Yom Kippur 5782-2021

“Smashing the Golden Calves”
(updated and revised from Yom Kippur 5764-2003)

The sin of the Golden Calf is perhaps the most reprehensible crime that the Jewish nation has committed against G-d. At the foot of Mount Sinai, immediately following the miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery, when the Al-mighty showed the world that He had chosen the Jews as His people, the people brazenly defied Him, and were unfaithful to their beloved Creator. Yom Kippur is a day to express regret, and vow to change the many ways that the Jewish people may have betrayed their relationship with their Father-in-Heaven during the previous year.

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Vayeilech 5782-2021

“Appreciating our own Inner Worth”
(updated and revised from Vayeilech 5761-2001)

Unfortunately, there are many who feel themselves unworthy of G-d's forgiveness, or unworthy of participating in the communal contrition of the Jewish people. Judaism rejects that assumption, insisting that each and every soul is precious to G-d, and surely qualifies for Divine forgiveness.

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Nitzavim 5781-2021

“Striving to Reach Heaven During the Days of Awe”
(updated and revised from Nitzavim 5761-2001)

During the period of selichot, the Jewish people have a unique opportunity to ascend and grow morally and religiously. It is an opportunity for each of us to improve our attitudes and behaviors, to work on our relationships with both humans and with G-d. If we strive to reach heaven, we can rest assured that we will be blessed, because we are on the right track.

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Kee Tavo 5781-2021

“A Contemporary Interpretation of an Ancient Reproof”
(updated and revised from Kee Tavo 5762-2002)

As we read the תּוֹכָחָה--“Toh’cha’cha,” G-d’s reproof of the people of Israel for their sins in parashat Kee Tavo, it is impossible not to recognize the evils of contemporary society predicted and fulfilled. G-d begs His people to “choose life.” If we indeed choose life, the tragic predictions of the Torah should never occur. In fact, we can forestall almost all evil by properly educating ourselves and our children to conduct our lives properly, fulfilling our responsibilities to others and to the environment, with genuine loving-kindness.

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Kee Teitzei 5781-2021

“Transforming an Enemy into a Friend”
(updated and revised from Kee Teitzei 5762-2002)

The Torah contains two quite remarkable laws concerning the treatment of animals. In parashat Kee Teitzei, we learn of the law of טְעִינָה--teh'eenah, the requirement to help a friend load an animal whose load is falling off. In parasahat Mishpatim, we learn the law of פְּרִיקָה--peh'reekah, the requirement to help a friend unload an animal that is falling under its load. From the Talmudic discussion concerning one who is confronted with two animals--one that needs to be loaded and another that needs to be unloaded, we learn some remarkable laws about both animals and human beings.

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Shoftim 5781-2021

“The Torah-the First Environmentally-Friendly Treatise"
(updated and revised from Shoftim 5762-2002)

Among the many revolutionary laws found in the Torah, are the environmental laws found in parashat Shoftim. G-d’s commandment in Genesis to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, "to work the land and to protect it," was humanity's first call for conservation and protecting the environment. This revolutionary message that the Torah introduced 3,300 years ago is as fresh, as vibrant and as green as if it were given today.

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Re’eh 5781-2021

“The Elusive Blessing of ‘Peace’”
(updated and revised from Re’eh 5763-2003)

In parashat Re'eh, we read of the "simple" formula for bringing peace to the Jewish people: "hearken to the commands of the L-rd." Over 3,000 years of empirical evidence confirms the fact that there has never been a period of peace for the Jewish people without a concomitant return to G-d. The elusive blessing of peace will be ours if we only "hearken."

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Eikev 5781-2021

“Worshiping G-d with All One’s Heart”
(Updated and revised from Eikev 5762-2002)

In this week's parasha, we read the verse advising worshipers to pray to G-d with "all their heart." But, much of traditional Jewish prayer is fixed and rigid, and seems to be bound by so many rules and requirements that there is hardly an opportunity for worshipers to express their own personal feelings and needs. And, yet, it is the structure and the rigor of the traditional prayer formula that makes certain that our prayers not become self-centered and entirely focused on only our own needs and desires.

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Va’etchanan 5781-2021

“Loving the Land of Israel”
(Updated and revised from Va’etchanan 5762-2002)

One of the kinot, the liturgical poems that are read on Tisha b'Av, speaks of the calamity that befell the Jewish communities of the Rhineland, Germany--Worms, Speyer and Mainz (Mayence)--in the year 1096, during the First Crusade. The ArtScroll commentary on this poem throws out a profound challenge to the Jewish people today. Will we rise to the occasion and acknowledge the special gift of the land of Israel, or will we ignore it, and continue to compose elegies for the losses that we sustain?

