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Rav Aharon Kotler: Envy By on

Relationships

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

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...

The Plan: Secret Spy Exposed

Please accept my apologies for rushing out of “The Archeologist’s Seder,” but immediately the tense situation of, “Uh oh! I have to put away my Secret Spy Journal; some guy just asked me why I write in Hieroglyphics rather than Hebrew...

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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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Countdown To Chanukah 22 – Reflections

“He found him in a desert region, In an empty howling waste. He engirded him, watched over him, Guarded him as the pupil - Ishon - of His eye (Devarim 32:10 - sefaria.org).” Rabbeinu Bachya points out that the Hebrew word for the pupil of...

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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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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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Amidah-Mishpatim-Tzedek uMishpat

“And these are the ordinances that you shall place before them (Exodus 21:1).” Immediately preceding, in the construction of the altar, the symbolic expression of the fundamental basic principle was given, that our whole relationship
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What Kind of Leader

When I heard a rabbi describe himself as, “the Rav Moshe Feinstein of our generation,” I realized that it’s not just presidential candidates who claim to be the reincarnation of Lincoln or Reagan, but people in all areas of life who claim to lead as...

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Haftarot
Haftarot
Ki Tavo: Haftarah of Consolation #6

Isaiah Chapter 60: Isaiah is approaching the end of his life, the end of his prophetic visions. He has lived to see his grandson, Menashe, become one of the most destructive of all the kings of Yehuda, the Southern Kingdom. In fact,

Haftarot
Ki Teitzei: Haftarah of Consolation #5

The people to whom the prophet Isaiah spoke, people who lived during the first Temple, lived with a deep awareness of the presence of God. They were troubled by far more than their military and political situation. They lived with a

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Hallel Rosh Chodesh Av Paragraph Six: Our Story

[caption id="attachment_5854" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The Story of the Jewish People"][/caption]Ours, is a story that already resonates throughout the world. Less than three years after the Holocaust, we were a nation reborn, fighting for our survival, winning, and building a dynamic country against all odds. We sing...

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Sound Expansion

When we reach the end of Bereishit we have a clear sense of a complete story: We began with Creation, the Beginning, and concluded with the Children of Israel in Egypt. The second book of the Torah takes us through the process of a nation...

Haftarah
Haftarah Vayikra: God’s Call


Isaiah 43:21 – 44:23:
Isaiah knows what will happen to his people. He can see that they are sliding deeper into their confused ways, closer to destruction and exile. The prophet wants to imbue them

 

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Hidden Memories

We were enjoying a relaxed Sunday brunch sharing stories and reflections when she decided to tell her story. She attended the same high school in Buenos Aires as my wife so I already knew that many students had disappeared during the military junta, but no...

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The Vulnerability of Mistakes

Who advised Amalek to attack Israel? Balaam. His strategy was that the children of Avraham should attack the nation that existed on the merit of Avraham. Imagine what it was like for the Children of Israel, who understood the power of their connection to Avraham Avinu,...

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A House & A Home

I recently read a story that made me think of the Mishkan: A soldier’s little girl, whose father was being moved to a distant post, was sitting at the airport among her family’s meager belongings. The girl was sleepy. She leaned against the packs and duffel bags. A...

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Tent or House?

My cousin invited me to a Sheva Berachot celebrating his daughter’s recent marriage. My uncle, Rabbi Avraham Pincus zt”l, a truly righteous scholar, my Tante Chava z”l, one of the three greatest human beings I ever met, were there, and I wouldn’t miss the opportunity...

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Echoes III

I will echo myself: I still hear echoes: “And these are the laws that you shall place before them.” “This is the Torah that Moses placed before the Children of Israel.” I believe that there is another difference between “Giving” a law, or “Placing the Law before”: In my...

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Just One

[caption id="attachment_1948" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Just One"][/caption] We honor Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law, with an extra portion in the Torah named for him, for his decision to join the Children of Israel and convert. It isn’t just ‘a’ portion; it is the portion of Revelation. All of...

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Running

[caption id="attachment_1887" align="alignleft" width="281" caption="Running Away"][/caption] I guess it all depends on whom you ask. Did Pharaoh send the Jews out of Egypt? Did he chase them out? Or, did God take them out? We find each of the three in the verses of the previous parsha, which ends...

