Yitro 5783-2023

“Why G-d Can Not Share the Limelight.”
(updated and revised from Yitro 5764-2004)

G-d chose to speak directly to the People of Israel when He pronounced the first two statements of the Ten Commandments. These two directives set a path of exclusive monotheistic worship for the Jewish people. These words also established a foundation of moral absolutes in the world, as well as a demand for the practice of ethical behavior expected of all humanity, who are created in G-d's image.

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B’shalach 5783-2023

“The Malbim Teaches the Lessons of the Manna”
(updated and revised from B’shalach 5764-2004)

From the life of the Malbim, the great 19th century Torah commentator, as well as from his brilliant and intricate explication of the "manna," the heavenly bread, that the Jewish people were given to eat in the wilderness, we find reminders of G-d's constant support. Sustenance is always sent from the Al-mighty, whether it overtly rains down from heaven as it did for the ancient Israelites, or appears in a more subtle manner.

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0 Comments11 Minutes

Bo 5783-2023

“The Subtle Secrets of the 10 Plagues”
(updated and revised from Bo 5763-2003)

Nothing in the Torah is arbitrary. Everything is well thought out and is there for a purpose. The Divine accounting system often operates on the basis of midah kineged midah, that no act is ever unaccounted for, no good deed is ever uncompensated, and no evil deed ever goes unpunished. A careful study of the Ten Plagues with which the Egyptians were struck, uncovers an purposeful sense of balance, underscoring how the plagues were direct retribution for specific acts of persecution that the Egyptians visited upon the Israelite slaves.

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Va’eira 5783-2023

“The Exodus--A ‘Primitive’ Story with Revolutionary Implications”
(updated and revised from Va’eira 5763-2002)

Jewish history is often perceived, with great justification, as one unending series of tragedies, pogroms, expulsions, inquisitions, crusades, destructions, exiles, and ultimately--holocausts. Even a cursory review of the Jewish calendar confirms this dark perspective. In truth, this perception is incorrect. Jewish history is really one unending series of moral, educational, and ethical triumphs and victories, but we fail to perceive it. We often fail to recognize the untold revolutionary contributions that Judaism has made to humanity. When we study the traditions of Judaism in depth, particularly the traditions of Passover, we see that we have much of which to be proud. We must let the world know about it.

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0 Comments12 Minutes

Shemot 5783-2023

“The Making of a Concerned Jewish Leader”
(updated and revised from Shemot 5763-2002)

Who is the child Moses, and how does he merit to become the “savior” of Israel? Both the biblical texts and the Midrashic elaborations give us hints to help us understand how a child who is raised in Pharaoh's court, becomes such a devoted and dynamic Jewish leader. The fact that he is raised by his biological mother, Yocheved, until he is weaned, is undoubtedly a critical factor. Although tradition is purposely ambiguous, Moses not only receives his rearing from his mother and his sister as a young child, but also from Bitya, the daughter of Pharaoh, who may very well be the secret hero in Moses' life, and consequently, a key player in the destiny of the Jewish people.

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Vayechi 5783-2022

“How Important is Timing?”
(updated and revised from Vayechi 5763-2002)

When blessing his children, Jacob says of Reuben that he has all the natural advantages of the firstborn child in rank and in power. Jacob then retreats suddenly, declaring that Reuben is impetuous like water and therefore cannot be the foremost. As we study the actions, deeds and words of Reuben, we find a good person--good-hearted and well-intentioned. Reuben is always ready to do the right thing. Unfortunately, his timing is off, intending to do the right thing, but, unfortunately, at the wrong time. As important as actions and words are, timing is just as critical.

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Vayigash 5783-2022

“Joseph Reveals Himself to His Brothers:
The Triumph of Jewish Identity”
(updated and revised from Vayigash 5763-2002)

Although Joseph remains thoroughly committed to G-d and to monotheism, he seems to be rather ambivalent about his own "Jewish identity." As soon as Joseph is summoned to Pharaoh, he shaves and changes his clothes. After he successfully interprets Pharaoh's dreams, he is dressed in garments of fine linen and has a gold chain placed around his neck. Pharaoh then gives him an Egyptian name, Tzofnat Panayach, and an Egyptian wife, Osnat, the daughter of Potiphera, the High Priest of On. Joseph even gives his children names that are critical of his previous life in Canaan and extol life in Egypt. In the end, however, Joseph dramatically re-embraces his identity--a true triumph of Joseph's inner spirit.

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Mikeitz 5783-2022

“In Those Days, in These Times”
(updated and revised from Mikeitz 5763-2002)

The story of Joseph may be seen as the saga of an assimilator, struggling with his identity, very much paralleling the struggle of the Traditionalists and the Hellenists in the 2nd Century B.C.E. While it appears to be an ancient story with an ancient theme, we contemporaries often fail to acknowledge the subtle assimilation that is taking place today as well. This powerful force is exacting a heavy toll on our people today, even among some of the most committed Jews. The spiritual battle of Chanukah continues today.

