Nitzavim 5782-2022

“The Hidden Things Belong to G-d”
(updated and revised from Nitzavim 5765-2005)

Parashat Nitzavim contains one of the most enigmatic verses of the Torah that states that the hidden things are for the L-rd our G-d, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, to carry out all the words of this Torah. In their efforts to clarify the meaning of this verse, our rabbis offer a number of cogent elucidations. One of the most moving explanations is that when the final redemption comes, the Jews who had become so assimilated (hidden) among other peoples that their origins have become forgotten, will be reunited (revealed) with the rest of the Jewish people, and restored to their status among the Jewish nation.

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Kee Tavo 5782-2022

“Watch Out for Laban, He’s More Dangerous than Pharaoh!”
(updated and revised from Kee Tavo 5763-2003)

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 be on our guard. Our brother Laban, however, the wily Aramean, is always out there waiting for us, feigning love, conspiring to defeat us. We need to always be on watch for him.

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Balak 5782-2022

“How Goodly Are Your Tents O’ Jacob”
(updated and revised from Balak 5764-2004)

Targum Jonathan, the Aramaic translation of the Torah, states that Balaam saw the schools of the Jewish people and was moved to say: "How goodly are your tents O' Jacob?" The "number one" priority in Jewish life is to ensure that committed Jews remain committed. There is no better way of ensuring that commitment, than by providing quality intensive Jewish education for our children. If we fail to do so, then our Jewish future is in jeopardy.

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Passover I 5782-2022

Chametz, Matzah and Faith in Redemption”
(Updated and revised from Passover 5763-2003)

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 exact same ingredients, flour and water. However, chametz is allowed to ferment. The dough for Matzah, on the other hand, is not permitted to stand still 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 effort and labor.

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Vayigash 5782-2021

“The Virtues of Assimilation”
(updated and revised from Vayigash 5762-2001)

Once the brothers arrive in Egypt, there develops a difference of “philosophy” between Joseph and his siblings regarding assimilation and the possible loss of national identity while in Egypt. The brothers prefer to avoid any hint of permanent settlement in Egypt. By not establishing comfortable homes in Egypt, they hope to assure Israel's eventual exodus. Joseph, however, was optimistic about his family being able to lead a productive Jewish life in Egypt. Joseph does not see assimilation as total evil, but rather as a possible source of cultural enrichment, without resulting in a loss of personal Jewish identity.

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Mikeitz-Chanukah 5782-2021

“What is Chanukah Really About?”
(updated and revised from Mikeitz 5761-2000)

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 to all.

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Kee Tavo 5781-2021

“A Contemporary Interpretation of an Ancient Reproof”
(updated and revised from Kee Tavo 5762-2002)

As we read the תּוֹכָחָה--“Toh’cha’cha,” G-d’s reproof of the people of Israel for their sins in parashat Kee Tavo, it is impossible not to recognize the evils of contemporary society predicted and fulfilled. G-d begs His people to “choose life.” If we indeed choose life, the tragic predictions of the Torah should never occur. In fact, we can forestall almost all evil by properly educating ourselves and our children to conduct our lives properly, fulfilling our responsibilities to others and to the environment, with genuine loving-kindness.

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Chukat 5781-2021

“The Paradox of the Red Heifer”
(updated and revised from Chukat-Balak 5762-2002

In this week's parasha, parashat Chukat, we read of the paradox of the Red Heifer whose ashes were used to purify those who were ritually contaminated. The Red Heifer rendered those who were impure, pure, and those who were pure, impure. Perhaps it is teaching us that there is a significant price to pay for trying to improve others. But, we must be prepared to pay that price. It is, after all, the way to achieve ultimate perfection.

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Shemot 5781-2021

“The Not-So-Obvious Process of Hebrew Enslavement”
(revised and updated from parashat Shemot 5761-2001)

The message of parashat Shemot is that the Jewish people probably became slaves long before the Egyptians enforced slavery upon them. Long before the back-breaking labor, the Sons of Israel had probably become slaves to Egyptian culture, Egyptian fashion and Egyptian values. It was inevitable that these committed Jewish-Egyptian “patriots” would become so deeply dedicated to Egypt politically, civically and emotionally that they would ultimately be unable to extricate themselves.

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Vayigash 5781-2020

“Joseph Helps His Brothers Repent”
(updated and revised from Vayigash 5761-2001)

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 determine whether his brothers were truly Ba'alei T'shuva--fully penitent. 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 abandon the lad, as they did Joseph?

