Va’etchanan 5782-2022

“Why the Sh’ma?”
(updated and revised from Va’etchanan 5763-2003)
The Sh'ma prayer is the central prayer that speaks of the acceptance of the dominion of G-d upon us. Two major questions come immediately to mind. Why do our rabbis speak of this text, calling it the acceptance of the "yoke of heaven," a phrase that is rather intimidating and daunting? Another significant troublesome question is the nature of the first line of the Shema. Why are we told to "love" the L-rd, with all our hearts, soul, and might? Shouldn't we be told to "believe" in the L-rd, our G-d, with all our heart, souls, and might?

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Devarim 5782-2022

“The Gentle Reproof”
(updated and revised from Devarim 5763-2003)

The book of Devarim records the words that were spoken by Moses in the last five weeks of his life, given as a last will and testament to his beloved people. In this parasha, Moses provides an example of how reproof should be given by alluding to the people indirectly, rather than announcing the exact sins that were committed. We may indeed learn from Moses how to give effective reproof with great gentleness.

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0 Comments15 Minutes

Matot-Masei 5782-2022

“The Massacre of the Midianites: Does Judaism Countenance Genocide?”
(Updated and revised from Matot-Masei 5763-2003)

In parashat Matot, G-d tells Moses to mobilize the army of Israel and exact vengeance on the Midianites. The rabbis of old are troubled by this call. They explain that “genocide” was never countenanced by Jewish law. In fact, it is mandated to always first sue the enemy for peace and give them opportunity to flee if they refused to live in a civilized manner and in peace. Nevertheless, Jewish tradition teaches that one should not be overly compassionate, otherwise one may wind up being cruel at a time when compassion is appropriate.

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Pinchas 5782-2022

“Can a Perfect G-d Sin?”
(Updated and revised from Pinchas 5763-2003)

In the long list of sacrifices that appears in parashat Pinchas, we learn of the sin offering that is brought on Rosh Chodesh, the new moon sacrifice. In Numbers 28:15, the Torah instructs the priest to bring one he-goat "for a sin offering unto the L-rd." However, the Hebrew “l’cha’taht la’Hashem” really means “a sin offering for G-d.” The Talmud in Chullin 60b, suggests that each month a sin offering is brought for G-d as atonement for G-d's “sin” of reducing the size of the moon. There is much to learn from G-d’s “sin offering.”

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0 Comments8 Minutes

Balak 5782-2022

“How Goodly Are Your Tents O’ Jacob”
(updated and revised from Balak 5764-2004)

Targum Jonathan, the Aramaic translation of the Torah, states that Balaam saw the schools of the Jewish people and was moved to say: "How goodly are your tents O' Jacob?" The "number one" priority in Jewish life is to ensure that committed Jews remain committed. There is no better way of ensuring that commitment, than by providing quality intensive Jewish education for our children. If we fail to do so, then our Jewish future is in jeopardy.

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0 Comments16 Minutes

Chukat 5782-2022

“A Tribute to Miriam, Our Sister”
(updated and revised from Chukat 5764-2004)

In parashat Chukat, we are informed of the death of Miriam. Who was Miriam, and why was she so special? From the scriptural texts and the Midrashic literature, we learn that, from the time Miriam was barely a child, she was already changing the course of Jewish history with her exceptional leadership abilities and wisdom.

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Korach 5782-2022

“Korach’s Rebellion: Why is the Jewish Community Losing So Many of its Best and Brightest?”
(updated and revised from Korach 5763-2003)

According to rabbinic tradition, Korach was a great Torah scholar who went astray because of jealousy. But Korach was only the first of many great Jewish minds and personages who walked away from Jewish tradition. Perhaps the story of Korach can help clarify for us some of the root causes of Jewish apostasy.

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Shelach 5782-2022

“Achieving Immortality”
(updated and revised from Shelach 5763-2003)

Immediately after being informed that they will not enter the land of Israel, G-d tells Moses to instruct the people that upon entering the Promised Land they are to bring sacrifices with special wheat, oil and wine offerings. It seems rather cruel of G-d to rub salt into the wounds of the people by giving them instructions that they will never be capable of fulfilling. Perhaps the Torah is teaching these very same individuals that they can achieve immortality. While the Al-mighty informs the generation of the wilderness that they will perish, they learn that they will live on through their children who will be loyal to the faith-system of Israel and will joyously celebrate and sacrifice in the land of Israel.

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0 Comments7 Minutes

B’ha’a’lot’cha 5782-2022

“The Message of the Manna”
(updated and revised from B’ha’a’lot’cha 5763-2003)

The Manna is the food from heaven that sustained the Israelites for forty years as they wandered in the wilderness. Manna, in effect, represents the heavenly means of support that is provided to each household. The Malbim, Rabbi Meir Yehudah Leibush, cites seven important lessons to be gleaned from Manna. Ultimately, the lesson is, that we must be the masters of our labors and our careers and not allow them to master us.