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Unlimited Vision

[caption id="attachment_1866" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Watching You"][/caption] “Feels right to me.” “Sounds OK to me.” “Looks good to me.” Different people experience the world in different ways. The Torah has them all, but this week’s portion seems to be all about vision: “It will cover the eye of the earth...

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Others

[caption id="attachment_1850" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Others"][/caption] In the beginning, and then, three times. Three times Moses described God as “God, the Lord of the Ivrim”, the “Others”. At their first meeting, Moshe refers to God as “The Lord of the Ivrim”, “The Lord of the Others”: This is how...

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Finding

[caption id="attachment_1794" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Searching"][/caption] Antonio Stradivarius, wandering in Venice one day, came upon a pile of broken, waterlogged oars, out of which he made some of his most beautiful violins. “I do not seek, I find,” was Picasso’s famous dictum. A lucky find gave Picasso one...

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Inconsistencies Part Four: The Drunkard's Walk

"If we were logical, we would resign ourselves to the evidence that our fate is beyond human knowledge, that every conjecture is arbitrary and demonstrably devoid of foundation. But men are rarely logical when their own fate is at stake; on every occasion, they prefer...

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Words of Life II

A few years after the Holocaust, Primo Levi, a former Auschwitz inmate met with representatives of the German Bayer company to discuss a new product to be sold in his native Italy. The German scientists went out of their way to be sensitive to Mr....

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Genetic Backup

Startling Scientists, Plant Fixes Its Flawed Gene In a startling discovery, geneticists at Purdue University say they have found plants the possess a corrected version of a defective gene inherited from both their parents, as if some handy backup copy with the right version had been...

navi
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Dark Memories

I had a strange experience today as I was hooked up to my IV. I closed my eyes to rest and listened to the pumping action of the IV, which usually helps me fall asleep. This time my mind played a powerful trick on me....

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...

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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...

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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,...

Haftarah
Bible
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Vaeira-Hail-The Earth is God’s

The function of the Mishkan is the settling of the Divine Presence in Israel. Thus it is written, “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them (Exodus 25:8),” and also, “The Temple of God are
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Re'eih: Broken Rules II

I mentioned in Broken Rules I that certain Argentines, who shall remain nameless, also have difficulty with stop signs. This specific Argentine, joining me for my sunrise hike, sped through the streets as if there were no stop signs. (I admit that there were no...

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The Struggle

The Mitzvah of Parah Adumah can be quite confusing and demanding. The more we learn the more demanding it becomes. Children had to be raised from birth in a secluded environment specially designed to protect them from any possible impurity in order to have people with...

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Hand Strategy

Isn’t it interesting that no one ever tried to replicate Moshe’s Hand strategy? There is no story in the bible in which a king or prophet stands atop a mountain or hill, and raises his hands upward to God to remind the soldiers to devote...

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Stirrings

Most of us are familiar with two directions of service: "Itra'uta D'litata," and "Itra'uta D'l'eila," or, Stirrings from below, connections stirred by us, below here on earth towards God, and "Stirrings from Above," initiated by God, Above, to reach out to us, here, below. The...

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Parallel Worlds

“Moses commanded that they proclaim throughout the camp, saying, ‘Man and woman shall not do more work toward the gift for the Sanctuary!’ And the eople were refrained from bringing.” (36:6) The Hebrew word for refrained is “Vayikalei” which sounds just like and looks just like,...

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Consecration

“With it you shall anoint the Tent of Meeting and the Ark of Testimonial-Tablets.” Rashi, based on the Gemara in Keritut 5, explains that all the anointing with Moshe’s oil were made like a Greek “X” except that of kings which were like a crown. Even the...

Bible
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Heaven and Earth

They associated their construction project with their sense of identity. They were united in their effort. They gathered materials even before they knew the exact nature of their project. They intended to create a place where heaven and earth would meet. I am speaking, of...

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Haftarot
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Table Talk
Table Talk: Chayei Sarah

1. Intimacy With God: Sarah was the single person in the world with whom Abraham could share the experience of the Binding of Isaac. She had shared all his achievements and struggles. Yet, when Abraham returned from Mt. Moriah, his greatest

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Beautiful To Me

Abraham and Sarah were old. They were childless. The Talmud and Midrash actually describe them as clearly limited in the reproductive arena. God promised children to Abraham. He first met God in the furnace of fire. He knew God. Sarah had not. She knew that she...

