Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5763-2003

"Choosing Life"

In parashat Nitzavim, the Al-mighty begs his children to "choose life." Judaism believes that "healthy guilt" allows us to override our defense mechanisms and helps us acknowledge the changes that we need to make in order to improve our lives, to perfect our situation and to choose life.

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Kee Tavo 5763-2003

"Watch Out for Laban, He is More Dangerous Than Pharaoh"

As part of the Bikkurim declaration, the celebrants stated that "An Aramean tried to destroy my father." The Torah thus sees the Aramean, Laban, as more dangerous than Pharaoh. The fact that Pharaoh wants to do us in is well known, so we can protect ourselves. Our brother Laban, however, the wily Aramean, is always out there waiting for us, feigning love, conspiring to defeat us. We need always be on watch for him.

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Kee Teitzei 5763-2003

"The Torah's Radical Approach to Child Rearing"

In parashat Kee Teitzei, we learn of the law of the Ben Sorer U'moreh, the wayward and rebellious son. The Code of Jewish Law sets out very precise guidelines for child rearing that at first blush seem extremely harsh. However, after careful analysis, we see that the Torah is basically establishing boundaries between parent and child, leading to a healthy and loving parent-child relationship.

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Shoftim 5763-2003

"Astrology, Witchcraft and Spiritualism in Judaism"

In parashat Shoftim, the Torah tells us that when the Jewish people enter the land of Israel they must not follow the abominable practices of the nations that reside there. It is strictly prohibited to cause a son or a daughter to pass through fire, to practice divination or astrology, or to visit one who reads omens. Patronizing a sorcerer, an animal charmer, inquiring of the Ov or Yidoni, or consulting the dead is forbidden. The Jews are supposed to be wholehearted with G-d and not support the magic or spirituality of the ancients. The questions remains, is there any efficacy to witchcraft or to the magic of the ancients?

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Re’eh 5763-2003

"The Elusive Blessing of 'Peace'"

In parashat Re'eh, we read of the "simple" formula for bringing peace to the Jewish people: "hearken to the commands of the Lord." Over 3,000 years of empirical evidence confirms the fact that there has never been a period of peace for the Jewish people without a concomitant return to G-d. The elusive blessing of peace would be ours if we would only "hearken."

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Eikev 5763-2003

"Is there Truth to the Notion of Spiritual Accountability?"

In the second paragraph of the Shema, we read of the Jew's relationship of responsibility and accountability toward G-d. Could it be that just as there is a physical accountability in the world, there is a spiritual accountability, as well? The Torah categorically affirms this notion.

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Va’etchanan 5763-2003

"Why the Sh'ma?"

The Sh'ma prayer is the central prayer that speaks of the acceptance of the dominion of G-d upon us. Two major questions come immediately to mind. Why do our rabbis speak of this text, calling it the acceptance of the "yoke of heaven," a phrase that is rather intimidating and seemingly overbearing? Another major question that is bothersome is the nature of the first line of the Shema. Why are we told to "love" the L-rd, with all our hearts, soul, and might? Shouldn't we be told to "believe" in the L-rd, our G-d, with all our heart, souls, and might?

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Devarim 5763-2003

"The Gentle Reproof"

The book of Devarim records the words that were spoken by Moses in the last five weeks of his life, given as a last will and testament to his beloved people. In this parasha, Moses provides an example of how reproof should be given by alluding to the people indirectly, rather than announcing the exact sins that were committed. We may indeed learn from Moses how to give effective reproof with great gentleness.

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Matot-Masei 5763-2003

"The Massacre of the Midianites: Does Judaism Countenance Genocide?"

In parashat Matot, G-d tells Moses to mobilize the army of Israel and exact vengeance on the Midianites. The rabbis of old are troubled by this call. They explain that "genocide" was never countenanced by Jewish law, but rather that it was necessary to always first sue the enemy for peace and give them opportunity to flee if they refused to live in peace. Nevertheless, Jewish tradition teaches that one should not be overly compassionate, otherwise one will wind up being cruel at a time when compassion is appropriate.

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Pinchas 5763-2003

"Can a Perfect G-d Sin?"

