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Serving God

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

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Amidah-Gevurot-Pesach

A Chassid of Reb Leib Sara's wished to carry his masters trunk for him, but found it too heavy to lift. The Rabbi picked it up and carried it without difficulty. He explained, “in Psalm 103:20 we read, “You, mighty in strength,
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Amidah-Redemption-Pesach

A prince became incensed at his son's conduct and exiled him to an unfriendly country. There he was persecuted as an alien and was granted no opportunity for a livelihood. And ambassador of the Prince reported
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Amidah-Healing-The Great Physician

The 8th of Nisan is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Mordechai of Neshchiz (1740-1800) (or 1880)  Descended from the Maharal of Prague and Don Yitzchak Abarbanel, Rav Mordechai was a disciple of Rav Yechiel Michel of Zlotchov
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Amidah-Redemption of Torah-Pesach

When redemption comes at last, the Torah will appear to us as if it were entirely new, unlike the Torah we know. For then it will be comprehended by all mankind by virtue of the Light of God which will shine upon it.
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Countdown to Pesach-28-Chemdah Genuzah

The Premishlaner said concerning the verse, “And I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob (Exodus 6:3),” which Rashi explains, “And I appeared to the Patriarchs,” what is Rashi adding?
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In Search of Perfection

Thank God our prayers do not have to be as perfect as the animals brought as offerings! “Any in which there is a blemish you shall not offer, for it will not be favorable to you.” Imagine how we would feel if our prayers could...

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Languages

I realized that I forgot to bring my toothpaste and was happy to have an opportunity to practice my newly acquired and limited German. I breezed through asking and actually understanding directions to the nearest pharmacy. I received some strange looks when I asked for...

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The Nineteen Steps: Class Notes 11/05/09

Avot is a celebration of human potential: God desires to be known by the Avot: The Lord of Abraham. We may thrill at the potential but we have difficulty connecting, because we are so attached to limitations. We therefore turn to the second blessing: Empowerment –...

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The 19 Steps To God: 8/6/09

Dedicated l'refuah shleimah Yehudah Manik ben Beilah - Why do we praise God by saying, “and the Holy Ones praise Him” – referring, according to most, to the angels praising God? God created them to praise Him. Their praise does not mean anything. . We were reminded...

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The Dance of Tu B’Av: Shedding

Debbie has an interesting understanding of the borrowed clothing of the Tu B’Av dance: One of the most important stages of marriage is being able to shed certain self-perceptions ingrained from childhood and school, and learn to see ourselves as our spouse sees us, and...

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Tu B’Av: Changing Day

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel taught: “Israel had no days as festive as the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur. (Ta’anit 26b) This was the day that the tribe of Benjamin was permitted to marry into the
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Countdown To Chanukah – The Extraordinary Ordinary

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

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Countdown To Chanukah 3 – More To Give

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

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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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Countdown To Chanukah 10 – Celestial Light

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

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Countdown to Chanukah 16 – This Is My Chanukah

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

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Countdown to Chanukah 18 – Is This Really Me?

“This is God’s doing; it is marvelous in our sight (Psalms 118:23).” “Before I was aware, she set me [upon the most lavish of chariots" (Song of Songs 6:12). R. Hiyya taught: This can be compared to a princess who was collecting fallen sheaves. The king...

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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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Jacob’s Chanukah – First Steps On His Journey

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

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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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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...

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Countdown To Chanukah 24 – From Eye To Brain I

Rabbeinu Bachya (Parshat Tzav, Vayikra 8:22), speaks of the different parts of the human body and the purpose and function of each.  Building on Rabbeinu Bachya, The Shulchan shel Arbah (First Gate) explains the four blessings of Havdalah as corresponding to the nature and power of...

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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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Hallel Lights – Infinite Hallel

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

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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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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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Countdown To Chanukah 28 – Absorption and Expansion

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

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Countdown To Chanukah 29 – My Angels of Light

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

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Countdown To Chanukah 30 – Safe Place

“And my soul is removed far off from peace, I forgot prosperity” (Lamentations 3:17). What is: And my soul is removed far off from peace? Rabbi Abbahu said: That is the lack of opportunity to engage in kindling the Shabbat lights, which a refugee is...

Chanukah
Chanukah Exercises Part One

Pirsumei Nissa - Publicize the Miracle

L’Hodot – Thank You

L’Hallel – Rejoice in Song

Candle - Potential

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Prayer Skills: Chanukah Kavanot

When the Children of Israel thirsted for water in the desert, God told Moses, “Behold, I will stand before you buy the rock and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people shall drink (Exodus 17:6).”
Chanukah
Chanukah Exercises Part Two 5770


Chanukah Exercises- Part Two: Change the Sixth Candle for the Third for this year, 5774

 

Pirsumei Nissa - Publicize the Miracle

Haftarah
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The Music of Halacha: Lighting the Chanukah Candles Part One

We can find a great deal of Jewish history in the placement of the Menorah and in the order we light its candles: The Talmud (Shabbat 21b) teaches us, “The Mitzvah is to place the candle by the doorway of one’s home on the outside. If one lives on an upper floor he should place it in a window that is adjacent to the public domain and in time of danger he should place it on his table and that is sufficient.”
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The Chess Match

It all seems like a chess match in which the pieces are human beings struggling to live according to their values and beliefs. Joseph is different than his brothers. He likes colors, as in a coat of many colors. He battles Leah’s sons for the sake...