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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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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...

Rosh Hashana
Rosh Hashana: What Is My Name?

Much happened on this the first day of Adam’s life, the day we celebrate today.  God brought all the animals to Adam for this new human to name. The Midrash teaches that when God saw how Adam used the Light of the new
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Listing Who Matters

It wasn't boring; it was moving. I intended to listen to the reading of the names of the victims of the 9-11 attacks for just a few moments to honor those who died on that tragic day. I ended up listening for quite a while....

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Countdown to Pesach 7- Ladier Rebbe

While absorbed in his devotions, the Ladier Rebbe was heard to say, “My Lord and Master. I do not desire Your Paradise; I do not desire the bliss of the Future World; I desire only You, Yourself. (Sefer haChassidut, page 203)
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Moment to Decide

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide, In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side; Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight, And the choice goes by forever, 'twixt that darkness and that light. –...

Haftarah_Amos_Prophets
Meet The Prophets-Amos-Haftarah
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King & Subject: Introduction

We approach God on Rosh Hashanah on many levels. One approach is that of a subject participating in the coronation of his King, and relating as a subject to a King. This series, “King and Subject,” will focus on verses that describe the relationship between...

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Father & Child: Introduction

One of the ways we approach God on the Day of Judgment is as a child approaching a parent. This series, Father and Child, will focus on versus that describe the relationship between a parent and a child. “I will tell of the decree: God said...

Re'ei
Re’ei: Rashi: Drastic Turn

“See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing: that you hearken to the Commandments of God, your Lord, that I command you today. And the curse: if you do not hearken to the Commandments
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Chipping Away The Pieces

The great Renaissance artist Michelangelo was once asked how he created sculptures such as the Pietas or David. He explained that he simply imagined the statue already inside the block of rough marble, then chipped away the excess to reveal what had always been there. The...

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Acquisitions: Part One

“Acquire a friend for yourself (Avot 1:6).” How? Since I first learned this Mishna as a little boy I’ve heard it explained as, ‘even if you have to buy the friendship with gifts.’ It hasn’t worked for me, and I believe that I’ve never seen...

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Eikev: The Power of Words

In the Analects, Confucius’ definition of goodness starts with the "golden rule," but he takes his concept further, famously stating that to be good, one must be "resolute and firm, simple and slow in speech." The Master said, 'To be resolute and firm, simple and slow...

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Wall Smashing

“Sadness is a wall between two gardens.” Kahlil Gibran One of my sisters left a copy of Gibran’s “The Prophet” on the living room couch. Gibran was popular in the sixties, but, protected as I was within the walls of my home and Yeshiva, I had...

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Miscommunications

A man calls the doctor: “Doctor, what should I do? My friend just keeled over and died!” “The first thing is to make sure he’s definitely dead.” “Okay, hold on.” A gunshot sounds. “Now what?” The sense of helplessness in an emergency, the tragic miscommunication between doctor and...

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The City Not By The Water

“I have left to last the dynamic component of the city, without which it could not have continued to increase in size and scope and productivity: this is the first efficient means of mass transport, the waterway. That the first growth of cities should have...

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Names

[caption id="attachment_1854" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Names"][/caption] Did Pharaoh ever wonder why Moses had so many names for his God? God. Lord. God, the Lord. God, the Lord of the Jews. etc. We can sit and study the text and theorize why Moses used certain appellations at certain...

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The Invisible Man

Abram took his nephew Lot with him as he left Haran on his journey to unknown places and situations. That is all we know about Lot. He quickly becomes the invisible man. Where was he when Abram and company went down into Egypt? He does...

Yom Kippur
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Ki Tavo: Longings

“This very day, God, your Lord, commands you to perform these decrees and these statutes, and you shall observe and perform them with all your heart and all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 26:16) This is the meaning of the verse, “Let us come and prostrate ourselves and...

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Pie In The Sky

I can sense the young boy’s desire for that pie. He is probably dreaming of a way to climb up there, with his friend’s help, of course, and taste the pie that was so cruelly placed beyond his reach. I can smell the pie and imagine...

