.  If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the website.

Was Abraham the First Feminist?

Living in the 21st century, we have cause to celebrate the great advances that have been made in the past 100 years in granting women rights and freedoms -- freedoms that are unprecedented in all of recorded history.

And yet, despite the real advances in women’s rights, when I view the image of womanhood as it is portrayed in today’s media, I can’t help but cringe. What message is being sent about femininity in a society where a woman’s physical attributes are emphasized as being of prime (or sole) importance?

To me, feminism means that, along with certain freedoms, a woman is treated as more than a physical being. It means that she is seen as a multidimensional individual who has spiritual, intellectual and emotional strengths (and needs) which are recognized, developed and expressed.

Read more: Was Abraham the First Feminist?

The Positive Negative

This week's Torah reading open with a description of the hero of the parshah:

"...Noah, a righteous man, perfect was he in his generations; Noah walked with G‑d"

The sages of the Talmud wonder about the phrase "in his generations." What is the Torah telling us by adding these seemingly superfluous words? Rashi, in his commentary on the verse, sums up their discussion as follows:

Among the sages, there are those who interpret this as praise of Noah: If he was righteous in his generation, certainly he would have been even more righteous had he lived in a generation of righteous people.

Others interpret it negatively: In relation to his wicked generation he was righteous, but had he been in Abraham's generation he would not have amounted to anything.

But it is the sages of the Talmud who instruct us to "judge every man to the side of merit," and go so far as to declare that "the Torah is loath to speak negatively even of a non-kosher animal." If the clause "in his generations" can be understood both ways, why propose a negative interpretation?

Because there are two important lessons which this interpretation imparts to us. On the one hand, it teaches us that Noah's achievements are not just for the perfectly righteous. Also a flawed individual can successfully resist a negative environment, and even build the entire world anew -- as did Noah.

On the other hand, it also teaches us how Noah should not be emulated. Perhaps Noah should not be faulted for failing to save his generation, or for the other shortcomings apparent in the Torah's account, limited as he was by the circumstances of "his generations"; but should this be our attitude when we are constrained by our circumstances? This is the lesson of the Sages' "negative interpretation" of Noah: that we should never satisfy ourselves with the excuse that "this is world in which we live," but persist in our efforts to redeem it.

So in the final analysis, it is the negative interpretation that is the true credit to Noah. Had we only been presented with the positive perspective on Noah, leading us to suffice with his kind of righteousness, this would actually amplify his failings. But when the Torah's criticism of Noah becomes a source of positive instruction to us, Noah's failings are redeemed as a source of virtue.

Sukkot Spanning the Generations

This article was taken from the website.  It was written by Menachem Posner.  We usually do not copy the images from the Chabad website, however, since this article is about two specific historical figures, I thought it appropriate to use the images as well.  I am hoping that by providing the appropriate attribution, that we will not get in trouble for using this article and images.


Rabbi Peretz Mochkin.
Rabbi Peretz Mochkin.

The year was 1927. The place was Simferopol, southern Ukraine, then part of the USSR. Rabbi Peretz Mochkin was a marked man. As a devoted follower of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, active in the Chabad’s underground network of Jewish institutions, he lived his days in constant fear of the secret police and their proxies.

Just before the joyous holiday of Sukkot, Rabbi Peretz fell ill with typhus and felt that his days were numbered. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. His old friend, Yankel, a rabbi from the town of Zhuravitz, had made the 1,200-kilometer journey to visit and bring the Mochkin family some much-needed holiday cheer. Rabbi Peretz’s daughter, Guta Schapiro, later would recall to her grandchildren that “The sukkah was very small and very poorly built – we did not want the KGB to know about it – and Rabbi Yankel was a large man, so when he sat in the sukkah with my father, there was no room for anyone else.”

Rabbi Yaakov Zecharia (Yankel) Maskalik. This photo was taken between his final arrest and subsequent execution by the Soviets.
Rabbi Yaakov Zecharia (Yankel) Maskalik. This photo was taken between his final arrest and subsequent execution by the Soviets.

The men began singing “A Sukaleh a Kleinier,” a Yiddish folk song about a Jewish family in a rickety sukkah. As winds howl outside, the father in the song reassures his family that the holiday candles will not blow out and the sukkah will remain standing. As the two men sat and sang, and the makeshift sukkah swayed back and forth with their every movement, the children knew in their hearts that no one – not even Stalin – would extinguish the flame of Judaism.

Rabbi Peretz eventually recovered and escaped the Soviet Union in 1947. Rabbi Yankel had been arrested in 1937 by the KGB and shot for his “counterrevolutionary” activities.

By a twist of Divine humor, Rabbi Yankel’s great-granddaughter, Chanie Galperin, married Rabbi Peretz’s great-grandson, Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff. The Russian communists are long gone, but the rabbis’ lineage is going strong.

Nearly 90 years later, Rabbi Chaim and Chanie Lazaroff, co-directors of Chabad of Uptown have made it a tradition to host 100 people in their gargantuan sukkah every year on the first night of Sukkot as a tribute to their forebears and the triumph of the Jewish spirit.

“It’s a beautiful evening of sing­ing, lots of delicious food, and a heartwarming celebration of unity, with so many Jews packed into one sukkah together,” said Rabbi Chaim Lazaroff.

In our thoughts


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Kiddush Club

Date: Apr 4 '15
Sponsor: Katalin Fenyvesi
In memory of beloved husband, George Fenyvesi (AH)

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