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Haftarah: Shabbat Chanukah II: Achievement

Kings I 7:40-50: King Solomon’s Beit Hamikdash – Temple – was more physically remarkable than the Mishkan – Tabernacle – constructed by Moshe and the Children of Israel.
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Is That God Smiling?

When does something achieve the status of a miracle? It is almost universal for parents holding their newborn in their arms for the first time to believe that they experienced a miracle. The first smile, the first crawl, the first steps are usually celebrated and...

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Morning Blessings-Pesach-Not A Slave

A pious Jew in the Kovno ghetto, compelled to do forced labor by the Nazis, asked Rabbi Oshry, the Rabbi of Kovno, how he could recite the daily blessing, “Blessed are You, Who has not made me a slave,” since he was a slave.
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Tehillim: The Nine Days: Psalm 137:2

“There on the poplars - Aravim - we hung up our lyres (Psalms 137:2).” In view of the bitter experience of the exile, especially prior to Ezekiel’s revelations, there would have been ample reason to destroy their harps since they had nothing about which to...

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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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Tenth of Tevet III

“They that trust in God shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever. Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains, and God surrounds His nation, from now and
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Tenth of Tevet IV

“A Song of Ascents: They that trust in God shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever. Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains, and God surrounds His
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The Tenth of Tevet V

“They that trust in God shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever. Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains, and God surrounds His nation, from now and
Tisha B'Av
Akeidat Yitzchak: Fasting Tools

The purpose of the fast and the discomfort to be experienced, is to make the need for such a day redundant, as we read in Isaiah 58:3-14, God wishes that He could replace all fast days with days of rejoicing. (Zechariah 8:18-19)

 

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The Tenth ofTevet VI

“They that trust in God shall be as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abides forever. Jerusalem is surrounded by mountains, and God surrounds His nation, from now and
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Fasting As A Prayer

(Kings II Chapter 25) "It happened in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia, he and his entire army, came to wage war against Jerusalem and encamped near it, and built...

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Countdown To Chanukah – The Extraordinary Ordinary

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

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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 10 – Celestial Light

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

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Countdown to Chanukah 16 – This Is My Chanukah

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

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Countdown to Chanukah 18 – Is This Really Me?

“This is God’s doing; it is marvelous in our sight (Psalms 118:23).” “Before I was aware, she set me [upon the most lavish of chariots" (Song of Songs 6:12). R. Hiyya taught: This can be compared to a princess who was collecting fallen sheaves. The king...

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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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Jacob’s Chanukah – First Steps On His Journey

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

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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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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...

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Countdown To Chanukah 24 – From Eye To Brain I

Rabbeinu Bachya (Parshat Tzav, Vayikra 8:22), speaks of the different parts of the human body and the purpose and function of each.  Building on Rabbeinu Bachya, The Shulchan shel Arbah (First Gate) explains the four blessings of Havdalah as corresponding to the nature and power of...

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Hallel Lights – Infinite Hallel

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

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Hallel Lights – The Ever Increasing Joy of Becoming

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

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Hallel Shorts

The true praise is when all of us are unified. This is describing what all are already doing in response to a miracle. We are supposed to be doing more. Part of Hallel is the recognition that He is above all forms of Hallel. This is signified...

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The Music of Halacha: The Focus of Hallel Part Three

The Talmud teaches that there is actually a better Hallel than our Hallel! The title of this other Psalm of Hallel is Hallel Hagadol – The Great Hallel. Why is it considered the Great Hallel? Rabbi Yochanan explains that because the Psalm develops from one...

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The Music of Halacha: The Focus of Hallel Part Two

Hallel as Sanctification Rabbi Daniel HaBavli derives the Biblical obligation to sing Hallel from a different verse: “You shall not profane My holy Name, and I shall be sanctified amongst the Jewish people. I am God Who sanctifies you.” (Vayikra 22:32) The prohibition against profaning God’s...

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Tu Bishvat – Day 1

The Kedushat Levi (Likkutim page 477) offers the following thoughts about the month of Shevat: Tu Bi’shevat is the beginning of the preparation for Pesach, which, in turn, is the preparation for the
Tu Bishvat – Day 11

Machberes Avodas Hashem Exodus 15:23-27: "And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called

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Tu Bishvat – Day 12

Deuteronomy 20:19: “When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to seize it, do not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them, for from it you will eat.”

 

Olive Tree
Tu Bishvat – Day 13


A tree does not die when we pick its fruit. There is more life, more potential. Even when a tree appears dead during the winter, it still has life. As long as it has life, the tree sings its song

 

Tu Bishvat
Tu Bishvat 14

According to the Ba’al Shem Tov, all growth requires three stages: Hachna’a –humility, Havdala – Separation, and Hamtakah – Sweetening.
Tu Bishvat
Tu Bishvat 15

King David compares human beings to trees. In Psalm 92 he sings; “The righteous person shall flower like a date palm and grow tall like a cedar of Lebanon.” Why does King David use
Tu Bishvat – Day 4


Ma’or Va’Shemesh; Lessons of Tu Bi’shevat: It is human nature to derive special enjoyment from physical desires during the cold winter months. A person should use the month

 

Tu Bishvat – Day 3

Moed Likol Chai; Section 30, Letter 2: The Midah/Attribute of Shevat is Hod/Inner Beauty – how something’s inner beauty reflects the Divine Will that gives it existence. Aaron HaKohen
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Babel in Reverse

They all speak one language. They want to celebrate and preserve their singular identity, so they decide to build a city and tower. God isn’t happy and confuses their languages, resulting in numerous societies and cultures and, of course, wars. I think of Israel in 1948...

