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Fundamentals

The basic principles upon which we use choice to build a relationship with God.

Was Cain a Hobbit?

Someone challenged “Each Step,” by demanding the Halachot that guide Rocinante, my Time Machine, on its travels.    Yes, Discover Magazine has posted the Rules of Time Travel, but those are rules, not Halacha, or, they are Chukim similar to the laws of gravity, but certainly not...

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Counting to Asarah BiTevet – Go To Your Room! Part One

I have the great pleasure of regularly studying with incredible people, one of whom suggested that we consider quarantine, and the Siege of Jerusalem/Tenth of Tevet as a “Go To Your Room For A Timeout!” I offer her insights below as an introduction to an important...

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Countdown to Chanukah 5 – The Fiery Sword

“He drove the man out, and stationed east of the garden of Eden the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the tree of life (Bereishit 3:24 - sefaria.org).” “He said: The LORD came from Sinai; He shone upon them from Seir;...

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Journeys; The First Step

This is Simcha Weinberg for the BNN (Biblical New Network) Festival book review. (Dedicated in honor of MJ, AC)   We have been on a journey since Rosh Hashana:   We have discovered the “Meeting Place Between Knowledge and Imagination,”   We have studied “Gaps In The Clouds,”   Found “A Kedem Compass,”   Uncovered,...

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A Kedem Compass

It’s a challenge when even Amazon doesn’t carry one.  I need a special compass each year to find a magical place called “Kedem” when positioning my Succah.   A common Yom Kippur refrain, “Bring us back, O God, toward You, And let us come back; Renew our...

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A Different Definition of Noble

On the right-hand side of the Periodic Table is a set of elements known as the noble gases. “Noble” is an archaic, funny-sounding word, less chemistry than ethics or philosophy. And indeed, the term “noble gases” goes back to ancient Greece. There, in “The Symposium,”...

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It's Mine, Kind of…

“Accursed is the ground because of you; through suffering shall you eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it sprout for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.” (Genesis 3:17-18) The only part of the curse that...

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Ever Since Adam and Cain Part Two

People have been having difficulty finding their place ever since Adam and Cain. Adam was sent out from the safe environment of the Garden into a strange world. God told Cain, “You shall become a vagrant and wanderer on earth.” (Genesis 4:12) Abraham wandered for many...

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An Invisible Barrier

I. The family had been close with their local Cohanim for many years. They gave their Terumah to these Cohanim. They would always travel to Jerusalem when these Cohanim were on duty in the Beit Hamikdash. They turned to these Cohanim for spiritual guidance and...

Shabbat Table
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Bounce

[caption id="attachment_1924" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Bouncing Water"][/caption] “God said to Moses, Behold! I shall rain down for you food from heaven; let the people go out and pick each day’s portion on its day, so that I can test them, whether they will follow My Teaching...

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Master Gardeners

“Men can be provincial in time, as well as place,” Alfred North Whitehead once remarked. Provinciality is a characteristic of societies and individuals who fail to conduct periodic critiques of their beliefs and who assume, with some degree of smugness, that the knowledge they possess...

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Teflon Coating

When I woke up this morning I found all the lights, inside and out, were on. The kids, who went to sleep after their parents, did not turn off any lights, did not put on the alarm, did not wash their dishes or even put...

Haftarah
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Clothes Part Two

Why did Joseph leave his clothes with Potiphar's wife? She could not claim rape, otherwise her clothes would have been torn, not his. She doesn't even claim rape, but "to make sport." In fact, if you study the verses carefully, her husband demands more information than...

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Clothes Part One

What is with all the clothes in the story of Joseph and Judah? Joseph has a coat of many colors. His clothes also are the theme of his confrontation with the wife of Potiphar: She grabbed him by his clothes in such a manner that he...

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The Phoenix of Our Desires

"But alas, what should I blame except my irrational desire? It lifts me so aloft, and flies so high in the sky that it reaches the sphere of fire which scorches its wings; then unable to bear me up, it drops me from the sky....

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Missing From Eden

I was stopped in front of the hospital by a representative of the Kabbalah Center. She wanted me to sign up for "An Introduction to Kabbalah." "You look kind of religious; did you ever study Kabbalah?" "I know nothing about the Kabbalah you teach." "Well, aren't you...

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No Tree Chopping Permitted

The best I had done seem'd to me blank and suspicious; My great thoughts, as I supposed them, were they not in reality meager? Walt Whitman During Elul, I prepare for Rosh Hashana by focusing on how I have grown over the past year. I want to face...

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Haunted By Trees

“You shall not plant for yourselves an idolatrous tree - any tree - near the Altar of God, your Lord, that you shall make for yourself.” (Deuteronomy 16:21) It was the custom of idolaters to landscape their temples in order to attract worshippers. (Rambam, Sefer...

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A Walk In The Garden

I wish that I could have walked behind Elijah and Elisha as they headed to where Elijah would rise up to heaven in a storm. I can’t even imagine what the two giants, Rebbi and student, were discussing as they walked. I wish I could have...

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Eating

“These are the creatures that you may eat from among all the animals that are upon the earth.” (Leviticus 11:2) These words echo the first commandment given to Adam in the Garden. Although most will say that the first Mitzvah was to prohibit Adam from...

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Beginnings

“Adam – a man, who wants to bring an offering to draw closer to God,” Rashi wonders about the choice of the word, Adam rather than Ish. He explains that God is teaching us that “Just as Adam, the primal human being, did not bring...

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The Flow of Time

Older children, born when their parents were beginning their life and moving around from one job to another, often envy their younger siblings who arrived into a more stable and mature home. The younger siblings envy missing the adventures experienced when the family was still...

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Nisan-Perfecting Our Speech-9

The Berditchever taught that a person who has an opportunity to gain profit by lying, but holds fast to the truth because he remembers the prohibition against falsehood, is rewarded not only for adhering to the prohibition,
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Hello Old Friend!

“My old friend! How are you? Have a seat!” “Are you happy to see me?” “Definitely not! But our friendship is long, familiar and comfortable.” My friend was nonplussed. He certainly did not expect such a greeting. We both know that he only pretends to...

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Ki Teitzei: Apples On The Lilac Tree

Said the little boy to the little girl, “Pray, give me just one kiss.” The girl was so surprised, “You’re a stranger, sir,” said she. “I will give you just one kiss When apples grow on the lilac tree.” The boy felt very sad at heart, She was the only one; The girl...

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Countdown To Chanukah 27 – A Good Eye

Countdown to Chanukah 27 - A Good Eye I find it fascinating that although we so honor the miracle of the Menorah oil of the Chanukah story, there is a natural miracle that parallels the oil described in a verse: “The generous man is blessed, For...