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Naso 5782-2022

“The Hypocrite as Exemplar”
(updated and revised from Naso 5763-2003)

Why is the Torah portion concerning the person who fails to fulfill his religious obligation juxtaposed with the portion of the woman who is suspected of being unfaithful to her husband? From this unusual textual positioning we learn much about human nature. Providing a favorable example is far more impressive and effective than preaching.

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Bamidbar 5782-2022

“The Role of the Levites, and the Service of Yeshiva Students in the Israeli Army.”
(updated and revised from Bamidbar 5763-2003)

The Tribe of Levi was not counted along with the men of the other tribes, since the Levites did not serve in the army of Israel. The Levites, instead, served in the army of G-d. The role of the ancient Levites seems to justify the exemption of yeshiva students from the Israeli army. Should this ancient exemption influence the contemporary laws practiced in Israel today?

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0 Comments11 Minutes

Bechukotai 5782-2022

“Ma’aser Shay’nee--The Second Tithe”
(updated and revised from Bechukotai 5763-2003)

From their earliest days of nationhood, the Jewish people understood that Jewish education was to be the peoples' foremost concern and must be their primary charitable priority. The donations of Ma’aser Shay’nee, the Second Tithe, were to be used or redeemed in Jerusalem, the spiritual center and educational hub of Israel—thus affirming the primacy of Jewish education.

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Behar 5782-2022

“Understanding Hebrew and Canaanite Servitude”
(updated and revised from Behar 5763-2003

Parashat Behar presents two most perplexing and challenging statutes: Hebrew and Canaanite servitude. What seems on the surface to be two very difficult and primitive concepts are, in reality, rather enlightened, and there is much that contemporary society can learn from them.

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Emor 5782-2022

“Priests and Death: An Unusual Relationship”
(updated and revised from Emor 5765-2005)

In parashat Emor, the commentators explain why a lay priest may contaminate himself upon the death of his closest seven relatives, but may not be defiled for the death of strangers. Through the laws of death, the Torah teaches the Jewish people the infinite value of life.

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Kedoshim 5782-2022

“Giving Proper Reproof”
(updated and revised from Kedoshim 5763-2003)

Judaism maintains that if one has a justified complaint against another it is preferable to state it directly rather than to brood over it. However, giving proper reproof is an art, in and of itself. The great Chazon Ish declared that since we no longer know how to give proper reproof, it is preferable not to offer reproof.

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Acharei Mot 5782-2022

“The Jewish Method of Achieving Moral Perfection”
(Updated and revised from Acharei Mot 5763-2003)

In parashat Acharei Mot, G-d exhorts the Jewish people to observe His decrees and His laws in order to live a sanctified life, a life of dignity and a life of meaning. But how does one live an ethical and moral life in a world that seems to be constantly drawing us away from good? Judaism's educational methodology through ritual training has proven to be the most effective means of educating large numbers of people over long periods of time to ethical and moral living.

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Passover II 5782-2022

“Counting the Omer”
(Revised and updated from Passover II 5768-2008)

The period of the counting of the Omer commences on the second night of Passover. In ancient Temple times, it was on the second day of Passover that the barley offering was brought, allowing the use and consumption of the newly harvested crop. Today, the Omer period is an ambivalent period on the Jewish calendar. Although it is a period of semi-mourning, it is also a period of significant optimism, when Jews look forward toward redemption and revelation, just as the Exodus led the ancient Hebrews to Mount Sinai and the receiving of the Torah.

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Metzorah 5782-2022

The Nidah--Affirming the Infinite Value of Human Life”
(updated and revised from Metzorah 5763-2003)

The laws of the menstruant woman are extremely complicated and are frequently misinterpreted and misunderstood. The Nidah has nothing to do with impurity. To the contrary, the rituals of The Nidahserve as an affirmation of life, underscoring the basic Jewish tenet that the sanctity of human life is the bottom line of all of Judaism.

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0 Comments7 Minutes

Tazria 5782-2022  

According to Jewish tradition, the primary cause of the biblical affliction Tzaraat, is L’shon haRah, speaking evil or slanderously of others. In ancient times, when one would speak evil of another person, a rash or infection would appear on the possessions or on the body of the perpetrator. On the surface, the assertion that one can develop a hideous skin rash from speaking evil seems quite preposterous. Yet, there are many precedents in life, science, and medicine, confirming such occurrences.

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Shemini 5782-2022

“With the L-rd as Our Partner”
(Updated and revised from Shemini 5764-2004)

On the final day of the ceremony marking the consecration of Aaron and his sons, Moses and Aaron bless the people. This blessing expresses the hope that our human efforts, combined with Divine intervention, will be successful, and that we will unite with G-d in a partnership under the banner of a common purpose.