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Chukat-Balak 5780-2020

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose--History Repeats Itself!”
(Updated and revised from Parashiot Chukat-Balak 5760-2000)

According to tradition, the nations of Moab and Midian were mortal enemies. As usual, we see, once again in parashat Chukat, that the one thing that unites our enemies is their enmity of Israel, which is greater than their hatred for each other. That pattern has repeated itself throughout Jewish history. Indeed, the deeds of the fathers are the signposts for the children.

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Passover 5780-2020

“The Essential lessons of Chametz and Matzah”
(Updated and Revised from Passover 5763-2003)

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. Flour and water become chametz automatically if the mixture is allowed to stand. Matzah, on the other hand, before it is quickly baked, must be constantly kneaded and is not permitted to stand and ferment. We learn from the matzah-making process that truly meaningful life experiences never come effortlessly, but only through significant exertion and labor.

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Tzav 5780-2020

“Behold, I am Sending You Elijah the Prophet”
(Revised and update from Tzav 5761-2001)

The prophet Malachi predicts that toward the end of days, Elijah will arrive. The prophet’s arrival will spark a momentous movement of return to Judaism. At this fateful hour, parents and children will interact with each other and will be drawn closer to each other through the word of G-d. That time may very well be now!

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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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Balak 5779-2019

“History Repeats Itself! Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”
(Revised and updated from Chukat-Balak 5760-2000)

According to tradition, the nations of Moab and Midian were mortal enemies. As usual, as we see once again in parashat Balak, that the one thing that unites our enemies is their unremitting enmity of Israel, which is greater than their hatred for each other. That pattern has repeated itself throughout Jewish history. Indeed, parashat Balak confirms that: “The deeds of the fathers are the signposts for the children.”

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Tzav 5779-2019

"Remembering Amalek: A Contemporary View”
(Revised and updated from Tzav 5760-2000)

Jewish tradition looks upon Haman and all those truly wicked enemies who sought to destroy the Jewish people as the heirs of the ancient Amalekites, the fierce nation that was the first to attack the people of Israel, especially the stragglers and the weak, after the exodus from Egypt. While remembering Amalek is important, rebuilding and guaranteeing a Jewish future is far more important.

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Toledot 5779-2018

“The Dangers of Assimilation”

When peace was made between him and the king of Gerar, Isaac realized that it was time to move away, to distance himself so that he could maintain his strong Jewish identity and live a full Jewish life with intensity and passion. Contemporary Jews, may need to do the same to ensure their own continuity.

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Va’etchanan 5774-2014

“The Prediction of Return”

The Torah, in parashat Va’etchanan, predicts that massive numbers of Jews in exile will return to traditional Jewish practice. Is that happening today?

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Bechukotai 5774-2014

“The Role of Exile in Jewish Theology”

What is the purpose of exile and what role does exile play in Jewish history?

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Acharei Mot 5774-2014

“Prelude to Holiness”

While all agree that the goal of the Torah is to foster a Jewish Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation, there is much heated discussion concerning the extent to which one must go to avoid “contamination” from the outside environment.

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Shemot 5773-2012

The Role of Exile in Jewish History

What is the role that Galut--exile--plays in the history of the Jewish people?

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Kee Tavo 5772-2012

“Persecution’s ‘Silver Lining’”

In G-d’s reproof of the Jewish people, He declares that even in exile the people will not find rest for the soles of their feet. Can persecution actually prove to be a blessing in disguise?

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Re’eh 5771-2011

“Listening to the Message”

How does one remain moral in an increasingly immoral environment? Ethical and moral behavior doesn't simply develop through osmosis or from preaching. Judaism maintains that living a religiously observant life results in the ability to hear G-d’s voice among the conflicting messages competing for one’s attention in a noisy world.

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Acharei Mot 5771-2011

"The Unfathomable Practice of Molech Worship"

After presenting an extensive list of prohibited marital and family relationships, the Torah, in parashat Acharei Mot, concludes with specific prohibitions against Molech worship, sodomy and bestiality. What was Molech? How was it practiced? Did Jews actually engage in this horrendous form of idolatry?

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Shemot 5770-2010

"In Those Days, In These Times"

In a single generation, unbridled adulation for Joseph turns into the enslavement of the entire Jewish people. How did it happen? Are Jews possibly facing a similar future in North America today?

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0 Comments9 Minutes