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Haftarah
Haftarah
Haftarah: Behar-Bechukotai: Trust

Jeremiah 16:19 – 17:14: This week’s portion challenges us to rely on God. The laws of Shemittah – the Sabbatical Year – force us to rely that God will provide food for us despite - from our human perspective – or, because – from God’s
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The Day of 100+ Years…

Or, My Problem With ‘The Plan.’ For me, being a prison chaplain involved being deposed numerous times as many of my inmates fought for their religious rights. I spent hours sitting at a lawyer’s table being deposed, and even more hours sitting outside the office or a conference...

The Plan: Process Without Illness

The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. It felt like someone had taken away my credit card and I...

In Prison

Having been homebound for so many years, I smoothly slid into quarantine. The relatively easy adjustment for me and the contrasting emotional turmoil experienced by others, and the strange and contradictory reactions of so many, reminded me of an essay written by Elizabeth Bishop in...

Story Magic VI – Spellbound

The First Edition of the London Review of Books, the beginning of a long relationship with superb writing of masters with whom I disagree on most important ideas, began with the following paragraph: “Borges has written (and it is certainly true of Borges) that the writer...

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Tolstoy and the Golden Calf

This is what happened to me: in the course of a whole year, when almost every minute I was asking myself whether I should end it all with a rope or a bullet, my heart was tormented with an agonizing feeling. This feeling I can...

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Tested by Spiders

I only notice them on Shabbat, up toward the ceiling; spiders. There’s nothing I can do about them because of Shabbat. I may not kill them, or even trap them to move them outside. I may not even plan to kill them after Shabbat, because...

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Where's Moshe?

[caption id="attachment_1972" align="alignleft" width="213" caption="Just Beyond Reach"][/caption] Image courtesy of http://debiperalta.artistwebsites.com/ In December 1974 the Austrian economist Friedrich August von Hayek received one of the first Nobel Prizes in economics. Hayek titled his speech “The Pretence of Knowledge.” Concluding his speech, he warned, “If man...

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Opportunities

How odd! They were slaves less than two months ago. The first law that is presented in this portion is about a slave. The Torah describes a slave who does not want to leave his master. His life as a slave is better than his...

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Pip Makes A Decision!

[caption id="attachment_1931" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Pip's Choice"][/caption] Today is a great day in our family: Pip made a decision. We realized about three years ago that Pip freezes into inaction when confronted with a choice. We threw two balls at one time, and rather than choose which...

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Not Even Listening

[caption id="attachment_1745" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="I'm Mot Listening!"][/caption] It seems that this is a night for arguments. My wife and I had to go to the hospital and I wanted to go out and warm the car for her. She wanted to go out and warm...

tabletalk
Table Talk
Table Talk: Vayishlach

I’d have killed him! Jacob wrestled an angel of God, whatever that means, and won. He surely could have killed, or at least, defeated Eliphaz whsent by Esau to murder Jacob. Why did he

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Table Talk II: Vayishlach

“For I crossed the Jordan with only my staff.” The Midrash explains that Eliphaz was sent by Eisav to murder Yaakov, but Yaakov gave him all his money and said, “A destitute
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Taking A Walk

When my father zt”l would walk up from behind, gently grab my arm and say, “Let’s walk,” I always felt a special warmth and connection. Most of those walks did not have an agenda, and, in fact, were usually silent. We simply walked. They differed...

Table Talk
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Ready To Fight!

In the clearing stands a boxer And a fighter by his trade And he carries the reminders Of ev'ry glove that laid him down Or cut him till he cried out In his anger and his shame "I am leaving, I am leaving" But the fighter still remains From ‘The Boxer,’ by Simon...

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matzah
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Countdown To Chanukah 10 – Celestial Light

Please allow me to continue to advocate for Psalm 43 (“Illuminating Path To Redemption”) to be added to the Chanukah liturgy: “Vindicate me, O God, champion my cause against faithless people;  rescue me from the treacherous, dishonest man. 2 For You are my God, my stronghold; why have...

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Amidah-Vaeira-Each Patriarch

“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob (Exodus 6:3).” The reason God did not lump the patriarchs together but referred to each one by name is, that God's relationship with each of the patriarchs was based on
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Amidah-Vaeira-See Our Suffering

“The Lord spoke to Moses and said to him, 'I am God.' I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as 'E-l Sha-ddai', but with My Name 'God' I did not make Myself known to them (Exodus 6:2-3).” God begins
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Shema-Vaeira-Truth and Faith

We are required to believe completely in Divine Providence, which is the source of everything even though the human intellect cannot comprehend it. Only after believing completely is it possible to understand
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Becoming Pointers

I was walking toward the synagogue I was privileged to lead when I saw a distraught woman storm out and walk directly toward the church a block or so away. I couldn’t catch up to her before she entered the church, so I waited outside...

Shabbat Music
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Responsibility

[caption id="attachment_1879" align="alignleft" width="290" caption="Responsibility"][/caption] I am reposting this blog on the first anniversary of the Haitian earthquake: It is far easier to work for the BNN, the Biblical News Network, and report on thousands of years and cities of Jewish history, than it is to...

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The Host

[caption id="attachment_1895" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="The Perfect Host"][/caption] The 23rd Chapter of Proverbs begins; “When you sit down to dine with a ruler, know well what lies before you.” Rashi explains that you must know your host. If the host is generous; you may insult him by...

Haftarot
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Talking To The Wall

“Rabbi, I usually feel when I pray that I am talking to the wall!” “Rabbi; when I read or hear people say to a child, ‘Your father is now in heaven,’ to console him, I shudder. I wonder how much we choose to believe simply to...

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The Ongoing Revelation

Pinocchio-nosed frogs, gargoyle-faced geckos and the world's smallest wallaby are among the newly identified species discovered during an expedition to Indonesia's remote Foja Mountains and announced today. The newfound species they detailed include several new mammals, a reptile, an amphibian, at least 12 insects and...

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Mine!

“Adam – a man, who wants to bring an offering to draw closer to God,” Rashi wonders about the choice of the word, Adam rather than Ish. He explains that God is teaching us that “Just as Adam, the primal human being, did not bring an...

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Psalm 27: For What Do We Thirst?

“In Your behalf, my heart has said, ‘Seek My Presence’, Your Presence, God, do I seek.” (Verse 8) “My soul thirsts for the Lord, for the Living Power, when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:3) For what do you thirst? I do not...

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Rainbows

  I was asked to explain the following Halacha in light of this week’s portion, Noah:   Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 229:1: One who sees a rainbow should say: “Who remembers the covenant, is trustworthy in His covenant, and fulfils His word.” It...

