Rosh Hashana 5781-2020

“A Message for the High Holy Days: ‘Export, Export!’”
(updated and revised from Rosh Hashana 5763-2002)

During the period of the Ten Days of Penitence, we need to make our lives more spiritually meaningful. It is during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur that we must make particularly sincere efforts to "export" good deeds and acts of kindness.

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Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5780-2020

“An Exclusive Covenant with an Inclusive Philosophy”
(Revised and updated from Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5760-2000

In parashat Nitzavim, Moses, on the last day of his life, gathers all the Jewish people, from the lowliest to the most exalted, to bring them into the covenant. Just as the people did in the time of Moses, so do we too, come together in our synagogues during the Ten Days of Penitence, with all our Jewish brothers and sisters, those who are worthy, and those who appear to be unworthy. At this singular moment, we stand together as one Jewish people, past, present and future, seeking G-d’s mercy and forgiveness.

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Kee Tavo 5780-2020

“There are Stones with Human Hearts”
(updated and revised from Kee Tavo 5761-2001)

In parashat Kee Tavo, Moses transmits to the Jewish people some of the specific laws and rituals that apply once the people enter the land of Israel. He instructs the elders that, on the day they cross the Jordan to enter into Israel, the people must set up 12 great stones, cover them with plaster and write upon them all the words of this law. Tradition thus explicitly teaches us that Jewish memorials must incorporate Torah. The most appropriate memorials are houses of study and yeshivot that nurture a new generation of Jews. Only in this manner, will our enemies never be able to defeat us.

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Kee Teitzei 5780-2020

“Polygamy and Jewish Tradition”
(Updated and revised from Kee Teitzei 5761-2001)
The Torah very clearly frowns on polygamous relationships. In every single instance in scripture where a man has more than one wife, the relationship is troubled. Why then does the Torah permit a man to have more than one wife, even though it’s discouraged?

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Shoftim 5780-2020

"Security for Citizens and Caring for Guests”
(updated and revised from parashat Shoftim 5761-2001)

In parashat Shoftim, we encounter the ritual of Eglah Arufah, the ceremony in which a heifer is put to death. The ritual of Eglah Arufah, underscores that both city officials and hosts, have a responsibility of escorting visitors, to make certain that they can travel safely and securely from one city to another. Those who fail to provide security are held morally responsible. It applies to those who welcome visitors into their homes today as well.

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Re’eh 5780-2020

Re'eh 5780-2020

“Changing and Updating Jewish Law”
(updated and revised from parashat Re’eh 5762-2002)

In parashat Re’eh, we learn of the practice known as shmitat k’safim, of forgiving debts in the seventh year of the Sabbatical cycle. However, because of a proclamation by Hillel the Elder known as Pruzbul , the law of forgiving the debts has hardly ever been practiced. How was Hillel able to cancel a law of the Torah through, what seem to be, legal devices and loopholes?

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Yom Kippur 5781-2020

“The Thrill of Coming Home”
(updated and revised from Yom Kippur 5761-2000)

The month of Elul and the early days of Tishrei between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are universally regarded as propitious times for repentance and return. As G-d draws closer to us during this period, we need to draw closer to Him.

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Eikev 5780-2020

“The Intermarriage Conundrum”
(updated and edited from parashat Eikev 5761-2001)

In Deuteronomy 7:3, the Jewish people are told not to give their daughters to the sons of the Canaanites or take their daughters for our sons. There really is no entirely compelling argument against intermarriage. It can only be appreciated by those who wish to play a role in the sacred mission of the Jewish people, to teach the world the idea of the sanctity of human life, and to work toward the perfection of the world under the rule of the Al-mighty.

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0 Comments18 Minutes

Va’etchanan 5780-2020

“The Mandate for Parental Involvement in Jewish Education”
(updated and revised from Va’etchanan 5761-2001)

The phrase “V’shee’nan’tahm l’vah’neh’chah” and you shall teach your children, found in the Shema prayer, underscores the Torah’s mandate requiring Jews to educate their children. There is no such thing as overdosing on Jewish education, or being too passionate or too extreme about the value of Jewish education. Parents must not compromise on Jewish education. The alternative is very much Jewish oblivion.

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Devarim 5780-2020

Eichah, The Annual Search for Meaning and Introspection”
(updated and revised from Parashat Devarim 5761-2001)

In order for the Fast of the 9th of Av to be meaningful, it is necessary to focus on the fast’s proper message. Eichah and Ah’yeka are two of the prominent themes of Tisha b’Av. G-d asks the Jews: “Where are you? What have you done with your lives? How could this tragedy have possibly happened?” We, of course, need to ask, how can we improve ourselves?

