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Providence

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

The Plan: Dreaming

“There is a certain dull uniformity in human destiny. The course of our lives follows ancient and immutable laws, with an ancient, changeless rhythm. Dreams never come true, and the instant they are shattered, we realize how the greatest joys of our life lie beyond...

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...

Story Magic Part Two

Joseph would not have made it past one dream in my family!    We, too, were a family of dreamers and visionaries. They were also master story tellers.   My mother a”h, who could turn a story of starting a fire in Naomi’s kitchen on Erev Pesach into fifteen...

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Joseph and The Condemned Man

I can’t read the story of Joseph interpreting the dreams of the Royal Baker and Wine Steward without thinking of Victor Hugo’s, “The Last Day of a Condemned Man.”  The baker, hopeful upon hearing the slave’s interpretation of the wine steward’s dream, and observing how so...

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Story Magic

The following is dedicated in honor of Brian Ross - in memory of his father z”l, - for two reasons: You make me laugh as does the writer I’m about to quote. The writer was Canadian, I hope familiar to you. In “the Best of Gregory...

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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...

Haftarot
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Surprise!

I left our home in Toronto in 1971 for summer camp, and was surprised to be driven at summer's end to a new home in Baltimore. I didn't know that we were moving. There seemed to be what Richard Russo, in "The Mysteries of Linwood...

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Grow Up!

Every child is fascinated by the problem of the caterpillar and the butterfly. But most of us, forget these things and become absorbed in matters of consequence. Scientists form one group of individuals in whom childish traits persist: for the adult scientist still wonders about...

Haftarot
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The Light in The Dark

He experienced unlimited life and as an astonishing gift, God lifted Abraham above the stars in order to say, "What you experienced was real! You are not limited by the forces of nature or by destiny." Abraham's response was so perfect, that the verse describes God...

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Visions of Greatness

I wake up when it is still dark outside, so it was easy to notice the squares of light that were floating around the room. They were scenes from Pip’s dreams. There were pictures of bones floating next to much larger pictures of rib steaks,...

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After The Blast?

We were close to Israel’s border with Lebanon when we heard a frightening sound. The soldier with us rushed us into a bomb shelter. The sound was a katushya rocket. “The noise is the worst part!” said the soldier. There is a long, scary, whistling...

The Plan: Dreaming

“There is a certain dull uniformity in human destiny. The course of our lives follows ancient and immutable laws, with an ancient, changeless rhythm. Dreams never come true, and the instant they are shattered, we realize how the greatest joys of our life lie beyond...

The Plan: Action!

We concluded, The Plan: What’s Next with ‘God demonstrates this very lesson to the magicians themselves.   “You may be able to play with nature and secret powers, but you must begin by mastering yourselves or you will collapse.”   The people of Egypt understand this, as does Moshe, as...

The Plan: What’s Next?

In, “The Plan: Introduction To Exodus,” we asked,  Why were Ten Plagues necessary to free the Children of Israel from Egypt? Why did Pharaoh need to be so thoroughly manipulated? Why did the magicians play such an important role? Why did the average Egyptian citizen have to suffer? Why were...

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 Plan: Introduction to Exodus

The director Fred Schepisi tells a story about the time he invited an oral surgeon to his film class.  Dimming the lights, the man tacked to the wall a group of backlit X-rays, different shots of the same mouth, which anyone could see, even in these...

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The Family Moves Part Two: Fast Forward

It all happens so quickly! The brothers confront the Viceroy, ready for war. Joseph reveals himself, tells them to move down to Egypt, a suggestion they accept without hesitation! These brothers listen to their old nemesis in the snap of a finger! They aren’t bothered...

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Master of Memory V: What Was In His Heart

“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart (Johann Wolfgang von Goeth).” How quickly things change! The man in charge of the Viceroy's house confronts the brothers and accuses them of repaying the evil for good, and for stealing the goblet from...

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Master of Memory V

“But Joseph said to them, 'It is just as I have declared to you: you are spies! By this shall you be tested: By Pharaoh's life you will not leave here unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of you, and let him fetch...

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Master of Memory IV

“And he said to them, 'No! But the land's nakedness have you come to see' (Genesis 42:12).” The viceroy of Egypt simply rejects their words. It is a terrible feeling to be ignored, as in, “They could not speak to him peaceably (37:4),” and, as...

