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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Shelach 5780-2020

“The Torah’s Definition of ‘Power”
(Revised and Updated from Parashat Shelach 5761-2001)

After the sin of the scouts, G-d wishes to destroy the Jewish people. Moses, however, argues with G-d that true “power” means not to destroy, but to forgive, to convert and to transfer from one strongly held attitude to another. G-d and Moses thus ascribe a new meaning to the concept of “power.”

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Va’eira 5779-2018

"The Cups of Redemption"

Rabbi Asher Weiss maintains that there are four levels of slavery that parallel the four languages of liberation found in parashat Va’eira, and are represented by the four cups of wine that we drink at the Passover Seder.

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Va’etchanan 5778-2018

According to tradition, Moses offered up no fewer than 515 prayers to be allowed to enter the Promised Land–-all to no avail. Yet, his continuing petition, even after his fate was definitively sealed, teaches that mortals must never give up hope and never despair. The mercy of the L-rd endures forever.

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Va’etchanan 5777-2017

“The Power of Prayer”

Moses’ prayers were able to make the heavens tremble, but there is nothing more powerful than the prayers that emanate from a broken heart.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5777-2017

“If Your Brother Becomes Impoverished”

The mitzvah to redeem the land of a fellow Jew who has become impoverished has an important metaphoric message for contemporary times.

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B’ha’a’lot’cha 5776-2016

“Moses Realizes that His Dreams Were Not Going to be Fulfilled"

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik provides new insights into a well-known narrative in parashat B’ha’a’lot’cha, explaining why Moses’ dreams of entering the Promised Land were not realized.

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Re’eh 5773-2013

"How Far Must We Go to Avoid Evil?"

How far must contemporary Jews go to separate from the “new paganism,” from the new evils that not only confront us, but seem bent on consuming us?

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Eikev 5773-2013

"Eating Bread Without Poverty"

How is it possible for G-d to assure the people who reside in the Land of Israel that they will lack nothing?

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Kee Tavo 5769-2009

"Stretch Those Face Muscles!"

When the first fruits were harvested, they were brought by the farmers to Jerusalem with great fanfare and celebration. The Bikurim ritual teaches us a fundamental life principle of expressing gratitude and joy for the gifts that G-d bestows upon us. How unfortunate it is that so many who live in this most prosperous of times, have lost the ability to smile, to feel happy and to express proper gratitude for all the goodness in our lives.

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Devarim 5768-2008

"Establishing the Rightful Owners of the Land"

In parashat Devarim, the Torah goes into excruciating and puzzling detail concerning the nations who dwelt in the Land of Canaan. All this is done in order to emphasize the constant change of kingdoms and nations, underscoring that there never was one permanent owner to the land. It is undisputedly "G-d's land" to apportion according to His will--to the People of Israel.

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Kee Tavo 5766-2006

"Respect for the Person and the Office"

In the ceremony of the bringing of the Bikurim, the first fruits, the Torah tells us that the farmer shall come to the Priest who "shall be in those days." From these added words, the rabbis learn that we must treat the contemporary Priest with great respect, even though he may not measure up to the standards of the Priests of old. The Torah teaches us to respect not only the person of the Priest, but the office of the Priesthood as well. It is an important message for contemporary America, with many ramifications concerning the future of our country.

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Shoftim 5766-2006

"The Great Real Estate Swindle-Its Implications"

A seemingly innocuous rule of not moving a neighbor's boundary has remarkable implications concerning the Jewish concepts of the integrity of property (both physical and intellectual), unfair competition, improper business practices, and the encouragement of virtually unbridled intellectual competition.

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Re’eh 5765-2005

"The Sanctity of Land and its Implications"

In parashat Re’eh, we find a number of verses underscoring the sanctity of the Land of Israel. Because of the land’s sanctity, the Jewish people are required to wipe out all vestiges of idolatry. They are also enjoined not to do so to the Lord, their G-d. From this the rabbis deduce the absolute sanctity of the Temple and of G-d’s name. The prohibition of violating the sanctity of holy places has contemporary ramifications with regard to the evacuation of the synagogues in Gush Katif.

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Eikev 5765-2005

"Understanding Birkat Hamazon, the Grace After Meals"

Parashat Eikev contains the verse that serves as the source of the mitzvah mandating the reciting of Birkat Hamazon--the Grace after Meals. What is the purpose of the Grace after Meals? Furthermore, how can a lowly mortal hope to bless or acknowledge the source of his food?

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Matot 5765-2005

"Love of G-d Trumps Lust for Life"

In parashat Matot, Moses is told to lead the people in battle to avenge the Midianites and afterwards he will be gathered unto his people. Moses not only does not hesitate, he responds with alacrity and joy, even though he knows that the fulfillment of this command will hasten his death. This diminutive verse reveals much about our leader, our master, Moses.

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Chukat 5765-2005

"Moses gets Battered by the Commentaries"

The tragic episode of Moses hitting instead of speaking to the rock at May Meriva is one of the most difficult and enigmatic in the Torah. The commentators struggle mightily with this Torah portion. As a result, many sins, mistakes and transgressions are attributed to Moses and Aaron. Are they justified?

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Shelach 5765-2005

"Bread Alone"

On the heels of the grievous sin of the scouts, G-d forbids an entire generation of men, 20 years old and up, to enter the land of Israel. Strangely, the story of the scouts is followed immediately by two Torah portions that focus specifically on Israel--sacrifice and libations, and the giving of challah. The law of challah required that a portion of dough from every loaf of bread that is baked be given to the Priest. This gift of challah, underscores the primacy of sustaining our teachers and spiritual leaders and maintaining the excellence of Jewish education throughout the generations, even in the diaspora.

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Nitzavim-Vayeilech 5764-2004

"Hastening the Messiah"

Our rabbis see in the verses of parashat Nitzavim an allusion to the Messianic era. Moses predicts that the children of Israel will return to the L-rd their G-d, and will listen to G-d's voice. The Jewish people can hasten the Messiah's arrival by doing what is right and just in G-d's eyes.

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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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Matot-Masei 5761-2001

"Setting Our Priorities Straight"

In parashat Matot we learn of the tribes of Reuben and Gad (later joined by half of Menashe) who choose to remain on the eastern side of the Jordan. Moses is concerned that they will not join in the battle to conquer the Holy Land. The tribes 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 their children should come before their livestock. The value of human life is infinite and must always come first, even in a thoroughly materialistic generation such as the one in which we live.

Read More


0 Comments6 Minutes

Shelach 5761-2001

"The Torah's Definition of Power"

After the sin of the scouts, G-d wishes to destroy the Jewish people. Moses, however, argues with G-d that true "power" means not to destroy, but to forgive, to convert and to transfer from one strongly held attitude to another. G-d and Moses thus ascribe a new meaning to the concept of "power."

Read More


0 Comments7 Minutes

Chayei Sara 5761-2000

"The Personality of Isaac: The Passive Patriarch"

Much of the life of Isaac appears to reflect his seemingly passive nature. Yet it is apparently through his passivity that he achieves greatness. It is Isaac, the "passive patriarch," who takes hold of the land of Israel, probably because he, as opposed to Abraham and Jacob, never left the land. He toiled on the land, worked the land, plowed the land and harvested the land. Through his quiet perseverance, Isaac achieved more than many others accomplish with much noise and bravado.

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0 Comments9 Minutes