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Devarim 5781-2021

“Judging Our People Favorably”
(Updated and revised from Devarim 5762-2002)

The powerful words of Isaiah in this week's Haftarah resound today with surprising relevance, as if they were pronounced only yesterday. Despite Isaiah's harsh assessment of the people, we, like the prophet of old, need to look upon the people of Israel and judge them favorably. After all, contemporary Jews face similar challenges to those of the ancients, and need to be judged favorably as well.

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Matot-Masei 5781-2021

“Does the Torah Allow Its Citizens to Take the Law Into Their Own Hands?”
(updated and revised from Matot-Masei 5762-2002)

In parashat Masei, we encounter the fascinating and perplexing law known as Eir Miklat, the City of Refuge. It is to the City of Refuge that an accidental killer must run in order to escape the vengeance of the next of kin, who has the right to kill the perpetrator if he catches him before he enters the city. Does Judaism allow its citizens to take the law into their own hands?

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Pinchas 5781-2021

"Loving the Land of Israel”
(updated and revised from Pinchas 5762-2002)

In parashat Pinchas we read about the five trail-blazing daughters of Tzelafchad who approach Moses claiming legal rights to their deceased father's property in the land of Israel. The Al-mighty rewards the women's passionate commitment to Israel by declaring that the daughters shall inherit their father's land. How does Tzelafchad's daughters' great love of Zion compare with contemporary Jewry's, at best, casual commitment to the State of Israel?

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Chukat 5781-2021

“The Paradox of the Red Heifer”
(updated and revised from Chukat-Balak 5762-2002

In this week's parasha, parashat Chukat, we read of the paradox of the Red Heifer whose ashes were used to purify those who were ritually contaminated. The Red Heifer rendered those who were impure, pure, and those who were pure, impure. Perhaps it is teaching us that there is a significant price to pay for trying to improve others. But, we must be prepared to pay that price. It is, after all, the way to achieve ultimate perfection.

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Korach 5781-2021

“The Origin of the ‘Big Lie’”
(updated and revised from Korach 5762-2002)

According to the Midrash, Korach was a brilliant provocateur who was able to convince the hordes to believe that he was rebelling for the sake of the common good, instead of for his own personal benefit. By drawing a distorted caricature of the mitzvot of the Torah, Korach was able to convince the people that Moses and Aaron were personally benefitting from the mitzvot and observances that they were advocating.

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Shelach 5781-2021

“What’s in a Name?”
(updated and revised from Shelach 5762-2002)

Unexpectedly, the Torah spells out the names of each of the twelve leaders who were sent to represent their tribes and scout out the land of Israel. However, when we compare the names of these individuals with the names of the princes who were selected in Numbers 1 to help Moses count the tribes, we see something rather startling. The names of the princes are far more complex, and contain many religious references. They are substantial names for substantial people. The names of the scouts, on the other hand, are very short, and have few references to G-d. What is the message that the names communicate?

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B’ha’a’lot’cha 5781-2021

“Is This What the Torah Predicted?”
(updated and revised from B’ha’a’lot’cha 5762-2002)

In parashat B'ha'a’lot'cha we find two extremely telling stories concerning two groups of ancient Israelites. The first, the "mixed multitude," cry out, "Our souls are dried up, there is nothing at all!" The second group protest to Moses that they do not wish to miss celebrating the ritual of the Pascal sacrifice together with their families and the entire people of Israel. These two groups may very well represent the millions of alienated contemporary Jews who have declared that their souls are dried up, as well as another growing number of contemporary Jews who love their Judaism and wish to engage and inspire their turned-off brothers and sisters who are ignorant of their heritage.

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Naso 5781-2021

“The Challenge of the Priestly Blessings”
(updated and revised from Naso 5762-2002)

The issue of whether human beings can “encourage” G-d to bless them, or if human beings can actually bless G-d, is not easily resolved. One thing we know for sure is that mortals certainly need G-d's blessings.

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Bamidbar 5781-2021

“Counting on the People of Israel"
(updated and revised from Bamidbar 5762-2002)

The excruciating detail that the Torah goes into when reporting on the census of the People of Israel, underscores the importance of the organizational structure of the Jewish people. The redundant counting of the Jewish people in the parasha may be a rabbi's nightmare, but the details underscore each individual Jew's preciousness.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5781-2021

“The Extraordinary Mitzvah of Tzedakah--Charity”
(updated and revised from Behar-Bechukotai 5762-2002)

The word tzedakah, does not mean charity, but rather justice and righteousness. It is not an act of charity to be generous, it is the correct thing to do.

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Emor 5781-2021

"The Blasphemer - A Midrashic View"
(Updated and revised from Emor 5764-2004)

One of the key portions of parashat Emor is the tragic saga of the blasphemer--the son of an Israelite woman and an Egyptian father who, as a result of a quarrel, blasphemes in the name of G-d. The blasphemer is ultimately sentenced to death, a harsh punishment that is difficult to understand. The Midrash, however, fills in the details, attempting to explain the harsh punishment of the blasphemer, linking his crime to his past.