In the long list of sacrifices that appears in parashat Pinchas, we learn of the sin offering that is brought on Rosh Chodesh, the new moon sacrifice. In Numbers 28:15, the Torah instructs the priest to bring one he-goat "for a sin offering unto the Lord." However, the Hebrew "l'cha'taht la'Hashem" really means "a sin offering for G-d." The Talmud in Chullin 60b suggests that each month a sin offering is brought for G-d as an atonement for G-d's "sin" of reducing the size of the moon. There is much to learn from G-d's "sin offering."

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Chukat-Balak 5763-2003

"How to Market G-d!"

In parashat Chukat, the Jewish people, once again challenge G-d by speaking against the Al-mighty and Moses and asking, "Why did you bring us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness...?" In response to this arrogant display of lack of faith, G-d sends fiery serpents to attack the rebellious hordes, and a large number of people die. To stop the plague, Moses builds a fiery serpent and places it on a tall pole so that all who are bitten will look at the serpent and live. What is the role of this serpent? After all, it seems to be very much akin to voodoo.

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Korach 5763-2003

"Korach's Rebellion: Why is the Jewish Community Losing So Many of its Best and Brightest?"

According to rabbinic tradition, Korach was a great Torah scholar who went astray because of jealousy. But Korach was only the first of many great Jewish minds and personages who walked away from Jewish tradition. Perhaps the story of Korach can help clarify for us some of the root causes of Jewish apostasy.

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Shelach 5763-2003

"Can Human Beings Achieve Immortality?"

On the heels of being informed that they will not enter the land of Israel, G-d tells Moses to instruct the people that upon entering the Promised Land they are to bring sacrifices with special wheat, oil and wine offerings. It seems rather cruel of G-d to rub salt into the wounds of the people by giving them instructions that they will never be capable of fulfilling. Perhaps the Torah is really telling these very same individuals that they can achieve immortality. While the Al-mighty informs the generation of the wilderness that they will perish, they learn that they will live on through their children who will be loyal to the faith system of Israel and will joyously celebrate and sacrifice in the land of Israel.

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B’ha’alot’cha 5763-2003

"The Message of the Manna"

The Manna is the food from heaven that sustained the Jewish people for forty years while they wandered in the wilderness. Manna, in effect, represents the heavenly means of support that is provided to each household. The Malbim, Rabbi Meir Yehudah Leibush, cites seven important lessons to be gleaned from Manna. Ultimately, the lesson is that we must be the masters of our labors and our careers and not allow them to master us.

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Naso 5763-2003

"The Hypocrite as Exemplar"

Why is the Torah portion concerning the person who fails to fulfill his religious obligation juxtaposed with the portion of the woman who is suspected of being unfaithful to her husband? From this unusual textual positioning we learn much about human nature. Providing a favorable example is far more impressive and effective than preaching.

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Shavuot 5763-2003

"The Remarkable Legacy of Ruth, The Righteous Convert"

The Book of Ruth could easily pass for a stirring love story. However, the Book of Ruth is far more. It is, in fact, the volume that introduces some of the most exalted philosophical and theological concepts known to humankind. It was Ruth the Moabite who restored the virtue of chessed, loving-kindness, to the people of Israel.

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Bamidbar 5763-2003

"The Role of the Levites, and the Service of Yeshiva Students in the Israeli Army"

The Tribe of Levi was not counted along with the men of the other tribes, since the Levites did not serve in the army of Israel. The Levites, in fact, served in the army of G-d. The role of the ancient Levites seems to justify the exemption of yeshiva students from the Israeli army. Should this ancient exemption influence the laws that are applied today?

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Bechukotai 5763-2003

"Ma'aser Shay'nee, the Second Tithe"

From their earliest days of nationhood, the Jewish people understood that Jewish education was to be the peoples' foremost concern and should be their primary charitable priority. The donations of Ma'aser Shay'nee, the second tithe, were to be used or redeemed in Jerusalem, which served as a spiritual center and educational hub of Israel-in effect affirming the primacy of Jewish education.

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Behar 5763-2003

"Understanding Hebrew and Canaanite Servitude"

Parashat Behar presents us with two most perplexing and challenging statutes: Hebrew and Canaanite servitude. What seems on the surface to be two very difficult and primitive concepts, are, in reality, rather enlightened, and there is much that we may learn from them.