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Master of Memory III

“They answered him, 'Not so, my master! For your servants have come to buy food. All of us, sons of one man are we; we are truthful people; your servants have never been spies' (Genesis 42:10–11).” I always find it interesting how easily someone who lies...

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Master of Memory II

“Joseph saw his brothers and he recognized them, but he acted like a stranger towards them and spoke harshly with them. He asked them, 'From where do you come?' And they said, 'From the land of Canaan to buy food.' Joseph recognized his brothers, but...

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Zachor
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Parsha Zachor
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A Changed Family

[caption id="attachment_1770" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Change"][/caption] The family had changed. When the names were listed in Vayigash, the family was divided by mothers: The sons of Leah and the sons of Zilpah, Leah’s maid. The sons of Rachel and then the sons of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid....

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The Altar of Confrontation

Word of Abraham’s miracle quickly spread from city to city. The local authorities appreciated the danger of his revolutionary idea, but were hesitant to confront Abraham, lest they lose as much as did Nimrod. Abraham left Haran, with his wife, servants, flocks and his new followers....

Haftarah
Bereishit: The Creation of History

Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10: As would be expected of the Haftarah selected for the portion of creation, the sages found many of the major ideas in Jewish philosophy alluded to in this prophecy: God the Constant Creator (TBBerachot 52b, Zohar, Volume 1 205b),

 

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What Will The Future Bring?

(Dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Yossi H. z"l) I was writing a sermon on the Mishnaic dictum: “Who is wise? He who can see ahead.” I wanted to focus on the idea of being a Boteiach – someone who trusts in God’s commitment to His...

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Countdown To Chanukah 20 – Fueled By Tears

“Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel ascended; and they saw the God of Israel: under His feet there was the likeness of a pavement of sapphire, like the very sky for purity (Exodus 24:8-9 - sefaria.org)”. Rashi comments on, “...

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Haftarah Ki Tisa Part Ten

“They took the bull that he gave them and prepared it, and called out in the name of the Baal all from the morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was neither sound nor response, and they danced by the altar that he made.”
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Prayer Skills-So What-Shemot-Elokeinu

“His sister stationed herself at a distance to know what would be done with him (Exodus 2:4).” It does not mean that she simply, “stood there,” but, that “she placed herself there with full intent, full energy.”
Parsha Lessons
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The Strength of Arguing

The Anshei Knesset HaGedolah conclude the first Mishna in Avot by teaching, “Strengthen your Torah through constant discussion.” (Chassid Ya’avetz, who does not believe that the Mishna teaches us to “Make a fence around the Torah!”) Who were these people? The Talmud teaches: “Why were they...

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Divine Providence

The Talmud in Avodah Zarah 2a teaches that, “All the nations of the world will gather before God on the Day of Judgment in a large and mixed crowd. God will instruct them to organize themselves by individual nations so that each may be judged...

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Help! I've Been Minimized!

You probably can’t see me, but I’m here. My wife and I were on Skype talking to one of her friends, when Debbie walked out of video range for a moment and her friend minimized the screen while I was on it. I’ve...

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The Hug

We met almost twenty years ago and immediately sensed that we were kindred spirits. We became very close friends, almost brothers, for three years, but somehow drifted away from each other. We reconnected for a few months, and then life’s challenges took control and we...

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Charm School

One of the essays that made Jamaica Kincaid famous was "Charm" about the Ophelia DeVore School of Charm for young black women. "At some point, all this will become extinct. As black people integrate, they won't want to do the special little things that they...

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First Impressions I: Questions

He appeared at the well as a penniless vagabond. Jacob had nothing with him. “My brothers, where are you from?” he asked. I wonder if they reacted to “My brothers” the way I react when a panhandler on the subway begins his pitch with, “Hey!...

Table Talk
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Transitions I

Something changed. Abraham sent Eliezer on his mission to find a wife for Isaac, but we never read of Eliezer reporting to his master. In fact, we never read of Abraham or Eliezer again, other than the former's death. It's as if the great patriarch disappeared...

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Fear of Laughter

Sarai expected that when her husband, Abram, had a revelation, that her life would drastically change. One day, Abram informed her that they were about to take everything they owned and begin a journey to a destination yet to be determined. “God promised that I...

