Vayigash 5767-2006

"Two of the Seventy Souls"

The Torah lists 70 descendants of Jacob who entered Egypt. Two names seem to be out of place among the 70 "souls" that are recorded: Serach, the daughter of Asher, and Shaul, the son of the Canaanite woman. Who were these unusual people, and why were they singled out?

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Mikeitz 5767-2006

"A Jew Rises to Power"

Pharaoh is faced with the dilemma of appointing Joseph, a Jew, over all of Egypt. Troubled by the choice, he eventually hearkens to the advice of the insightful adage: "Better a wise enemy, than a foolish friend."

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Vayeishev 5767-2006

"What's in a Name?"

Parashat Vayeishev contains the extraordinary story of Joseph and his brethren. At perhaps the most dramatic moment, the story suddenly pauses. A new saga of Judah's falling-out with his family is told. This saga is communicated not only by the words of the text, but also by a careful analysis of the names of Judah's sons, which have much to reveal to us.

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Vayishlach 5767-2006

"The Lonely Patriarch"

Before the fateful encounter between Jacob and Esau, scripture notes that Jacob remained alone. What is the cause of Jacob's aloneness, and what is the meaning of Jacob's loneliness for Jacob and for future generations?

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Vayeitzei 5767-2006

"Dissing G-d"

G-d instructs Jacob to get up and leave Laban's house. Instead of departing post haste, Jacob consults with his wives, and then decides to leave. Is this a direct affront to G-d?

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Toledot 5767-2006

"The Unanswered Prayer"

Rebecca is barren, and she and Isaac pray for a child. Scripture tells us that G-d responds to Isaac's prayer and Rebecca becomes pregnant. What happened to Rebecca's prayer?

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Chayei Sara 5767-2006

"A Match Made in Haran"

Why was Abraham so insistent that his son Isaac not leave the land of Canaan? Why was it necessary for the new bride to commit herself to Isaac without ever seeing him or meeting his actual family?

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Vayeira 5767-2006

"Choosing The Right Neighbors"

In parashat Vayeira, Abraham moves from Elonei Mamrei to Gerar. Our rabbis wonder why. Abraham's move can be instructive to us in our efforts to select the proper community in which to live.

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Lech Lecha 5767-2006

"The Souls That Were Made in Haran"

In this week's parasha we read of Abram's journey from Haran to Canaan. Abram not only takes his family and his belongings to Canaan, but also the "souls that he had made in Haran." The rabbis offer a number of interpretations of who or what these "souls" are. However, the big question remains: What ever happened to those "souls"?

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Noah 5767-2006

The Curse of Ham; The Blessing of Shem and Yafet"

The books of the Torah are filled with superb narratives, each one surpassing the next. The story of the flood is followed by the story of Noah planting a vineyard, resulting in the curse of his son, Ham, along with Noah's grandson, Canaan, and the blessing of Noah's sons, Shem and Yafet. What is the meaning of the blessing of Yafet, and how is it meant to impact on Shem's descendants--the Jewish people?

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Bereshith 5767-2006

"Pardes--the Four Levels of Understanding Torah"

The weekly parasha, Bereishith, marks the renewal of the Torah reading cycle and exposes the true depths of understanding that is to be found in the study of Torah. To say that it contains a "paradise" of knowledge and understanding that is replete with Divine sparks of wisdom is in no way an exaggeration or hyperbole.

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Sukkot I 5767-2006

"Sukkot- The Festival of Joy"

The holiday of Sukkot, known as the "Festival of Joy" was renowned in ancient times for its most festive celebration of Simchat Beit Hashoeva, the festival of the water libation. Around the year 95 B.C.E. when the King of Judea, Alexander Yannai, attempted to change the ritual of water libation, he was pelted by the traditionalists, leading to a massacre of many of the celebrants. While even the minute detail of the Sukkot rituals were sacred to the ancients, most contemporary Jews fail to celebrate Sukkot in any manner, and know absolutely nothing of this very special joyous festival.

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Simchat Torah 5767-2006

"The Evolving Holiday"

One of the most joyous days of the Jewish calendar, Simchat Torah, as it is celebrated today, is a relatively new holiday that became popular in the Middle Ages around the 14th century. The customs and rituals of this holiday have interesting origins, and, in fact, seem to still be evolving and developing in contemporary times.

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Yom Kippur 5767-2006

"The Poetry of Yom Kippur"

The ritual of the Yom Kippur Temple service is very rich indeed. It is described in great detail as part of the Yom Kippur liturgy known as the Avodah. The Avodah includes the ritual of the scapegoat in which a lottery determines the fate of two identical he-goats. One is sent to the wilderness, the other is sacrificed to G-d. This ritual is intended to convey to the people the important choices that each of us has laid out before us.

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Rosh Hashana 5767-2006

"The Longest Day"

The longest day of the year may not be the "Summer Solstice" or the extended fast of Yom Kippur, but rather Rosh Hashanah, a day that is known in rabbinic literature as Yoma Arikhta--one long day. Could it be that G-d is granting the wish of all human beings to have a little extra time to take care of the important things in life?

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Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5766-2006

"The Torah's Not-So-Secret Formula for Peace"

There has never been a period of peace for the Jewish people without a concomitant return to G-d. Although parashat Nitzavim has an abundance of uplifting promises predicting G-d redeeming His people and gathering them in from exile, all the goodness is contingent upon our prior return to G-d.

