Naso 5769-2009

"An Extreme Lifestyle"

According to rabbinic interpretation, the Nazirite chooses a path of extreme behavior in order to avoid the temptations that he encounters in everyday life. Maimonides also recommends extreme behavior in order to heal oneself from negative traits. However, the extreme behavior in both instances must never be presumed to be normative. It is the "golden path" and the balanced disposition that must always be one's goal.

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Shavuot 5769-2009

"Mother of Royalty"

In the book of Kings, it is stated that King Solomon, set a chair for the "king's mother." In the Talmud, Rav Elazar explains that this referred not to Bathsheba, but rather to the "Mother of Royalty," Ruth. It was the Moabite princess, Ruth, who preserved the quality of loving-kindness that had been long lost amongst the children of Abraham, and reintroduced loving-kindness to the world. We now pray that salvation in our time shall also come from an unexpected and remote source, to enlighten us and redeem our world as well.

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Bamidbar 5769-2009

"Bringing Order to the Camp of Israel"

When it came to setting up the camp of Israel in the wilderness, two influences were significant. The angels at Sinai who surrounded G-d, and the directives that Jacob bequeathed to his children at the time of his death. Establishing healthy and secure family relationships often requires Divine intervention, but the human role must not be underestimated.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5769-2009

"Impoverishment: In those Days, in these Times"

In parashat Behar, the poor person is described on several occasions as "mach," crushed. Judaism's remarkable laws regarding charity not only address the material losses of an impoverished person, but also attempt to heal the emotional losses of those who have lost their life's possessions.

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Emor 5769-2009

"The Highest Mitzvah of All!"

In parashat Emor, our sages derive from the laws governing the prohibition of the priest from defiling himself to the dead, the special commandment of "Met Mitzvah," the requirement to bury an abandoned body for which there is no one else to care. It is considered by many to be the foremost mitzvah, over which no other mitzvah takes precedence.

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5769-2009

"Blood-the Essence of Life"

The Torah, on numerous occasions, prohibits eating blood. It also requires that the blood of certain non-domesticated wild animals, such as deer, as well as birds that are slaughtered for food, be covered with earth. What is the reason for this strict prohibition against blood, and why is the blood of only certain animals covered?

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Shemini-Yom Hashoah 5769-2009

"Aaron's Response to Tragedy-a Lesson for Yom Hashoah"

On what should have been the most jubilant day of his life, Aaron suffers the tragic loss of two of his sons who bring a strange fire shortly after the Tabernacle is inaugurated. Despite these grievous losses, Aaron and his two remaining sons are determined to go on with the ceremony. It is the commitment to preserve Jewish life, and live as a Jew with great zeal and passion, as taught to us by the High Priest Aaron, that is, unquestionably, the most powerful and appropriate response to the Shoah.

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Tazria-Metzorah 5769-2009

"And He Shall be Brought to the Priest"

The expression, "And he shall be brought to the priest" is repeated in each of this week's double parashiot, Tazria and Metzora. This recurring phrase is explained by various commentators as having important contemporary implications and bearing vital lessons for both Israel and American society.

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Tzav 5769-2009

"Judaism's Upbeat View of the Past"

The very first service of the day that the Kohen performed was known as Terumat Hadeshen, the lifting of the ashes. Rabbi Hirsch sees it not as the first act of the service of the new day, but rather as the final act of the preceding day's service. This optimistic interpretation underscores Judaism's singularly positive attitude toward life. Yesterday's frustrations, mistakes, errors and sins are not something to be erased from our consciousness, but rather something to be seen as a way station in our perpetual growth, in our never-ending effort at self-improvement.

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Passover 5769-2009

"What is the Prophet Elijah Doing at Our Passover Seder?"

What is Elijah, the zealous and angry prophet of Israel, doing at our joyous Passover Seder? This seemingly inappropriate guest turns out to be a most appropriate visitor who adds important dimensions to our Passover Seder.