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The Promise of Hope

I was sick for many years. I desperately prayed for healing and for the necessary clarity to understand what God was teaching me through my suffering. My wife and I went from one doctor to another searching for the correct diagnosis. We would silently sit in...

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The Power of An Idea

He had never received a communication from God. All he had was a conviction that God exists, One, and All-Powerful. He understood that the idols in his father’s factory were no more than dolls. They had no power. His ideas were dangerous. The entire power...

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The Hug: A True Story

Dvir Aminolav was the first Israeli soldier killed in the 2008 Gaza War. His mother Dalya missed Dvir, terribly. One night before she went to bed, she said in a loud voice: "G-d, give me a sign, give me a hug from Dvir so that...

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Forms of Prayer

Tens of people gathered to pray for the young mother of three who was mortally ill. The tears flowed. Everyone cried to God to save the family from tragedy. They prayed for thirty minutes and left. No one was smiling. It seemed to the rabbi that...

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Come Here!

"There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing." Blaise Pascal “And God called to Moshe from The Tent of Meeting saying.” Rashi goes to great lengths to describe how God called to Moshe. Calling...

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Calling

“Each time that God spoke to, or said something to Moshe, He began by calling to him, in a loving manner, just as the angels are described by Isaiah as calling to each other before singing their praises of God.” “They heard the Kol –...

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A Different Sort of Doctor

I recently had a talk with a different sort of doctor. As he described his frustration dealing with other doctors and insurance companies he spoke of how he deal with patients: “I always call my patients a day or two after I see them to...

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The Violence of Silence

It happened, as I knew it would. We received a hate filled comment to one of our blogs. How sad that such a thing is expected! How frightening that such things are so common that we can laugh and shrug them off! Then again, I prefer...

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The Architecture of Proximity

My father’s lap, while he sat in his big white Lazy-Boy and taught, was a world all to its own. An exquisite sense of safety in every sense of the word, emotionally, physically, all while exploring different worlds of Torah, science, literature, and all sorts...

Haftarah
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Prayer Skills-Vaeira-Joyful Prayer

When you perform a mitzvah for the sake of heaven, to fulfill the wishes of God, Who spoke and His will was done, you will arouse all the worlds, from the lowly, compound world of Assiyah, through the countless
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Eikev: In Name, Without Reality

The Name Without the Reality A student who does not study the appointed themes is not a real student. A mourner who feels no grief when condoling with the bereaved is not a real mourner. An old servant who neither tidies things away nor chatters about family affairs...

The Music of Halacha
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Responding To Laughter

“This is the decree of the Torah.” Because Satan and the scoffers ridicule Israel for observing the law of the Parah Adumah, which does not seem to make any sense, God declares, “It is a decree from Me. You have no permission to question it!” My father...

Bible
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Inconsistencies: A Memory

I was all of 16 years old, and was quite confused. I had serious questions about how people use Judaism to relate to God, and I was asked to meet once a week with public school students and answer their questions. It was pouring that night...

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Haftarot
Haftarah: Nasso: Identity

Judges 13:2-25:  From the opening moments of the Samson story, the participants do not understand their roles. The verse introduces Manoah, but then describes how the angel appeared to his wife, not to him. He did not understand

 

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Nevertheless!

"Akavia ben (son of) Mehalalel said, consider three things and you will not come to sin. Know from where you have come, to where you are heading, and before Whom you will give justification and accounting. From where have you come: from a putrid drop...

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Peace Within

"Rabbi Chanina the deputy [High] Priest said, pray for the welfare of the government (literally, “the monarchy”), for if not for fear of it, a person would swallow his fellow live." Some people astound me. Rabbi Yosef of Couci, the author of Sefer Mitzvot Hagadol, suffered...

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Interview With The Cohen Gadol

The BNN, The Biblical News Network, is proud to announce that we have been granted the privilege of an exclusive interview with the Cohen Gadol, focusing on his experiences in the Kodesh Hakodashim, The Holy of Holies, over the past 25 years. Rabbi Aronson has agreed...

Haftarah
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Passionate & Calm

There is a gentle sleep Where sweet peace dwells, Where quiet rest heals The weary soul’s sorrow. Ernst Koch I am always taken by the powerful contrast between the fiery passion of Nadav and Avihu, which led to their death, and their father, Aaron’s quiet grief and mourning. The man...

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Too Many Memories?