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Emor-Yom Ha’atzmaut 5763-2003

"The Counting of the Omer and the Celebration of Israel's Independence"

The counting of the Omer underscores the ultimate purpose of the Exodus from Egypt--the giving of the Torah! Therefore the period from the second day of Passover until the sixth day of Sivan when the festival of Shavuot is celebrated, is counted with great enthusiasm. Counting the Omer is always done in ascending numerical order rather than descending order, underscoring its positive, joyous and optimistic nature--celebrating the victory of light over darkness, morality over immorality and love over hate.

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Kedoshim 5763-2003

"Giving Proper Reproof"

Judaism maintains that if one has a justified complaint against another it is preferable to state it directly than to brood over it. However, giving proper reproof is an art in and of itself. The great Chazon Ish (Rabbi Abraham Isiah Karelitz, 1878-1953) declared that since we no longer know how to give proper reproof, it is preferable not to offer reproof.

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Acharei Mot 5763-2003

"The Jewish Method of Achieving Moral Perfection"

In parashat Acharei Mot, G-d exhorts the Jewish people to observe His decrees and His laws in order to live a sanctified life, a life of dignity and a life of meaning. But how does one live an ethical and moral life in a world that seems to be constantly drawing us away from good? Judaism's educational methodology has proven to be the most effective means of educating large numbers of people over long periods of time to ethical and moral living. Its secret is the rituals of Judaism that effectively prepare people for ethical and moral living.

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Passover 5763-2003

"Chametz, Matzah and Faith in Redemption"

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. However, chametz is allowed to ferment. Matzah, on the other hand, is not permitted to stand and ferment, but must be constantly kneaded. Flour and water become chametz automatically if the mixture is allowed to stand. We learn from the matzah that a truly meaningful life never comes effortlessly, but only through significant exertion and labor.

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Metzorah 5763-2003

"The Nidah--Affirming the Sanctity of Life"

The laws of the menstruant woman are extremely complicated and are frequently misinterpreted and misunderstood. Nidah has nothing to do with impurity. To the contrary, the ritual is an affirmation of life, underscoring the basic Jewish tenet that the sanctity of human life is the bottom line of all of Judaism.

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Tazria 5763-2003

"Tzaraat--The Spiritual Dermatological Disease"

According to Jewish tradition, the primary cause of the affliction tzaraat is lashon hara, speaking evil or slanderously of others. In ancient times, when one would speak evil of another person, a rash or infection would appear on the belongings or on the body of the perpetrator. On the surface, the assertion that one can develop a hideous skin rash from speaking evil seems quite preposterous, yet, there are many precedents for such things in life, science, and medicine.

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Shemini 5763-2003

"Using, Not Abusing, the Sanctified Substance"

The severe punishment meted out to the sons of Aaron leaves us with a powerful reason to carefully study the Jewish attitude towards intoxicants and drugs. Alcoholism and drug abuse is serious business, not something that can be ignored. Wine is a divine gift, and plays a key role in Judaism. Yet, we need to make certain that it is treated as a special gift and imbibed with respect.

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Tzav 5763-2003

"What we Learn from the Jewish 'Caste System'"

How does Judaism justify its seemingly discriminatory communal structure of Kohanim-Priests, Leviim-Levites and Israelites?

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Vayikra-Purim 5763-2003

"Parashat Zachor: 'Hating as a Mitzvah?'"

The highly acclaimed young scholar, Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik penned an essay in the Christian theological journal, Present Tense, entitled The Virtue of Hate. Although Soloveichik's arguments are technically correct, he fails to put these valid arguments within proper context. Judaism in fact does theological somersaults in order to find merit even for the hardcore wicked.

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Pekudei 5763-2003

"The Lesson of the Basin: 'Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover'"

According to tradition, the basin that contained the sacred water in the Tabernacle was made of the bronze mirrors that the mirrors used in Egypt to seduce their husbands who had separated from them, not willing to produce children who might be murdered by the Egyptians. Moses, however, was reluctant to accept the bronze from the mirrors considering them objects of vanity. G-d responds that the mirrors are dearer to Him than anything else.

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Vayakhel 5763-2003

"Defining True Generosity"

Although people tend to say that generosity is simply giving of one's wherewithal to help another, Judaism defines true generosity as giving with a full and willing heart. It is the willing heart that determines true and genuine generosity.

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0 Comments5 Minutes