Torah Studies
Finding Purpose

A challenging interactive lesson on the weekly Torah portion


October 17, 2013 Vayeira:

The Holiest Spot on Earth

The Akeda, the binding of Yitzchak, was a defining moment in Jewish time, and the Beis HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, was the most significant structure in Jewish space. What is the connection between the two? In this lesson we examine the spiritual significance of Mount Moriah in Jersusalem, the location of both the Beis HaMikdash and the Akeda.

October 24, 2013 Chayei Sarah:

The Hidden Miracles of Everyday Life

Before dispatching his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak, Avraham gave Eliezer a special blessing for success. Eliezer then prayed to G‑d that he should choose the right girl, and he immediately met Rivkah. What were the crucial elements in shaping the outcome of this, or any situation? What is the relationship between material results and a person’s individual efforts, his “good luck”, his blessings, his prayers, and “Divine Providence.”?

October 31, 2013 Toldot:

The Challenging Child

When most of us think about Esav, we imagine a wild, bloodthirsty and evil man who was the diametric opposite of his scholarly, mild-mannered twin brother, Yaakov. But Esav was raised in the same holy home, by the same divinely inspired parents as Yaakov, and was provided with the same G‑dly education and divine mission as his brother. Even more than Yaakov, Esav had something special in common with his father Yitzchak, a quality that was the source of Yitzchak’s unique love for his rebellious son.

November 7, 2013 Vayeitzei:

True Love

Yaakov labored for his father-in law-for seven years in order to marry Rachel, yet the Torah tells us that the seven years felt to him like only a few days. But if someone deeply loves and yearns for something, then every moment not having it should feel excruciatingly long. We will see how Yaakov’s love for Rachel serves as the Torah’s eternal model for the only kind of true love that there is: An essential, selfless love that focuses entirely on the needs and interests of one’s beloved, and not at all on one’s narcissistic desires or self-interest.

November 14, 2013 Vayishlach:

The Purpose of All Things

On the road to meet with Esav, Yaakov returns one night to retrieve some small jars that were left behind when his family decamped from their previous resting stop. Now alone, Yaakov engages in a cryptic struggle with a man who we learn is Esav’s angel. We will see from these events how Divine Providence and our consideration of purpose and value sometimes leads us to places of conflict and injury. We are able to fulfill our purpose in life only by understanding that there is meaning behind everything that happens to us, and by being mindful of the value of everything that is ours.

November 21, 2013 Vayeishev:

Mistaking Someone’s Purpose

One of the more fascinating yet perplexing episodes in the Torah is the story of how Yosef's brothers plotted to sell him into slavery. Yosef and each his brothers had very different but uniquely special spiritual gifts. The brothers’ collective mistake was that they did not understand that Yosef’s categorically higher spiritual stature was integral to the fulfillment of their own Divine service. We will show how this error in judgment led to all of their incorrect conclusions about their younger brother, and drove them to act against him. We will explore what lay behind their mistake, and emphasize that when we develop our humility and open ourselves to accepting the help of others we are helping both them and ourselves to actualize our G‑dly purposes in life.

November 28, 2013 Mikeitz:

Finding Purpose in Adversity

Facing starvation, the Egyptians plead with Yosef to sell grain to them, but he refuses to do so unless they first circumcise themselves. He later accuses his brothers of espionage and threatens them in an extremely harsh manner. What do these stories have in common, other than Yosef’s seeming cruelty? Hidden within the story of Joseph’s life as an Egyptian leader are messages related to his purpose as a Jewish leader, his love of his brothers, and his understanding of their collective purpose as ancestors of the twelve tribes and of the Jewish people today.

December 5, 2013 Vayigash:

Yosef and his Father

We often describe the saga of Yosef in Egypt as the story of “Yosef and His Brothers.” But the Torah also tells the story of Yosef and his father: of a special love and identification that remained with them throughout their lifetimes. In this week’s class, we will examine the sources of their closeness, and see what lessons their relationship may provide for the way we relate to our own parents and children.

December 12, 2013 Vayechi:

The Purpose of Tzadikim

Sensing that his death was approaching, Yaakov summoned Yosef to his bedside and asked him to take an oath that he would bury him in the cave of Machpailah, in Hevron. Yaakov then confides that his beloved wife Rachel, Yosef’s mother, “died on the road” and that he buried her where she died. The burial place of Rachel, knows as Kever Rachel, remains a focal point of Jewish history thousands of years later. Jews from around the world gather at Rachel’s Tomb to pray to G‑d, and ask for Rachel’s assistance in their daily lives. We will see how the ongoing intercession by a tzaddik in our daily lives, long after their natural lifetimes, is embedded in the words of the Torah and our Sages. This assistance is a core part of every tzadik's eternal purpose, part of which is to help each of us find our own G‑dly purpose and direction in life