“And Daudet said the most foolish thing to me. Perhaps he thought that it might console me. He told me that I would have my memories. But my memories are of no use to me. I told him that I never had any interest in...

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Something To Say

“Moses assembles the entire assembly of Israel.” (35:1) Rashi explains that Moshe did not actively assemble the people. He used words to have them gathered. Which words did he use? If he said, “Please assemble”, Rashi would not be making an important point. He still gathered them...

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From A Different Planet

I receive complimentary issues of all sorts of magazines every week and I usually end up feeling as if I live on a different planet. Are there really enough people who buy a $200,000 watch to merit an advertisement? What about $2,000 pants? Private jets?...

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Zooming In

“I am consumed by a more general sense of dread, of imprisonment within the dreary world of work and home,” he said in describing why he wanted to talk. We can travel the world, share fascinating experiences, explore the countless avenues of life and still feel...

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The Time Bandit

[caption id="attachment_1939" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Time Bandits"][/caption] He shaved a nanosecond off one note and added it to the next. This underhanded form of theft, known as rubato, is one way that soloists personalize a piece of music. It is a liberty taken with the composer’s...

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Table Talk: Beshalach


Mixed Messages: At the beginning of the portion God chose to take Israel on an indirect route out of Egypt in order to prevent them from being exposed to war and being frightened

 

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Spiritual Matters

[caption id="attachment_1737" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Spirituality"][/caption] Pharaoh had a problem. It doesn’t seem too serious, but it has the potential to explode. Moses arrived with Aaron to demand; “Let My people Go!” The people in question are not there. Oh! They set out with Moses and...

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Gratitude

[caption id="attachment_1729" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Gratitude"][/caption] What is the first thing you would say about Pharaoh? Would you mention that he was a killer? Or, would you start with the fact that he enslaved an entire nation? The verse introduces Pharaoh by saying, “He did not know...

Table Talk
Table Talk: Vayechi

Debating the Future

Jacob was bidding farewell to Joseph and honoring the son’s remarkable accomplishments, but Jacob was still the father and patriarch.

miertz
Table Talk: Miketz

Quick Adjustments: Imagine being sold as a slave by your brothers, thrown into prison and not being treated as a full human being for thirteen years. You are suddenly summoned by
Table Talk
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Just That Little Bit Removed

Most of my students had been taken on the Gehinnom – Hell – tour to scare them into observing all the laws carefully. It was, to say the least, an unpleasant experience for all of them, and it didn’t seem to work. I decided to use...

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Choosing Not To See

I was trying to turn right and was waiting for people to finish crossing the street. I considered forcing my way through, after all, it was New York City, but there was a policeman at the corner attempting to direct traffic. Some drivers and pedestrians...

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Strivers

I have a friend who, I believe, is a true Holy person. He is a great teacher, soul-doctor, composer, and human being. I described him as “Holy” in a Tweet, and he laughed it off. I won’t let go. I believe that although he may...

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No Monsters Allowed

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.” Fredric Nietzsche - From Beyond Good and Evil How ironic that he did not heed...

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Avinu Malkeinu: The Full Cup

Our Father, Our King, fill our hands from Your blessings. Our Father, Our King, fill our storehouses with abundance. Nan-in, a Japanese Zen master during the Mejii era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen. Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full,...

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Inconsistencies III: Fleas On My Mind

I can’t catch this tiny thing! The computer screen’s light attracts it and it keeps on flying in front of me, and when I wave it away, it flies near my ear to make a tortuous sound. A tiny bug is proving a greater adversary...

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A Planet-Eating Sun

The Hubble space telescope has discovered a planet in our galaxy in the process of being devoured by the star that it orbits, according to a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The doomed planet, dubbed WASP-12b, has the highest known surface temperature of any...

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Applies To Me

“One who sees the Sotah in her shame, shall become a Nazir.” My Rebbi, HaRav Yochanan Zweig, asks how thirty days of being a Nazir is more powerful than watching the Sotah explode? He compares this to people who drive by an accident without stopping...

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A Sense of Wonder

The sense of wonder that is our sixth sense. And it is the natural religious sense. D.H. Lawrence “Tell me father, why do we dip the Karpas?” “We do it so that you will ask that question.” I never liked that answer. We dip the Karpas just to make our children...