Language That Can Stop Tower Building

How should a father explain the intended Tower of Babel to a four-year old child who is seeing the Empire State Building for the first time? The historical plaques explain the wondrous engineering history as a Modern Wonder of the World. It was fair to believe...

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Jacob’s Chanukah – First Steps On His Journey

Monasticism tells us something important about the structure of our humanity. Almost every single one of the major world traditions has developed some form of cenobitic life. Just as some people - at all times and in all cultures - have felt impelled to become...

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Haftarah Ki Tisa Part Four

“Elijah said, 'As God, Master of Legions, lives, before Whom I have stood, today I will appear to him!” Why does Elijah refer to God in this statement as “Master of Legions?” Why does he insert the phrase, “before Whom I have stood?”
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Ki Teitzei & Rembrandt

Years ago I read a book by Anthony Storr, “Churchill’s Blackdog and Kafka’s Mice,” an exploration of how mental illness plays a role in creativity and achievement. Dr. Storr describes how Churchill’s battle with depression empowered him to assume the role of prime minister in the...

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The Poisoned Letter

“Jezebel sent an emissary to Elijah saying, ‘Thus may the gods do to me and thus may they increase upon me, unless at this time tomorrow I shall set your soul as one of them’ (I Kings 19:2).” As my father zt”l read underlying message:...

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Confronting Jezebel

“Then Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done and all that he had slain - all the false prophets - with the sword (I Kings 19:1).” “Where’s Elijah?” was on the minds of all as Ahab returned home, none more than the king. Ahab...

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Hesitation

“And the hand of God was upon Elijah, so he girded his loins and ran before Ahab until the approach to Jezreel (I Kings 18:46).” I am sure that Ahab, the king, was pleased and relieved that although the contest on Mount Carmel began as...

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What Would Moshe Have Done? Part One

In the year 427 B.C.E., a ship sailed from Athens for the Greek island of Mytilene, a region that had revolted against Athenian rule and lost. They had colluded with Athens’s greatest rival, Sparta. The soldiers on the warship were instructed to kill every Mytilenian...

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In His Clutches

Teresa of Avila mentions in her dramatic autobiography that her prayers were continuously interrupted by the Devil and her serious thought was replaced by nonsense. (Me too) She also endowed Satan with bad temper and false humility. At one point Satan visited her, and Teresa...

Shabbat Table
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Haftarah Ki Tisa Part Two

[caption id="attachment_4476" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Haftarah"][/caption] “Obadiah was on the road and behold! Elijah was opposite him; he recognized him and fell on his face and said, 'Is this you, my master Elijah?'” How strange! The verse already pointed out that Obadiah recognized Elijah, enough for...

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table
Table Talk: Shemot

Names:This week’s portion, Shemot, (names) is also the beginning of Sefer Shemot, the Book of Names. The text begins with a list of names, but quickly switches to job descriptions,

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Job Descriptions

[caption id="attachment_1761" align="alignleft" width="239" caption="Job Descriptions"][/caption] The Sages teach us that the Egyptians gave everyone jobs at which they were not skilled in order to increase their frustration and prevent them from having any sense of accomplishment. How did the Sages know? The Foundation Stone™ did...

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The Strategies of the Evil Inclination

Nimrod had a problem. He had planned to rid himself of the Abraham problem and his idea of One God. Abraham was thrown into a heated furnace and survived. No one could believe his or her eyes. They had witnessed a great miracle. Everyone was silent,...

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The Stealing Month

Both the father and his son were different: The father prayed for years to have a child. I knew from numerous conversations that, no matter how much he wanted a child, he was even more desperate for his wife to bear a child. I observed...

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The Things We Carry

Two monks, as part of their vows, have promised never again to touch a woman. One day, while walking, they come to the edge of a river, where an astonishingly beautiful woman stands. Unable to cross unaided, she asks the monks for help. The first...

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acnestis, foudroyantism, & yeuks

It is inevitable that my sesquipedalianism will win out when I intend to bloviate in preparation for the Shofar’s callithump of our seeming victory, albeit frangible, over the Yetzer Harah’s (Evil Inclination) chicanery through acnestis, yeuks, vellication, and obnubilation, and at times, foudroyant attacks. I suspect...

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Itching For A Good Fight

“There are evils…that men inflict upon one another, such as tyrannical domination of some of them over others.” (The Guide For The Perplexed 3:2) Maimonides rose to his position as leader of the Jewish community of Egypt by battling Yahya Abu Zikri, who called himself Sar...

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The Desert With Poetry, Or, Life Without?

Having confessed his crime (writing love poems to the Prince’s mistress), the straight young knight from Venice stood all alone, above the royal palace court, to hear his fate: “You have a choice. So listen and decide. Either: retire to the desert, and take a vow to forfeit women, wine, and...

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The Plan: The Smile of Heaven

We wandered to the Pine Forest  That skirts the Ocean’s foam,  The lightest wind was in its nest,  The tempest in its home.  The whispering waves were half asleep,  The clouds were gone to play,  And on the bosom of the deep  The smile of Heaven lay;  It seemed as if the hour...

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Countdown To Chanukah – The Extraordinary Ordinary

“I love that God hears my voice, my supplications (Psalm 116:1).”  “How can I respond to God for all His empowering benefits toward me (Verse 12)?” John P. Weiss, introduced me to the thought of Jean Vanier’s “From Brokenness To Community”.  Two of this philosopher/theologian’s teachings have made...

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Gaps In The Clouds

[caption id="attachment_29927" align="alignleft" width="300"] John Ruskin's "Fragments of the Alps"[/caption] There are many spots among the inferior ridges of the Alps…, which, though commanding prospects of great nobleness, are themselves very nearly types of all that is most painful to the human mind. Vast wastes of...

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A Formula For Happiness

  I discovered a perfect formula to describe the segue from the intensity of Yom Kippur in David Hartley’s  vest-pocket edition of his moral and religious philosophy in the formula W = F2  / L Where W is the love of the world, F is the fear of God And...

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Prayer Skills-Vaeira-Joy and Fear

“The Lord spoke to Moses and said to him, 'I am God' (Exodus 6:2).” Why does the Torah not tell us what the Lord said when He spoke? Why he does God referred to Himself as God after He had already told Moses Who
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Shema-Pesach-With Love

The Tzanzer Rebbe once broke down in tears. “It is known that a man may study the Torah,” he said, “lead a holy life and pray regularly and still belong to the Other Side. Perhaps, for all my learning and prayer I still belong
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Shema-Shekalim-Divrei Shmuel

The 19th of Shevat is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Shmuel Weinberg of Slonim, the Divrei Shmuel (1916 per Hamodia 2011[Yated 2008 says 1936]). Grandson of Rav Avraham of Slonim, the Yesod HaAvodah. He was succeeded
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Taking It With You-Vaeira-Levels of Fear

The cry of the Children of Israel to God when they were in Egypt was because of the fear of physical destruction. This is fear of punishment, which is the lowest and least valuable type of fear. There are many types
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Joyous Trembling: Introduction

One of the important verses that is used to describe our service of God during the month of Elul and on Rosh Hashanah is, “Serve God with fear, and rejoice with trembling (Psalms 2:11).” We are encouraged to be happy on Rosh Hashanah despite the...

