Vayishlach 5767-2006

"The Lonely Patriarch"

Before the fateful encounter between Jacob and Esau, scripture notes that Jacob remained alone. What is the cause of Jacob's aloneness, and what is the meaning of Jacob's loneliness for Jacob and for future generations?

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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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Nitzavim 5765-2005

"The Hidden Things Belong to G-d"

Parashat Nitzavim contains one of the most enigmatic verses of the Torah, which states that the hidden things are for the Lord, our G-d, but the revealed things are for us and for our children forever, to carry out all the words of the 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 as beloved members of the Jewish nation.

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Va’etchanan 5765-2005

"The Jewish Attitude Towards Intermarriage"

In parashat Va'etchanan, we read of the stern prohibition against intermarriage with those who are not members of the Jewish faith. Different arguments are often presented why Jewish young people should not intermarry. Perhaps the most compelling argument is that only those who marry within the faith can hope to be part of the revolutionary mission of the Jewish people to perfect the world under the rule of the Al-mighty and to serve as a light unto the nations.

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B’shalach 5765-2005

"Vah'chah'moo'shim“-A Call to Arms"

In parashat B'shalach the Torah tells us that the Israelites went out of Egypt, "chah'moo'shim," usually translated as "armed." Chah'moo'shim however is a word that has many interpretations and many deep and subtle meanings that teach us that much more than physical/military defense is needed to protect the Jewish people.

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Chayei Sara 5765-2004

"Reaching Out to Family Members"

Despite the fact that all his family who still resided in his native Mesopotamia were steeped in idolatry, Abraham decides to send Eliezer back to his homeland to find a bride for his son, Isaac. There is much we can learn from Abraham's perseverance and persistence in reaching out to and retrieving his family members who were so distant from his faith and his traditions.

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Kee Tavo 5764-2004

"The Centrality of Joy in Jewish Observance"

Parashat Kee Tavo is one of the two parashiot in the Torah that features the terrifying prophecies known as the "Tochacha"--G-d's reproof of the Jewish people for not following His Torah. The Tochacha predicts that the Jewish people will bear sons and daughters who will not be theirs. It warns that these children will go into captivity because, "You failed to serve the Lord, your G-d, amid gladness of heart, when everything was abundant." More than anything else, what is needed in Jewish life today to help stem the horrific losses from assimilation is the transferal of the inherent joy in Judaism and an emphasis on how the very process of seeking G-d is a source of great pleasure.

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Pinchas 5764-2004

"The Conundrum of Pinchas: Do His Actions Set an Unacceptable Precedent?"

In parashat Pinchas, the Al-mighty praises Pinchas, the son of Elazar and grandson of Aaron the High Priest, for fatally stabbing Zimri and Cozbi, who had committed a public act of harlotry as a challenge to Moses and the elders at the entrance to the Tent of Assembly. Does the fact that Pinchas is rewarded by G-d with an eternal covenant of priesthood set an unacceptable precedent?

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Balak 5764-2004

"How Goodly are Your Tents O' Jacob?"

Targum Jonathan, the Aramaic translation of the Torah, says that Bilaam 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 outstanding intensive Jewish education for our children. If we fail to do so, then our Jewish future is in jeopardy.

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Mikeitz-Chanukah 5764-2003

"Chanukah--The Struggle of Joseph and Judah"

Clothed in his coat of many colors, Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and eventually sold to Egypt. His subsequent involvement in Egyptian society is contrasted by Judah's purist, more conventional philosophy. These two viewpoints are echoed in the struggle of Chanukah, as Jews throughout the ages question how much to participate in the culture of the day.

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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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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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Mikeitz-Chanukah 5763-2002

"In Those Days, in These Times"

The story of Joseph may be seen as the saga of an assimilator struggling with his identity, very much paralleling the struggle of the Traditionalists and the Hellenists in the 2nd Century B.C.E. It appears to be an ancient story with an ancient theme. What contemporaries often fail to acknowledge is that a subtle assimilation that is taking place today as well. This powerful force is exacting a heavy toll on our people today, even among some of the most committed Jews. To resist its influence, it is necessary for all to affirm and reaffirm their commitment to the ethics and morality reflected in our Torah. As the honored values of the Jewish past are whittled away by the pernicious values of the contemporary environment, the battle of Chanukah continues today.

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Kee Tavo 5762-2002

"A Contemporary Interpretation of an Ancient Reproof"

As we read the "Tochacha," the reproof of the people of Israel for their sins in parashat Kee Tavo, it is impossible not to see the evils of contemporary society predicted and fulfilled. G-d begs us 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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Vayigash 5762-2001

"The Virtues of Assimilation"

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 identity.

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Shemot 5761-2001

"The Not-So-Obvious Process of Enslavement"

When the sons of Jacob and their families arrive in Egypt, they are sent to live separately from the Egyptians in the land of Goshen. Nevertheless, Pharaoh and the Egyptians are threatened by them and decide to deal wisely with the Jews, eventually resulting in the Hebrews' brutal enslavement. How was Pharaoh able to convince the Egyptian citizens to enslave the Jews, descendants of Joseph, who, less than 100 years before, had saved all the Egyptian people from starvation?

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Mikeitz-Chanukah 5761-2000

"What is Chanukah really about?"

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.

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Chukat-Balak 5760-2000

"History Repeats Itself! Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"

According to tradition, the nations of Moab and Midian were mortal enemies. As usual, as we see once again in parashat Chukat, 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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Chukat-Balak 5760-2000

"History Repeats Itself! Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"

According to tradition, the nations of Moab and Midian were mortal enemies. As usual, as we see once again is parashat Chukat, the one thing that unites our enemies is the 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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Tzav-Purim 5760 – 2000

"Remembering Amalek: A Contemporary View"

Jewish tradition looks upon those who seek 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 elderly, weak and the young after the exodus from Egypt. While remembering Amalek is important, rebuilding and guaranteeing the Jewish future is far more important.

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Shemot 5760-1999

"Commitment to Judaism: A lesson from Moshe"

"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 Yocheved and sister Miriam made the difference? It is highly probable that his early childhood experience, supplemented by his stepmother Bitya's effective rearing, leads to Moses's exalted sense of Jewish identity and his emergence as a great Jewish leader.

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0 Comments12 Minutes