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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Naso 5766-2006

"A Lesson from the N'seeim--the Tribal Leaders"

The fact that the Torah dwells at great length on the gifts of the tribal Princes should serve as a clue that there is much for us to learn from this particular Torah portion and from the behavior of the Princes, as well as from the actions of Moses and Aaron.

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Shavuot 5766-2006

"Appreciating Shavuot"

Of all the major holidays of Judaism, Shavuot is the least known and the least observed. Shavuot is known by many different names and has a rich message for all the Jewish people. Most of all, Shavuot commemorates the greatest moment of Jewish unity when the Torah was given by the Al-mighty at Mount Sinai. It is a festival that needs to be better understood, and celebrated more broadly.

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Bamidbar 5766-2006

"Valuable Insights from the Priestly Logistics"

In parashat Bamidbar we are told that Elazar, despite his prestigious position and noble background, carried many of the Tabernacle supplies in his own hands. There is much to be learned from Elazar's humility, and his preparedness to perform even the most menial of tasks. This attitude is what made him a worthy successor to his father as High Priest, and most fitting to serve as a model for future generations to admire and seek to emulate.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5766-2006

"The Economics of Torah"

In parashat Bechukotai we learn of the obligation to bring the Second Tithes as well as Animal Tithes to Jerusalem. Why Jerusalem? Since Jerusalem served as the center of Jewish religious and educational life, it needed to be properly supported. It was also the Torah's way of engaging farmers, from distant communities, in the study of Torah when they visited Jerusalem to bring their tithes.

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Emor 5766-2006

"Striving for Perfection"

The theme of perfection repeats itself frequently in parashat Emor. Not only do the Priests and the sacrifices need to be physically unblemished, even the thoughts of the donors and the Priests must be clean and pure as well. The theme of striving for perfection is a constant and repetitive theme in Jewish life, toward which each Jew is encouraged to strive.

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5766-2006

"Standing Idly By"

The double portions of Acharei Mot and Kedoshim contain almost one sixth of all the mitzvot in the Torah. The commandment found in parashat Kedoshim (Leviticus 19:16), not to stand by idly while the blood of our brother is shed, may not appear at first blush to be of great import. Yet, it is a fundamental principle that marks Judaism's significant departure from the jurisprudence systems of the entire world, indicating that a person's inaction can indeed be a significant and punishable violation.

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Tazria-Metzorah 5766-2006

"The Torah's Home Security System"

In parashat Metzorah we learn of the perplexing law of the house that is afflicted with tzara'at. This ancient law has much to teach us about the positive values and behaviors that must permeate a Jewish home, and the ruin and destruction that result from improper models and examples.

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Shemini 5766-2006

"Those Remarkable Dietary Laws"

Kashruth in the 21st century is far more than a religious ritual. It is a profound bond that unites Jew to Jew, a most meaningful tether that secures an individual to a nation, the sacred energy that connects a people and a nation to its very essence.

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Passover 5766-2006

"Ancient Customs in a New Light"

The obscure rule of not breaking the bone of the Pascal lamb that is sacrificed for Passover, sheds much light on the meaning and nature of the observance, practice and celebration of the Passover festival.

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Tzav 5766-2006

"Zevach Sh'lamim --Learning to Celebrate Life"

Among the varied sacrifices that the ancient Israelites offered, one of the most intriguing was the Zevach Sh'lamim, the Peace offering, that includes the thanksgiving offering. Our sages teach that the thanksgiving offering will never cease, and that the prayers of thanksgiving will never be discontinued. It is the duty of all of humankind to learn how to properly celebrate life, so that we may sufficiently appreciate what we have, and with profound gratitude express how truly great the gifts of our lives are.

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Vayikra 5766-2006

"Eternal Lessons from Ancient Sacrifices "

Is there anything meaningful or relevant that can be learned from the ancient rituals of animal sacrifice? A remarkable law found in the obscure details of a poor person's burnt offering serves as a window to many similar lessons of sensitivity that proliferate throughout Jewish law and practice.

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Vayakehel-Pekudei 5766-2006

"Lessons of Leadership from the Resume of an Architect"

What qualities are needed by successful leaders and artisans? The Torah's comments in parashat Vayakhel about Bezalel, the chief craftsman of the Tabernacle, reveal to us some very important Torah insights concerning leadership.

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Kee Tisah 5766-2006

"The Role of Aaron and the Golden Calf"

The biblical text of this parasha describes Aaron as an apparent collaborator with the Israelites in creating the Golden Calf. How is it that Aaron is not condemned by the Torah, and is, in fact, exonerated by most biblical commentators?

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Tetzaveh 5766-2006

"Drawing Close to G-d"

In parashat Tetzaveh, G-d announces that He will "dwell among the children of Israel and be their G-d." This statement seems to be asserting that G-d's presence among the people of Israel will be so overwhelming that they will perforce recognize Him as G-d. And yet, many people today are afraid of drawing too close to G-d, afraid of losing independence, and afraid of losing their individual identity.

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Terumah 5766-2006

"Make for Me a Sanctuary, And I Shall Dwell in Their Midst"

The syntax of the verse "and they shall make for Me a sanctuary, and I shall dwell among them," is rather odd. The purpose of this strangely constructed verse is to teach that G-d does not dwell in a sanctuary, but rather among the people of Israel. The questions remain: How are Jews to develop true passion in their relationship with G-d? How are we to light the fire that will ignite our hearts and souls in our worship of the Al-mighty G-d?

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Mishpatim 5766-2006

"We Will Do and We Will Obey"

Although most of parashat Mishpatim deals with the administration of civil justice, the end of the parasha returns to the theme of the Divine Revelation, where the people pronounce "Na'ah'seh v'nish'mah," we will do and we will obey. More than obey, "nishmah" means "we will understand." It is this struggle for understanding that is perhaps most relevant to Jewish observance in the 21st century.

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0 Comments10 Minutes