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Vayikra 5769-2009

"Shlamim: Expressing Wholehearted Gratitude"

The Shlamim sacrifice, or Peace offering, plays a central role in the Jewish sacrificial rite. Although sacrifices are no longer offered today, their inherent symbolic meanings are still quite cogent. The ability to express gratitude for no particular reason, but merely because one is satisfied with one's life, is a feeling that is vitally important for people to articulate.

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Vayakhel-Pekudei 5769-2009

"All For the Sake of Heaven"

Parashiot Vayakhel-Pekudei are, in essence, repetitions of the instructions regarding building the sanctuary and manufacturing the priestly vestment. The multiple repetitions come to teach that every action in building G-d's dwelling place must be done for the sake of Heaven. So too must all the actions of every Jew be for the sake of Heaven.

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Kee Tisah 5769-2009

"An Opportunity for Those Who Seek to Repent"

The sin of the Golden Calf was a decisive event in Jewish history. Although it is generally regarded as a permanent stain on the record of the Jewish people, underscoring their abject faithlessness, according to some opinions, the people’s sinfulness was actually Divinely orchestrated in order to provide an opening for future generations to return from sin.

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Tetzaveh 5769-2009

"The Urim and Tumim--The Mysterious Priestly Accessory"

One of the special accessories that the High Priest wore is known as the Urim v'Tumim. It is a rather mysterious vestment and apparently had the power to determine Jewish law, and provide guidance for the leaders of Israel and the people. According to Rashi, Urim stands for light and Tumim stands for clarity.

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Terumah 5769-2009

"The Delicate Balance"

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch's interpretation of the difficult to comprehend details and furnishings of the Tabernacle teach us insightful life lessons. Among those lessons is that Israel's material and intellectual well-being stand under Divine protection. When Israel uses both of these endowments properly to further the ideals taught by Torah, then we as a people will be prosperous and safe. There is a grave danger lest prosperity become of primary importance, and intellectual advance be used to modify or reform the Torah.

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Yitro 5769-2009

"Ambassadors Needed"

Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, recommends establishing a Judicial system that can work efficiently to reduce the burdens on Moses and the people. Jethro's advice was not just about a judicial system. It was much more!

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B’shalach 5769-2009

"Pharaoh Sends the People of Israel out of Egypt"

The opening verse of parashat B'shalach is rather challenging. The Hebrew word "Vy'he" is seen as an indication of sadness. Why sadness at such a triumphal moment? Also, the verse asserts that Pharaoh, not G-d, sent the Children of Israel out of Egypt. Can this be true?

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Bo 5769-2009

"It's Payback Time!"

In parashat Bo, the Torah states that the male firstling of every donkey must be redeemed with a lamb. If it is not redeemed, then it must be killed by breaking its neck. From this, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch learns that, "He who selfishly refuses to redeem his donkey, is himself sentencing it [his possessions] to destruction." Are we now witnessing such a period in Jewish life? Is it because of our failure to use our possessions properly during the many years of abundance that we are witnessing the evaporation of massive amounts of Jewish wealth?

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Va’eira 5769-2009

"Why Didn't the Egyptians Rebel Against Pharaoh?"

Egypt had already suffered through seven plagues. The Egyptian people were down on their knees. Why didn't the citizens rebel against Pharaoh? Why did they allow their storied civilization to be destroyed before their very eyes?

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Shemot 5769-2009

"Does Moses Contradict G-d?"

In parashat Shemot, Moses seems to disagree with, indeed contradict, G-d. Despite G-d's explicit statement that, "They shall harken to thy voice," Moses responds that "They will not believe me, nor harken to my voice." Our rabbis struggle over whether Moses spoke to G-d unbefittingly, or whether G-d and Moses were simply referring to different issues when they each spoke.

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Vayechi 5769-2009

"Blessing the Children"

There is no greater joy for parents than to bask in the blessings of one's children. Unfortunately, there is no greater pain that one can endure than the shame brought upon one's family and on the family of humankind by our children.

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