Lech Lecha 5782-2021

“Understanding Ishmael”
(updated and revised from 5762-2001)

In order to truly understand Ishmael, we need to know the background of his mother, Hagar, the Egyptian princess, who renounced her pampered royal life and chose to serve as a handmaiden in the home of Abram and Sarah. After Hagar is expelled from the house by Sarah, she is promised by the angel that she will bear a child, Ishmael. Eventually, Hagar and Ishmael are again cast out, this time by Abraham, into the wilderness. The expulsion is the start of the great struggle between the children of Ishmael and the children of Israel. If we are ever to bring peace to our embattled nation, and to the world as a whole, it is important to understand the endowments and strengths of Ishmael.

It is not at all surprising that many of the ancient near-East documents contain parallel stories to the flood. Perhaps the most famous, is the Babylonian flood story known as the "Epic of Gilgamesh." And yet, despite the parallels, the stories are profoundly different. While the details regarding the flood are similar, the Torah revolutionizes the flood story by introducing what is most significant--the element of moral accountability.

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Chayei Sarah 5781-2020

“The Personality of Isaac: The Passive Patriarch”
(updated and revised from Chayei Sarah 5761–2000)

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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Rosh Hashana 5781-2020

“A Message for the High Holy Days: ‘Export, Export!’”
(updated and revised from Rosh Hashana 5763-2002)

During the period of the Ten Days of Penitence, we need to make our lives more spiritually meaningful. It is during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur that we must make particularly sincere efforts to "export" good deeds and acts of kindness.

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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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Lech Lecha 5780-2019

“Understanding the Ritual of Circumcision”
(updated and revised from Lech Lecha 5760-1999)

The ritual of circumcision, performed on the eighth day on the flesh of the Jewish male, has always been the fundamental mark of identity for the Jewish man. There are those who say that the letting of blood during the circumcision is a constant reminder that the Jewish people must live by their blood. It may also mean that whether the Jewish people live or die will be determined by the organ that is circumcised. After all, Jewish destiny depends upon how the Jewish males choose to use their sexual organ.

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Rosh Hashana 5780-2019

“The Judgment of Ishmael, and its Contemporary Implications for all of G-d's Creatures”
(Updated and revised from Rosh Hashana 5761-2000)

Even the wicked Ishmael was given a “pass” by the Al-mighty and allowed to survive, because at that time of judgment he was not “worthy” of punishment. Similarly, the Al-mighty is prepared to give every sincere penitent the benefit of the doubt and inscribe us in the Book of Life.

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Chayei Sarah 5779-2018

“Abraham’s Eulogy for His Beloved Sarah”

While others, who spoke at Sarah’s funeral, emphasized how Sarah was a true help-meet to Abraham, Abraham himself spoke of his wife as a spiritual giant herself.

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Vayeira 5779-2018

“The Tension Between Human Love and Divine Will”

In a clash between human love and Divine will, Divine will must always prevail.

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Chayei Sarah 5777-2016

“Sarah Dies at Age 127”
The Matriarch Sarah lived 127 years of righteous life, which served as a model of righteousness for many generations of Jews.

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Vayeira 5777-2016

“There is But No Fear of G-d in this Place”

What did Abraham mean when he concluded that Gerar was a city that possessed no fear of G-d?

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Chayei Sarah 5776-2015

“The Legacy of Ishmael”

The tendency of the descendants of Jacob to diminish the “specialness” of the children of Ishmael may be understandable, especially in light of the painful contemporary events. Nevertheless, upon examining the Biblical sources, it is impossible to deny the special qualities and endowments of the children of Ishmael.

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Pinchas 5774-2014

“The Battle for Women’s Rights”

Especially among those who have limited familiarity with the original scriptural sources, it is often perceived that women are regarded by Jewish tradition as being submissive and subservient to men, eager to fulfill the men’s will. Rabbi Yaakov Philber shows that this is a thoroughly incorrect perception.

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Lech Lecha 5774-2013

“Setting the Stage for the Jewish Future”

Our sages say that the deeds of the forefathers are signposts for the children. The story of Abraham and Sarah are truly predictive of both future Jewish history and contemporary Jewish life.

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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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Toledot 5771-2010

“Isaac, the Man of Commitment”

When comparing Isaac’s experiences in Gerar, we find several similarities with Abraham’s experiences in both Gerar and Egypt. But what accounts for the many differences?

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Vayeira 5770-2009

"Hospitality at Its Finest"

Abraham speaks to his guests as if they are doing him a favor by accepting his hospitality. Can that be true?!

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Chayei Sarah 5769-2008

"Mourning and Eulogizing"

In parashat Chayei Sarah, Abraham comes to eulogize Sarah and to weep for her. What is the purpose of a eulogy? Who is it meant to honor, and what is it expected to achieve?

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