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0 Comments7 Minutes

Tzav 5782-2022

“What We Learn from the Jewish ‘Caste System’”
(Updated and revised from Tzav 5763-2003)

How does Judaism justify its seemingly discriminatory communal structure of Kohanim-Priests, Leviim-Levites and Israelites?

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Vayikra 5782-2022

“Insights for the Contemporary Soul from Ancient ‘Primitive’ Rituals”
(Updated and revised from Vayikra 5764-2004)

As we begin Vayikra, the book of the Torah pertaining to the priestly service and the Temple sacrifices, we see how relevant these ancient laws are to our lives, even in contemporary times. The mandatory sacrifice brought after an unintentional sin, demonstrates that the root to repentance is awakening from apathy.

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0 Comments7 Minutes

Pekudei 5782-2022

“The Lesson of the Basin: ‘Don’t Judge a Basin by its Cooper’”
(updated and revised from Pekudei 5763-2003)

According to tradition, the basin that contained the sacred water in the Tabernacle was made of the bronze mirrors that the Israelite women used in Egypt to seduce their husbands who had separated from them, and who were unwilling to produce children who might be murdered by the Egyptians. Considering the mirrors to be objects of vanity, Moses was reluctant to accept the bronze from the mirrors. G-d responds, that the mirrors are far dearer to Him than anything else.

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Vayakhel 5782-2022

“Defining True Generosity”
(updated and revised from Vayakhel 5763-2003)

Although it is commonly thought that generosity is simply giving of one's wherewithal to help another, Judaism defines true generosity as giving with a full and willing heart. It is the willing heart that determines true and genuine generosity.

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0 Comments6 Minutes

Kee Tisah 5782-2022

“Limitless Leadership”
(Updated and revised from Kee Tisah 5764-2004)

After the People of Israel are unfaithful to G-d and worship the Golden Calf at the foot of Mount Saini, Moses, the paradigmatic selfless leader, stands up for his people and demands that they be forgiven. His love for Israel is total and unswerving, even to the point of making the ultimate sacrifice on their behalf. As a doting “shepherd” concerned for the needs of his flock, Moses cares for this stiff-necked nation that was recently introduced to freedom.

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0 Comments10 Minutes

Tetzaveh 5782-2022

“The Primacy of Jewish Education”
(updated and revised from Tetzaveh 5763-2003)

In contrast to the voluntary contributions that were made to the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the donation of pure olive oil for the candelabra (Menorah) was obligatory. The rabbis say that the light of the candelabra represents wisdom and Jewish education. When it comes to the light of Jewish education, donors have no choice. The People of Israel are expected to keep the Menorah, the light of wisdom, of holiness and of Jewish education burning brightly!

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0 Comments12 Minutes

Terumah 5782-2022

“Being Transported by Torah”
(updated and revised from Terumah 5764-2004)

Within the instructions regarding the fashioning of vessels of the Tabernacle, a timeless lesson regarding the Torah is to be found. Since the Torah is always to be portable, Jews have been able to bring it with them no matter where they journeyed. Yet, any notion that Jews have about having sustained the Torah throughout the years, is delusional. It is the Torah that supports those who cling to it.

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0 Comments7 Minutes

Mishpatim 5782-2022

“Justice! Justice!”
(updated and revised from Mishpatim 5763-2003)

The Torah introduces revolutionary ideas in its code of Jewish civil and criminal jurisprudence. Among these concepts is the prohibition against double jeopardy, the prohibition against favoring a defendant who is wealthy or poor, good or evil. Judgment must be rendered on no other factors than the actual merits of the legal case.

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Yitro 5782-2022

“Proving” G-d’s Existence"
(updated and revised from Yitro 5763-2003)

While we like to speak of "proof" of G-d's existence, Judaism does not really encourage this course of intellectual exercise, simply because the "finite" human mind cannot possibly comprehend the "Infinite." But, while there may not be any "ultimate" proof of G-d's existence, there are surely many, many indications and abundant evidence. Indeed, a most persuasive case, from a variety of disciplines, can be made for G-d's existence.

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0 Comments12 Minutes

B’shalach 5782-2022

“Bringing G-d Home”
(updated and revised from B’shalach 5763-2003)

The Song of Moses crossing the Red Sea contains the well-known verse: "This is my G-d and I will praise Him, G-d of my fathers and I will exalt Him." If G-d is only the G-d of our fathers, the only thing we can do is put Him up on a pedestal and exalt Him. However, if we make G-d our G-d, we can bring Him home! We bring G-d home by building a personal relationship with G-d through study and reflection.

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0 Comments10 Minutes