Shevat and the Land of Israel 5779

Now that we are in the month of Shevat I would like to continue my theme of the laws of the land of Israel.  The seventh year of the agricultural cycle, is known as Shmittah, the Sabbatical year. In Israel, no new crops are planted and only maintenance work is done on crops and trees that already exist. Farmers may not sell their produce or prevent people (or animals) from ...

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Why All the Hype?

In this week’s Torah portion, VaEra, and in the Passover prayers and Haggadah, we emphasize the miraculous nature of the Exodus from Egypt. Moses’ staff became a snake, ten terrifying plagues punished the Egyptians, the Red Sea split for the Jews but drowned Pharaoh’s army and on and on. It does not appear however, that all of these miracles were necessary to expedite the redemption. God could have ended our ...

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The Tenth of Tevet

The fast day of the 10th of Tevet is approaching, so before I discuss its history, just a brief introduction to the idea of fasting in general. Six days a year we are forbidden to eat or drink.  About eighty days of the year we are commanded to feast — a 13 to 1 ratio of feasting to fasting.  Rather than being ascetic, Judaism clearly rejoices in life and seeks ...

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Chanukah Celebration!

Chanukah is a celebration of the miracle of Jewish spiritual survival.  After millennia of attempts to assimilate us, whether through force or persuasion, we are still here.   But, it is not mere physical survival that we celebrate.  After all, the genes of the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Greeks have also physically survived.  The miracle of Jewish survival is that we have survived with our spiritual heritage intact.  When we ...

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Chanukah Background

Chanukah begins on Sunday night (Dec 2, 2018) so here is a little historical introduction to the Chanukah festival, to which we will hopefully add some spiritual insights in the coming weeks. Approximately 200 years before the events of Chanukah, hundreds of thousands of Jews returned from the Babylonian exile to the Land of Israel.  In time, they rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem and established an independent Jewish monarchy.  Meanwhile in ...

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