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Vayeishev 5783-2022

“The Two Sides of Joseph”
(updated and revised from Vayeishev 5764-2003)

Joseph, the child that Rachel bears after many years of barrenness, is an answer to her prayers. But Joseph soon becomes a thorn in the side of his brothers. How does a child who is both adored by his parents and loathed by his siblings, develop? In this case, he becomes a Master of Dreams, a father of two tribes, and viceroy of the mightiest empire of the ancient world.

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Vayishlach 5783-2022

“We Can Forgive the Arabs for Killing Our Children...”
(updated and revised from Vayishlach 5763-2002)

As we delve deeper into the study of Torah, we often find that seemingly insignificant verses in the Torah contain revolutionary insights about life. In 1972, Golda Meir made a widely acclaimed statement: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but we cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.” Who would ever imagine that our commentaries find the possible original source of this message in parashat Vayishlach?

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Vayeitzei 5783-2022

“The Transformation of Jacob”
(updated and revised from Vayeitzei 5763-2002)

At first glance, Jacob appears to be a congenital deceiver. He takes the birthright from his brother then steals Esau's blessing. Even Jacob’s father, Isaac describes the taking of the blessing by Jacob as an act of deception. Jacob however undergoes a transformation in which he realizes that evil cannot be deceived but must be confronted directly. For this reason, Jacob is to be regarded as a particularly exalted figure, for teaching humankind how one is to deal with one's own shortcomings.

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0 Comments18 Minutes

Toledot 5783-2022

“The Deeds of the Fathers are Signposts for the Children”
(updated and revised from Toledot 5763-2002)

In parashat Toledot we read, for the third time, the story of our patriarchs going to Egypt or to Gerar on account of famine. This time it's Isaac and Rebecca, rather than Abraham and Sarah, but the stories are virtually identical to the previous two. The famed Italian Bible scholar, Umberto Cassuto, suggests that this story is a paradigm, and its frequent repetition is predictive of what will happen to the Jewish people in the future. There will be a famine, and the families of the descendants of Abraham and Isaac will leave their homes and go into exile. The men will be threatened with death, but the women will be allowed to live. Eventually, the people will go out with great wealth.

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Chayei Sarah 5783-2022

“The Torah’s Recipe for Finding a Proper Mate”
(updated and revised from Chayei Sarah 5763-2002)

This week's parasha is a primary source from which we learn much about the qualities that one should look for when seeking a mate. The lessons that may be gleaned from our scriptures serve as a sound guide, even for contemporary times. They are not primitive. In fact, in many instances, they are light-years ahead of contemporary practices and understandings.

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Vayeira 5783-2022

“Sodom: The Home of Institutionalized Evil”
(updated and revised from Vayeira 5763-2002)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in Sodom? Both the biblical texts and the accompanying Midrashic literature vividly describe the extraordinary evil practiced by people of Sodom, where virtue was declared vice and vice--virtue. Unfortunately, there are elements of Sodom that are found in many aspects of our contemporary society as well. If we are to protect ourselves from these harmful influences, we need to be on the alert and learn to identify those evil aspects.

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0 Comments8 Minutes

Lech Lecha 5783-2022

“The Two Birds of Israel”
(updated and revised from Lech Lecha 5763-2002)

The "Covenant Between the Pieces" is full of symbolism regarding the future of the Jewish people. Three 3-year-old animals--a heifer, a goat and a ram--are slaughtered and cut in half. Two birds, a turtledove and a young pigeon, are not cut. The animals, say the rabbis, represent the nations of the world who seek to destroy the Jewish people. The birds, the turtledove and the young pigeon, on the other hand, symbolize the Jews. The animals are split in half, indicating that those nations who attack Israel will ultimately be destroyed. Scripture states that the "bird" is not cut, referring to only a single bird. Why are two birds necessary to represent the Jewish people? We are, after all, one people, not two. And why are the two birds referred to as a single bird?

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Noah 5783-2022

“The Story of Noah--Fact or Fantasy?”
(updated and revised from Noah 5763-2002)

It is not at all surprising that many of the ancient near-East documents contain parallel stories of the Great Flood. Perhaps the most famous is the Babylonian flood story known as the "Epic of Gilgamesh." And yet, despite the parallels, the stories are profoundly different. While the details regarding the flood are similar, the Bible introduces a profound and revolutionary moral element. In the Biblical version G-d does not simply decide to destroy the world on a whim, but rather does so because of the corruption of the world's inhabitants. The fact that the Biblical story of the flood is not simply about gods who entertain themselves at humankind's expense, is what makes the Biblical Noah story revolutionary and meaningful.

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0 Comments11 Minutes

Bereshith 5783-2022

“The Book of Humankind”
(updated and revised from Bereshith 5764-2003)

In an examination of a single verse in the first parasha of the Torah, a wealth of meaning is to be found. This "Book," which is in some ways the history of all human life, unites the Jewish people and humanity. Alongside the idea that all people stem from one source, there is an allusion to the “book” that every person writes during the collection of years that is called life. The offspring of the first human, and those of every subsequent human being, are not just his/her physical progeny, but the legacy that he/she leaves to humankind.

