Mishpatim 5780-2020

“The ‘Sophisticated’ and ‘Unsophisticated’ Criminal”
(updated and revised from Mishpatim 5761-2001)

In Jewish law, the punishment for stealthy theft is greater than that of violent theft. Perhaps the rabbis were trying to teach society that so-called “white collar” crimes are at least as serious and can be as devastating as what we commonly refer to as “blue collar” crimes.

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Shelach 5777-2017

“The Slave Mentality”

Without faith, the people cannot overcome their fears that are stoked by a slave mentality. This is not a people who can succeed in the Promised Land. Only a new generation, who have a relationship with the Al-mighty based on a loving faith will enter the land.

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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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Shemini 5776-2016

“Good Intentions Gone Awry”

The sons of Aaron, Nadav and Abihu, apparently had noble intentions, but they allowed their zeal to lead them astray, resulting in their tragic punishment.

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Bechukotai 5774-2014

“The Role of Exile in Jewish Theology”

What is the purpose of exile and what role does exile play in Jewish history?

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Matot-Masei 5773-2013

“Pinchas Avenges the Midianites”

Why is the zealous Pinchas chosen to lead the people of Israel into battle against the Midianites?

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Shemini 5773-2013

“Authentic Religious Ecstasy”

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik suggests that Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Abihu, were judged more harshly because they were in positions of leadership and punished more severely because they attempted to experience religious ecstasy through prohibited means.

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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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Yitro 5773-2013

"The Third Commandment: Against Perjury and Profane Swearing"

The third commandment against perjury and profane swearing is often dismissed as “small stuff,” especially when compared to the "big-time" prohibitions against idolatry, adultery and murder. In reality, the third commandment is a key element in Judaism’s efforts to attain a truly moral, ethical and beneficial way of life.

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Kee Tavo 5772-2012

“Persecution’s ‘Silver Lining’”

In G-d’s reproof of the Jewish people, He declares that even in exile the people will not find rest for the soles of their feet. Can persecution actually prove to be a blessing in disguise?

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Mishpatim 5772-2012

"Capital Punishment: Revenge or Restitution?"

In parashat Mishpatim, the Torah introduces the concept of capital punishment. Is the execution of a murderer an act of vengeance, or is it intended to serve as restitution for the loss of human life?

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B’shalach 5772-2012

"Pharaoh's Ultimate Fate"

In Exodus 15, after the splitting of the sea, Moses leads the People of Israel in triumphant song, and Miriam leads the women of Israel in a song of victory. That is the last that we hear of Pharaoh, or is it?

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Toledot 5772-2011

“Isaac Blesses His Sons”

Professor Menashe Duvshani was for many years the premier Bible educator for Israeli high school students. He offers a unique view on the story of Isaac blessing his sons.

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Korach 5771-2011

“The Preciousness of Peace”

Because of the focus on the viciousness of the rebellion of Korach and his cohorts, few recognize the tireless efforts of Moses and Aaron to dissuade the rebels from rebelling and save them from destruction.

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Matot-Masei 5770-2010

"Do Not Pollute the Land...Do Not Defile the Land"

In the second of this week's parashiot, parashat Masei, the Al-mighty warns the people of Israel not to "pollute" or "defile" the land of Israel. Perhaps this warning should also be taken as an admonition that Jews neither excessively flatter Israel nor be overly critical of the land.

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Shelach 5770-2010

"Was the Sin of the Scouts Greater than the Sin of the Golden Calf?"

G-d forgives the people for the sin of the Golden Calf, but not when the scouts return with an evil report about the land of Canaan. Is it possible that the sin of the scouts was greater than the sin of the Golden Calf?

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Devarim 5769-2009

"Og Stands Tall on the Stage of History"

In Moses' recapitulation of the battles that the Israelites fought during their 40 years in the wilderness, he recalls the defeat of Sihon, the Amorite King, and Og the king of Bashan. Although the biblical text reveals little about Og, the Midrash creates an elaborate biography of the Amorite king.

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Korach 5769-2009

"A Controversy with an Ignoble Purpose"

In Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, we learn what the rabbis regarded as legitimate disputes and illegitimate disputes. The lesson that rabbis in Avot teach not only clarifies the issue of disputes, but also clarifies much of what took place at the rebellion of Korach.

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Shelach 5769-2009

"Long-Term Consequences"

When the ancient Israelites heard the evil reports of the ten scouts, they stayed up all night and cried. The Talmud states that G-d reacted to this crying by declaring "You cried for no reason, I will give you good cause to cry." That very day, the 9th of Av, was consequently designated in Jewish history as a day of evil in which many calamities occurred, including the destruction of both Temples. Although G-d forgave the young generation of the wilderness, He still held the people accountable for what they had done. Contemporary Jews must also consider the role they play and the long-term consequences of their actions.

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Behar-Bechukotai 5769-2009

"Impoverishment: In those Days, in these Times"

In parashat Behar, the poor person is described on several occasions as "mach," crushed. Judaism's remarkable laws regarding charity not only address the material losses of an impoverished person, but also attempt to heal the emotional losses of those who have lost their life's possessions.

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Vayigash 5769-2008

"Deferred Punishment for the Sale of Joseph"

The rabbis attribute the martyrdom of the ten righteous Torah scholars in the time of Hadrian to the sale of Joseph. What is the connection, and why was the punishment so long in coming?

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Mikeitz 5769-2008

"Measure for Measure"

One of the great contributions of the Jewish people to civilization is the idea that a third innocent party may not be punished for the actions of another person. The practice of "an eye for an eye" has always been interpreted in Judaism as monetary compensation for an eye, thoroughly rejecting Lex Talionis, physical retaliation as the ancients practiced. Notwithstanding all this, our rabbis understood the G-d's heavenly justice does operate on the principle of "measure for measure." The story of Joseph in particular contains many proof texts to underscore how human beings are indeed held accountable by Heaven for their actions.

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Shelach 5768-2008

"We Were like Grasshoppers in Our Eyes"

There is grave danger in the Jewish people seeing themselves as helpless and powerless. Very often this self-perception is a self-fulfilling reality. The ancient scouts saw themselves as pygmies and grasshoppers and were perceived by others as impotent and weak. We dare not allow that to happen to our generation. Strong leadership depends upon our faith in G-d and own self-confidence and self-esteem.

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Tzav 5767-2007

"Karayt --The Dreaded Heavenly Punishment"

There is nothing more dreaded in the Torah than the punishment of Karayt--excision. The nature of this punishment and upon whom is it visited is a matter of broad dispute among the commentaries, leaving many questions unanswered. The great fear of this punishment, however, brings many to think twice before doing evil.

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0 Comments11 Minutes