Arrogance or Love? – the Biblical Story of Joseph

Two years ago, my life-partner, co-author, and often co-teacher Rabbi Phyllis Berman and I wrote and Jewish Lights published  a reinterpretation of the biblical stories of Exodus and Wilderness: Freedom Journeys. (If you’d like to have this kind of biblical reinterpretation available to stir your own journeys toward freedom in the world – and/or you’d like to give its gift of freedom for Hanukkah or Christmas —  you can receive Freedom Journeys, with a personal insciption, by clicking to

Our book beckons toward freedom. Yet it begins with a story of enslavement, not liberation.  It begins with the story of Joseph, which we enter this week in reading the Torah.

The story of Joseph is a novel that takes up one-third of the Book of Genesis. There is a recurrent pattern in Joseph’s life: He depends on a powerful overlord in his life to lift him above others who feel they ought to be treated as his equals, and who are enraged by his arrogance.

  • The pattern begins when with his father’s help in favoring him. He rises above his brothers

A Jewish Perspective on Abrahamic Wisdoms: Jacob, Joshua, Jesus, the Talmud, & Mohammed

by Arthur Waskow

[This article is extracted from Rabbi Waskow's remarks to a Peace Gathering of Christians convoked in January 2009 by the Historic Peace Churches (Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren), which also invited a small number of Jews and Muslims to act as participant-observers and commentators. This transcript of his talk is appearing in the Friends Journal. Copyright © 2009 by Arthur Waskow.]

I begin with a renewed version of the blessing traditionally offered before learning Torah—sharing wisdom—together:

Blessed are You, the Breath of Life, the Inter-breathing Spirit of the universe, who breathes into us the wisdom to know that we become holy by breathing together, by shaping our breath into words, and by shaping our words so that they aim towards wisdom.

The Missing Daughters of Jacob

Rabbi Phyllis Berman and her smikha sisters, 12/27/2004



Breishit : In the beginning of the process of creating four women rabbis and a rabbinic pastor there were five women living in three continents ranging in age from 41 to 61.

One, a Sabra whose Orthodox Zionist parents, arriving in Israel from Hungary and Poland, met in a kibbutz and settled in Jerusalem, comes from a family with a documented rabbinic lineage of 32 generations through her Saba, and a similar one through her Savta;

The Breasted God

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

The Breasted God

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow*

ONE OF THE DEEP ISSUES that today bedevils the Jewish people, and the human race, is how to understand God.

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