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Kavanot: Rosh Chodesh Av

[caption id="attachment_5859" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Destruction of Temple"][/caption]The Kabbalists use different verses to focus on the Name of God during the Mussaf – Additional prayer – on Rosh Chodesh – The New Month. They use the following verse on Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av:  ”Moses and the...

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...

The Plan: The Archeologist’s Seder

There’s a scene in Sarah Moss’ “Ghost Wall,” that has me considering using my daughter Anna’s training as an archeologist to take an entirely new approach to the Pesach Seder.   A group of college students and their professor allow Silvie and her parents to live with...

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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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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The Music of Halacha
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Here & Now

No longer forward nor behind I look in hope or fear, But, grateful, take the good I find, The best of now and here. John Greenleaf Whittier 1859 These words struck me as I was reflecting on the Haggadah. Much of the Pesach Seder is either looking forward or behind....

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Countdown to Pesach 3-Imitate God

Chassidim tell of a Rebbe who gave some money to a poor man who was a notorious sinner. “How can the Rebbe give alms to such a man?” The Rebbe's followers asked in surprise. “We are expected,” the Rebbe retorted,
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Countdown to Pesach 5-Slavery

If there are servants or workers, even someone who cleans the house, in the home, they should never be made to feel inferior or insulted. The ideal is for the servants to be seen, in a sense, as part of the family.
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Tehillim-The Pesach Psalm-78 III-Alshich

The 13th of Nisan is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Moshe Alshich: “He established a decree in Jacob, ordained a teaching in Israel, charging our fathers to make them known to their children, that a future generation might know,
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Tehillim-The Pesach Psalm-78 II-Alshich

The 13th of Nisan is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Moshe Alshich: “I will expound a theme, hold forth on the lessons of the past, things we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not withhold them from their
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Haggadah-Beginning of Hallel

The Midrash appends the words, “I am asleep, but my heart is awake,” to the text, “And the angel of God appeared to him in a flame of fire, out of the midst of the Bush (Exodus 3:2).” The explanation is that the Bush
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Countdown to Pesach 6-Apelier Rebbe

The Apelier Rebbe commented on, “Let the heart of them rejoice, who seek God (I Chronicles 16:10).” When someone seeks a certain object, he feels no gladness in his heart until his quest is successful. But when a person
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Countdown to Pesach 9 -The Matzah Rush

The Belzer said: When describing a journey, it is the custom of the Bible to state that the person it mentions “went” to his place of destination. But in the case of Jethro, nothing is said of his going. This statement is that he
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Countdown to Pesach 15-Rhizhiner

The 27th of Adar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Moshe Meir Rosenstein of Berditchev (1821-1902). A chassid of the Rizhuner Rebbe: On Pesach eve, the Rhiziner explained the rules of the search for Chametz in the following
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Countdown to Pesach 20-Belz

The 24th of Adar is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Yitzchak (ben Chanoch Henach) Meyer of Alesk (1829-1904). Born in Belz to the Lev Sameyach and his Rebbetzen Freide, daughter of the Sar Shalom of Belz. After learning
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Countdown to Pesach-22-Berditchever

The Berditchever learned that a poor Jew who earned a few cents daily by digging clay and carrying it by horse and wagon to builders, had lost his horse, and was compelled to carry the clay in a box on his shoulders.
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Pesach Preparations-Ostrov

The 19th of Adar is the Yartzeit of Rav Meir Yechiel HeLevi Haldshtok, founder of the court of Ostrovtze: Rabbi Meir Margolis walked along a muddy street on the Eve of Passover towards the river, carrying a large pitcher. The
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Countdown to Pesach-27-Siach Sarfei Kodesh

Rabbi Bunim explained, “I am God, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians (Exodus 6:6).” “A burden,” he said, “is usually carried with ease after one has become accustomed to it. When God observed
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Countdown to Pesach-29-Esser Tzachtzachot

The Holy Dinover offended the Holy Rophshitzer and paid him a visit to placate him. Seeing the Dinover tremble from fear, the Rophshitzer said: “It is true that it lies within my power to punish you for your disrespect. Fear not, however,
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Countdown to Pesach 26: A Meal of Hallel

We differentiate between Hallel that is recited as a Minhag – Custom and a Hallel that is recited as a Chiyuv – Obligation. The Hallel of Rosh Chodesh is a custom, (Ta’anit 28b) which is why we may take a break in middle of Hallel
Pesach
Countdown to Pesach 27: Connections

Our group has made arrangements to share our Korban Pesach – Paschal Offering. One member of the group may add someone, but only to participate in his portion. (Pesachim 89b) The group may only cut
matzah
Countdown to Pesach 28: Fast Action

“They are all adulterers, their passions burning like an oven fired by a baker. The Inciter (Evil Inclination) rests from the kneading of the dough until its leavening.” (Hosea 7:4) Even if a person can quiet the Evil Inclination – Yetzer Harah – it will only rest
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Remaining Connected: From The Diary of A Former Slave

[caption id="attachment_1913" align="alignleft" width="289" caption="Connections"][/caption] Moshe was bothered by the way we danced and rejoiced over the crushed bodies of our former masters. “Listen,” he said, “Do you hear the angels singing?’ I didn’t hear anything. No one heard. “God did not allow them to sing while...

