Pekudei 5782-2022

“The Lesson of the Basin: ‘Don’t Judge a Basin by its Cooper’”
(updated and revised from Pekudei 5763-2003)

According to tradition, the basin that contained the sacred water in the Tabernacle was made of the bronze mirrors that the Israelite women used in Egypt to seduce their husbands who had separated from them, and who were unwilling to produce children who might be murdered by the Egyptians. Considering the mirrors to be objects of vanity, Moses was reluctant to accept the bronze from the mirrors. G-d responds, that the mirrors are far dearer to Him than anything else.

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Vayakhel 5782-2022

“Defining True Generosity”
(updated and revised from Vayakhel 5763-2003)

Although it is commonly thought that generosity is simply giving of one's wherewithal to help another, Judaism defines true generosity as giving with a full and willing heart. It is the willing heart that determines true and genuine generosity.

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Kee Tisah 5782-2022

“Limitless Leadership”
(Updated and revised from Kee Tisah 5764-2004)

After the People of Israel are unfaithful to G-d and worship the Golden Calf at the foot of Mount Saini, Moses, the paradigmatic selfless leader, stands up for his people and demands that they be forgiven. His love for Israel is total and unswerving, even to the point of making the ultimate sacrifice on their behalf. As a doting “shepherd” concerned for the needs of his flock, Moses cares for this stiff-necked nation that was recently introduced to freedom.

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Va’eira 5782-2021

“Can We Question G-d and Get Away with It?”
(Updated and revised from Va’eira 5762-2002)

Parashat Va'eira opens with G-d berating Moses for saying that things have only gotten worse for the people of Israel since Moses’ intervention. Strict interpretation holds Moses accountable for his presumptuousness, eventually resulting in his inability to enter the Promised Land. The more liberal interpretation implies that G-d desires to be challenged, hoping to find justification that would exonerate those guilty of improper acts.

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Shemot 5782-2021

“The Circumcision of Eliezer: A Message for Busy Parents”
(updated and revised from Shemot 5762-2001)

Moses has been summoned by G-d at the burning bush to return to Egypt and lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. Beginning his journey back to the land of Pharaoh, together with his wife and his sons, he stops at an inn where he is encountered by G-d, who seeks to kill him. Moses’ wife immediately takes a flint stone and circumcises the youngest child. What is the message that is communicated by this strange and eerie encounter?

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Yom Kippur 5782-2021

“Smashing the Golden Calves”
(updated and revised from Yom Kippur 5764-2003)

The sin of the Golden Calf is perhaps the most reprehensible crime that the Jewish nation has committed against G-d. At the foot of Mount Sinai, immediately following the miraculous exodus from Egyptian slavery, when the Al-mighty showed the world that He had chosen the Jews as His people, the people brazenly defied Him, and were unfaithful to their beloved Creator. Yom Kippur is a day to express regret, and vow to change the many ways that the Jewish people may have betrayed their relationship with their Father-in-Heaven during the previous year.

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Kee Tisah 5781-2021

“Reverence for Learning in Jewish Tradition”
(updated and revised from Kee Tisah 5763-2003)

Immediately after the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses distances himself from the sinful people. Moving his tent outside the camp, he proceeds to hold court from that location. Scripture tells us that, despite the peoples' rebelliousness, when Moses went out to his tent, the entire nation would stand at the entrance of their tents as a sign of respect. From this gesture of respect, an entireritual of behavior emerged that continues to this day, reflecting the uncompromising reverence for learning that is the very essence of Jewish educational success.

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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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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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Vayikra 5780-2020

“Moses, a Leader with a Calling”
(Revised and updated from Vayikra 5761-2001)

Moses’ commitment to serve as G-d’s messenger was thorough and complete. It was therefore no accident that G-d spoke to him, or through him. It was not a happening and not a coincidence. It was the very essence of Moses’ life and the ultimate purpose of his being. It was his “calling.”

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Kee Tisah 5780-2020

“The Levites and the Golden Calf: Transcending One’s Own Nature”
(Updated and revised from Kee Tisah 5761-2001)

Although there appear to have been only 3000 “hard core” rebels among the people who worshiped the Golden Calf, only the tribe of Levi responded to Moses’ cry of “Whoever is to G-d, come to me!” This was due to the fact that, among the People of Israel who did not worship the Golden Calf, only the Levites reached an exalted level of personal self-abnegation. Consequently, only the Levites were singled out to become the servants of G-d for all time, who would be chosen to serve as the ministers in the Tabernacle, and ultimately, the Temple.

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Yitro 5780-2020

“Can the Torah Forbid Feelings that are Part of Normal Human Emotions?”
(Updated and revised from Yitro 5761-2001)

3,300 years ago, when xenophobia reigned supreme throughout the ancient world, the Torah admonished Jews not to reject sage advice simply because it emanates from a non-Jewish source. In fact, Jews are encouraged to look for good and healthy ideas anywhere in the world, Jewish and secular, and embrace those ideas with open arms.

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B’shalach 5780-2020

“Where is Nachshon the Son of Aminadov When We Need Him?”
(Updated and revised from B’shalach 5761-2001)

Nachson the son of Aminadav, the Prince of the tribe of Judah, was the first Israelite to enter the water and walk until the water reached his neck. It was only at that point that the sea split. If we are to change the “course of nature,” for the benefit of humankind, we need to find, and exercise, the profound faith of Nachshon.

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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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Va’eira 5780-2019

“G-d Hardens Pharaoh's Heart:
Reconciling Omniscience with Free Will”
(revised and updated from Va’eira 5760-2000)

Our commentators struggle with G-d’s statement to Moses: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.” Does this imply that G-d has taken away Pharaoh’s free will? Among the host of responses offered by the commentators, is that Pharaoh hardened his own heart during the first 5 plagues, and was punished five times by G-d hardening Pharaoh’s heart during the last 5 plagues. Many of the responses given by the commentators to this issue are quite insightful and resourceful. They must be studied carefully in order to appreciate them fully.

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Devarim 5779-2019

“Judaism’s Unique View of Justice and the Judicial System”
(Revised and updated from Devarim 5760-2000)

In parashat Devarim, Moses delivers his valedictory admonition to the Jewish people. Knowing that the nation’s
security depends significantly on the efficacy of its legal system, Moses reminds the people again and again to be trustworthy in judgment. In this parasha, Moses lays out the foundation of Jewish jurisprudence, a legal system that was unparalleled in the ancient world. Summing it all up, the prophet Isaiah declares that “Zion shall be redeemed in justice, and that those who return to her shall be redeemed through righteousness.”

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Pinchas 5779-2019

“The Daughters of Zelophehad: Legitimate Feminist Claims”
(Revised and updated from Pinchas 5760-2000)

Distinguishing between legitimate and non-legitimate claims has become a challenging issue, especially when “political correctness” is mixed into the brew. In parashat Pinchas, we encounter the revolutionary claim of the daughters of Zelophehad who win the right to inherit their father’s ancestral land in Israel. Along with other issues concerning women that are found in the Torah, the case of Zelophehad’s daughters underscores that Judaism was always ahead of other civilizations in establishing fair and equitable parameters for Jewish women.

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Chukat 5779-2019

“Can Death Be Sweet?”
(Revised and updated from Chukat 5761-2001)

In parashat Chukat we learn of the death of Aaron, one of the Jewish people’s most beloved figures. According to the Midrash, Aaron had the privilege of leaving the physical world knowing that his children were following in his footsteps, and committed to serving the Jewish people. Aaron truly has a “sweet demise.”

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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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0 Comments9 Minutes