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Elul Hallel VI.II

“God is with me, I have no fear; what can people do to me?” (Psalms 118:6) The ‘people’ mentioned refer to the ‘man’ described in Daniel’s vision of the Four Beasts,when he says, “I was watching in night visions and behold! with the clouds of...

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Elul Hallel VI.I

“Give thanks to God Who is good, for His kindness is forever! Let Israel declare that His Kindness is forever! Let the House of Aaron declare that His kindness is forever! Let those who are in awe of God declare that His kindness if forever! “ (Psalms 118:1-4) Rav...

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Elul Hallel V

“For His kindness has overwhelmed us, and the truth of God is eternal, Halleluyah!” (Psalms 117:2) Rabbi Baruch Ber Leibovitz, Rosh Yeshiva of Kaminetz, shared the following story with my grandfather, Rav Ruderman zt”l, when my grandfather was a young teenager: The Vilna Gaon went...

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Elul Hallel IV

“I will raise the cup of salvations and the Name of God I will invoke.” (Psalms 116:13) The Talmud (Pesachim 119b) offers a remarkable explanation of this verse: R. ‘Avira lectured, Sometimes stating it in R. Ammi's, Sometimes in R. Assi's name: What is meant...

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Elul Hallel III

“May God increase upon you, upon you and upon your children!” (Psalms 115:3) Rav Chaim Kanievsky (Ta’ama Dikra) points out that the increase mentioned cannot refer to children as the verse also says, “upon your children.” Therefore, the increase is in terms of what the...

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Elul Hallel II

“Who turns the rock into a pond of water, the flint into a flowing mountain.” (Psalms 114:8) The water that issued forth from the rock is far beyond the rules of nature. Generally, God desires to minimize the miraculous. It would have been sufficient for...

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Feeling Vulnerable: Kavod haTorah II

I’m feeling vulnerable! Just when we thought the worst was over and moved everything back outside, the wind began to really blow! A huge tree just in front of our home blew down pulling the electrical cables with it, and put the entire neighborhood into...

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Real Kavod haTorah

Irene was not my first hurricane. That was Agnes in 1971.  One story went around the Jewish community about the Shamash of the synagogue in Wilkes-Barrie, PA, a Holocaust survivor, who, despite being a very old man, rather than evacuate as did everyone else, ran...

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Elul Hallel I

“Moshivi akeret Habayiy, eim habanim semeicha, Halleluyah!” “He transforms the barren wife into a glad mother of children, Halleluyah!” (Psalms 113:9) Sitting, as in Yeshibah: The first meaning given to this term in our language was that of being seated. Thus, “Now Eli the priest sat...

Parsha
Re’ei: Finding the Joy

“You shall eat there before God, your Lord, and you shall rejoice with your every undertaking, you and your households, as God, your Lord, has blessed you (Deuteronomy 12:7).”
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The Mechanic & The Artist

My ten-year-old nephew was visiting from Argentina and gave a demonstration of his Tai Kwon Do forms. It was fantastic to watch him go through the complex movements, but something was missing from his performance; he was mechanistically perfect but there was no poetry in...

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The Catastrophic Jew

I am still shaken by the Rebuke in last week’s portion. (Leviticus, Chapter 26) What does it take for us to face our Jewishness? In 1940 Simone Weil wrote to the French Minister of Education about the Vichy government’s legislation prohibiting the employment of Jews in...

Table Talk
Table Talk: Shemini

Before or After: “Just as God sat for the seven days of mourning, during the seven days of Creation, for the world that would be destroyed in the Flood, so too, Aaron and his sons sat Shiva
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Playing With Fire

[caption id="attachment_4512" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Be Careful!"][/caption] I don't know how else to say it, he loves to play with fire. I've known him almost my entire life, and he has always enjoyed pushing things as close as possible to the edge. For example, he, a...

Shabbat Table
Table Talk: Yitro

Were the Warnings Necessary? Moses was confused. God had already charged him to warn Israel to maintain the boundaries of Sinai and yet instructed Moses to repeat the warning. Shockingly,
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Informers

[caption id="attachment_1778" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The Informant"][/caption] "He went out the next day, and behold! Two Hebrew men were fighting. He said to the wicked one, 'Why would you strike your fellow?' He replied, "Who appointed you as a dignitary, a ruler, and a judge over...

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Going To War

I heard the following story about a soldier under his command, from a non-observant ranking IDF officer: The young man lives in a small Moshav in Israel. His family finished the Seder around 4AM, and he sat down to learn Gemara for a few minutes before...

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Sharing My Pie

“My dear one,” said the dying woman to her grieving grandson who refused to let go, “I am complete, my life has been full and whole. I know you must see me not being full of much life anymore, but I assure you, I have...

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Haftarah: Shemini: Courage

Samuel II 6:1 – 7:17: Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, died when, in their passion, they offered the incense on the altar. The day of great celebration was shattered, but God insisted that
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Awe of God Toolbox: XV

The siddur is another tool for developing awe.  Listen to this.  This is what we say in the morning.  This was always…especially when you’re depressed, this was a great way to start

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Awe of God Toolbox: XIV

Another tool is to practice awe on your parents (those of us who merit still having parents).  For example, never sit down in your parents chair.  Never argue with your parents.
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Awe of God Toolbox: XIII

The Gemara says that a Talmid Chacham who does not allow a student to serve him prevents the student from developing Yira’at Shamayim.  This idea is played out in a Gemara

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Awe of God Toolbox: X

The absolute best tool to develop Yira’at Shamayim is never to speak Lashon Hara.  This is because the level of awareness that is demanded by not speaking it is so overwhelming, that
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Awe of God Toolbox: IX

Look at the bracha before reciting the Sh’ma:  “Enlighten our eyes in your Torah, attach our hearts to your commandments, unify our hearts to love and fear your Name, so that we won’t
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Awe of God Toolbox: VIII

Every time you open a sefer to learn, if you appreciate that this is Truth, that this comes from God, that these words that have been learnt by generations, and that these words are described
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Awe of God Toolbox: VII