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The Four Mountains

Two of the Four Mountains appear in this week’s portion: “It shall be that when God, your Lord, brings you to the land to which you come, to possess it, then you shall deliver the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal....

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The Final Moments

I envy her final few seconds: She was not an especially religious woman. She did not believe in God or His Torah. She was warned by her husband to stay away from a certain man. She knew that she was being watched, but she did...

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Running Conversations

Traffic was terrible. We were on our way to Washington, DC for Shabbat and we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. We would pick up speed for a few minutes, and then everything would stop again. We were all becoming agitated and grouchy. We noticed...

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I Am A Thanker!

I woke up this morning thinking of Willa Cather and then remembered what my father zt"l would have said: “The sun was like a great visiting presence that stimulated and took its due from all animal energy. When it flung wide its cloak and stepped down...

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Me First!

There were signs all around the medical lab asking: “Have you seen all the changes we made for your comfort? At _____________ the patient always comes first!” It certainly didn’t feel like I came first. I entered a complex bureaucracy. I first had to register...

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Elul: Days of Good Will

Although the first tablets were also given in an ambience of Divine Grace (cf. Rashi Devarim 9:18 who describes this period as days of goodwill), Hashem’s goodwill at that time came not so much in response to Israel’s petition to draw close to him but...

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Elul: Dress Up

I was hired to be a mashgiach – Kashrut supervisor – on five dairy farms in Eureka, Ca. Hershey’s wanted to make a run of Chalav Yisrael Hershey Bars, and they paid well. I needed to buy a refrigerator, washer, dryer and freezer, so off...

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How to Pray?

I need help understanding Moshe’s prayer at the end of Beha’alotecha: “Moshe cried out to God, saying, “Please, God, heal her now!” Rashi offers two explanations for this concise prayer: 1) Moshe did not want Israel to criticize him for spending too long in...

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Does God Love You?

I love asking people if they feel that God loves them. Most respond, "Yes!" I then ask the more challenging question: "How do you know?" That's when it becomes interesting. I invite you to join me in raising a toast to God, Who made it very...

Sinai WhatsApp Group….or…

...or, more honestly, my justification for sending so many emails and texts:   “AND THERE ISRAEL ENCAMPED as one man and with one mind (Rashi, 19:2).”   I never really understood what it means when it says it they spoke as one person with one heart. Is it conceivable?...

The Plan: Free Speech?

While everyone was so busy preparing their Offering for our final night in Egypt, I looked up and noticed Bertrand Russell rushing toward Moshe’s house. I certainly never expected the great author of, “In Praise of Idleness,” to rush anywhere, certainly not to the home...

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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...

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Beyond The Wall

The context fails me, however, I recall a conversation about Tisha b’Av with NK, that triggered a favorite line from Auden’s Oratorio, “Stuck on the stutter of a decimal point.” One thing led to another, and on Tisha b’Av, Auden’s “Tribute to Melville,” came to mind,...

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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 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 Most Compassionate Confession

Morning Prayers; Mishna Zevachim, Chapter 5 is recited as our daily study of Mishnah for a number of reasons, including the fact it is the only chapter in Mishnah in which there is no halachic dispute. It is the perfect chapter of Mishnah to study...

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A Most Generous Confession

The discomfort with my confession, Yom Kippur 1967, was not triggered by my (in my sister’s mind) many sins but when I realized I was using the words as a weapon.   “For the sin that we have sinned before You through hardness of heart (Artscroll Yom...

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Amicable Numbers

Pythagoras, when asked what a friend was, replied: “One who is the other I, such are 220 and 284.”   Expressed in modern terminology this meant: the divisors of 284 are 1, 2, 4, 71, and 142, and these add up to 220; while the divisors of...

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Which Attribute?

I was fluctuating between sadness and inspiration when I finished reading Rohinton Mistry’s.”A Fine Balance.” I have yet to shed the horrible cruelties powerfully described. The caste system, misuse of power, the desperate search for work, forced castration, and the hopeless lives of the masses...

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Countdown to Pesach 12-Zbaratzer

At the Seder meal, the Zbaratzer ate only a special Matzah which is baked from special flour on the afternoon of the same day. A Chassid brought with him some ordinary matzah and began to eat it. The others rebuked
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A Hidden Responsum

The 20th of Adar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yoel (ben Shmuel) Sirkes of Cracow, (the Bach) (1561-1641), author of Bayis Chadash on the Tur, in which he traced each law to its source in the gemarah. In his youth, he studied under Rav Shlomo...

