Yitro 5766-2006

"Sanctify Them, Today and Tomorrow"

In parashat Yitro we read of the Revelation at Sinai, and the special preparations the people had to make for the Revelation. G-d tells Moses to inform the people that they should be sanctified "today and tomorrow." Our commentators state that "today" may be easy to remain sanctified, but "tomorrow" is not always easy. This message applies not only to the generation of the revelation at Sinai, but to us as well. The tests that the ancients faced are, in fact, the very same challenges that we face today in the 21st century.

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B’shalach 5766-2006

"The Bones of Joseph "

With the more than 2 1/2 million people waiting to be rescued, and thousands of logistical details to review, Moses diverts his attention from the people, to personally attend to the removal and transport of the bones of Joseph from Egypt to Canaan. From this act of unconditional love performed by Moses our leader, our commentators derive many important lessons regarding effective leadership and establishing proper priorities in life.

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Bo 5766-2006

"Transformations"

In order to be freed from slavery, the ancient Israelites had to go through a transformation to prove themselves worthy of freedom. By taking the sheep, slaughtering the animal, and placing its blood on the doorposts, the ancients Hebrews showed that they were prepared to defy their masters and to cleanse themselves of the pagan Egyptian practice of animal worship. Transformations need not be limited to Egyptian slaves or non-observant Jews. We can all learn a profound lesson from the transformations of the ancient Israelites, and apply it to our own lives.

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Va’eira 5766-2006

"Becoming Accustomed to the Burdens"

Why had the time now come to free Israel from bondage? While many reasons are offered, Rabbi Simcha Bunam of Peschischa suggests that G-d felt that the ancient Hebrews were becoming too accustomed to suffering--so it had to stop. A parallel may be drawn to contemporary times, when people become indifferent and unresponsive to the immorality of our own environment.

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Shemot 5766-2006

"And G-d Built Them Houses"

According to tradition, the midwives who refused to follow Pharaoh's orders and kill the male Hebrew children, were Yocheved and Miriam, mother and sister of Moses and Aaron. The commentaries suggest that when Scripture notes that G-d rewards them by building them "houses" it refers not to real houses, but rather to the dynasties of the Priesthood and Levites and the monarchy of King David. It is NJOP's hope that many NJOP students who never knew that they were Priests and Levites will return to their Priestly and Levitic functions, and that in the time of Messiah, the Al-mighty will see fit to choose one of those students, a descendant of the tribe of Judah, to lead His people to full redemption.

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Vayechi 5766-2006

"The Passing of a Patriarch"

Father Jacob had given his children explicit instructions how to conduct his funeral and burial. His instructions, however, clashed with the political and social mores of Egypt. The all-powerful Joseph needed to navigate the very sensitive path necessary to accommodate the Egyptians, yet ensure the fulfillment of his deceased father's wishes.

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Vayigash 5766-2006

"And Judah Approached"

In parashat Vayigash, scripture tells us that Judah approached "him," probably meaning Joseph. Our commentators struggle to understand the meaning of the word "Va'yee'gash." Whatever the meaning of the word, the context of the biblical story calls on every person to assume the mantle of courage and leadership, and to step in where necessary to show a sense of responsibility toward all Jews.

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Mikeitz 5766-2005

"Marketing G-d by Living Example"

Too often in the history of Judaism the lesson of the sanctification of G-d's name has been taught by those who were required to give up their lives. There is unfortunately little opportunity to learn the lesson of Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d's name) by living example. Yosef Hatzadik, Joseph the Righteous, is probably the first and most prominent example of one who sanctified G-d's name, and through whose actions and words was able to influence others to acknowledge G-d in their own lives.

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Vayeishev 5766-2005

"The Vast Majority of the Time, G-d Rules the World"

Although most of us live our lives under the assumption that we have freedom of will, there are times when G-d invokes a divine plan, requiring human beings to follow a preordained script. In parashat Vayeishev, we see the very dominant role that G-d plays in Joseph's life, and the inexorable fulfillment of the divine predictions found in the Covenant between the Pieces.

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Vayishlach 5766-2005

"When a Jew Comes to the City"

The arrival of a tribal family to an established culture, is always a challenging experience for the newcomers. When Jacob and his family arrive in Shechem, there are many adjustments that need to be made, both on the part of the new Jewish inhabitants and the native non-Jewish residents.