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Silence

[caption id="attachment_1883" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Silence"][/caption] My wife is convinced that I need our dog's "help" to shovel the snow. Unfortunately, Pip doesn't realize that he is outside to help. He believes that we are outside to play. He thinks the shovel is a toy...

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In The Final Moments

[caption id="attachment_1870" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Doubts"][/caption] “So shall you eat it; your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; you shall eat it in haste – it is a Pesach-Offering to God.” So why did they have to rush out the...

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Sorry! From The Diary of a Former Slave

[caption id="attachment_1874" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="So Sorry!"][/caption] “Hey guys, do you want to see the letter I received today?” The mail has not been too regular out here in the desert. We move around too much. “Dear Ploni; I am one of your former Egyptian masters. I’m sure...

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Parsha Mitzvot: Bo: Hiding The Afikoman

It is said in the name of the Brisker Rav, Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, that the reason we hide the Afikoman is to remember how carefully people would guard and hide the meat of the Korban Pesach – the Paschal Offering – to protect its purity.
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Threats

[caption id="attachment_1816" align="alignleft" width="236" caption="Threats"][/caption] Moshe and Aaron threaten Pharaoh with the plague of blood, and they leave. We are not privy to Pharaoh’s response. What did he say in response? Moshe and Aaron threaten Pharaoh with the plague of frogs and they leave. We are...

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Mind Games

[caption id="attachment_1812" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Mind Games"][/caption] Did you hear the one about the guy who walks into the throne room of the most powerful emperor on earth and say, “My God demands that you destroy your economy and acknowledge His power?” The emperor says, “Who...

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Hail To The King! From The Diary of A Former Slave VII

[caption id="attachment_1845" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="Personal Rain Clouds"][/caption] I once watched a drunken man running down the street in the rain, weaving from one side to the other. When I asked him what he was doing, he responded, “I’m running through the raindrops!” I’m not drunk. I’m...

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The Way They Saw Us: From The Diary of A Former Slave: VI

[caption id="attachment_1840" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="Ugly (No Offense Intended)"][/caption] We were gathered outside at the local well discussing Moses’s most recent lecture on The Patriarchs, and everything that has happened and changed over the last few months. All of a sudden a dark cloud filled the...

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Being a Fool: From The Diary of a Former Slave V

[caption id="attachment_1836" align="alignleft" width="264" caption="A Fool"][/caption] The Egyptians have been outside since the Wild Beasts disappeared. They are learning how to do their own work, and they are not doing a very good job: their animals are dying. Some of them are pulling their animals...

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No Lice! From The Diary of A Former Slave III

[caption id="attachment_1824" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="It Itches!"][/caption] When we walked outside this morning, we saw all the Egyptians scratching away. They were covered with lice. We all immediately ran to the local Sam HaChaim Pharmacy to pick up lice shampoo and sprays, only to find a...

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Fists & Fingers

[caption id="attachment_1820" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Fists"][/caption] Exodus: Chapter 8:12 -15: “It is a finger of God!” Seems more like the FIST of God to me, not a finger! The sorcerers understood that whatever they were experiencing was not the Hand of God, certainly not His fist, but a...

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It's A Set Up!

[caption id="attachment_1802" align="alignleft" width="270" caption="Gotcha!"][/caption] He set him up! “Moses said to Pharaoh, “glorify yourself over me – for when should I entreat for you, for your servants, and for your people, to excise the frogs from you and from your houses? Tomorrow. Tomorrow? (Read verse 8:4) What happened? “Glorify...

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Hope

[caption id="attachment_1790" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Hope"][/caption] We know that they did not listen to Moshe. We posit that part of the reason lay with Moshe, who approached them without a mission and with a partially broken spirit. We also pointed out that they did not reject Moshe...

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A Leader's Spirit

[caption id="attachment_1786" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Leadership"][/caption] What happened? “So Moses spoke to the Children of Israel, but they did not heed Moses, because of shortness of breath and hard work.” What did Moshe “speak” to them? Was it God’s lesson in history and theology at the beginning of...

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The Next Step

"Excessive sorrow laughs. Excessive joy weeps." William Blake I’ve been mulling Blake’s words all week. I admit that although I have a sense of what he means, I am not certain. The Seven Weeks of Nechama address deep, deep sorrow, leading into the Days of Awe,...

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Haftarah
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The Thrill of Gratitude

In his autobiography, Vladimir Nabokov describes the gratitude he feels in the presence of a rare butterfly. “This is ecsatsy, and behind ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A...

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Stuff

The opposites do not wait for Pesach to begin. We will act out the contradiction of freedom and slavery on the seder night, but most of us have already begun playing out the theme of contradictions: We complain about all the cleaning we have to...

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The Professional Tzaddik

The entire Yeshiva was buzzing with the story. A student had the great privilege to bring a hot tea to the holy rabbi each day after lunch. He did this for five years. One day, when he went to the dining room to get hot...