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All in The Family

“A man went from the house of Levi and he took a daughter of Levi (Exodus 2:1).” [We have discussed the absence of proper names in “Table Talk–Shemot I."] Perhaps this verse informs us of one of the reasons that the Children of Israel fell into...

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The Character in the Storm

“Talents are better nurtured in solitude, but character is best formed in the stormy billows of the world (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe).” We have been accompanying Jacob as he traces backwards the steps of his life in this life-defining portion, “Jacob Lived,” as his mission to...

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The Red Heifer: Loving Others

The Holy Rebbe was stingy with his words. He would speak in cryptic sentences and his Chassidim would sit for hours after he spoke to figure out what he meant. The secret of the Parah Adumah – the Red Cow – is Loving Others. The Chassidim pondered...

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Korach and Bullies: A Question

Having been the poster child of the 99lb weakling for all those Charles Atlas ads in the back of my childhood comic books, I feel that I must inform my friends, and for that matter, my enemies as well, of my brute strength. My pinky...

Table Talk
Table Talk: Korach

The Power of Passion: Each of the 250 followers of Korach was willing to take the Incense Test: Only one person would survive. Only Aaron or one of the 250 would live and be chosen as Cohen Gadol. Each knew and
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Strangers in The World

As long as they were slaves, the Children of Israel could complain, “I, a stranger and afraid in a world I never made,” to quote Housman, a common complaint of children, and a frequent lament of many who feel displaced in the community. Perhaps as...

Prophets
Table Talk
Table Talk: Acharei Mot – Kedoshim

If Only It Was That Simple: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall reprove your fellow and do not bear a sin because of him.” (19:17) The prohibition against hating is, as the verse says, “in your heart”. The assumption is that there must be a reason that you hate someone else. He must have done
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Biblical Personalities: Yehoram’s Famine

“Elisha had spoken to the woman whose son he had revised, saying, 'Arise and go forth, you and your household, and sojourn where you would sojourn, for God has called for a famine, and it is coming to the
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The Metamir

In Primo Levi’s The Mirror Maker, he tells the story of Timoteo, one of a long line of mirror makers. Timoteo was not happy just making mirrors in different shapes and sizes. He spent all his free time designing mirrors that would change your shape...

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Foundations

How interesting! The commandment is not to “separate Terumah”, but a communal obligation to collect Terumah. “And they shall collect Terumah.” Moshe descended from his 40-day time capsule in the Highest Heavens. He brought a gift with him; the Mishkan. The people were empowered by God...

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Grabbing My Attention!

When I was a kid we had a simple but profound way to deal with mistakes; “Do Over!” If only life were so easy. I want a “Do Over!” I wrote a blog, Careful With My Words, complaining about all the spammers who regularly attack the...

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Directing the Conversation

"Do you see what the slave that my husband brought into the house wanted to do?" Potiphar's wife wasn't complaining about Joseph, but her husband. She was blaming him! Joseph had taken over the management of all of Potiphar's properties. He was the man in charge. Potiphar's...

Table Talk
Table Talk – Toledot


Twin Talk: We know that Jacob and Esau were twins. Were they identical? Esau is described as possessing unique coloration and hair. However, Rashi implies that they were part of a split egg, or, identical twins. The

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On My Terms

I prefer walking in the park to using the treadmill in the gym. The walk is more pleasant. I think better and I can measure my progress for myself rather than watch the computerized report of how far I walked torturously increase at a spiteful...

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Thing or Person

I was called to perform an emergency Taharah – the ritual cleansing and preparation of a body for burial. I was the rabbi of a large congregation, and although I had participated in Taharot in this funeral home, I had never been summoned for an...

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Teaching Children About Bikkur Cholim

In the memory of Eliezer Halevi ben Raizel. May the Omnipresent comfort his family among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. How can young children, who are far away from a sick grandparent, fulfill the Mitzvah of visiting the ill? Children are often frightened when illness strikes...

Haftarot
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The Visit Part Two

How do the Sages know that God came to visit the ill? Because God did not come to heal Abraham. He sent the angel Raphael for that mission. Is it possible that God would appear to Abraham and he would not be immediately healed? It seems...

