Oxford Jewish Thought

Lectures, essays, questions & articles

by Rabbi Eli Brackman

Parsha and Manuscript: Toldot

MS. Canon. Or. 81 (1396) fol. 23 Toldot.pngIn the portion of Toldot, it discusses the birth of Jacob and Esau and aspects of their lives. The Torah opens with the verse:[1]


And these are the generations of Isaac the son of Abraham; Abraham begot Isaac. And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebecca the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Padan Aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, to himself for a wife. And Isaac prayed to the Lord opposite his wife because she was barren, and the Lord accepted his prayer, and Rebecca his wife conceived. And the children struggled within her, and she said, "If [it be] so, why am I [like] this?" And she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two kingdoms will separate from… Read More »

Patriarchs: Noahides or Israelites?

The book of Genesis discusses the life of the patriarchs and the tribes of Israel before the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai and entered into the covenant. What is however the status of the Jewish people before they received the Torah at Mount Sinai? Did they have a status of the Jewish people, different to being a Noahide, or were they merely Noahides but with extra traditions that they accepted upon themselves? In this talk we will explore this concept in details, as found in the works of the commentators and classical texts.


In the portion of Lech Lecha in the beginning of the life of Abraham as recorded in the Torah, it discusses how G-d told Abraham to travel with his wife, Sarai, nephew, Lot and the community… Read More »

Parsha and Manuscript - Vayera: Challenging G-d

MS. Canonici Or. 62 fol. 13 Vayera.jpgIn the portion of Vayera, the inhabitants of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are accused of being morally depraved and threatened with destruction, upon which Abraham challenges G-d not to destroy the righteous with the wicked and, furthermore, to save the wicked on behalf of the righteous.[1] It states:[2]


And the Lord said, “Since the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah has become great, and since their sin has become very grave, I will descend now and see, whether according to her cry, which has come to Me, they have done; I will wreak destruction upon them; and if not, I will know.”[3] The men went on from there to Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.[4] Abraham drew near (vayigash) and said, “Will Y… Read More »

Noah and Abraham: A righteous person in his age

Noah.jpgIn the portion of Noah, it discusses the corruption of the generation of Noah and the contrast with Noah himself who was righteous. It states:[1] ‘Now the earth was corrupt before G-d, and the earth became full of robbery, And G-d said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth has become full of robbery because of them, and behold I am destroying them from the earth.”’ Regarding Noah, however, it states:[2] ‘But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. This is the line of Noah. Noah was a righteous man; he was perfect in his age; Noah walked with G-d.’ Further it states:[3] ‘And the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, for it is you that I … Read More »

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