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Shema: Waiting For God

Simone Weil speaks in Waiting For God as a kind of readiness. The opening sound of the Shema is “Shhhhh” – be quiet – listen – be ready to hear – become someone who is waiting for God. The great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova wrote in...

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Love With No Object

There is a way of loving not attached to what is loved. Observe how water is with The ground, always moving toward the ocean, though the ground tries to hold the water's foot and not let it go. This is how we are with wine and beautiful food,...

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Arguing His Case

“And he said, ‘I have been exceedingly zealous/jealous for God, Power of Legions, for the Children of Israel have abandoned Your covenant; they have razed Your altars; they have killed Your prophets with the sword, so that I remain, by myself, and they seek my...

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The Attached Cover

I was surprised to find another hint toward the etymology of Tefillah in this past week’s portion. “Any open vessel that has no attached cover – Tzamid Patil – is contaminated.” (Numbers 19:16) Patil shares the same root as Tefillah: P-T-L. We are familiar with the...

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Amidah: Blessing 5: Expecting More of One’s Self

Another concept here is that we refer to God as our Father and as our King. When it says ‘Father’ or ‘King,’ it means parents or royalty. It doesn’t only mean the male parent, or the male sovereign. It’s just that the generic form in...

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Tefillah Class 7/16: The 19 Steps To God: Step 3

1. Being Aware of the Words: “Aishet Chayil” is usually translated as “A woman of valor, who can find”. We infer that we search for a true woman of valor. I believe the accurate translation to mean, “(There is) A woman of valor. Who will...

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My Problem With Globalization

The fruit on the left is known by a Jewish name: Mangosteen, although some pronounce it Mangostein. No matter the pronunciation, this magical, tasty and wonderfully shaped creation, one of the benefits of globalization, has challenged my choice of blessings. I will make the blessing...

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Talking About Listening

Good listeners may be as rare, perhaps rarer, than good talkers. Most of us, in our friendships, seem to want more to tell than be told. We see, we use friends as an audience - and friends in their turn often do the same with...

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The Silent Symphony

Each individual piece of the orchestra played at its own pace voicing its own music. Not one piece copied another. There was not a sound to be heard other than the soft movements of the members of the orchestra. The symphony was silent. It had...

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The Actual and The Imaginary

In one of his last essays, “The Writer in Winter,” the late John Updike cites Nathaniel Hawthorne, “a writer who dwelt in shadowland” where – in Hawthorne’s words – “The Actual and the Imaginary may meet.”  Updike is referring to “The Custom House,” that serves...

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Music of Halacha: Purim


Mishloach Manot: Purim Madness

 

One of the significant myths when I was a Yeshiva student was that one should send Mishloach Manot to someone who is not a friend in order to reach out and create, improve or repair a relationship.

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Purim Perspective

The Yalkut Shimoni uses an interesting story to explain the Mitzvah to “Remember what Amalek did you”; One upon a time there was a king who planted a vineyard, placed a vicious guard dog inside a fence. He warned everyone that the dog would attack...

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Happiness

The Talmud in Ta’anit 29a, charges us to act to increase our joy once the month of Adar begins. We do not have such a concept with the month of Nissan – the month of Redemption. We do not begin the Month of Sivan, which is...

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The Pen and The Sword

Rabbi Eliezer taught that the book and the sword came down from Heaven wrapped together. This was to send a message that those who are occupied with the former (Torah Study) will have no need to fear the sword, but those who choose the latter...

The Music of Halacha
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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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Meeting Place Between Knowledge and Imagination

The Days of Awe, 1997, followed a harrowing and challenging year. Serious illness. Major changes in my family. Negotiating a life in a new community. It was a year of doctors imagining and predicting the worst, and Debbie and I imagining life at its highest...

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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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Dinosaurs, Pigeons, and King Solomon

I don’t claim to be King Solomon, but it was quite clear, at least to my mind, what our dogs were thinking when they observed a woman bringing her dog to the riverfront in a stroller; “why don’t we have strollers?”   I tried explaining that as...

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

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

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Bowing

We often call Pip, our dog, ‘The Yogi’. He is a master bower, especially when he wants a cookie. Even after a few years of Yoga, I still cannot bow as well as Pip. His students watched as Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin practiced the Amidah bowing...

Days of Awe
Life Building

“Teshuva, Tzedaka and Prayer, remove the bad parts of the decree.” (Unetane Tokef): It was said of Rabbi Tarfon that he was very wealthy but did not give sufficient Tzedaka-money to the poor. Rabbi
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Rosh Hashana
Rosh Hashana: Anticipation

In the prophetic selection read on the second day of Rosh Hashana we listen to Jeremiah refer to the song of Miriam at the crossing of the Red Sea.  Her song and the song of all the women, was different from the
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Clothes of Righteousness

“Who clothes Himself in acts of Righteousness in judgment.” (Rosh Hashana Machzor) Not only do the clothes make the person; the person can ‘make’ the clothes. Clothes carry something from the person who wore it before I did. (Chatam Sofer, Toledot) We dress ourselves in God’s garments...

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One Small Detail

I spent most of yesterday battling with Land Rover over a receipt. Our car is under warranty and the transmission failed immediately after the engine was replaced. (Long Story!) Land Rover wanted receipts proving that we properly maintained the car and were not the cause...

