Wednesday, December 2, 2015

World of the Sages Fall 5776

World of the Sages
1.       Was Noah called a “Tzadddik” without qualification? Explain
2.       How were the comments of Rashi regarding Noah “asymmetrical”?
3.       How did Rashi’s comments compare to the sources he was gleaning from?
4.       Which biblical character did Rashi compare Noah to?
5.       Which biblical characters did the Midrash compare Noah to? Why?
6.       Where did Noah and Avraham “overlap”? what happened?
7.       What would indicate that Noah suffered from post-traumatic stress and depression?
8.       What does the Zohar call Noah?
and more…
1.       How old was Avraham when God told him to leave his birthplace? How old was he when he actually left?
2.       What emerged when we compared the text describing Avraham leaving Haran with his leaving to perform the akaida (the binding)
3.       How old was Avraham at the brit bein habitarim (covenant of the pieces)?
4.       How long did God say at the brit bein habitarim (covenant of the pieces) did God say the “estrangement and slavery” last?
5.       How long did the “estrangement and slavery” last according to the narrative in the book of Exodus (Shnot)?
6.       How did Rashi reconcile the numbers 400 and 430?
7.       Does the Torah ever say that God saved Avraham from the furnace? Explain
8.       What two things did Terach do which may have had a major impact on his son’s religious outlook?
9.       Which nascent philosophical arguments can you discern from the midrashim, which describe Avraham’s iconoclasm?
1.       When the “Akaida” (Binding) is introduced the Torah writes “and after these things” which things? (2 possibilities)
2.       What is the connection between ethics and monotheism?
3.       Why would killing his son have been difficult for Avraham (4 reasons)?
4.       In which even in Avraham’s life is the Akaida foreshadowed (2 examples – one in Midrash, and one in the Torah text)
5.       What about the dialogue between Avraham and Yitzchak indicates tenderness?
6.       Whose idea was the actual tying (in the Akaida)? Why?
7.       What does the angel say to Avraham that he now knows about him?
8.       How does the episode with Avimelech shed light on the Akaida story?
9.       What does Avimelech say which indicates that he was a “moral relativist”?

Chaya Sara
1.       Were Avraham and Sarah spiritual equals?
2.       Who claimed that Avraham and Sarah were not spiritual equals?
3.       Why did Hagar think she was superior? Who disagreed?
4.       What were the origins of Hagar – from a textual perspective?
5.       What were the origins of Hagar – from a midrashic perspective?
6.       According to the Midrash – to whom should we be comparing Hagar?
7.       What was special about the tent of Sarah?
8.       At which point of Avraham’s life did he approximate one aspect of the tent of Sarah?
9.       What is the earliest reference which could be made for the spiritual equality of Avraham and Sara?
10.   What unified Sarah’s tent and Avraham’s sojourn to perform the akaida? What can we learn from this?

Parshat Vayishlach (and some Toldot and Vayetze)
1.       In what way was the Yitzchal/Rivka family dysfunctional?
2.       When Rivka was troubled about her pregnancy – in what way did God provide “too much information”?
3.       How can we tell from Yitzchak’s intended blessings what he thought the relationship between Yakov and Esav SHOULD be?
4.       When Esav asked for food – how did Yakov then know that his mother was right? how did he respond?
5.       When Yakov dreamed of the ladder – what did God say? What did God not say?
6.       When Yakov came back to Israel – what was he afraid of?
7.       Who was the person that Yakov “wrestled” with? How is the adversary described by the Torah? Rashi?
8.       Why did Esav not harm Yakov when they finally met? What did Esav see? Who had had previously seen this?
9.       What date was the meeting between Yakov and Esav according to the Zohar? How does the Zohar know this?
10.   How is the conflict of Yakov resolved? What does this have to do with Sukkot?

1.       What does it mean that Yakov wished to “live in tranquility”?
2.       Which brother suggested to kill Yosef?
3.       Which brother suggested to let Yosef die?
4.       Which brother suggested to sell Yosef?
5.       What “sign from heaven” convinced Yehudah that he should get rid of Yosef?
6.       How did the brothers inform Yakov of Yosef’s death?
7.       Which thematic issues link the chapter describing the sale of Yosef (37) and the chapter with Yehuda’s “fall” (38)?
8.       How should Yehuda have responded to his son’s death?
9.       What does the Midrash say God was “doing” during the sale of Yosef?
10.   How would you compare Yosef and Tamar with Yosef and Mrs. Potifar?
11.   Why does messaich come from Yehudah and not Yosef?

1.       What was the initial plan which Yosef devised? What did he hope would happen when his brothers arrived
2.       What was Yosef’s “plan b”?
3.       What did Yosef want his brothers to respond when he accused them of being spies? What did they in fact respond?
4.       Why did Yosef put his brothers in prison?
5.       What did Yosef wish to imply when he put the money in their bags?
6.       What was the emotional significance of having their bags searched? When did this happen before?
7.       In what way was the negotiations between Yosef and the brothers counter intuitive?
8.       Why did the brothers say they deserve to be enslaved?
9.       In what way did Yosef provide the brothers with an excuse if they wanted to abandon Binyamin and leave?
10.   What was the purpose of the entire charade which Yosef performed?
11.   What was “plan c”?

Parashat Vayigash
12.   What is the overarching theme of the book of Bereishit (Genesis)?
13.   In what way is the end of Bereishit a happy ending?
14.   How did Yosef reveal himself to his brothers?(which precise words did he use?)
15.   How did the brothers understand Yosef’s when he revealed himself? Bring textual proof
16.   How did the rabbis in the Midrash understand Yosef’s when he revealed himself?

Parashat Vayehi
17.   What scared Yakov on his death bed?
18.   Who is the “klipah”(counterfeit) of Avraham? In what way?
19.   Who is the “klipah”(counterfeit) of Yitzchak? In what way?
20.   What did the sons (brothers) do to relive Yakov’s fear?
21.   When we say Shema – who is the “Yisrael” we refer to?
22.   Why do we cover our eyes when we say Shema?

23.   How did the sister of Moshe save his life?
24.   How does the behavior of Miriam contrast with the behavior of siblings in Bereishit?
25.   What did the daughter of Paroh name Moshe? Why?
26.   When paroh’s daughter offered to pay Yocheved – in what way was this a hint of the future redemption?
27.   When Moshe left the palace- what was he looking for? How did it indicate his mother succeeded?
28.   How did Moshe impact his adopted mother?
29.   Which “Jewish” behavior did the Jews retain?
30.   In what sense was Moshe an unexpected and “undeserving “ savior? What does this teach us?
31.   How would the Rambam explain the loss of “free will” of Paroh?
32.   How would the Seforno explain the loss of “free will” of Paroh?
33.   How does the devolution of the crocodile to serpent impact the discussion on Paroh’s free will?

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