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Finding The Words

“This primary intuition of the strangeness of it all, of our single selves as unspeakably fragile and brilliant observers of a grandeur for which we have tried through all our generations to find words, this is the experience that seems to me to underlie religion....

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Waiting

“The leaders brought the shoham stones and the stones for the settings of the Ephod and Breastplate.” (35:27) Rashi cites Rabbi Nattan (Bamidbar Rabbah 12:16) who notes that the word “nesiim”, leaders, is spelled without the two yuds that it would normally have. This defective spelling...

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The Cave

My wife refers to my study as “The Cave.” I can’t blame her. It’s in the basement, damp and cold, without any natural light, and is quite crowded. You can understand why my skin turned green when we visited friends in Great Neck and I saw...

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Haftarah Ki Tisa Part Five

“Obadiah went toward Ahab and told him, so Ahab went toward Elijah.” It doesn't say that Obadiah went to Ahab, but rather that he went toward Ahab. This implies that all Obadiah did was turn in the direction of Ahab but Ahab was there.
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Haftarah Ki Tisa Part Six

“Ahab sent among all the children of Israel and he gathered the prophets to Mount Carmel.” Why is it that Ahab "sent among the children of Israel," but he "gathered the prophets to Mount Carmel?" It seems that he only had to send
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Haftarah Ki Tisa Part Nine

“Elijah said to the people, “I have remained a prophet of God by myself, but the prophets of the Baal or 450 men. Let them give us two bulls; let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it, and put it on the wood, but not apply fire; and I will
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The Journey Ahead

“So he arose, and ate and drank; then he went, on the strength of that meal, forty days and forty nights, until the Mountain of God, Horeb (I Kings 19:8).” What did Elijah eat? If it was from the same cake, why did only this...

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Es mine kint

“Then he lay down and slept under a rosem-bush, and, behold this! An angel touched him and said to him, ‘Arise! Eat!’ (I Kings 19:5)” In verse 2 we read of the “malach” sent by Jezebel. This is a different Malach, an angel of God....

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The Challenges of Leadership

“But as for himself, he went a day’s journey into the wilderness; he came, sat under a rosem-bush, and requested his soul to die; and he said, ‘It is enough! Now, God, take my soul, for I am no better than my forefathers’ (I Kings...

Samson
Samson and the Lion
Samson
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Haftarah Nasso: Reading the Text V

Posted in honor of J.S. who will be studying this text on Shavuot in her quest to discover her Gadlut: “And Manoach prayed to God, and he said, Please God, the man of the Lord whom You sent should please come again to us, and...

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Haftarah Nasso: Reading the Text IV

“And the woman came and she said to her husband saying, ‘A man of the Lord came to me, and his appearance as the appearance of an angel of the Lord, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he was from and he...

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Haftarah Nasso: Reading the Text III

"Now therefore, please be careful, and do not drink fresh wine or old wine and do not eat anything impure. For behold, you will conceive and bear a son, no razor may touch his head, for a Nazir of the Lord, the boy shall be...

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Haftarah Nasso: Reading the Text II

“And an Angel of God appeared to the woman, and he said to her, ‘Behold please, that you are barren, and you have not given birth, and you will conceive and bear a son’.” It must have been important for the woman to realize that...

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Shimshon Hagibbor
Haftarah: Nasso: Thematic Questions:

Why did the Angel appeared to only the mother, and not to the father? Even when the Angel appears to Manoach, it first appears to his wife and she has to go and get her husband. The obvious answer is that the prohibitions
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Haftarot
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The Man

What did they say just before they constructed the Golden Calf? For this Moshe, the man, we do not know what happened to him. It does not say that we do not know what happened to Moshe, but rather, Moshe, the Man. They did not wonder if...

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The Purity of Clarity

Rashi on the portion begins by describing the meticulous process that was necessary to produce the oil for the Menorah. The oil had to have the purity of being clear, without sediment.: They would choose olives from the top of the tree that had not grown...

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Just Outside

Phaedrus (Plato) speaks of "Four Kinds of Divine Madness": Socrates begins by discussing madness. Madness given as a gift of the "god" provides us with some of the best things we have, and some of the most difficult. There are, in fact, four kinds of divine...

Seeds of Light
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Trust

[caption id="attachment_1934" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Exactly What it Says"][/caption] There is a war between two clocks in my room. My alarm clock is connected to an atomic clock somewhere that constantly adjusts its time. It has the same time as my cell phone, which also claims...

deborah
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Back To the Garden?