Haftarot
Haftarot
Rosh Hashana
Rosh Hashana: Welcome To My World

Today is the birthday of Adam and Eve. We return to the time of joy, before the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  We reach back to a time when all was good.  Rosh Hashana is the equivalent of the extraordinary
Rosh Hashana
Zichronot
Shofar as Tz’akah – Zichronot

From an unedited transcript of a shiur: The next form is tzaakah; tzaakah means to cry out – a primal scream. But let’s go back to the Ramban, the Ramban we mentioned before that says that originally they would blow

 

Rosh Hashanah
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Sound Bites: Beautiful Words

“Naftali is a hind let loose who delivers beautiful sayings.” (Genesis 49:21 Beautiful sayings is “Imrei Shafer”. We again find the word shofar associated with beauty. (See Soundbites 1 & 2) The Panim Yafot (Genesis 49) explains the verse using the words of Isaiah: “ The...

Lessons from the Parsha
Ki Tavo: Zachreinu L’Chaim

There are 11 curses listed in this week's portion. The 11 sins listed here correspond to 11 virtues mentioned by King David in Psalms 15 as determining who is entitled to sojourn and in God's tent, the Temple. Anyone
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Hearing: The Full Message

“Listen, My nation, and I will attest to you; O Israel, if you would but listen to Me (Psalms 81:9).” The Midrash (Shir Hashirim 1) says that God's commanding voice made such a profound impression on them at Sinai that the Evil Inclination was purged...

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Voices: Introduction

This series, Voices, will focus on verses that describe different voices, whether the voice of God speaking to us, the voice of the prophets, or our voices addressing God. I hope to use each voice as a practical strategy for listening to the voice of...

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Master & Servant: Introduction

We approach God during Elul and on Rosh Hashanah as a servant approaches his master. This series, “Master and Servant,” will focus on this aspect of our relationship with God. “It is insufficient that you be a servant for Me, only to raise up the tribes...

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The Search of Elul: Introduction

One of the verses that is used to describe the Teshuvah process of the month of Elul is, “Seek God when He can be found; call Him when He is near (Isaiah 55:6).” This series, The Search, will focus on different approaches we can use...

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Elul Hallel VI.III

“Please God; Save us! Please God; Make us successful!” (Psalms 118:25) We sing the first half, “Please God; Save us,” as we approach our service with prayers that God will empower our actions and service so that His Presence will rest upon our efforts. We sing,...

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Rosh Chodesh Elul Kavanot

We derive the appellation for God’s Name, used in the Rosh Chodesh Mussaf – Additional Prayer – from the combination of letters and vowels of the following verse: “And it will be a Tzedaka for us if we are careful to perform this entire commandment before...

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The King At The Door

Kings do not touch doors. They do not know that pleasure of pushing open in front of you, slowly or brusquely, one of those big familiar rectangular panels, and turning back to close it in its place again – holding a door in your arms....

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Table Talk: Bo

I get nervous reading about the locusts. It reminds me of the locusts in Baltimore that would appear every 17 years, especially when they were first building the current yeshiva campus. I do not want to even imagine what it was like for the Egyptians. Here are some offerings so you can share
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The Missed Kick

Missing a kick at the icebox door It closed anyway. "Missing a Kick" from Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac There is an unspoken thought on many minds as we approach Rosh Hashanah; "will the door close even if my kick is off mark?" How much will my efforts...

Building Blocks
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Rosh Hashanah Globalization

When we first turned into this beach community, it seemed like an All-American kind of place. We stopped at a 24 hour store to pick up some basics, and pulled into a United Nations of cars. There were German cars, Italian, English, Korean and Japanese...

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Recognizing Patterns

I have driven through these suburbs of Copenhagen and I had no idea that there was such a pattern to the streets and homes. I didn’t have the perspective of this aerial photograph, and couldn’t see the broader picture. It’s not much different from the way...

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The Bright Yellow Camaro

My friend came to visit from Florida, and rented a bright yellow Camaro. He claims that it was the only car available, but we know the truth. Little did I know how much I would benefit from his rental car: A stranger stopped me in...

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Faults

Let us keep in mind what Thrasea, the mildest of men and for that reason also the greatest, often used to say: “Who hates faults, hates mankind.” - Pliny the Younger, Letters 8.22.2-3 Especially our own faults! I picture the moment when Chana stoop up to Eli, and...

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Foreign, Indifferent, & My Choice

Checkerboard pieces are indifferent. Dice are indifferent. How do I know in what way they will fall? But once the dice have fallen, to use that cast carefully and skillfully –that is indeed my business. So also in life, the central task is this: distinguish things,...

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Distancers or Connectors

The preacher Harry Williams believed: "We all have experience of two types of feeling. There is the feeling which unites us to our world and makes us rejoice in it, an experience of love, of acceptance, of communion. And there is the other kind of feeling...

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Letting The Future In

There is always a moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in… -- Graham Greene: The Power and the Glory As wonderful as my children are, the only time they were perfect was the first time I held them in my arms. It...

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Zichronot: Still Alive

A group of Jewish children with a teacher in Samarkand, (in modern Uzbekistan), ca. 1910. (Prokudin-Gorskii Collection/LOC) My Cheder teachers dressed differently, but they look very similar to the rabbi in this picture. Dress up the children in a 1960’s wardrobe, and they will look...