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The Visit Part One

He is 99 years old. It is three days after painful surgery. Abraham circumcised himself for God. He is expectant of a life changed. Does his soul soar as never before? Does he feel a different connection with God? But he is not waiting. Abraham...

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Permanently Invisible

They had not parted on the best of terms (Battles of Weapons and Faith), and Abram had to run a wage a great war against the superpower of his time and risk everything in order to save Lot. (The Invisible Man) Lot had rejected his uncle...

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Nimrod and Ashur

I always wondered what happened to the leaders of the Tower of Babel project. Did their followers rise up and kill them for coming up with their disastrous idea? Were the people too busy dealing with their new realities to spend time dealing with Nimrod,...

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Living in Forgiveness

During the late 1940s, India was engulfed in religious wars as the nation prepared for independence from Great Britain. A Hindu whose son was murdered by Muslims during the internal strife went to see Mahatma Gandhi and asked, “How can I possibly forgive the Muslims?...

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The Last Jew of Vinnitza

This picture was taken on September 16, 1941 at Vinnitza, Ukraine and was found in the personal file of a German Einsatzgruppen soldier. On the back of the picture he had noted, “This is the last Jew of Vinnitza”.

28,000 Jews from the city and surrounding...

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Unfair Labor Practices

I hesitate to share my personal problems, but I really need your help: My first experiences helping someone bake were with my grandmother a”h, who, never missed an opportunity to share something she had learned while growing up in Slabodka. “Can I taste some of...

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Ki Teitzei: What I Have Lost

Sherwin Nuland, one of my favorite authors, was born Shepsel Nudelman. Everything about his father, Meyer, was a source of searing embarrassment to the son. Indeed, Nuland is unsparing in relating his youthful cruelties to his father. In 1947, while in medical school, he discovered...

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Mosquitoes and Teshuva

Something was different about this morning’s walk on Mount Royal in Montreal. The scenery is, of course, different. I walked 1.5 miles up the mountain trail before turning around; I forgot that climbing up a mountain is far more tiring than my usual laps around...

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Shofetim: Monuments & Bubblegum

A constant refrain of my childhood was: “A bubblegum tree will grow in your stomach if you swallow your gum.” It was intended to frighten me out of swallowing my gum, one of the greatest pleasures of my life. I could not imagine that my...

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Kumbay…aaaaah!

Thomas Friedman favors sharing a Kumbaya moment with people who would never sit in such a circle of friendship: “There are several reasons why I don’t object to a mosque being built near the World Trade Center site, but the key reason is my affection for...

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Just The One – Shechem II

“It shall be that when God, your Lord, brings you to the land to which you come, to possess it, then you shall deliver the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. Are they not on the other side of the Jordan,...

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music of halacha
The Music of Halacha
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Friends & Teachers

I am sitting on a plane on my way to visit a very good friend, one of those rare people who qualify as a good friend. We call each other and we email, but I actually need to spend time with him. I met him...

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The Freedom of Compassion

Albert Einstein spoke about how our egocentrism alienates us from other forms of life. “A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from...

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A Student's Honor

And Moshe said to Yehoshua, “Choose men for us.” Rashi comments on the power of the word “us”. Moshe said to Yehoshua, “Go out and choose men for you and me.” We derive a great principle from here that a master must treat his student’s...

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Layers

The story is told of a young man who came to the Chatam Sofer requesting approbation from the great rabbi for his scholarly book. Rabbi Sofer read the book and responded, “I don’t mind when you quote my words as your own, but please, don’t...

Music of Halacha:Rabbi Simcha Weinberg- The Foundation Stone
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Modim: Goodness and Empathy

“Ha’tov ki lo kalu rachamecha, v’ha’merachem ki lo tamu chasadecha” “The Good One because Your compassion never finishes, and The Compassionate One because Your goodness never stops” God is called Good, because of His Compassion, and Compassionate because of His Goodness- shouldn’t it be the opposite? You...

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The Missions of Joseph and David

The Missions of Joseph and David

One of the most fascinating ways to study bible is to compare and contrast similar stories and texts. Both Joseph and David were sent by their respective fathers to visit brothers

A Painful Silence

“Joseph ordered his chariot and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel; he presented himself to him and, embracing him around the neck, he wept on his neck a good while (46:29).” ‘Here, also, he wept greatly and continuously — more than is usual. Jacob,...

