Shelach 5761-2001

"The Torah's Definition of Power"

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’alot’cha 5761-2001

"The Torah's Attitude Toward Converts"

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 sensitivity. In fact, perhaps, we are all converts and that is why the Torah bids us to fulfill the very special mitzvah of loving the stranger.

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Naso 5761-2001

"The Ordeal of the Sotah-Barbaric or Enlightened?"

The 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 truths, and provides some important answers to questions with which we are commonly challenged in contemporary marital relationships.

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Shavuot 5761-2001

"The Concept of the Chosen People"

It was on Shavuot that the Jewish people received the Torah at Sinai and formally became Am Yisrael, the people of Israel. It was at that moment that the appellation "the Chosen People" was applied for the first time. This concept has caused the Jewish people much grief. It needs to be elucidated and clarified.

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Bamidbar 5761-2001

"Continuity Through Family Structure"

G-d loves the Jewish people so much that He continually counts them like one counts a prized possession or money. The Jewish family is the glue, the cement of Jewish life. However, as the nuclear family erodes, the devastating breakdown of Jewish life is not far behind.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5761-2001

"Setting a New Standard of Ethics"

We've reached a point in society where even simple acts of kindness or honesty are considered extraordinary. As we learn in Parashat Behar. It is the Torah's wish to transform such actions into the ordinary. Judaism sets very high standards--it aims for Utopia.

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Emor 5761-2001

"The Gift of Celebration"

In parashat Emor the Torah speaks of the Jewish holidays, the festivals of G-d and the holy convocations that the people are to observe at their appropriate times. Proper celebrations are necessary for good living. It is important for the community to salute springtime, as well as the season that marked the dawn of Israel's liberation from Egypt. The Jewish celebrations are truly remarkable gifts from G-d.

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5761-2001

"Who is Truly Religious?"

People often define a traditional Jew as one who keeps the "Big Three:" Shabbat, Kashrut and the laws of Family Purity. From parashat Kedoshim we can learn that this definition needs to be revised and updated to include an ethical component--that one must behave and act morally, especially within the realm of business.

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Tazria-Metzorah 5761-2001

"Challenging the Stereotypes: Purity and Impurity in Childbirth"

In parashat Tazria, we encounter one of the most perplexing laws found in the Torah--the law of purity and impurity of a mother following childbirth. A host of explanations are offered by our commentators and thinkers. Although none of the answers is 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 5761 – 2001

"The Responsibilities of Leadership"

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

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Passover 5761-2001

"The Final Days of Pesach--Days of Unity"

For Jews who live in the Diaspora, the last day of Passover is meant to be a day of unity, hit'chab'root, of coming together. Just as the ancient Children of Israel go down into Egypt as 70 souls, as members of 12 disparate tribes and emerge as one united nation, so are contemporary Jews bidden to emphasize what 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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Vayikra 5761- 2001

"Moses, the Leader with a Calling"

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 5761-2001

"Jews Sanctify Time, Not Space"

Unexpectedly, in the middle of the 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 was the sanctity of time. If we lose or forfeit space, land or earth, they can often be recovered. But time that passes can never be recovered. Time is truly Israel.

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Kee Tisah 5761-2001

"The Levites and the Golden Calf: Transcending One's Own Nature"

Although there appear to be only 3000 "hard core" rebels among the people who worshiped the Golden Calf, only the tribe of Levi responded to Moses's 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 a level of personal self-abnegation. Consequently, only the Levites were singled out to become the servants of G-d for all time, who serve as the ministers in the Tabernacle and ultimately the Temple.

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Tetzaveh-Purim 5761-2001

"The True Story of Purim"

The party that King Ahasuerus throws was not only to prove his legitimacy as a monarch, but also to celebrate the destruction of the Jewish people, to confirm that the prophecy of a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem would no longer 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 publically affirm G-d's supremacy.

