Va’eira 5781-2021

“Mesmerized by the Subtle Slavery”
(updated and revised from Va’eira 5761-2001)

The Torah tells us that Pharaoh literally had to chase the Jews out of Egypt, not only because Egypt was the country that they knew as their home, but because Egypt embodied values from which they were not prepared to separate. It is this “subtle slavery,” reflected in our admiration for, and indeed worship of, “alien” cultures and values, that is a cause of concern for Jews, even today.

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Noah 5781-2020

“Noah: The Man Who Brings Comfort to the World”
(updated and revised from Noah 5761–2000)

Abram was very close to his orphaned nephew, Lot, and did his best to educate him in the ways of morality and ethics. But, Abram and Lot soon grow apart because of Lot's obsession with comfort and wealth. At first, Lot showed great promise. In fact, he possibly could have become the material and spiritual heir of Abram, but instead he chose the luscious plain--he chose Sodom.

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Matot-Masei 5780-2020

“Setting Our Priorities Straight”
(updated and revised from Parashiot Matot-Masei 5761-2001)

In parashat Matot we learn that the tribes of Reuben and Gad, [later joined by half of Menashe], request to remain on the eastern side of the Jordan. Moses is concerned that these tribes will not join in the battle to conquer the Holy Land. Reuben and Gad respond, “We will build pens for our livestock and cities for our small children,” and, of course, they will send troops. Moses, however, corrects them, telling them that concern for their children should come before their livestock. The value of human life is infinite, and must always come first, even in a materialistic generation such as the one in which we live.

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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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Kee Teitzei 5779-2019

“Polygamy, Illegitimacy and Punishing the Innocent”
(Revised and updated from Kee Teitzei 5760-2000)

Summary: The concept of מַמְזְרוּת--mam’z’rut, illegitimacy, in Judaism, is a very painful topic in Jewish life, but one that underscores the extreme sanctity with which Judaism views the family. Once the sanctity of life is compromised, Jewish life is compromised. The Torah has much to teach concerning proper conduct and compassion in the face of profoundly difficult societal issues and choices.

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Va’etchanan 5779-2019

“The Torah’s Radical Approach to Parenting”
(Revised and updated from Va’etchanan 5760-2000

In parashat Va’etchanan, we learn of the famed “fifth commandment” calling for honoring father and mother. The Code of Jewish Law goes into extensive detail regarding the obligations of honoring and revering parents. A cursory study of the Code’s directives seem to place all the obligations on the children and extend to the parents all power and authority. Ultimately, Judaism attempts to create a very delicate balance. The radical regulations of parenting set down in the Talmud and in our Code are based on insights of our Torah. They are not only ancient and insightful, they also work.

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Bamidbar 5779-2019

“The Trials of Being a Public Figure”
(Revised and updated from Bamidbar 5760-2000)

In parashat Bamidbar, the Torah declares: “These are the offspring of Aaron and Moses,” but only the offspring of Aaron are listed. From this textual nuance we learn that those who are not blessed with biological children can still be spiritual parents, like Moses was to Aaron’s children. It also underscores the great challenge facing public figures who must try to balance their own lives with the needs of the community.

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Passover 1 5779-2019

“The Passover Seder–Focus on the Children”
(Revised and updated from Passover 5760-2000)

Even before the enslavement of the Jews began, Pharaoh instructed the midwives to kill all the newborn Jewish babies. The Midrash goes further, asserting that Pharaoh’s disproportionate hatred of Jewish children led him to try to remedy his leprosy affliction by bathing in the blood of Jewish children. On Passover night, every Jew is a child, and every Jew becomes a parent, to underscore the importance of nurturing the next generation.

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Emor 5777-2017

“Communicating a Vital Message Clearly”

The Torah prohibits the priests from performing the one mitzvah--burying the dead, that seems so natural for them.

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Vayeira 5774-2013

“Greater than Welcoming the Divine Presence”

Is welcoming guests a greater mitzvah than welcoming the Divine Presence? Perhaps they are of equal value?       

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Vayikra 5773-2013

"Achieving Spiritual Ascendance Through Sacrifice"

Why do Jewish children begin their study of Torah with the complicated laws of sacrifice? What is ultimately achieved by the bringing of animal sacrifices?

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Kee Tisah 5773-2013

“The Vengeful G-d--Revisited”

The last of the 13 Attributes of G-d’s mercy is that G-d will not completely cleanse sinners. Is the G-d of the Hebrew Bible a “vengeful G-d”?

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Chayei Sarah 5773-2012

"Beware Not to Return My Son There!"

Why was Abraham so adamant about not allowing his servant, Eliezer, to take Abraham’s son, Isaac, out of the land of Israel to look for an appropriate mate?

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Emor 5772-2012

"Lessons from a Priest’s Wanton Daughter"

The bad habits that we see some of our children developing may not be due to the children’s own personal shortcomings, but rather a result of the failure of proper parental nurturing. The only way for the priests, parents, and children to become sanctified and remain sanctified is for parents to serve as sanctified examples for their children and their families.

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Metzora 5771-2011

"We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident"

Notwithstanding the uniqueness of the Declaration of Independence, the idea that certain concepts and ideas are truly “self-evident,” is not an original Jeffersonian concept. The Torah is filled with concepts and ideas that are regarded as self-evident.

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Tazria 5771-2011

“Childbirth and Ritual Impurity”

In face of the great challenges that young mothers face, every birth brings trauma, fear, lack of confidence. Scripture states that when a woman bears a child, she shall be impure. But when that period ends, there is re-entry and welcoming, in the fullest sense.

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Vayechi 5769-2009

"Blessing the Children"

There is no greater joy for parents than to bask in the blessings of one's children. Unfortunately, there is no greater pain that one can endure than the shame brought upon one's family and on the family of humankind by our children.

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Kee Tavo 5768-2008

"Redeeming Captives"

One of the truly haunting verses of the Torah that we encounter in Parashat Kee Tavo is the prediction that our sons and daughters will not be ours, for they will be led into captivity. The mitzvah of "Pidyon Sh'vuyim," redemption of captives, is one of the highest mitzvot in the hierarchy of biblical commandments. Redeeming our contemporary "captives" must be the call of the hour.

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