Yitro 5780-2020

“Can the Torah Forbid Feelings that are Part of Normal Human Emotions?”
(Updated and revised from Yitro 5761-2001)

3,300 years ago, when xenophobia reigned supreme throughout the ancient world, the Torah admonished Jews not to reject sage advice simply because it emanates from a non-Jewish source. In fact, Jews are encouraged to look for good and healthy ideas anywhere in the world, Jewish and secular, and embrace those ideas with open arms.

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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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Vayigash 5780-2019

“The Reunion of Jacob & Joseph: An Immortal Lesson about Love”
(updated and revised from Vayigash 5760-1999)

After 22 years of mourning for his lost son, the rabbis state that when Jacob and Joseph are reunited, Jacob could not kiss his son because he was reciting the Shema prayer. What was the reason for Jacob’s odd behavior? Couldn’t he have prayed before or after the reunion with his son?

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Vayishlach 5780-2019

“The Massacre of Shechem, Can it be Justified?”
(Updated and revised from Vayishlach 5760-1999)

The rabbis are challenged deeply by the rape of Dina and the subsequent massacre of the men of Shechem by Simeon and Levi. They try valiantly to explain why Dinah was fated to suffer so horribly. They also debate whether the actions of Simeon and Levi can in any way be justified.

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Va’eira 5780-2019

“G-d Hardens Pharaoh's Heart:
Reconciling Omniscience with Free Will”
(revised and updated from Va’eira 5760-2000)

Our commentators struggle with G-d’s statement to Moses: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.” Does this imply that G-d has taken away Pharaoh’s free will? Among the host of responses offered by the commentators, is that Pharaoh hardened his own heart during the first 5 plagues, and was punished five times by G-d hardening Pharaoh’s heart during the last 5 plagues. Many of the responses given by the commentators to this issue are quite insightful and resourceful. They must be studied carefully in order to appreciate them fully.

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Mikeitz 5780-2019

“Who is Osenath the wife of Joseph?”
(Updated and revised from Mikeitz 5760-1999)

The Midrash relates that Dina, who was raped by Shechem, gave birth to a child, Osenath. This child, who was driven from Jacob’s home, is eventually adopted by Potiphar and his wife. Despite the terrible tragedy, Dina’s daughter, Osenath, marries Joseph and becomes the progenitor of two tribes of Israel--Ephraim and Menashe. It is Osenath, the secret heroine, who raises these two children, and keeps them from assimilating in Egypt.

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Vayeitzei 5780-2019

“Who is the Real Enemy?”
(Updated and revised from Vayeitzei 5760-1999)

Despite his limited role in the biblical narrative, Jewish history portrays Laban as a significant, evil character. He plays a major role in the Passover Haggadah, where he is referred to as “the Aramaean who sought to destroy our father.” Laban is even considered more dangerous than Pharaoh. Pharaoh is an outright, public enemy. Laban, on the other hand, embraces us in a false embrace and his kiss is the kiss of death. Because he feigns love, and since we are unaware of Laban’s subtle desire to destroy the Jewish people, he is far more dangerous than Pharaoh.

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Vayeishev 5780-2019

“The Coming of Age of Joseph: from Lad to Bechor”
(edited and revised from Vayeishev 5760-1999)

When first introduced to Joseph, we are told that he is 17 years old and a lad. It is Joseph’s struggle to mature andbecome less self-centered that is the real story behind the 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 emerges as the bechor, the firstborn, and the rightful heir of Israel.

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Toledot 5780-2019

“A Lesson from Jacob and Esau: Understanding and Accepting Differences”
(Updated and revised from Toledot 5760-1999)

Some bold commentators have suggested that the difficulties between Jacob and Esau may be due to the fact that not enough attention was paid to the innate differences in the children’s natures, and that they were both, mistakenly, given the same cookie-cutter education. There is always a great price to pay for not recognizing that children have individual and personal needs that must be addressed.

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Chayei Sarah 5780-2019

“Rebecca and Isaac’s First Encounter: a Revealing Insight into the Future”
(updated and revised from Chayei Sarah 5760-1999)

When Rebecca raises her eyes and first beholds Isaac from afar, she falls off the camel and promptly covers her face with a veil. Rebecca’s actions may very well reflect her feelings of inadequacy about coming from a decadent and idolatrous background, and being betrothed to an intensely spiritual man. This encounter may explain the fraught relationship that the future couple will have.

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Vayeira 5780-2019

"The Preciousness of Hospitality"
(Updated and Revised from Vayeira 5760-1999)

While 99-year-old Abraham is recovering from his recent circumcision, he sees potential guests on the horizon. Despite his pain, he quickly runs toward the wayfarers and begs them not to pass by his tent without accepting his hospitality. There is much we can learn from Abraham’s manner of welcoming guests. It is essential that we not lose the capacity to properly perform the noble and ennobling mitzvah of “Hachnassat Orchim.”

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Lech Lecha 5780-2019

“Understanding the Ritual of Circumcision”
(updated and revised from Lech Lecha 5760-1999)

The ritual of circumcision, performed on the eighth day on the flesh of the Jewish male, has always been the fundamental mark of identity for the Jewish man. There are those who say that the letting of blood during the circumcision is a constant reminder that the Jewish people must live by their blood. It may also mean that whether the Jewish people live or die will be determined by the organ that is circumcised. After all, Jewish destiny depends upon how the Jewish males choose to use their sexual organ.

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Noah 5780-2019

“The Vital Importance of Truthful Judgment”
(Updated and Revised from Noah 5760-1999)

In the narrative of the Tower of Babel, the Bible depicts a would-be omniscient G-d as having to come down to see the city and the tower that the people had built. If G-d is truly omniscient, why should He have to come down; surely He knows of the wickedness of the people? The Torah is faced with a daunting challenge: Are moral lessons more important than theological truths?

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Bereshith 5780-2019

How to Achieve Immortality the G-dly Way
(Revised and updated from Bereshith 5760-1999)

The Biblical story of the Garden of Eden teaches that two of the greatest human aspirations 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 most important lessons for all humankind.

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Sukkot 5780-2019

“A Sukkot Story: Devotion to a Festival”
(Updated and revised from Sukkot 5761-2000)

The great O’heiv Yisrael, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, taught a wealthy Jew with an Etrog, what it means to be devoted to the festival of Sukkot.

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Yom Kippur 5780-2019

“How does G-d Judge?”
(Updated and revised from Yom Kippur 5760-1999

We mortals need to be constantly aware that what may seem in our eyes as a trivial or insignificant transgression, may appear in G-d’s eyes as a very serious breach or violation. That’s the challenge of Teshuva.

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Rosh Hashana 5780-2019

“The Judgment of Ishmael, and its Contemporary Implications for all of G-d's Creatures”
(Updated and revised from Rosh Hashana 5761-2000)

Even the wicked Ishmael was given a “pass” by the Al-mighty and allowed to survive, because at that time of judgment he was not “worthy” of punishment. Similarly, the Al-mighty is prepared to give every sincere penitent the benefit of the doubt and inscribe us in the Book of Life.

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0 Comments11 Minutes