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Psalm 27: Infinite Manna

“To behold the sweetness of God and to contemplate in His Sanctuary.” (Verse 4) Rabbi Elazar taught: The righteous in the World to Come will eat of the same Manna that Israel ate while in the desert. Do not think that the portions will be measured...

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Timeless: God's Example

In praying for the whole world to repent, we are only following the example of Hashem, Who looks forward to the time when His ultimate plan for the creation – a world in which all mankind is righteous – will be realized, as the prophet...

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Rosh Hashana Joy

[caption id="attachment_911" align="alignleft" width="262" caption="Smile!"][/caption]“This day is holy to God your Lord. Don’t mourn, nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send...

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Royal Messages 100 and One

“One cannot compare someone who has reviewed his studies one hundred times to someone who has reviewed them one hundred and one.” (Chagigah) Rabbi Yechezkail Levenstein zt”l explained that the latter is not someone who simply reviewed his studies one extra time. It describes someone who...

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Meloch Al Kol HaOlam Kulo: Heaven & Earth

This picture of Pena, Portugal reminds me of how I often picture God’s Palace, high above the earth. Yet, our prayers speak, not of the glory of the heavens, but of God’s Presence here on earth: “Reign over the entire universe in Your glory; be exalted...

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Machines In The Garage

The garage was calling. We store our succah there and, for some reason, my wife doesn’t rely on my having returned all the parts to their proper place. I have to work my way through the boxes and spider webs and make sure that our...

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Mirrors

“Rabbi! I know you’ll think I’m crazy but there is a conspiracy against me! I went to the barber yesterday, and as soon as he began cutting, white hairs fell all over the cloth covering me. I asked why he was dumping some old guy’s hair...

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Seeing It For What It Is

We found it! An actual footprint of a huge monster! Just look! It is a real photograph! It is an aerial picture of Fraser Island Dune, Australia. Did I fool you? I admit to being taken aback for a second or two. We can’t always believe our...

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Collection Buckets & Real Teshuva

I was exhausted yesterday morning even before I began my walk. I dragged my legs into the park and slowly began the first lap. I must have groaned aloud because my sneakers started yelling at me: “You’re complaining! We walk every inch with you. In...

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Rosh Hashana: Shades of Light

[caption id="attachment_932" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Light Show"][/caption ]It was pitch black when I arrived in the park this morning for my daily walk. Each park bench was occupied by a homeless person. Skunks were rifling through the garbage cans. None of the usual walkers were crazy...

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Sound Bites: Battle

This Judgment Day, when we combat all those forces, which seek to harm Israel, is a good time to recall other battles against our enemies. Israel has always preferred not to rely on military might alone but rather to confront the foe fortified by the...

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Tikkunim IV

Our study of Tikkun has taken us far beyond the usual idea of fixing. The Talmud offers numerous applications of Tikkun, each a practical tool to maximize our Elul work and preparations for Rosh Hashanah. We can find another form of Tikkun: “The Sages watched over...

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The Stories Yet To Be Written

In “The Glass Tower,” a short story by the Cuban writer, Reinaldo Arenas, he tells the tale of Alfredo Fuentes, who, as a successful author, is so busy accepting speaking arrangements that he has no time to write. He is haunted by the characters he...

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Fixing II

A discussion about “Tikkunim,” usually translated as repairs, got Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai into trouble: R. Judah commenced [the discussion] by observing, ‘How fine are the works of this people! They have made (Tikknu) streets, they have built (Tikknu) bridges, they have erected (Tikknu) baths.’...

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You Promised!

One of my father’s closest students offered in 1965 to give me a ride on his motorcycle. “You have to ask your mother,” said my father. “But Ma never lets me do anything!” I complained. Jokingly, my father said, “So, I’ll get you a motorcycle...

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Preparing For Transitions

Interim By Edna St. Vincent Millay O God, I see it now, and my sick brain Staggers and swoons! How often over me Flashes this breathlessness of sudden sight In which I see the universe unrolled Before me like a scroll and read thereon Chaos and Doom, where helpless planets whirl Dizzily round...

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Sound Bites: God's Tent

“I am sending to take Nebuchadnezar king of Babylonia, My servant, and I am placing his throne above these stones that I have covered, and he will spread his tent – Shafriro – over them.” (Jeremiah 43:10) We have learned how “Shifra” means “to spread”...

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Timeless: Precious Moments

The Chafetz Chaim had an interesting approach to the Talmudic statement that “Whoever forgets the Torah he has studied has forfeit part of his eternal life.” (Chapters of Our Fathers 3:8) It is commonly understood to refer to someone who does not constantly review what...

What Is The Reason
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Timeless: The Unexpected

“It is as difficult for God to provide for all our immediate needs as it was for Him to split the Sea.” (Pesachim 118a) Just as the Splitting of the Sea was a miracle of the totally unexpected, so too, our needs are provided from a...

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Everyday Song

I began the Story Magic series with a Gregory Clark column, and since Brian Ross - to whom it was dedicated - responded in an unfunny way and is now having his Canadian citizenship examined, being unfamiliar with Mr. Clark, I shall pause to pray...

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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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Countdown To Chanukah 30 – Safe Place

“And my soul is removed far off from peace, I forgot prosperity” (Lamentations 3:17). What is: And my soul is removed far off from peace? Rabbi Abbahu said: That is the lack of opportunity to engage in kindling the Shabbat lights, which a refugee is...

