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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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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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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Terumah 5780-2020

“The Centrality of Torah”
(updated and revised from Terumah 5762-2002)

The Holy Ark was the central furnishing of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), which housed the Torah. Since Torah is the elixir of life for the Jewish people, the Ark, with its non-removable staves, always traveled with the people whenever they moved. This ancient practice marked indelibly on all Jews, that at the very core of our lives must be the Torah.

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Mishpatim 5780-2020

“The ‘Sophisticated’ and ‘Unsophisticated’ Criminal”
(updated and revised from Mishpatim 5761-2001)

In Jewish law, the punishment for stealthy theft is greater than that of violent theft. Perhaps the rabbis were trying to teach 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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B’shalach 5780-2020

“Where is Nachshon the Son of Aminadov When We Need Him?”
(Updated and revised from B’shalach 5761-2001)

Nachson the son of Aminadav, the Prince of the tribe of Judah, was the first Israelite to enter the water and 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,” for the benefit of humankind, we need to find, and exercise, the profound faith of Nachshon.

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Bo 5780-2020

“Rational Love and Emotional Love: A Lesson from Tefillin”
(revised and updated from Bo 5760-2000)

From the ritual of Tefillin we learn that there is both “rational love” and “emotional love,” a love of the mind and a love of the heart. While both these loves are important, in Judaism, emotional love trumps rational love.

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Shemot 5780-2020

“Developing Commitment to Judaism: A Lesson from an Egyptian Prince”
(updated and revised from Shemot 5760-1999)

“Give me four years to teach the children, and the seed I will have sown will never be uprooted.” Thus spoke the Communist leader, V.I. Lenin. Could it be that Moses’s formative rearing at the hands of his mother Jochebed and sister Miriam made the difference? It is highly probable that his early childhood experience, supplemented by his stepmother Bitya’s effective rearing, enabled Moses to develop an exalted sense of Jewish identity, making it possible for Moses to emerge as the greatest Jewish leader of all.

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Vayechi 5780-2020

"The Critical Importance of Timing"
(updated and revised from Vayechi 5760-1999)

When blessing his children, Jacob says of Reuben that he has all the natural advantages of the firstborn child in rank and in power. Retreating suddenly, Jacob declares that Reuben is impetuous like water and therefore cannot be the foremost. As we study the actions, deeds and words of Reuben, we find that he is a good person, who is extremely good-hearted and well-intentioned. Reuben is always ready to do the right thing. Unfortunately, his timing is off, intending to do the right thing, but at the wrong time. As important as actions and words are, timing is at least as critical.

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0 Comments13 Minutes