Rambam says that Yir’ah will be a natural result of Ahava.  That is, as you learn about God, you will want to learn more.  As you learn more about God, you will realize how unbelievably
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Awe of God Toolbox: VI

If you like verses, whether they are from davening, or from elsewhere in Tanach, if they really touch you, make them part of your vocabulary.  I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced
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Awe of God Toolbox: V

My Uncle Noach zt”l always described this feeling with a story:  You’re walking down a dark alley.  All of a sudden this dog comes out from the shadows, growling and roaring.  Which
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Awe of God Toolbox IV

The last issue that we spoke of is that true awe is perceived to be degrading.  At some point, a person will say, “Ahh! This person is so great, and I am a nothing.”  This is because
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Awe of God Toolbox III

The next issue is that you’re going to lose some autonomy.  Let me ask you something.  If you could feel free of your life patterns, that is patterns of behavior, is that losing autonomy?
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Awe of God Toolbox II

The second issue is that many people fear that Yira’at Hashem will limit them.  Have you ever heard of those stories when a mother sees her son, God forbid, hit by a truck, and she goes
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Awe of God Toolbox: I

Awe or Yirah, related to the word, Yir’ah, meaning ‘to see.’  But first, you must realize that, even more than the previous four Mitzvot, there is an internal conflict within yourself to fight
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Awe of God Toolbox: Introduction

The Foundation Stone honors the great victory won by the Jewish midwives in Egypt by virtue of their awe of God, one of the Six Constant Mitzvot by sharing some practical tools to
Haftarot
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Elul: Running

Even when one is involved in matters of this world, if his sole desire is to cling to Hashem this yearning [not only leaves a profound impact on the individual] but also elevates the entire material world. The term ratzon, ordinarily translated as grace or will,...

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Table Talk
Table Talk: Bereishit

The Rebellion of the Earth: God cursed the land after Adam’s sin because Adam’s body was formed from the earth. The earth already contained the seeds of rebellion. When God instructed the earth to produce
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Elul: Ask Your Local Cannibal

Sometimes we have to consult with the strangest people: Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish taught: If you sold your healthy body to the Luddites, who are cannibals, you could have gotten a great price, but now, that you have not cared for your health, you will...

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Mishkan Shiloh: Awareness of God

The 13th of Kislev is the Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Yosef Shmuel Landau, author of Mishkan Shiloh. He died on November 22, 1836. If prophecy existed, it must be essential for life. Why do we
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The Meanings of Healing

We pray for people who are ill in every Amidah, and with countless prayers and psalms. What do we mean when we ask for healing? Do the different definitions change the focus of the prayer? For example: Isaiah 58:8: "Your healing will speedily sprout." This image...

Seeing The Good

A little more than a week ago I prepared for Shabbat as the Turn Around Moment from three days in the Hebrew month of Tevet that have long been associated with tragedy (Preparing For the 8-9-Tenth of Tevet). This Shabbat entered and closed seven days of...

FedHeads

Our obsession with celebrities is not new. Long ago, Pharaoh understood the need to have the newly freed young man transformed into something bigger than life, before, he placed Joseph over Egypt:  ‘And removing his signet ring from his hand, Pharaoh put it on Joseph’s hand;...

Language That Can Stop Tower Building

How should a father explain the intended Tower of Babel to a four-year old child who is seeing the Empire State Building for the first time? The historical plaques explain the wondrous engineering history as a Modern Wonder of the World. It was fair to believe...

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Hallel Lights – The Ever Increasing Joy of Becoming

(The night of the Plague of The Firstborn,) Pharaoh went out into the street and cried out, “In the past you were my slaves. Now you are free people; you exist only as servants of the Holy One Blessed is He. You must sing Hallel...

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Hallel-Rosh Chodesh Shevat-Fifth Paragraph

“All you nations; Praise God! Sing compliments, all you peoples! For His kindness overpowers us, and God’s Truth is forever. Hallelukah!”   Based on Kavanot for Rosh Chodesh Shevat The Impact of Our Choices: Our expression of gratitude in the Amida in the 18th blessing – Modim – is immediately followed...

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Festival Prayer-Simcha

The Chatam Sofer once observed that a student of his hardly smiled and never seemed to enjoy life. He ordered the student to stop reading moralistic works for a time. “If it makes you so miserable,” the Rabbi exclaimed,
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Fighting To Look Up

Dedicated to the memory of Raizel Devorah bat David Shaykin on her Yahrtzeit “It happened that when Moses raised his hand, Israel grew stronger, and when he lowered his hand, Amalek was stronger (Exodus 17:11).” “Was it Moses’ hands that won the battle or lost it?...

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Haftarah-Vayechi-Reading the Text

When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, become a man, and observe what God your Lord requires: Walk in His ways,
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Try It; You'll Like It!

A maitre d’ at a well-known kosher restaurant laughs about customers who come in for a ‘famous dish,’ but cooked according to their instructions. He points out that the dish will not be the famed food for which they came if cooked differently. “Are you...

Re'ei
Re’ei: Seforno: Rejecting Mediocrity

“See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse (Deuteronomy 11:26).” We learn from this verse, when it says, “See,” that we should always focus our eyes, not on the mediocre or the neutral, as is the custom of so many
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It's Comforting To Know

Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal. Thomas Moore, “Come Ye, Disconsolate” It’s comforting to know that I have friends who are always there for me. It’s comforting to know that I can reconnect with them even after long periods of silence. It’s comforting to know that I have...

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Balak and Balaam: As Others See Us

O would some Power the gift to give us To see ourselves as others see us! It would from many a blunder free us… Robert Burns: “To a Louse” Balak and Balaam offer us a wonderful opportunity: Balak hired Balaam to curse the Children of Israel. The king of...

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The Blame Game

Almost forty percent of the cases in the Central African Republic’s court system are witchcraft prosecutions. Most of the accused are Pygmies who are known for bewitching each other. Do you have an infected toe? You can accuse your neighbor of hexing you because he...

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To Grab or Grip

“In man the most precise function that the hand is capable of is to place the tip of the thumb in opposition to the tip of the index finger, so they make maximum contact. In this position small objects can be manipulated with an unlimited...

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Where Everything is Moral

What a strange place to build a community! The theme of the fourth book of the Torah is found in its name, Bamidbar, “In The Desert.” Why the desert? Why is the desert so fundamental to all the stories and laws that develop through this...

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The Noise of Holiness

Gwen Harwood’s marvelous poem on death ends: [Death]’ll wear my face and yours. Not as we were, thank God. As we shall be When we let go of the world, late ripe fruit falling. What we are is beyond him utterly. As wonderful as her poem may be, I do...