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Kee Tavo 5766-2006

"Respect for the Person and the Office"

In the ceremony of the bringing of the Bikurim, the first fruits, the Torah tells us that the farmer shall come to the Priest who "shall be in those days." From these added words, the rabbis learn that we must treat the contemporary Priest with great respect, even though he may not measure up to the standards of the Priests of old. The Torah teaches us to respect not only the person of the Priest, but the office of the Priesthood as well. It is an important message for contemporary America, with many ramifications concerning the future of our country.

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Kee Teitzei 5766-2006

"The Mitzvah of Marriage, Kiddushin and Ketuvah"

In parashat Kee Teitzei, we find that a positive mitzvah, the mitzvah of marriage, is derived from a negative mitzvah, the prohibition of defaming one's wife. With the mitzvah of marriage, the ketubah, a most remarkable ancient document to guarantee women's rights, is also introduced.

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Shoftim 5766-2006

"The Great Real Estate Swindle-Its Implications"

A seemingly innocuous rule of not moving a neighbor's boundary has remarkable implications concerning the Jewish concepts of the integrity of property (both physical and intellectual), unfair competition, improper business practices, and the encouragement of virtually unbridled intellectual competition.

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Re’eh 5766-2006

"Adding or Subtracting"

In parashat Re'eh, we learn of the prohibition of adding or subtracting from the Torah. Any attempt to manipulate the Biblical text would imply that the Commandments are imperfect or irrelevant. And yet, rabbis throughout the ages built fences around the mitzvot and added festivals and observances. How can that be justified?

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Eikev-Tu B’Av 5766-2006

"The Fifteenth of Av"

The deep mourning period of the Three Weeks between the fast of the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av have concluded and the holiday of the 15th of Av is upon us. Although Tu B'Av is a relatively minor holiday today, the Talmud states that it once was one of the most festive days in the Jewish calendar. Many diverse reasons are given for its observance. Perhaps the main reason is to pull the Jewish people out of the sadness and depression of the long period of mourning that precedes Tu B'Av, and give the Jewish people reason to be optimistic and joyous when looking toward the future.

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Va’etchanan 5766-2006

"A Small Verse that Started a Mighty Revolution"

Although parashat Va'etchanan is filled with many important verses and themes, one surprising verse, "You shall do what is fair and good in the eyes of G-d" (Deuteronomy 6:18), stands out for its revolutionary quality, setting a new precedent for Judaism's moral/legal underpinnings. This verse teaches that each Jew is exhorted to go beyond the letter of the law and to always strive to relate to neighbors and friends in a generous and giving manner.

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Devarim-Tisha B’Av 5766-2006

"Isaiah's Message to Contemporary Jews"

The powerful message found in the first chapter of Isaiah is entirely appropriate for the Tisha B'Av period. The prophet exhorts the Jewish people to take the performance of their ritual mitzvot more seriously, to invest deeper meaning in their religious observance, and to enrich these spiritual practices with greater sincerity and passion.

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Matot-Masei 5766-2006

"Taking a Stand Against the Banality of Evil"

In Parashat Matot, we learn that the Israelite soldiers are instructed to avenge the harlotry of Midianites that resulted in the deaths of 24,000 Israelites in a plague. Despite this exceptional instance, the Jewish soldiers are reluctant to kill the women and children until a Divine command is issued. Why a Divine command? To teach how concerned Judaism is that killing never ever becomes casual or mundane, and to assure that indifference to life never finds a home in the hearts of the Jewish people.

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Pinchas 5766-2006

"The 'Zealotry' of Pinchas"

Seemingly out of the shadows emerges a controversial hero, Pinchas, who slays Cozbi and Zimri, two "high profile" individuals who publicly perform a lewd sexual act. Only a man like Pinchas, who had himself suffered a lifetime of ridicule and rejection, could have mustered the courage to stand up and defend the great Moses who was being subjected to ridicule and rejection.

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Chukat-Balak 5766-2006

"The Sanctity of Human Life"

The laws of the Red Heifer recorded in parashat Chukat seem archaic and antiquated. But, in truth, the ritual of the Red Heifer is an extraordinarily important ritual that drives home the invaluable life lesson regarding the principle of the sanctity of human life and the major role that this principle plays in every aspect of Jewish life and practice.

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Korach 5766-2006

"The Lesson of the Fire-pans"

How strange is it that the fire-pans that were used by Korach and his evil associates to test G-d were eventually fashioned into a cover for the holy altar? Shouldn't they have been banished or destroyed? What do the fire-pans come to teach?

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Shelach 5766-2006

"Who was Caleb?"

Upon returning from scouting the Land of Israel, only two of the twelve tribal representatives, Joshua and Caleb, refuse to go along with the negative report of the scouts. Of the two, only Caleb confronted the popular leaders publicly. What was the source of Caleb's amazing strength and moral courage?

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B’ha’alot’cha 5766-2006

"With G-d as our Guide"

During their long sojourn in the wilderness, the ancient Israelites were guided by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. In effect, all the journeys of the ancient Hebrews were carefully orchestrated and coordinated by G-d. While the Israelites are no longer physically in the wilderness, there is still a great need for contemporary Jews to be guided by the Al-mighty in all their travels and in all their sojourns.

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