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So What-Vayechi-Shabbat Themes

“Issachar is a mighty donkey lying down among the saddlebags. When he sees how good is his resting, and how pleasant is his land, he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor (Genesis 49:14-15).”
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Inconsistencies Part Two

He listened to, but did not participate in the ongoing conversations around Miriam’s Well in the days that followed their devastating punishment for their reaction to the spies. People were frustrated, depressed and angry. “I don’t want to live out the rest of my life...

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The Invisible Host

[caption id="attachment_1895" align="alignleft" width="250" caption="The Perfect Host"][/caption] It must have been difficult to go to sleep without any Manna left over for the next day. We never knew if it would fall the next day. After all, the gift of Manna was always a direct reflection of...

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The Music of Halacha: Infinite Boundaries

Most of my favorite Shabbat memories are of the unexpected. My father zt”l and I came home from Yeshiva after Friday night services to find a family with eight children in the apartment. (1966) I don’t remember the details, only that their car broke down just
The Music of Halacha
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Which Hand First?

Debbie and I were eating in an Indian restaurant and overheard an Indian man explain to his American friend that, “We eat with our right hand, because we use the left hand to clean ourselves after using the bathroom.” The Halacha is similar in practical terms,...

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The Music of Halacha: Shabbat: Tied Up In Knots II

There are people who would never drive or turn on a light on Shabbat, however there are numerous, less obvious ways to violate Biblical prohibitions, more serious laws: Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, there was never leftover Challah at the end of a Shabbat meal.
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The Only Shabbat

My friend was looking for a Shidduch for his daughter. He heard of a wonderful young man who was studying in a Yeshiva in Connecticut, and spoke to the young man’s teachers. He wasn’t satisfied with the reports, which were all effusive in praise, so...

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To Have and Have Not

Until 2003, when I learned that I have Celiac Disease, my favorite food was bread. Whether I was sitting in a restaurant, at a wedding, or a Shabbat table, my eyes were on the bread. I had no choice and in order to live I...

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Shabbat & The Mishkan

The commandments of the Mishkan are introduced with yet another exhortation to observe the Shabbat. Rashi explains that this was to inform the nation that despite the transcendent importance of the Mishkan, it may not be built on the Shabbat. My Rebbi, Rabbi Yochanan Zweig, asked...

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Haftarot
Haftarot
Sinai
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Words of Life

I was disturbed by the fantastical words of a guest at a recent business meeting held over a restaurant meal. Our guest began by ordering chicken a′ la king. What had a king to do with that speckled dish upon our table? Did he think...

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Instinct

Our dog, Pip, is a sheep dog, and he has a natural herding instinct. Whether he is playing with dogs, children, or sheep, he instinctively begins to run round and round to gather them into a group. Pip was born on a sheep farm, and...

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Repentance & Conversion

They arrived at Sinai in a state of repentance. (Rashi, Exodus 19:2) The Sages teach us that the Children of Israel went through a conversion process at Sinai: Acceptance of Mitzvot, Purification, etc. This mass of newly freed slaves had to repent for their constant...

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The Secret Ingredient

Whenever I offer to join my wife and son as they cook, they both have a terrified look on their faces and urge me to use my time for more important things such as learning or taking Pip, our dog, for a walk. They...

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Tikkunim VI – Removing Obstacles

The Talmud teaches that removing obstacles is a form of Tikkun: Takanat HaShavim. Beit Hillel understood that if the Teshuva process demanded absolute adherence to the letter of the law, the law would be an obstacle to Teshuva: AND THAT IF A BEAM WRONGFULLY APPROPRIATED HAS...

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The Instincts of Others

My granddaughter knows that Pip will not enter the dining room on Shabbat. All we have to do is say, “Shabbos!” and he leaves the room. She was baking Challah on Thursday with her mother, and Pip was desperately reaching for the food on the...

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Rushing Toward Expectations

I decided to take four students who could not go home for Chanukah vacation on a trip to Mount Lassen National Park for some cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The park is magnificent. The ride for five large men in a tiny Mazda GLC was uncomfortable,...

The Path Ignites The Soul

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

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Countdown To Chanukah 28 – Absorption and Expansion

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

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Shema-Pesach-True Service

Rabbi Safra was reciting the Shema when a man offered him a sum of money for something he wish to buy. The Rabbi was willing to sell it, but since he could not interrupt his recital of the Shema, he could not indicate his
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Tehillim-The Pesach Psalm-78 IV-Alshich

The 13th of Nisan is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Moshe Alshich: “like the bowmen of Ephraim who played false in the day of battle, they did not keep God's covenant, they refused to follow His instruction; they forgot His deeds
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Tehillim-The Pesach Psalm-78 I-Alshich

The 13th of Nisan is the Yahrtzeit of Rav Moshe ben Chaim Alshich (1508-1593) [others say 1522-1570]. Born in Adrianople, Turkey, student of Rav Yosef Karo in Adrianople and Rav Taitatzak in Salonica. He authored
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Countdown to Pesach 14-Reb Bunim

Rabbi Bunam said, "We eat the Seder meal in the following order: the matzah first and the Maror next, though it would seem the reverse order is proper, since we first suffered and later were freed. The reason for this, however,