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Matot-Masei 5780-2020

“Setting Our Priorities Straight”
(updated and revised from Parashiot Matot-Masei 5761-2001)

In parashat Matot we learn that the tribes of Reuben and Gad, [later joined by half of Menashe], request to remain on the eastern side of the Jordan. Moses is concerned that these tribes will not join in the battle to conquer the Holy Land. Reuben and Gad respond, “We will build pens for our livestock and cities for our small children,” and, of course, they will send troops. Moses, however, corrects them, telling them that concern for their children should come before their livestock. The value of human life is infinite, and must always come first, even in a materialistic generation such as the one in which we live.

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Pinchas 5780-2020

“The Pain of Giving Reproof”
(Updated and revised from Parashat Pinchas 5761-2001)

The haftarah for parashat Pinchas, selected from the book of Jeremiah, opens with Jeremiah’s first two prophecies concerning an almond-wood staff that is shown to him by G-d, and the vision of the boiling cauldron that is bubbling over from the North. The boiling cauldron symbolizes that the evil that will come from the north–the Babylonian hoards, led by Nebuchadnetzer who will destroy the Temple. But, what is the symbol of the almond-wood staff? Could it be that G-d is trying to show the prophet that there should never be enthusiasm when delivering messages of reproof, no matter how deserving of reproof the people of Israel are? Conveying tragic messages should always be a painful experience for the prophet.

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Chukat-Balak 5780-2020

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose--History Repeats Itself!”
(Updated and revised from Parashiot Chukat-Balak 5760-2000)

According to tradition, the nations of Moab and Midian were mortal enemies. As usual, we see, once again in parashat Chukat, that the one thing that unites our enemies is their enmity of Israel, which is greater than their hatred for each other. That pattern has repeated itself throughout Jewish history. Indeed, the deeds of the fathers are the signposts for the children.

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Korach 5780-2020

“Achieving the Good Life by Picking the Right Mate”
(updated and revised from parashat Korach 5761-2001)

The Midrash highlights the roles that two women played in the rebellion of Korach. Mrs. Korach is depicted as having provoked her husband into rebellion, while the wife of On, the son of Pelet, is portrayed as having saved her husband from destruction, and preventing him from joining Korach’s rebels. By carefully choosing our friends and mates, we are often

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Shelach 5780-2020

“The Torah’s Definition of ‘Power”
(Revised and Updated from Parashat Shelach 5761-2001)

After the sin of the scouts, G-d wishes to destroy the Jewish people. Moses, however, argues with G-d that true “power” means not to destroy, but to forgive, to convert and to transfer from one strongly held attitude to another. G-d and Moses thus ascribe a new meaning to the concept of “power.”

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B’ha’a’lot’cha 5780-2020

The Torah’s Attitude toward Converts
(Revised and Updated from Parashat B’ha’a’lot’cha 5761-2001)

In parashat B’ha’alot’cha we learn that converts are required to participate in the Pascal offering even though they never experienced the exodus from Egypt. The Passover rituals teach that converts participate equally in the performance of all the commandments. Converts have played an illustrious role in Judaism. These “strangers” must be treated with great respect and sensitivity. In fact, perhaps, we are all descendants of converts, which is why the Torah bids us to conscientiously fulfill the very special mitzvah of loving the stranger.

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Naso 5780-2020

The Ordeal of the Sotah -- Barbaric or Enlightened?
(Revised and Updated from Parashat Naso 5761-2001)

To the contemporary mind, the Torah’s method of addressing the issue of a woman suspected of being unfaithful to her husband, the Sotah, and the ordeal to which she is subjected, is rather challenging. However, the ritual of the Sotah reveals many fascinating relational truths, and provides some important answers to questions we frequently face in our present-day marital relationships.

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Shavuot 5780-2020

“The Anonymous Holiday”
(updated and revised from Shavuot 5760-2000)

Despite the tradition that the Torah was given on the holiday of Shavuot, nowhere in the Torah is there any mention that the Torah was given on that particular date. Why then are the Jewish people so keen on observing this day as the holiday of the giving of the Torah?

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Bamidbar 5780-2020

"Jewish Continuity through Family Structure”
(Updated and revised from Bamidbar 5761-2001)

G-d’s profound love for the Jewish people impels Him to continually count them, as one who counts a prized possession or money. Since families are the glue, the cement, of society, G-d set the ancient Israelites in an exacting tribal and familial structure in the wilderness. However, as the contemporary nuclear family erodes, the devastating breakdown of society is not far behind. We pray that G-d will soon restore all people to their proper tents, and especially the Jews to their tribes and to their familial orderliness, so that we, and all of humankind, may be strengthened and soon redeemed.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5780-2020

“Setting a New Standard of Ethical Behavior”
(Updated and revised from Parashiot Behar-Bechukotai 5761-2001)

We’ve reached a point in society where even simple acts of kindness and honesty are considered “extraordinary.” As we learn in parashat Behar, the Torah’s goal is to transform such actions into ordinary actions. Judaism sets a very high standard–-it aims for Utopia.