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5781-2021

Shaatnez: Understanding ‘Irrational’ Decrees”
(updated and revised from Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5762-2002)

The laws of Shaatnezrecorded in parashat Kedoshim, of not wearing wool and linen together, fall under the category of laws that are known as chukim--decrees which are commands from G-d that have no apparent rational reason. The esoteric laws of Shaatnezthat appear so out of place with contemporary times, have much to teach us about developing sensitivity toward others, and that the great gift of having clothes to wear must never be taken for granted.

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Tazria-Metzorah 5781-2021

“Circumcision and Shabbat”
(updated and revised from Tazria-Metzorah 5764-2004)

When the prescribed day for a circumcision falls out on the Shabbat, which commandment takes precedence? In the Torah passages found in parashat Tazria, we discover the true essence of both these mitzvot, and how they each bind the Jewish people to G-d and to eternity

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Shemini 5781-2021

“Using, Not Abusing, a Sanctified Substance”
(updated and revised from Shemini 5763-2003)

The severe punishment meted out to the sons of Aaron is a powerful reason to carefully study the Jewish attitude toward intoxicants and drugs. Alcoholism and drug abuse is serious business, not something that can be ignored. Wine is a divine gift, and plays a key role in Judaism. Yet, we need to make certain that it is treated as a special gift and imbibed with respect.

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Passover 5781-2021

“The Final days of Pesach - Days of Unity”
(updated and revised from Passover 5761–2001)

For Jews who live in the Diaspora, the last day of Passover is meant to be a day of unity, הִתְחַבְּרוּת, hit’chab’rut, of coming together. Just as the ancient Children of Israel go down to Egypt as 70 souls, as members of 12 disparate tribes, and emerge as one united nation, so are contemporary Jews bidden to emphasize the many common bonds we have, rather than the differences. Passover, after all, is in the month of Nissan, the month of redemption. Only through unity, will the Jewish people be fortunate enough to achieve ultimate redemption.

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Tzav 5781-2021

Understanding Shabbat Hagadol
(updated and revised from Tzav 5762-2002)

Our commentators offer a host of reasons to explain why the Sabbath prior to Passover is called by the grand name "Shabbat Hagadol," the Great Sabbath. Whatever the reason for this Sabbath to be given such a distinguished name, it is always a very special Sabbath for the Jewish people.

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Vayikra 5781-2021

“The Lesson of the Mincha Offering--Giving with a Full Heart”
(updated and revised from Vayikra 5762-2002)

Among the many profound lessons that the Mincha offering conveys, is that Judaism is not the religion of the gifted or well endowed. In fact, Judaism provides venues of expression and worship for all the people of Israel, rich and poor, young and old, male and female alike. The lesson of the Mincha offering is that one must give with a full heart.

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Vayakhel-Pekudei 5781-2021

“The Original Jewish Renewal Movement”
(Updated and revised from Vayakhel-Pekudei 5762-2002)

On the Sabbath prior to the new month of Nissan, a portion known as Parashat Hachodesh is read, announcing the arrival of the new month of Nissan, the first month of the calendar year. Nissan is the month of redemption and salvation. It is a time when the Jewish people burst forth from darkness and despair to allow the glory of G-d to shine forth. This is the original Jewish renewal movement.

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Kee Tisah 5781-2021

“Reverence for Learning in Jewish Tradition”
(updated and revised from Kee Tisah 5763-2003)

Immediately after the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses distances himself from the sinful people. Moving his tent outside the camp, he proceeds to hold court from that location. Scripture tells us that, despite the peoples' rebelliousness, when Moses went out to his tent, the entire nation would stand at the entrance of their tents as a sign of respect. From this gesture of respect, an entireritual of behavior emerged that continues to this day, reflecting the uncompromising reverence for learning that is the very essence of Jewish educational success.

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Tetzaveh 5781-2021

“The Korban Tamid--a Lesson in Consistency”
(updated and revised from Tetzaveh 5762-2002)

The Tamid, the perpetual offering, was brought every morning and afternoon of every day of the year. Unfortunately, we no longer have a Temple and can no longer offer sacrifices. All we have is prayer. Now we must show our consistency and faithfulness to G-d through our prayers.

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Terumah 5781-2021

“The Mishkan and the Sanctity of the Jewish Home”
(updated and revised from Terumah 5763-2003)

The fact that the Mishkan--the Tabernacle--and its central furnishings so closely resemble the Jewish home, underscores the sanctity of the Jewish domicile. By analyzing each of the Tabernacle's furnishings, we uncover the invaluable symbolic meanings of these furnishings that deserve to be found in every Jewish home.

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0 Comments11 Minutes