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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As The Mourning Ends

The most poignant part of sitting Shiva for my mother a”h was observing my nieces and nephews and their children caring for us, the older generation. I envied these people for being able to honor their parents by bringing food and drinks, and doing all...

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Fathers and Sons

Freud would have had a field day! “Whoever meets me will kill me!”(Genesis 4:14) The Sages teach that Cain was worried about Abel’s blood relatives – Go’eil Hadam – avenging his death. Abel’s avenger would have been Adam! That statement alone would have kept Cain...

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Father's Day Memories

Our family’s move from Baltimore to Toronto in 1964 was traumatic for many reasons, one of which was Father’s Day. (I was in a Cheder for Mother’s Day and it wasn’t mentioned. After coming home not being able to sit down because of a disciplinary...

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...

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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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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 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 Most Compassionate Confession

Morning Prayers; Mishna Zevachim, Chapter 5 is recited as our daily study of Mishnah for a number of reasons, including the fact it is the only chapter in Mishnah in which there is no halachic dispute. It is the perfect chapter of Mishnah to study...

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A Most Generous Confession

The discomfort with my confession, Yom Kippur 1967, was not triggered by my (in my sister’s mind) many sins but when I realized I was using the words as a weapon.   “For the sin that we have sinned before You through hardness of heart (Artscroll Yom...

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Spotlight

Long accustomed to the dogs’ help, a new expression of their commitment to help me with my humility was still an adjustment.   Many of those with whom I learn ignore my wishes and speak to me in third person. All treat me with far more respect...

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The Art of Return

In Xander Miller’s lyrical novel of Haiti, love and determination, “Zo,” the destitute orphaned protagonist travels the island finding work wherever he can. Ravaged by malaria, burning with fever, he is rescued by a pair of fishermen and sets sail with them to Grande Anse,...

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Countdown to Pesach-23-Nofet Tzufim

The Holy Koretzer said: Why does the verse say, “No Pesach has ever been performed as in the days of King Yoshiyahu (II Kings 23:22)?” Because Yoshiyahu first burned all the altars and the pagan temples. In other word, he
Yom Kippur Vidui
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Mistakes: H’evinu

“Noah removed the covering of the Ark, and looked, and behold! The surface of the ground had tried (to see Genesis 8:13).” It is also possible to read the final phrase of the verse as, “the surface of the ground had been destroyed.” What did Noah...

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Mistakes: Tafalnu Sheker

“Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. They quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before God! Why did you bring God’s community into this wilderness,...

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Mistakes: Latznu

In “Meditations on First Philosophy,” Descartes set out to determine how and if we can distinguish false beliefs from true knowledge. He began by noting that there is theoretically no limit to how wrong we could be, because, God could deliberately deceive us about even...

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The Mystery & The Puzzle

David Morris writes in “The Culture of Pain” that to a doctor, pain is a puzzle, but to a patient it is a mystery, in the ancient sense of the word, a truth necessarily closed off from full understanding, which refuses to yield every quantum...

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Where Does it Hurt?

The philosopher Michel Foucault postulates that modern medicine began when doctors stopped asking patients, “What is the matter with you?” a question that invited a complex personal response, and began asking, “Where does it hurt?” instead, a question that focuses solely on biology. What happens when...

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Mistakes: An Introduction to the Vidui

“Perhaps the history of the errors of mankind, all things considered, is more valuable and interesting than that of their discoveries. Truth is uniform and narrow; it constantly exists, and does not seem to require so much an active energy, as a passive aptitude of...

Re'ei
Re’ei: Belz: Focus on the Blessing

The 21st of Av is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Aharon Rokeach, fourth generation Belzer Rebbe  (1880-1957). He escaped the Nazis and made aliyah in 1944, establishing his court in Tel Aviv. The current Belzer Rebbe is his nephew.
Bible
Haftarah: Eikev: Confrontation

Isaiah 49:14 – 51:3: This Haftarah affords us an opportunity to listen to a conversation between Israel and God:  “And Zion said: God has forsaken me. My Master has forgotten me.” (49:14)
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Kvetching – The Blame Game 2

There is a complex in Switzerland known as CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, where something called the Large Hadron Collider has been sputtering into operation. Its purpose is to discover whether a hypothetical particle called the Higgs boson (called by some, “The God...

