Chayei Sarah 5768-2007

"O Captain, My Captain"

Abraham passes away at age 175. His passing and his burial are described in only four verses. Yet there is much to be gleaned from the nuances of the text. The Midrash and the sages derive many powerful lessons from this brief biblical passage.

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Toledot 5766-2005

"Why Was Rebecca Barren?"

In parashat Toledot, Isaac and Rebecca both pray that Rebecca will be blessed with a child. After many years of barrenness, G-d listens to the prayer and Rebecca conceives. Why was Rebecca barren, and why were the other matriarchs--Sara and Rachel--also barren? Our rabbis offer up a host of answers. Those answers notwithstanding, we need to be more sensitive in our relations to those couples who pray for children and are not given a positive response.

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Vayeira 5765-2004

"The Benefit of Broad-heartedness "

According to tradition, G-d remembers Sarah, who miraculously gives birth to Isaac in her old age, because Abraham prayed in a special way. It is broad-hearted prayer, where we pray for others aside from ourselves, that is most efficacious.

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Lech Lecha 5765-2004

"Was Hagar Abused?"

A desperate Sarai gives her handmaiden, Hagar, to Abram to be his wife and have a child on her behalf. When Hagar becomes pregnant, she begins to mock Sarai. Sarai abuses Hagar, and Hagar flees. Is it conceivable that our venerated matriarch Sarai really abused her vulnerable handmaiden, Hagar?

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Toledot 5763-2002

"The Deeds of the Fathers are Signposts for the Children"

In parashat Toledot we read for the third time the story of our patriarchs going to Egypt or to Gerar on account of famine. This time it's Isaac and Rebecca, rather than Abraham and Sarah, but the stories are virtually identical to the previous two. The famed Italian Bible scholar, Umberto Cassuto, suggests that this story is a paradigm, and its frequent repetition is predictive of what will happen to the Jewish people in the future. There will be a famine, and the families of the descendants of Abraham and Isaac will leave Canaan and go into exile. The men will be threatened with death, but the women will be allowed to live. Eventually, the people will go out with great wealth.

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Chayei Sara 5763-2002

"The Torah's Recipe for Finding a Proper Mate"

This week's parasha is a primary source from which we learn much about the qualities that one should look for when seeking a mate. The lessons that may be gleaned from our scriptures serve as a sound guide, even for contemporary times. They are not primitive. In fact, in many instances, they are light-years ahead of contemporary practices and understandings.

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Rosh Hashana 5763-2002

"A Message for the High Holy Days: 'Export, Export!'"

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

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Chayei Sara 5762-2001

"Raising Jewish Children In A Challenging Environment"

Abraham had eight children: Isaac, Ishmael and his six children with Keturah. Only Isaac and Ishmael are reported to have attended Abraham's burial, and only Isaac is expected to continue the spiritual legacy of Abraham. Nevertheless, the Zohar Chadash notes that even the six children of Keturah are called Abraham's children, attesting to the fact that they carried the spark of Abraham in their souls, however much it may be hidden. There are many lessons that we may learn from Abraham and his child-rearing techniques.

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Vayeira 5762-2001

"The Akeida"

The binding of Isaac, known as the "Akeida," is one of the most noted and influential portions of the Bible, and one of the most enigmatic. The Akeida proclaimed a new and vital message to the world, boldly rejecting the abominable practice of child sacrifice that was rife among the ancient people--and usually performed in the name of the pagan deity.

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Lech Lecha 5762-2001

"Understanding Ishmael"

In order to truly understand Ishmael, we need to know the background of his mother, Hagar, the Egyptian princess, who abandoned her pampered royal life 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 planet, it is important to understand the endowments and strengths of Ishmael.

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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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Rosh Hashana 5761-2000

"The Judgment of Ishmael and its Contemporary Implications for all of G-d's Creatures"

From the story of Hagar and Ishmael that is read on Rosh Hashana from Genesis 21, we learn that even though Ishmael had an evil past and his potential for the future was not promising, G-d saved him because at that moment he could not be considered guilty. Surely this most hopeful and optimistic message is appropriate for all on Rosh Hashana. It is as if the Al-mighty does "somersaults" in order to find every possible reason to judge his creatures favorably.

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Vayeira 5760-1999

"The Preciousness of Hospitality"

The 99-year-old Abraham is recovering from his recent circumcision when he sees potential guests on the horizon. Despite his pain, he quickly runs towards the wayfarers and begs them not to pass by his tent without accepting his hospitality. There is much to learn from Abraham's manner of welcoming guests. It is essential that we not lose the capacity to perform the important mitzvah of "Ha'chanasat Orchim."

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Lech Lecha – 5760-1999

"Understanding the Rite of Circumcision"

The ritual of circumcision, performed 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 the Jewish people live (or die) by the organ that is circumcised. After all, Jewish destiny depends upon how the Jewish male chooses to use his sexual organ. If Jewish men marry Jewish women and build strong Jewish families, then the covenant of G-d and the Jewish people will be affirmed. If, however, Jewish males allow themselves to be seduced and proceed to sow in foreign fields, then the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people is not only threatened, but may very likely be lost forever.

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