Haftarah
Table
Table Talk: Ki Tisa


The Chess Master

 

One of the most famous stories about my Uncle Noach zt”l is his chess match against an international chess master. The latter had been studying in Aish HaTorah for a few weeks and was ready to leave.

Table
Table Talk: Mishpatim


Marital Obligations

 

“If he shall take another (wife) in addition to her, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, or her marital relationship.” (Exodus 21:10) We derive the Biblical obligations of husband towards his wife from this verse. Why would the Torah choose

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The Merit of The Righteous Women

How do the Sages know? The Talmud teaches that the Jews were saved from Egypt in the merit of the righteous women. How did they know? The first two heroes, or shall I say, heroines of the story are the two midwives, Shifra and Puah, who stand...

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The Conversion

[caption id="attachment_1749" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Total Clarity"][/caption] “Pharaoh’s daughter went down to bathe by the river,” the Sages teach means that she went to the Mikva, Ritual Bath, in order to convert? Is that a legend? Or, did they read it in the story? How did...

Haftarah
Table Talk
Table Talk – Vayeitzei


The Problems with Blessings: Leah’s children, Reuben, Shimon, Levi, Judah, Yissachar and Zebulon each received a blessing that came with baggage: Reuben’s birthright, as the First Born was forfeit to Joseph. Shimon’s

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The Meeting Point – Answers

We have some difficult questions about Isaac and Rebecca’s parenting skills. (See Parenting – The Questions) The even more difficult question is why Isaac intended, if he actually did, to bless Esau and not Jacob. Rebecca already knew that hers were children destined to shake the...

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Looking For Permanence

[/caption] My wife and I were driving my father zt”l to a wedding in Monsey. As usual, whenever we had an opportunity, we peppered him with questions on all sorts of issues. We knew that every response would be direct, honest and an expression of...

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An Appreciation of Eliezer

There are unspoken words between Abraham and his servant Eliezer. Abraham sends Eliezer on the most important mission of his great career, to find the proper wife for Yitzchak and to ensure the future of the Jewish people. Eliezer, who has been a devoted servant...

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The First Step

He is literally flying. He experienced life without limitation. Abraham called on the deep wells of his courage to battle evil. He took, what most would have considered an unlikely guerrilla force and fought in open conflict with the mightiest army of his time. He...

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Battles of Weapons and Faith

Abram was sitting and teaching in his Yeshiva. Suddenly, a giant appeared. When Abram and his students saw that Og looked filthy, tired and frightened, they realized that they did not need to fear him. But as soon as they heard his breathless report of...

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To Hear & To See

They listened and they watched for over a century, but they didn’t hear or see a thing. The farmer who, according to the Sages, invented the plow, changed careers, and gave up his work to become a carpenter in order to build a huge ark....

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Gardeners or Warriors

Xenophon’s Anabasis tells the story of ten thousand Greek mercenaries who were hired under false pretences by a Persian prince, Cyrus the Younger, for an expedition into the hinterland of Asia Minor. Cyrus’ true aim was to oust his brother, Ataxerxes II. They were defeated...

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The Great Escape

He was 86 years old, driving carefully when a car full of teenagers swerved directly in front of him. He had to think quickly: Traffic in the opposite direction was heavy, so he swung the car sharply to the right onto the shoulder, thinking better...

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Shofetim: Chasers

"As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over...

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Shofetim: Marathon Man

Awhile he holds some false way, undebarr’d By thwarting signs, and braves The freshening wind and blackening waves. And then the tempest strikes him; and between The lightning bursts is seen Only a driving wreck, And the pale master on his spar-strew-deck With anguish’d face and flying hair Grasping the rudder hard, Still bent...

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Re'ei: The Most Hated Man In The Bible

A knight of the Templar who kills an evil man should not be condemned for killing the man but praised for killing the evil. St Bernard of Clairvaux, Liber Ad Milities Templi Who is the most hated person in the Bible? Pharaoh, Balaam, Korach, Goliath, Nebuchadnezzar and Haman...

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There's Just Something Wrong! – Ir Hanidachat III

We have studied the practical lessons of the Mitzvot/Concepts of the Ir Hanidachat in ‘Beware of Universal Thought’ and ‘Beware Compelling Speakers.’ The latter essay reminded me of a selection from a poem by Goethe: Faust: Dearest, who is there that can say, “I believe in God”? You...

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Beware Compelling Speakers – Ir Hanidachat II

In ‘Beware of Universal Thought’ we began to explore the practical lessons of the Mitzvot/Concepts of the Ir Hanidachat, The Wayward City. Two people who can convince every inhabitant of a city, without exception, must be extraordinary persuaders. My father zt”l loved to tell the story of...

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The Powerful and The Steady

Tens of trees in Fieldston were ripped from the ground in those recent winds. There are giant trees lying on the street with huge chunks of the street piled around them. All the people taking Pesach walks stopped to observe the damage to the neighborhood....

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Discoverers

“Kama Ma’alot Tovot Hamakom Aleinu!” This is usually translated as, “The Ominipresent has bestowed so may favors upon us!” However, a more accurate translation would be, “How many Higher Levels of Goodness does the Omnipresent possess over us?” I’ll readily admit that the usual translation,...

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Unmasked

What did Joseph feel at the moment that he revealed himself to his brothers? Was there a sense of relief? Was there anyone else in the world with whom he could be himself? Were there others who could understand Yosef as a human being, the...

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Looking For Permanence II

People often ask me about the Jewish problem with tattoos. I believe that it is an issue with the idea of permanence. (See Looking For Permanence) One of the Jewish inmates I served as a prison chaplain had a tattoo of a heart with a long...

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Haftarot
Each Small Act

And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do as follows: load up your beasts and go at once to the land of Canaan. Take your father and your households and come to me; I will give you the best of the land of Egypt...

Each Step

Immediately upon moving to New York City from Los Angeles I had to pay attention to all the issues of living in a new city and examine them through the eyes of Halacha. I would step out the door of the brownstone on 79th and usually...

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Countdown To Chanukah 26 – Glowing With Gobbled Light

“The climate quickly changed to cold and the trees burst into color, the reds and yellows you can’t believe.  It isn’t only color but a glowing, as though the leaves gobbled the light of the autumn sun and then released it slowly. There’s a quality...

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Countdown To Chanukah 28 – Absorption and Expansion

He illuminates the earth [and provides light] for those who dwell on it, with compassion (Morning Prayers, Blessings of Shema - sefaria.org) The Abudirham connects this line of prayer to, “Dominion and dread are His; He imposes peace in His heights. Can His troops be numbered?...

