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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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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Tzav 5777-2017

“Lessons from the Ceremony of the Consecration of the כֹּהֲנִים—
the Priests”

From the ceremony of the consecration of the priests we learn that mitzvot must be performed with sincerity and full- hearted devotion.

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Behar 5776-2016

“Bernie Sanders Meets Parashat Behar"

Among many important themes, parashat B'ha'a'lot'cha contains two fascinating stories about the Israelites in the wilderness. Both stories can be seen as a metaphor for contemporary Jewish life: Jews who feel that their "souls are dried up" and that Judaism has little or nothing to say to them, and Jews who love their Judaism and do not want to miss out on the wonderful benefits of living a full Jewish life.

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Nitzavim-Rosh Hashana 5775/5776-2015

“Standing Firmly Before G-d and Man”

Parashat Nitzavim conveys a very powerful message of mutual responsibility that should resonate with all Jews, especially during the fateful period of the High Holy Days.

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Eikev 5775-2015

‘D’vay’kut’--Bonding with the Al-mighty”

D’vay’kut,” bonding with G-d, is often thought of as being an exceedingly mystical and esoteric concept, far from the reach of the common folk. Yet it is achievable to those who are willing to emulate G-d’s deeds, embrace the sages and scholars, and heed the message of the Divine in sacred music.

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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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Sukkot 5774-2013

"Half for You, and Half for G-d"

The Jewish festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot are intended to be shared celebrations. Half is to be devoted to the celebrants and half to the Al-mighty.

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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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Eikev 5772-2012

“Loving the Stranger”

If attitudes of antipathy and xenophobia are often directed at mere strangers, how much more so to strangers who wish to convert to Judaism, who are neither members of our families, nor of our people. Consequently, the Torah laws regarding the proper treatment of converts are rather extensive and quite detailed.

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Behar-Bechukotai, Yom Yerushalayim 5772-2012

"Living Outside the Land of Israel"

Although the Midrash regards the importance of the mitzvah of dwelling in the land of Israel as equivalent in value to all the other Torah mitzvot combined, the debate still rages today regarding the obligation for all Jews to dwell in the land of Israel.

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Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5772-2012

"Respect for Elders"

Our rabbis suggest that according filial respect and honoring elders are the fundamental building blocks of a healthy society, without which the world would soon revert to a state of chaos.

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Lech Lecha 5772-2011

“The Two Covenants”

In this week’s parasha, we learn of two covenants, the Covenant between the Pieces and the Covenant of Circumcision. What is the relationship between these two covenants?

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Bereshith 5772-2011

“The Fall of Man”

What really happened in the Garden of Eden between Adam, Eve and the serpent?

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Kee Teitzei 5771-2011

"Sending the Mother Bird Away"

The Biblical commentators engage in a rigorous debate regarding the rationale behind the mitzvah of "Sheeluach Ha’Kayn"–sending the mother bird away from the nest when taking the chicks or the eggs. Most agree that is has to do with mercy, but not all agree that it is G-d’s mercy. They also differ over what is meant to be the ultimate purpose of this mitzvah.

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Chayei Sarah 5771-2010

“What Shall I Do, My Parents Hate Him?!”

In parashat Chayei Sarah, we encounter the world’s first shidduch (arranged marriage) and the world’s first shadchan (matchmaker). In the past, we have discussed how Jewish law mandates that a woman not be married against her will, but what about the more general question related to children who refuse to listen to their parents’ opinion regarding choosing a mate, and wish to marry mates to whom their parents object? What is the protocol?

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Vayakhel-Pekudei 5770-2010

"Heaven Helps Those Who Help Themselves"

The biblical verse announcing the completion of the building of the Tabernacle describes the Tabernacle as if it had erected itself, and also that it had been erected by the people. This conflict is resolved by the rabbinic interpretation, which concludes that the Al-mighty helped the people build the complex structure, but because of the people's uncommon devotion, attributed the entire building to the people.

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Vayakhel-Pekudei 5769-2009

"All For the Sake of Heaven"

Parashiot Vayakhel-Pekudei are, in essence, repetitions of the instructions regarding building the sanctuary and manufacturing the priestly vestment. The multiple repetitions come to teach that every action in building G-d's dwelling place must be done for the sake of Heaven. So too must all the actions of every Jew be for the sake of Heaven.

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Re’eh 5766-2006

"Adding or Subtracting"

In parashat Re'eh, we learn of the prohibition of adding or subtracting from the Torah. Any attempt to manipulate the Biblical text would imply that the Commandments are imperfect or irrelevant. And yet, rabbis throughout the ages built fences around the mitzvot and added festivals and observances. How can that be justified?

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Devarim-Tisha B’Av 5766-2006

"Isaiah's Message to Contemporary Jews"

The powerful message found in the first chapter of Isaiah is entirely appropriate for the Tisha B'Av period. The prophet exhorts the Jewish people to take the performance of their ritual mitzvot more seriously, to invest deeper meaning in their religious observance, and to enrich these spiritual practices with greater sincerity and passion.

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Mishpatim 5766-2006

"We Will Do and We Will Obey"

Although most of parashat Mishpatim deals with the administration of civil justice, the end of the parasha returns to the theme of the Divine Revelation, where the people pronounce "Na'ah'seh v'nish'mah," we will do and we will obey. More than obey, "nishmah" means "we will understand." It is this struggle for understanding that is perhaps most relevant to Jewish observance in the 21st century.

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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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Shemini 5765-2005

"The Little Steps that Lead to Big Accomplishments"

In parashat Shemini we learn that Moses and Aaron come in to the Tent of Meeting. From the Torah's emphasis on these steps they took in coming, we learn the vital importance of the little, often-dismissed, actions. These actions should not be treated lightly. Indeed, they are to be regarded and valued as an integral and primary part of the ultimate goal.

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