The Space Torah


The Torah portion Toldot (Genesis 25:19 to 28:9) recounts the birth of Esau and Jacob, Jacob’s acquisition of the birthright, and the blessings bestowed upon him by his father Isaac. The portion consists of 106 verses, a number corresponding to the gematria of the word “עלו” which translates to “they have risen” (1).

Genesis 26:4
וְהִרְבֵּיתִי אֶת-זַרְעֲךָ, כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם, וְנָתַתִּי לְזַרְעֲךָ, אֵת כָּל-הָאֲרָצֹת הָאֵל; וְהִתְבָּרְכוּ בְזַרְעֲךָ, כֹּל גּוֹיֵי הָאָרֶץ.

I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; I will give your descendants all these lands, and by your descendants, all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves.

Jeffrey Hoffman’s (2) last space mission took place aboard the space shuttle Columbia(3). During this mission, he brought various Jewish items, including a spinning top and a small Sefer Torah. While in orbit, he read the book of Genesis. The documentary “Space Torah” (click), aired in 2023, recounts this significant event in his career. Concurrently with the documentary, a traveling exhibition, “The Space Torah Project,” dedicated to celebrating the Jewish legacy in space, toured Israel.

(1) According to Rabbi David Feinstein Zt”l, this alludes to the elevation of Isaac after his time in Gerar (Genesis 26:13), Jacob’s elevation through the purchase of the birthright (Genesis 25:33), and the blessings bestowed by his father (Genesis 27:27-29 and 28:1-4).
(2) Jeffrey Hoffman is an American astronaut born in 1944. He participated in five space missions with NASA, including spacewalks to repair the Hubble Space Telescope.
(3) The STS-75 mission took place from February 22 to March 9, 1996. That year, Purim fell on February 25.

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