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Countdown To Chanukah 29 – My Angels of Light

“and pierces the windows of the firmament (Shabbat Morning, Blessings of Shema).” [sefaria.org]   Rabbeinu Yehudah ben Yakar calls our attention to the following verse to explain the intention of the word pierces:   אָ֣ז יִבָּקַ֤ע כַּשַּׁ֙חַר֙ אוֹרֶ֔ךָ וַאֲרֻכָתְךָ֖ מְהֵרָ֣ה תִצְמָ֑ח וְהָלַ֤ךְ לְפָנֶ֙יךָ֙ צִדְקֶ֔ךָ כְּב֥וֹד יְהוָ֖ה יַאַסְפֶֽךָ׃ “Then shall your...

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Journeys; The First Step

This is Simcha Weinberg for the BNN (Biblical New Network) Festival book review. (Dedicated in honor of MJ, AC)   We have been on a journey since Rosh Hashana:   We have discovered the “Meeting Place Between Knowledge and Imagination,”   We have studied “Gaps In The Clouds,”   Found “A Kedem Compass,”   Uncovered,...

Nachamu-Nachamu – The Path Forward – Week 4 Part 3 Unedited

Nachamu Nachamu Haftaras Shofteem Week #4 Part 3 Hashem’s Nechama ● There always has to be beauty in what is spoken in the negative Toras Hamincha Rabeinu Yaakov Sakili ● Hashem gave us the three gifts to master who you are, “Mi At”, Mitzvot, Middot, Sechel, moist earth, earth and sun...

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Countdown to Pesach 4-Four Cups

The Jews in the Kovno ghetto had no wine for the Pesach Seder. How could they carry out the mitzvah of drinking the Four Cups of Redemption? Rabbi Oshry replied, “Carry it out with four cups of sweet tea.”
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Amidah-Mishpatim-Da’at

“And these are the ordinances that you shall place before the (Exodus 21:1).” Some of the Torah's commandments are duties that a person's body has to perform. In order to perform these commandments one needs
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The Futurist

The “Futurist,” Ray Kurzweil is a man who plans to live forever. He is a wildly successful inventor: In the ‘70s he developed the first computer capable of reading different fonts, and in the ‘80s he created one of the first speech-recognition programs. He now...

Table Talk
Haftorah
Haftarah: Behar: Nurturing Hope

Jeremiah 32:6-17: Even before Jeremiah’s cousin came to him for financial help in redeeming his ancestral land that he had to sell, God told the prophet that he was coming. Jeremiah knew that this was more than following
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Sixth Sense

All the Mitzvot in the Torah were designed as an expression of the Ultimate Will and Infinite Wisdom. They are all beyond human ken and understanding. However, there is one category of laws called “Chok” which are blatantly beyond any human understanding. Parah Adumah is the paradigm...

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The Ceremony of Lighting

It will be a very long time before Moshe is actually told to teach the Mitzvah of the Menorah. Many commentaries read the opening of this portion as “When you will give over the Mitzvah of the Menorah, this is how you shall teach them...

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Make It Mine

Rav was careful to fulfill the Biblical directive of “Dei Machsoro” – the community must provide for the specific needs of each poor person. That is until one day… One day, a poor person knocked on the great Rabbi’s door and asked for some food and...

Haftarah
Haftarah: Mishpatim: Power!

Jeremiah 34:8-22, 33:25-26 - “And God spoke to Moses and Aaron and commanded them regarding the Children of Israel and regarding Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to take the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 6:13)
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The Music of Halacha: A Meal To Remember

I had worked all summer as a camp counselor and learning rebbi, and received a huge pay check of $400 in the mail. My father zt”l handed the envelope to me and asked me if I was prepared to give my first real Tzedaka as it was from money earned.

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Rock & Roll

They don’t trust each other so they place a huge stone over the well to make sure that no one takes more than his share of water. They wait until they all gather and then they roll the stone and uncover the well. What happens...

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Successful Chesed

Eliezer rose to new heights when he accepted his mission. (See An Appreciation of Eliezer) He was lifted into a new reality and was able to travel long distances in just moments. He tasted his own experience of the Infinite, not as an observer of...

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From Past to Future

[/caption]In 1509, Johannes Pfefferkorn, a Dominican monk who was also a converted rabbi, published Mirror of the Jews, an anti-Semitic book proposing that all works in Hebrew, including the Talmud, be burned. Johannes Reuchlin, a Bavarian humanist, dismayed by the possibility of such desecration, formally protested...

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Pillows and Tzitzit

How a pile of pillows taught me how to repair my Tzitzit: Debbie and I had to be in the airport at 6am, and we had worked until 2am, so we shoved the basics into our suitcases and rushed to the airport. I unpacked this morning...

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Ki Teitzei: For The Birds

“Rabbi,” said the caller, “please let me know if you see a nest with a mother birds and her young birds or eggs. My wife wants more children and we were told by a Kabbalist to fulfill the Mitzvah of Sending The Mother Bird From...

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Beauty & Truth

[caption id="attachment_2932" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Truth - Beauty - Freedom - Love"][/caption] I died for beauty, but was scarce Adjusted in the tomb, When one who died for truth was lain In an adjoining room. He questioned softly why I failed? “For beauty,” I replied. “And I for truth, - the two...

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Looking Forward To…

I have been looking forward to this Shabbat for a few weeks because two of my closest friends, I think of them as brother and sister, will be with us. I love looking forward to things! I usually wake up looking forward to something. In the...

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Eikev: From Head To Heel (Text Version)

In response to the numerous requests for the written version: The opening verse in this week’s portion reads: “This shall be the reward when you hearken to these ordinances.” Rashi comments: If you hear even those commandments that people “tread on them with their heels, meaning,...

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Paying Attention

Someone asked me to help him find gluten free Matzah for Pesach. I told him where I bought mine and thought that the matter was settled. I bumped into him on Thursday night and he told me that he did not believe that the Matzah...

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Listening To The Matzah

I first hand out the portions of Matzah to everyone at the table and only then do I begin eating my own portion. We are all leaning to the left, crunching away at our Matzah. Inevitably someone at the table begins to giggle at all...

matzah
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Ahavat Olam

Someone asked me why we insert; "May You forever not remove Your love from us" in the blessing immediately preceding the evening Shema. The question implies the possibility that God would "remove His love from us". I answered that I believe this is not a request...

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Repairs Required

“Busy remaking the world, man forgot to remake himself (Andrei Platonov, Nursery of the New Man).” My limited understanding of Platanov, based on “Soul and Other Stories,” is that he understood that the Soviet communists were convinced they could successfully remake the world. Their failure to remake...

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Countdown To Chanukah 3 – More To Give

Great art ‘offers us images by which to imagine our lives, and once the imagination has been awakened it is procreative: through it we can give more than we were given, say more than we had to say (Lewis Hyde, The Gift).’ Something awakens our imagination,...