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Vayeitzei 5766-2005

"Deceit, More Deceit and Teraphim"

The theme of deception is central to parashat Vayeitzei as Laban deceives Jacob, and Jacob in turn deceives Laban. The final deception takes place as Rachel deceives her father, Laban, by stealing his Teraphim, his household idols, an act that the commentaries labor over diligently to comprehend.

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Toledot 5766-2005

"Why Was Rebecca Barren?"

In parashat Toledot, Isaac and Rebecca both pray that Rebecca will be blessed with a child. After many years of barrenness, G-d listens to the prayer and Rebecca conceives. Why was Rebecca barren, and why were the other matriarchs--Sara and Rachel--also barren? Our rabbis offer up a host of answers. Those answers notwithstanding, we need to be more sensitive in our relations to those couples who pray for children and are not given a positive response.

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Chayei Sara 5766-2005

"Who Is Keturah?"

Our rabbis debate who was "Keturah," the new wife that Abraham takes at the end of parashat Chayei Sarah. There are those that say that she was an entirely new wife. Others argue that Keturah is really Hagar, whom Abraham brought back and remarried. In his mission to be "Av hamon goyim"--a father to many nations--Abraham has six additional children with Keturah and five grandchildren. It is not unlikely that these children, grandchildren and great grandchildren influenced the world with the little Abrahamic tradition that they undoubtedly imbibed from their grandfather and great grandfather.

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Vayeira 5766-2005

"Confronting Adversity, Lessons from Father Isaac"

Especially when compared to the lives of the dynamic Abraham and Jacob, Isaac's life seems to be one of passivity and tragedy. And yet, with his unique ability to arise boldly from challenge and emerge from darkness, Isaac's life serves as a most valued example to his progeny. It is the model of Isaac that most closely parallels the history of the Jewish people.

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Lech Lecha 5766-2005

"Abraham, Father of the Jewish Nation"

Abraham plays such a key role in the development of the Jewish people and in the world arena that there are more chapters devoted to his life than to the creation of the world and to the previous 20 generations of humankind. It is Abraham's ethical and moral character that leads to Abraham being the chosen of G-d. The multi-talented Abraham becomes the religious and nationalistic leader of Israel, and the forefather who takes hold of the land of Israel/Canaan for the Jewish people.

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Noah 5766-2005

"The Seven Commandments Given to the Descendants of Noah"

Parashat Noah is the source for what is known as the Seven Noahide Principles, seven basic laws that are the fundamentals of civilization and humanity. All non-Jews are required to abide by these seven principles, which are regarded as the minimal standards of human behavior in society. These laws also play a significant role in Judaism's reluctance to accepts converts.

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Bereshith-Simchat Torah 5766-2005

"P'roo Ur'voo --Jewish Attitudes Towards Procreation"

As we once again begin the Book of Genesis, we learn about the central mitzvah of procreation, "p'roo ur'voo," (Genesis 1:28). Judaism diverges from much of Christianity in its forthright and positive attitude towards sexuality. Not only is bearing children a mitzvah in Judaism, but even pleasure in sexuality is a mitzvah. Furthermore, even those who are not blessed with children can bear spiritual fruit, by becoming teachers of Torah or by supporting the study of Torah.

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Haazinu-Sukkot 5766-2005

"When Life Revolves Around G-d"

The magnificent poetry of parashat Haazinu informs us that the People of Israel were the only nation created without a land. In this way, it was assured that G-d would be the people's primary influence, rather than allow the natural environment of the land to influence His people. So it is that in the midst of our abundant creature comforts, Sukkot comes to teach us a formidable lesson-- that we are never truly secure unless G-d is in the forefront of our minds, and a constant presence in our dwelling places.

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Yom Kippur 5766-2005

"Sharing the Blanket"

The Ten Days of Penitence--Aseret Y'may Teshuvah--are days in which we focus on ourselves to become better people so that our fate is determined favorably in the Divine judgment. But if we are only for ourselves, what are we? We need to learn what Howard Schultz, founder and chairman of Starbucks, learned from Rabbi Nosson Zvi Finkel, the head of Mir Yeshiva, that we must "share the blanket."

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Rosh Hashana 5766-2005

"Actions and their Implications"

Rosh Hashanah provides us with a unique opportunity for introspection and self-evaluation. Unfortunately, most people often fail to realize the implications of their actions, deeds and words. What we think is innocuous, can often be terribly destructive.

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