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Sukkot 5783-2022

“The Seven Protective Divine Clouds”
(updated and revised from Sukkot 5764-2003)

According to the Midrash, the Jewish people were protected in the wilderness from the elements and from enemy attack by seven clouds. Though it is often hard to believe, the Jewish people today are similarly cared for in their exile. G-d indeed shields them. But, it is also necessary for Jews must do all they can to look after their own well-being.

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0 Comments7 Minutes

Haazinu 5783-2022

“The Final Song”
(updated and revised from Haazinu 1999-5759)

The final song of Moses is intended to help the Jewish people remember the days of yore. The past is truly vital for Israel, as there is much to be learned from previous generations. Much pain and suffering can be avoided if only the future is approached through the wisdom of the past.

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Vayeilech/Yom Kippur 5783-2022

“Difficult Transitions”
(Updated and revised from Vayeilech/Yom Kippur 5769-2008)

Transitions are always difficult. In parashat Vayeilech, we learn of the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua. In a Chassidic tale we learn about a Jewish feudal lord who had converted to Christianity, returning to the Jewish faith only moments before his death.

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0 Comments13 Minutes

Rosh Hashana 5783-2022

“Making Each Day Count”
(updated and revised from Rosh Hashana 5764-2003)

The High Holidays are a time to rendezvous with our Maker, to own-up to the sins that we have committed during the previous year, and to emerge anew, ready to serve G-d with vitality, freshness, and enthusiasm. What is the secret to living a life full of life?

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0 Comments8 Minutes

Nitzavim 5782-2022

“The Hidden Things Belong to G-d”
(updated and revised from Nitzavim 5765-2005)

Parashat Nitzavim contains one of the most enigmatic verses of the Torah that states that the hidden things are for the L-rd our G-d, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah. In their efforts to clarify the meaning of this verse, our rabbis offer a number of cogent elucidations. One of the most moving explanations is that when the final redemption comes, the Jews who had become so assimilated (hidden) among other peoples that their origins have become forgotten, will be reunited (revealed) with the rest of the Jewish people, and restored to their status among the Jewish nation.

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Kee Tavo 5782-2022

“Watch Out for Laban, He’s More Dangerous than Pharaoh!”
(updated and revised from Kee Tavo 5763-2003)

As part of the Bikkurim declaration, the celebrants stated that, "An Aramean tried to destroy my father." The Torah thus sees the Aramean, Laban, as more dangerous than Pharaoh. The fact that Pharaoh wants to do us in, is well known, so we can be on our guard. Our brother Laban, however, the wily Aramean, is always out there waiting for us, feigning love, conspiring to defeat us. We need to always be on watch for him.

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0 Comments9 Minutes

Kee Teitzei 5782-2022

“The Torah’s Radical Approach to Child Rearing”
(updated and revised from Kee Teitzei 5763-2003)

In parashat Kee Teitzei, we learn of the law of the Ben Sorer u'Moreh, the wayward and rebellious son. The Code of Jewish Law sets out very precise guidelines for child rearing that, at first blush, appear to be extremely harsh. However, after careful analysis, we see that the Torah is basically establishing firm boundaries between parent and child, that leads to a healthy and loving parent-child relationship.

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0 Comments7 Minutes

Shoftim 5782-2022

“Astrology, Witchcraft and Spiritualism in Judaism”
(updated and revised from Shoftim 5763-2003)

In parashat Shoftim, the Torah declares, that when the Jewish people enter the land of Israel, they must not follow the abominable practices of the nations that reside there. It is strictly prohibited to cause a son or a daughter to pass through fire, to practice divination or astrology, or to visit one who reads omens. Patronizing a sorcerer, an animal charmer, inquiring of the Ov or Yidoni, or consulting the dead is forbidden. Jews are supposed to be wholehearted with G-d and not support the magic or spirituality of the ancients. The question remains, is there any efficacy to witchcraft or to the magic of the ancients?

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0 Comments6 Minutes

Re’eh 5782-2022

“Identifying a True Prophet”
(updated and revised from Re’eh 5764-2004)

Identifying and distinguishing a true prophet from a false prophet is rather difficult. It is particularly complicated because the Torah maintains that the prophecies and predictions of false prophets may come true, and that the message of even a true prophet may, at times, not be fulfilled. The issue of identifying true prophecy has been fraught with danger for the Jews, especially during the last 2000 years of Christian history.

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0 Comments10 Minutes

Eikev 5782-2022

“Is There Truth to the Notion of Spiritual Accountability?”
(updated and revised from Eikev 5763-2003)

In the second paragraph of the Shema, we read of the Jew's relationship of responsibility and accountability toward G-d. Could it be that just as there is a physical accountability in the world, there is a spiritual accountability, as well? The Torah categorically affirms this notion.

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0 Comments9 Minutes

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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0 Comments6 Minutes

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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0 Comments7 Minutes