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From "I Should've," to "I Could've"

[caption id="attachment_1928" align="alignleft" width="239" caption="A Heavy Burden"][/caption] One of the most constant refrains I hear from people is, “I should…” or, “I should have…” All those “shoulds” are heavy burdens. “I should be more patient.” “I should be more of a Tzaddik.” “I should daven...

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Seven Levels of Teshuva: Structural Information

We have explained and demonstrated that the Seven Levels of Teshuva correspond to the Sefirot and to the Seven Shepherds. The structure of the Sefirot is important to the structure and interaction of the Seven Levels of Teshuva. The Sefirot are structured two ways; one in...

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The Seven Levels of Teshuva: Avraham Part One

“God, my Lord, I cried out to You and You healed me.”1 The healing described is actually atonement from sins after one has repented.2 This is healing of the soul.3 “I will heal you from your backsliding.”4 “He is the Healer of the broken-hearted, and the One...

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Two Straight Lines

"For the ways of God are straight." (Hosea 14:10) the Shelah HaKodesh (Torah Ohr - Rosh Hashanah 3) asks why the word "straight" is in the plural form in Hebrew, "Yesharim," rather than "Yashar." The Shelah answers that Hosea is describing two different creations of "Straight:"...

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It Works: Na’aman V

Continued from an unedited transcript: So we continue in verse 8, ‘and when Elisha the man of G-d heard that the King of Israel had torn his clothes,’ it doesn’t say when he heard that Naaman had come, ‘when he heard that the king had...

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Shofarot: Patterning Our Breath

Some birds, like grebes and eiders, have more hemoglobin in their blood, and the higher concentrations of oxygen allow them to remain underwater for extended periods. I watched an eider swimming deep under the surface, and I inhaled deeply and tried to hold my breath in concert,...

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He Stopped Quacking!

*An Excerpt from **The Simple Truths of Service** by Ken Blanchard and Barbara Glanz* Great Service is a Choice No one can make you serve customers well. That's because great service is a choice. Years ago, my friend, Harvey Mackay, told me a wonderful story about a cab driver that...

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Attention Grabbers: Na'aman Part One

'Naaman, general of the army of the king of Aram was an eminent person in his masters presence and highly honour for through him had Hashem given victory to Aram the man was great warrior, a metzora'. This is interesting, the translation is not that perfect,...

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The Challenge of Change

As Time Goes By By Herman Hupfeld This day & age we’re living in Gives cause for apprehension With speed and new invention And things like third dimension And no matter what the progress Or what yet may be proved The simple facts of life are such They cannot be removed Yes, we get a trifle...

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Ten Thousand Mistakes

It is not you alone who know what it is to be evil; I am he who knew what it was to be evil. Walt Whitman I was ten-years old and decided that I would review the Yom Kippur confession at the beginning of Elul...

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Shadows of The Night

All the things with which I was so familiar took on new and frightening identities when it was dark. The hooks that held my clothes became scary monsters. The ticking of the clock became a bomb. The creaks and groans of our home were ominous...

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Fixing

“A twisted thing cannot be made straight; and what is not there cannot be numbered.” (Ecclesiastes 1:15) In this world, he who is crooked can be made straight and he who is wanting can be numbered; but in the World To Come, he who is...

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Guilty!!!

It was Shabbat Shuva, the day after Rosh Hashana, and we didn’t have a minyan. To the best of my recollection, St. Louis and the NY Mets were tied for first place and had to play a game to decide who would be in the...

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Did You Really Get It?

“They awoke early in the morning and ascended toward the mountaintop saying, ‘We are ready, and we shall ascend to the place of which God has spoken, for we have sinned.” (Numbers 14:40) These people realized that they had sinned against God. They understood that they...

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A Free Pass

Uh Oh! I’m in trouble! I grew up in a family that did not celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. My wife grew up in a family that has a major 48 hour celebration for each birthday and anniversary. Let’s just say that I had to make...

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A Different Perspective

His father is 98 years old. The father usually does not remember his son’s name, or even that he is his son. The old man thinks of himself as a teenager in the small Canadian village where he was raised. My eyes teared when I heard,...