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Emor 5780-2020

“Death, and the Kohanim--the Children of Aaron”
(updated and revised from Parashat Emor 5762-2002)

In parashat Emor we learn that a Kohain/priest is only permitted to contaminate himself on the occasion of the death of one of his seven closest relatives. Rabbi Saul Berman maintains that the ancient priests, who acted as clergy, were not permitted to be involved with the dead so they not be in a position to exploit their vulnerable constituents at their time of bereavement. It may also be a way of showing that rather than relying exclusively on clergy, lay people should also reach out to their friends and acquaintances who are in need.

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5780-2020

"Who is Truly Religious?”
(Updated and revised from Parashiot Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5761-2001)

Traditional “religious” Jews are often identified as those who scrupulously observe the “Big Three:” Shabbat, Kashrut and the laws of Family Purity. From parashiot Acharei Mot and Kedoshim we learn that this definition needs to be updated to include an ethical component–that one must be certain to behave and act honestly and morally, within all realms of life.

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Tazria-Metzorah 5780-2020

“Challenging the Stereotypes: Purity and Impurity in Childbirth”
(edited and revised from Parashiot Tazria-Metzorah 5761-2001)

In parashat Tazria, we encounter one of the most perplexing laws found in the Torah–-the law of impurity and purity of a mother following childbirth. A host of explanations are offered by the commentators and thinkers. Although none of the answers are entirely satisfying, they do reveal a great deal of wisdom and insight on the part of the Torah, reflecting a rather extraordinary understanding of the essence of human relationships.

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Shemini 5780-2020

“The Responsibilities of Leadership”
(Revised and updated from Parashat Shemini 5761-2001)

Some commentators suggest that the “strange fire” offered by Nadav and Abihu was an attempt to fulfill a personal urge they had for their own self-expression. The tragic story of Nadav and Abihu teaches that true leaders must act responsibly, which inevitably results in personal limitations. Those who cannot accept limitations should avoid assuming leadership roles.

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Passover 5780-2020

“The Essential lessons of Chametz and Matzah”
(Updated and Revised from Passover 5763-2003)

A major theme of the Passover holiday is the elimination of chametz-–leaven, and the substitution of matzah, unleavened bread, in its stead. Oddly enough, both chametz and matzah are made of the same ingredients, flour and water. Flour and water become chametz automatically if the mixture is allowed to stand. Matzah, on the other hand, before it is quickly baked, must be constantly kneaded and is not permitted to stand and ferment. We learn from the matzah-making process that truly meaningful life experiences never come effortlessly, but only through significant exertion and labor.

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Tzav 5780-2020

“Behold, I am Sending You Elijah the Prophet”
(Revised and update from Tzav 5761-2001)

The prophet Malachi predicts that toward the end of days, Elijah will arrive. The prophet’s arrival will spark a momentous movement of return to Judaism. At this fateful hour, parents and children will interact with each other and will be drawn closer to each other through the word of G-d. That time may very well be now!

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Vayikra 5780-2020

“Moses, a Leader with a Calling”
(Revised and updated from Vayikra 5761-2001)

Moses’ commitment to serve as G-d’s messenger was thorough and complete. It was therefore no accident that G-d spoke to him, or through him. It was not a happening and not a coincidence. It was the very essence of Moses’ life and the ultimate purpose of his being. It was his “calling.”

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Vayakhel-Pekudei 5780-2020

“Judaism Sanctifies Time, Not Space”
(Updated and revised from Vayakhel-Pekudei 5761-2001)

Unexpectedly, in the midst of the Torah’s plans for the construction of the Tabernacle, the Torah in parashat Vayakhel exhorts the Jewish people to observe the Sabbath. While the Tabernacle and the Temple were sacred spaces, far more important is the sanctity of time. Lost land, earth or space, can often be recovered. But time that passes, can never be recovered. Time is truly sacred.

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0 Comments12 Minutes

Kee Tisah 5780-2020

“The Levites and the Golden Calf: Transcending One’s Own Nature”
(Updated and revised from Kee Tisah 5761-2001)

Although there appear to have been only 3000 “hard core” rebels among the people who worshiped the Golden Calf, only the tribe of Levi responded to Moses’ cry of “Whoever is to G-d, come to me!” This was due to the fact that, among the People of Israel who did not worship the Golden Calf, only the Levites reached an exalted level of personal self-abnegation. Consequently, only the Levites were singled out to become the servants of G-d for all time, who would be chosen to serve as the ministers in the Tabernacle, and ultimately, the Temple.

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0 Comments7 Minutes

Tetzaveh 5780-2020

“The True Story of Purim”
(updated and revised from Tetzaveh 5761-2001)

The party that King Ahasuerus throws was not only to prove the King’s legitimacy as a monarch, but also to celebrate the destruction of the Jewish people, confirming that the prophecy of a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem would not be fulfilled. Incredible as it may seem, the Jews of Persia participated in the party with great enthusiasm. For the Jews to be spared from Ahasuerus and Haman, it was necessary for them to rise and to publicly affirm G-d’s supremacy.

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0 Comments15 Minutes