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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Mikeitz-Chanukah 5761-2000

"What is Chanukah really about?"

Given the massive assimilation in our times, it is no longer enough to passively light our candles on our windowsills or in our doorways. We must light our candles in our homes, on our tables and in our hearts, thus reaffirming our Jewish commitment. In this manner we may increase the light of our Chanukah candles, until the entire world is illuminated by these lights spreading the values of our Torah and our traditions.

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Vayeishev 5761-2000

"The Coming of Age of Joseph: From Lad to Bechor"

When first introduced to Joseph, we are told that he is 17 years old, and a lad. It is Joseph's struggle to mature and become less self-centered that is the real story of Joseph. Joseph eventually overcomes his immaturity and vindictiveness. He becomes a person of compassion and forgiveness, no longer the self-centered teenager who sees the world only through his own eyes. Joseph now emerges as the bechor, the first born, and the rightful heir of Israel.

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Vayishlach 5761-2000

"The Proper and Improper Use of Zealotry"

We read of the very painful and distressing story of the rape of Dinah, by the ruler of Shechem. Employing subterfuge in order to avenge the attack on their sister, Dinah's brothers, Simeon and Levi, demand that the men of the city be circumcised if they want to marry any Jewish women. While recovering from their surgery, the men are attacked by the sons of Jacob and killed. Jacob condemns Simeon and Levi for their violence and never seems to forgive them until the day of his death. However, the tribe of Simeon seems to bear that condemnation forever, whereas the tribe of Levi becomes the spiritual leader of Israel. Why their different fates?

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Vayeitzei 5761-2000

"The Role of Mother Rachel in Jewish History"

Mother Rachel is not only the great matriarch, she also is considered the great defender of her children--the Jewish people. It is Mother Rachel who watches over her children as they go out to exile and return, passing by her grave located on the road to Bethlehem. How fortunate are her progeny to have a mother who is always there for them.

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Toledot 5761-2000

"The Ancient Origins and Practices of Anti-Semitism"

We learn in parashat Toledot that the Philistines envied Isaac, resulting in the earliest acts of recorded anti-Semitism. The Philistines close up all the wells that Abraham's servants had dug. It is likely that the Philistines also desperately needed water in this arid land, but they stopped up the wells just to make certain that Isaac and his family would be unable to use them. It is not unusual for anti-Semites to hurt themselves at least as much as they hurt their would-be victims, the Jews.

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Chayei Sara 5761-2000

"The Personality of Isaac: The Passive Patriarch"

Much of the life of Isaac appears to reflect his seemingly passive nature. Yet it is apparently through his passivity that he achieves greatness. It is Isaac, the "passive patriarch," who takes hold of the land of Israel, probably because he, as opposed to Abraham and Jacob, never left the land. He toiled on the land, worked the land, plowed the land and harvested the land. Through his quiet perseverance, Isaac achieved more than many others accomplish with much noise and bravado.

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Vayeira 5761-2000

"Mount Moriah: Build for the Future through Love"

The place where G-d tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac is known as Mount Moriah. This place, located in the heart of Jerusalem, is where the Temple was eventually built. The Midrash teaches that G-d selected Mount Moriah as the place for Jewish worship because of the brotherly love and devotion practiced there. If we are to re-acquire Mount Moriah, it can only be done through the practice of fraternity and love.

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Lech Lecha 5761-2000

"Lot, Nephew of Abram: The Promise and the Tragedy"

Abram was very close to his orphaned nephew, Lot, and did his best to educate him in the ways of morality and ethics, but Abram and Lot soon grow apart because of Lot's obsession with comfort and wealth. At first, Lot showed great promise. In fact, he probably could have been the material and spiritual heir of Abram, but instead chose the luscious plain--he chose Sodom.

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Noah 5761-2000

"Noah: The Man Who Brings Comfort to the World"

In the persona of Noah, our commentaries uncover a person of abundant talent. He is the first person whom the Torah refers to as "ben" (son), derived from the Hebrew word to build. Noah indeed is a primary builder of the world, a role that is continued by many of his descendants. Noah also brings comfort to the world, which is what the name "Noah" literally means. It is Noah who teaches humankind that technology has the power to reduce pain and travail, and that children can be a consolation for their parents' inability to complete their tasks. It is Noah who has the ability to bring comfort and uncover goodness, even in times of adversity.

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Bereshith 5761-2000

"How to Achieve Immortality the G-dly Way"

The two greatest aspirations of humankind are the desire for omniscience and the desire for immortality. Both of these aspirations are symbolically represented by the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of Life. However, immortality cannot be achieved through immorality. Fortunately, we can regain entry into the Garden of Eden by following G-d's instruction. The story of the Garden of Eden may appear to be simplistic, but it is actually one of the greatest lessons for all humankind.

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Sukkot 5761-2000

"The Sukkot Story: Devotion to a Festival"

Devotion to G-d must be wholehearted. Earning a place in the World to Come must be due to a person's good deeds, and not one's superior negotiation skills.

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Yom Kippur 5761-2000

"The Thrill of Coming Home"

The month of Elul and the early days of Tishrei between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are universally regarded as propitious times for repentance and return. As G-d draws closer to us during this period, we need to draw closer to Him.

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Rosh Hashana 5761-2000

"The Judgment of Ishmael and its Contemporary Implications for all of G-d's Creatures"

From the story of Hagar and Ishmael that is read on Rosh Hashana from Genesis 21, we learn that even though Ishmael had an evil past and his potential for the future was not promising, G-d saved him because at that moment he could not be considered guilty. Surely this most hopeful and optimistic message is appropriate for all on Rosh Hashana. It is as if the Al-mighty does "somersaults" in order to find every possible reason to judge his creatures favorably.

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0 Comments10 Minutes