[caption id="attachment_1774" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Snake Trick"][/caption] A snake! Echoes of the Garden…in a portion about heroic women…something is going on. A snake? Leprosy? All because Moses questioned whether the Jews would believe him. Wasn’t that kind of drastic? It was Miriam’s fault! Moshe’s sister, was a formidable woman. Amram...

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The Mouth

[caption id="attachment_1757" align="alignleft" width="292" caption="The Mouth"][/caption] I am fascinated by my grandson’s obsession with his mouth. I bought a pull-toy for him as a Chanukah gift, and he examined every piece with his mouth. Whenever he pulls a book from the shelf, he puts the...

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Reflection of Israel

“Go, Moshe, and say comforting words to the people; “God speaks to me only in your merit’. This is why we find that God did not speak to Moshe for the 38 years that Israel was in the desert waiting to die.” I believe that this...

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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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Bible
The Plan: Action!

We concluded, The Plan: What’s Next with ‘God demonstrates this very lesson to the magicians themselves.   “You may be able to play with nature and secret powers, but you must begin by mastering yourselves or you will collapse.”   The people of Egypt understand this, as does Moshe, as...

The Plan: What’s Next?

In, “The Plan: Introduction To Exodus,” we asked,  Why were Ten Plagues necessary to free the Children of Israel from Egypt? Why did Pharaoh need to be so thoroughly manipulated? Why did the magicians play such an important role? Why did the average Egyptian citizen have to suffer? Why were...

Here Live Monsters

There are spaces still to be filled before the map is completed- though these days it’s only in the explored territories that men write, sadly, Here lives monsters (Norman McCraig, Old Maps and New   The Isles of the Blessed, Kibu, Hawaiki, Hufaidh, Thule, Fusang, Bermeja, Onaseuse, imaginary lands all, existed on maps,...

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...

GPS To Egypt

How did Jacob get from Canaan to Egypt without GPS? I consider Debbie one of the smartest people I have ever met in my life. Yet, a mysterious obnoxious woman hiding somewhere in our car’s radio treats her like an idiot.  We often wonder if this woman...

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;...

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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Joseph and The Condemned Man

I can’t read the story of Joseph interpreting the dreams of the Royal Baker and Wine Steward without thinking of Victor Hugo’s, “The Last Day of a Condemned Man.”  The baker, hopeful upon hearing the slave’s interpretation of the wine steward’s dream, and observing how so...

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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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Countdown to Chanukah 6 – The Curmudgeon

I am considering becoming a curmudgeon for both religious and financial reasons.  For those of you who read, “Fasting Training Exercises,” I am not breaking my “fast”; I am considering becoming a temporary curmudgeon. For those who already consider me an ungrateful grouch,...

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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 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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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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Countdown to Pesach 2-Lessons From the Exodus

A Chassidic master said, “In the Bible, human beings are compared to trees. A tree grows if it is healthy, but you cannot watch it grow. So should it be with the human personality. It should grow toward greater perfection,
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Halfway There

As we read the Historical Background of this week's Haftarah and the story in the Haftarah we cannot fail to notice how often people rise to extraordinary positions and accomplishments, successfully battle evil, only to have them fall and fail just like the wicked people...

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Elijah's Vision

“And He said, ‘Go forth and stand on the mountain before God; and behold! God is passing, and a great, powerful wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the God; but the God was not in the wind; and after the...

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Contradictions

There are contradictions in the Parah Adumah. The Cohen who purifies others becomes impure as he purifies. There are contradictions in the Parah Adumah just as there are contradictions in life. Judaism, torah, nurture our independence. They use our drive to become something to attach us to...

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Signals

My wife and I met a couple we haven’t seen in more than fourteen years. We, all, were truly happy to see each other, but fourteen years is a huge gap, especially when both couples have been through so much. How do you connect after...

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A Look Inside

“The world always looks straight ahead, as for me, I turn my gaze inward. I fix it there and keep it busy. Everyone looks in front of him, as for me, I look inside of me.” Michael de Montaigne. I think of the Mishkan, the...