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A Kedem Compass

It’s a challenge when even Amazon doesn’t carry one.  I need a special compass each year to find a magical place called “Kedem” when positioning my Succah.   A common Yom Kippur refrain, “Bring us back, O God, toward You, And let us come back; Renew our...

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First Steps

[caption id="attachment_1891" align="alignleft" width="259" caption="First Steps"][/caption] Twenty-two years ago, Dr. Rosalind Neuman of St. Louis pointed out in a class on this week’s portion a remarkable transition from the beginning of the portion to its conclusion. The portion begins by describing how God did not want...

Music of Halacha
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Psalm 27: Clothed in Light

“God is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear.” (Psalm 27:1) The Midrash (See Psalm 27.2) continues: Rabbi Abin, the Levite said that the Holy One, Blessed is He, took the light, and covered Himself with it as though it were a garment, and...

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The Music of Halacha
The Music of Halacha
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Music of Halacha
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Shabbat #7: Probable Consequences

We cannot possibly foresee all the consequences of our actions. The Shabbat laws teach us that we must always consider consequences and are responsible for inevitable outcomes. If only it were an easy matter to see even the inevitable results of our actions. Life...

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Shabbat #5

The Music of Halacha Shabbat #5 Review: 1. Consciousness, Intention and Purpose 2. Immediate Purpose 3. Purpose Driven Lives 4. Purpose Must Parallel the Tabernacle Work 5. Purpose Defines Action as Constructive The Highest Purpose: The Tabernacle work is considered one of...

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The Judgment Of The Birds

“…and for the person being purified there shall be taken two live, clean birds…and the one bird shall be slaughtered…as for the live bird…set free upon the open field.” (Leviticus 14:4-7) Every time I study this portion, which describes the purification process of the Metzorah, who...

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The Plan: Opening to The Life To Come

Clov (Hamm’s servant): Do you believe in the life to come? Hamm (Blind and lame): Mine was always that. Samuel Beckett, “Endgame”   ‘On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone forth from the land of Egypt, on that very day, they entered the wilderness of Sinai.   Having...

The Plan: Process Without Illness

The tricky part of illness is that, as you go through it, your values are constantly changing. You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. It felt like someone had taken away my credit card and I...

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Hallel Lights – Infinite Hallel

“Raising my voice in thanksgiving" - these are the Offerings.  "And telling all Your wonders" - (Is it possible to tell all Your wonders?)  Rabbi Avin said, That is Hallel, as it has of the past within it, and it has of the future within it, and...

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Re'ei: Crossing The River

“In the “Judgment” of the Book of Changes, whenever one encounters dangerous circumstances the advice is always: “Cross the river.” One can see from this that the real purpose of boats is to deliver people from danger rather than to provide comfort.” Pleasure Boat Studio...

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Fear of Change

He truly bore the deformity of baldness very badly, having experienced often his vulnerability to the jokes of his detractors. For that reason he was even accustomed to “recall” his thinning strands from the very top of his head, and out of all the honors...

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Elul: Future Oriented

Rav Kook describes the Patriarchs as being very present in Olam Hazeh – this world – yet always focused on the future. Each step they took in the present was focused on their ultimate future in the World to Come. Elul is a time of looking...

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Psalm 27: It's Good!

“God is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear.” (Psalm 27:1) “She (Yocheved) saw that he (Moshe) was good” (Exodus 2:2) It has been taught in a Baraita: Rabbi Meir says “Tov” – Good – was Moshe’s original name. The Sages say that when...

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Sinai Off Cape Ann

Or the waterfall, or music heard so deeply That it is not heard at all, but you are the music While the music lasts. These are only hints and guesses, Hints followed by guesses; and the rest Is prayer, observance, discipline, thought and action. The hint half guessed, the...

Push or Pull

After my first stroke I had to learn how to walk again. First I had to learn how to go downstairs. Then I had to learn how to walk onto our porch. Then I had to go down the stairs to our sidewalk. Each one...

The Plan: Opening to The Life To Come

Clov (Hamm’s servant): Do you believe in the life to come? Hamm (Blind and lame): Mine was always that. Samuel Beckett, “Endgame”   ‘On the third new moon after the Israelites had gone forth from the land of Egypt, on that very day, they entered the wilderness of Sinai.   Having...

Dura lex, sed lex

“The Law is harsh, but it is the Law!”   Not our law.   Not Halacha.   “Her ways are pleasant ways, And all her paths, peaceful (Proverbs 3:17 - sefaria.org).”   ‘Abaye objected: Aren’t the halakhot of the entire Torah also given on account of the ways of peace, as it is...

The Plan: The Lightning Bush

In the Aeneid, the Roman poet Virgil describes the vast cave inhabited by the god Vulcan and his worker-drones, the Cyclopes.  It is here, Virgil defines the lightning bolt of Jupiter as informatum – forged or given shape beneath their hammers.  To in-form meant to give a...

The Path Ignites The Soul

When the path ignites a soul, there's no remaining in place. The foot touches ground, but not for long.                            Hakim Sanai   “He had sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph, to point the way before him to...

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Countdown to Chanukah 16 – This Is My Chanukah

We are taught that Chanukah is an Oral Law Festival. It isn’t a biblical festival. It was instituted by the Sages. All of Chanukah’s laws and practices were designed and determined using the Courageous Creative Process of the Oral Law. There is another way to view...

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The Squabble

Once we begin studying the battles of Jacob’s life, I naturally consider rereading Nikolai Gogol’s, “The Squabble.”  As mentioned in “Jacob’s Chanukah Journey,” I’ve been finding myself trapped in Introductions and Forwards, and Patrick McCabe’s essay reflecting on “The Squabble,” has me stuck in the boxing...

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Countdown to Chanukah 23 – Eye to the Brain II

The Ohr HaChaim HaKodesh goes one step beyond our description of vision as an entrance to the intellect (https://thefoundationstone.org/countdown-to-chanukah-24-from-eye-to-brain-i/), and speaks of the eye as a Spiritual sense (Devarim 32:10, ‘pupil of his eye’). This is why Rav Abba had the Divine Name in front of...

Nachamu-Nachamu – The Path Forward – Week 4 Part 3 Unedited

Nachamu Nachamu Haftaras Shofteem Week #4 Part 3 Hashem’s Nechama ● There always has to be beauty in what is spoken in the negative Toras Hamincha Rabeinu Yaakov Sakili ● Hashem gave us the three gifts to master who you are, “Mi At”, Mitzvot, Middot, Sechel, moist earth, earth and sun...