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Terumah-Purim 5761-2001

"Amalek, Purim and the Mitzvah of Getting Drunk"

The Code of Jewish Law suggests that a person is required to become intoxicated on Purim until he doesn't know the difference between cursing Haman and blessing Mordechai. One explanation given for this tradition is that all year long Jews use reason as a means to faith. However, once a year, on Purim, we strip away all traces of reason and serve G-d with our faith alone.

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Mishpatim 5761-2001

"The 'Sophisticated' and 'Unsophisticated' Criminal"

In Jewish law, the punishment for stealthy theft is greater than that for violent theft. Perhaps the rabbis were trying to tell members of society that so-called "white collar" crimes are at least as serious and can be as devastating as what we commonly refer to as "blue collar" crimes.

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Yitro 5761-2001

"Can the Torah Prohibit Feelings that are Part of Normal Human Emotions?"

The tenth and final commandment of the Decalogue, the prohibition against covetous desires, seems to indicate that human beings can control their thoughts and their desires. Is that true?

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B’shalach 5761-2001

"Where is Nachshon, the Son of Aminadav, When We Need Him?"

Nachson, the son of Aminadav, the prince of the tribe of Judah, was the first of the Israelites to enter the water and proceed to walk until the water reached his neck. It was only at that point that the sea split. If we are to change the "course of nature," we need to have the profound faith of Nachshon.

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Bo 5761-2001

"The Slave Mentality"

The Mechilta tells us that what a simple maidservant saw at the Red Sea even the greatest prophets of the future were not to see. If G-d was so close and so palpable to the ancient Israelites, how then was it possible for the Jewish people to lose faith so quickly? Unfortunately, this generation of Hebrews, who were brought up in Egyptian slavery that lasted for over 100 years, were unable to disassociate themselves from the slave mentality that they had acquired. Not even miracles could change their fixed attitudes. Therefore, that generation could not enter Israel and had to be replaced with a more appropriate generation, one that was born in freedom.

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Va’eira 5761-2001

"The Subtle Slavery"

The Torah tells us that Pharaoh literally had to chase the Jews out of Egypt, not only because Egypt was the country that they knew as their home, but because Egypt embodied values from which they were not prepared to separate. It is this "subtle slavery," embodied in our admiration for, and indeed worship of, alien cultures, that is a cause of concern for Jews, even today.

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Shemot 5761-2001

"The Not-So-Obvious Process of Enslavement"

When the sons of Jacob and their families arrive in Egypt, they are sent to live separately from the Egyptians in the land of Goshen. Nevertheless, Pharaoh and the Egyptians are threatened by them and decide to deal wisely with the Jews, eventually resulting in the Hebrews' brutal enslavement. How was Pharaoh able to convince the Egyptian citizens to enslave the Jews, descendants of Joseph, who, less than 100 years before, had saved all the Egyptian people from starvation?

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Vayechi 5761-2001

"Revealing the Time of the Coming of the End of Days"

Parashat Vayechi is the only Torah parasha that has no empty spaces between the beginning of the new parasha and the end of the previous week's parasha. Vayechi is consequently considered a "sealed" parasha. The rabbis say that the reason the parasha is sealed is because Jacob wished to reveal when the end of days would be--when the Messiah would arrive. G-d, however, did not agree that Jacob should reveal this information. The Malbim explains that revealing when the Messiah would arrive would have left the Jewish people depressed that the wait would be so long. However, now that we have come much closer to the Messianic era, it is permissible to calculate and predict the arrival time of the Messiah.

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Vayigash 5761-2001

"Joseph Helps His Brothers Repent"

Why did Joseph have to be so cruel to his brothers? Joseph apparently felt that it was necessary to put his brothers through an agonizing test in order to see whether his brothers were truly Ba'alei T'shuva--true penitents. Joseph brilliantly recreates the circumstances where Benjamin is now in the exact position that Joseph was in when he was thrown in to the pit by his brothers and sold to the Ishmaelites. Will the brothers this time stand up for Benjamin, or will they send him down the river as they did with Joseph?

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