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Stairs & Ramps

[caption id="attachment_1945" align="alignleft" width="222" caption="A Mini Rocky"][/caption] After spending two years walking with Canadian crutches, and then a walker for a few years, I look at stairs and ramps with all sorts of mixed feelings. I used to look up at even just a few...

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Nicolini & The Lions

[caption id="attachment_1919" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The Lion"][/caption] A great debate raged in early 18th century London: Was the lion battled by the Cavalliere Nicolini Grimaldi in the opera "Rinaldo" live, a real beast of the jungle, or was it only an actor in disguise? I often wonder...

Frogs
Table Talk: Vaeira

The Theme of the Plagues

Each plague is described as having a different purpose. Blood: 7:17, Frogs 8:6, Lice 8:15, Wild Beasts 8:18, Plague 9:7, Boils 9:11, Hail 9:14 -16. Can you map the steps in the

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Envy

[caption id="attachment_1741" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Envy"][/caption] Joseph never experienced envy, at least not to the degree his brothers were infected by the green monster. I wonder how he would have handled the experience after everything he suffered because of their envy. I suspect that the Sages were...

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The Protection of Chessed

As I was growing up, people would describe Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky zt”l as a great Tzaddik, and his cousin, my grandfather, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak HaLevi Ruderman, as a great Torah Sage. After my grandfather passed away, I read an article in L’eylah Magazine by Dr. Joel...

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The Matzah of Humility

The broken Matzah reminds us that a poor person may not even possess a complete Matzah. He must live with very little. He has nothing. The Matzah itself is a symbol of poverty; it has only the very basics of flour and water. It is fair to...

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Hiding Places

I find it interesting that we name the part of the Seder when we eat the found Afikoman, Tzafun,” or “Hidden,” rather than “Found.” One of my favorite parts of the Seder is when my children, now older so it’s OK, have failed to find...

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Elul: Only A Second

“God, your Lord, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring.” (Deuteronomy 30:6) The first letters of “your heart and the heart of your offspring” spell Elul. It only takes one second for a person to change. Change is not a skill reserved for...

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Dancing

Amidst our people here is come The madness of the dance. In every town there now are some Who fall upon a trance. It drives them ever night and day, They scarcely stop for breath, Till some have dropped along the way And some are met by death. So goes a grim ditty...

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Rereading the Stories: Moshe's Goodbye

Clambering up the Cold Mountain path, The Cold Mountain trail goes on and on: The long gorge choked with scree and boulders, The wide creek, the mist-blurred grass. The moss is slippery, though there’s been no rain. The pine sings, but there’s no wind. Who can leap the world’s ties And sit...

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Envy

"Envy is the religion of the mediocre. It comforts them, it soothes their worries, and finally it rots their souls, allowing them to justify their meanness and their greed until they believe those to be virtues. Such people are convinced that the doors of heaven...

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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 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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The Maps of My Planet

There is at the back of every artist’s mind something like a pattern or a type of architecture. The original quality in any man of imagination is imagery. It is a thing like the landscape of his dreams; the sort of world he would like...

Haftarot
Cohanim
Haftarah: Emor: My Cohen

Ezekiel 44:15-31: What kind of experience will be my first offering in the Third Temple? I imagine I will feel awesome excitement. I want it to be perfect. There will be long lines of anxious people and probably hundreds of extra altars as occurred
Table Talk
Table Talk: Emor

A Kingdom of Priests (Based on Exodus 19:6): “They shall not make a bald spot on their heads, and they shall not shave an edge of their beard.” (Vayikra 21:5) Rashi wonders why the Torah needed to specify the
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Cheating

Whenever I am asked for my predictions for the future I become irritable and think of Horace. Horace, himself a poet, already confessed that he let many things pass rather than make an enemy of the irritable genus of poets; and poets, are irritable still. Reading of...

Table Talk
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Being There

My father zt”l always told me that until I understood what motivated some Japanese during WWII to slice open their stomachs in order to protect their pictures of Emperor Hirohito, would I understand what it means to relate to God as king. I tasted the experience...

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Heart Plaques

Perhaps I was wrong about the plaques. I would definitely hate seeing plaques in the Third Temple, although if one of you, my dear friends, wants to dedicate the Weinberg Holy of Holies, or even better, the Weinberg Foundation Stone, I will be honored! Embarrassed,...

