Devarim 5771-2011

“The Responsibility not to be Misled”

When recounting the story of the Scouts in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses omits many details of the original story, while other seemingly less pertinent facts are emphasized. There is a profound lesson that is taught by these unexpected changes about the individual’s responsibility not to be misled.

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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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Va’etchanan-Tisha B’Av 5768-2008

"A Hopeful Message for Jewish Future"

In parashat Va’etchanan, we find the well-known citation, “Kee to’leed ba’neem,” which is read on Tisha B’Av. It predicts that the Jewish people will stray from G-d and commit horrible sins. And yet, in one of the most optimistic statements, G-d assures His people that they will always be welcomed back with open arms, no matter how far they stray.

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Devarim-Tisha B’Av 5767-2007

"Zion Shall be Redeemed through Justice"

The prophet Isaiah states that Zion will be redeemed through justice. It is no accident therefore that the Torah portion read before Tisha Ba'Av, the fast of the 9th of Av, opens with an exhortation about honesty in judgment. The establishment of the Sanhedrin, the High Court of Jewish law, is meant to serve as a paradigm of justice, leading to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, soon in our days.

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Devarim-Tisha B’Av 5764-2004

"Building a 'New' Sanctuary"

This has been a difficult and challenging year for the Jewish people. Terror attacks, anti-Semitism, assimilation and intermarriage are on the rise. It has also been a particularly hard year for observant Jews, who have been challenged with the appearance of crustaceans in their waters and wigs that might have been used for idolatry. Perhaps what we need during this period of mourning for the Temple is to spiritually chill-out, to calm down and find a sanctuary in our belief system.

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Va’etchanan-Tisha B’Av 5762-2002

"Loving the Land of Israel"

One of the kinot, the liturgical poems that are read on Tishah B'Av, speaks of the calamity that befell the Jewish communities of the Rhineland, Germany--Worms, Speyer and Mainz (Mayence)--in the year 1096 during the First Crusade. The ArtScroll commentary on this poem throws out a profound challenge to the Jewish people today. Will we rise to the occasion and acknowledge the special gift of the land of Israel, or will we ignore it, and continue to compose elegies for the losses that we sustain?

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Devarim-Tisha B’Av 5762-2002

"Judging our People Favorably"

The powerful words of Isaiah in this week's Haftorah resound today with surprising relevance, as if they were pronounced only yesterday. Despite Isaiah's harsh assessment of the people, we, like the prophet of old, need to look upon the people of Israel and judge them favorably. After all, contemporary Jews face similar challenges to those of the ancients and need to be judged favorably as well.

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Devarim-Tisha B’Av 5761-2001

"Eichah, The Annual Search for Meaning and Introspection"

In order for the Fast of the 9th of Av to be meaningful, it is necessary for us to focus on the proper message. Eichah and Ah'yeka are two of the prominent themes of Tisha Ba'Av. G-d asks the Jews: Where are you? What have you done with your lives? How can this tragedy have possibly happened? How can we improve ourselves?

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Pinchas 5761-2001

"The Pain of Giving Reproof"

The haftarah for parashat Pinchas, selected from the book of Jeremiah, opens with Jeremiah's first two prophecies concerning an almond-wood staff that is shown to him by G-d, and the boiling cauldron that is bubbling over from its northern side. The meaning of the cauldron is that the evil will come from the north--the Babylonian hoards, led by Nebuchadnetzer who will destroy the temple. But what is the symbol of the almond-wood staff? Could it be that G-d is trying to show the prophet that there should be no enthusiasm in the prophet's reproof, no matter how deserving the people of Israel are of reproof? Conveying tragic messages should always be a painful experience for the prophet.

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Matot-Masei 5760-2000

"Jeremiah's Prophecy: An Ancient Message for Contemporary Times"

The message of Jeremiah, which is read during the Three Weeks, is entirely appropriate for this period of sadness that we experience at this time of the year. There are distinct parallels between the rebuke that Jeremiah gave to the ancient people and our contemporary experiences.

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