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Plaque Free

There are some many memorial plaques on the walls of one of the dormitories in the Yeshiva that everyone refers to that wing as “The Morgue”. I understand; “Ya gotta do what ya gotta do!” I shouldn’t complain. You can find 2,000 year old engravings on...

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Limited Vision

[caption id="attachment_1862" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Pharaoh's Sign"][/caption] We said that it was only at the moment Pharaoh said, “See, there is evil destined for you”, that the blood, Pharaoh saw in the stars, appeared, because. it was only at that moment, when Pharaoh began to bend,...

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I'm So Concerned For You!

[caption id="attachment_1858" align="alignleft" width="90" caption="Concern"][/caption] Moses, I care about you. You are like a son to me. I don’t want you to go because, “See, there is evil destined for you!” Ludicrous, isn’t it? Moses and Aaron deliver their warning of the devastation of the locusts. Pharaoh’s...

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The Future

[caption id="attachment_1733" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Controlling The Future"][/caption] Pharaoh was in trouble. He believed in astrology and the stars spelled his eventual doom. A Jew/Egyptian would be born on a specific day, who would topple the king and destroy Egypt. Pharaoh did what he needed to...

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An Uncomfortable Conversation: Part Two

There was no way she would allow people to pray for her precious baby to die! (See ‘An Uncomfortable Conversation: Part One’) She read every newspaper published in Israel from beginning to end. She watched the BNN all day, and listened to the all-news station...

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An Uncomfortable Conversation: Part One

She was incredibly proud that her son had succeeded her husband and was appointed the Kohen Gadol - The High Priest. Most of her friends congratulated her, but her oldest friend asked a strange question: “What are you going to do about all the people...

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Ever Since Babel

Ever since Babel we have been wondering about ladders and towers that reach the heavens. The first ladder to heaven didn’t turn out very well. The next one, in Jacob’s dream was awesome, but it was only a dream. The actual ladder does not appear...

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Receiving The Blessing

Five of us would gather in one of the Yeshiva classrooms and have our own “Minyan.” We were all between six and seven-years-old and could not wait for another lifetime before becoming bar-mitzvah and being the Chazzan in the Yeshiva davening, or prayer service. (We...

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Crossing Boundaries

Early summer 1945: Britain was broke. Its cities lay in ruins, its citizens were shabbily dressed and its daily food and fuel would be strictly rationed for the next ten years. The world’s richest nation had become its biggest debtor. There were neither the resources...

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Contemplations

“Two men, both depressed, are conversing under Brunelleschi’s newly constructed dome. One of them lists a number of traditional remedies for low spirits, wine, music, the company of women, and exercise. But, to these he adds a new remedy; the contemplation of giant hoists of...

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The Voice & Its Sound

God’s voice stopped at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. It seems that what Moshe heard calling to him from the Mishkan was also only an echo. He only heard the actual voice of God when he was inside the Sanctuary. The Voice was...

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Change

Something has changed: Rashi begins his commentary on the portion by teaching us that: “Each time that God spoke to, or said something to Moshe, He began by calling to him, in a loving manner, just as the angels are described by Isaiah as calling...

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Prayer Skills-Multiple Troubles-Shulchan Aruch

The 13th of Nisan is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yosef Karo: If a community has two troubles, they should only pray for mercy concerning one of them. They should say, “Even though we have many troubles in our hearts, we
Haftarot
Shofetim-Haftarah of Consolation #4

Isaiah Chapter 51:12 – 52:1:The fourth of the seven Haftarot of consolation is the middle point. This Haftara is the segue between the destruction and mourning of the Ninth of Av and the celebration of Creation and Life on Rosh Hashanah.

 

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Singing Despite

A palm tree stands in the middle of Rusafa, Born in the West, far from the land of palms. I said to it: How like me you are, far away and in exile, In long separation from family and friends. You have sprung from soil in which you are...

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Survival Skills

To Whom the Mornings stand for Nights What must the Midnights – be! Emily Dickinson The last time we met Jacob he was saying, “The days of the years of my sojourns have been a hundred and thirty years. Few and bad have been the days of my...

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To Forget

[caption id="attachment_2523" align="alignleft" width="242" caption="With Mixed Emotions"][/caption] When he loses he seeks, when he finds he forgets, when he forgets he loves, when he loves he begins to forget. Yehuda Amichai - A Man in His Life I never cease to be amazed by our ability and need to...

Haftarah