Jacob's Ladder

Visions of G-d?

In this week’s parsha, VaYetzei, Jacob has a vision of a ladder connecting heaven and earth, on which angels ascend and descend.  At the top of the ladder, in his dream, he “sees” G-d standing over him.  Now, there are many, many prophetic visions in the Torah, and many expressions that seem to assign some type of form or even body to G-d.  We always understand these as allegory and ...

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The Soul, Mourning and the Afterlife

In this week’s parsha, Abraham mourns the passing of his wife, Sarah, and we, in the Jeiwsh world also are mourning the tragic deaths of eleven innocent Jews, gunned down by a rabid anti-Semite in Pittsburgh.  I felt that it would be appropriate, for both ancient and current mourning to discuss some ideas about the soul, death, and the afterlife.  The Jewish view of the human being encompasses both physical ...

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Clothes Maketh the Man or Woman (or do they?)

It is almost impossible to avoid media discussions about the clothes of the latest star in the British royal family.  A segment of a talk show is dedicated to this, newspaper articles, blogs and twitter feeds dwell on the most minute details of the royals’ fashion choices.  So, I thought that a few words may be in order regarding Judaism’s attitude to clothing, modesty and beauty. He has told you, O ...

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Lech Lecha – Go to…Israel!

The first words of G-d to Abraham are a commandment for him to go to Israel, Aliyah.  Aliyah has been cherished dream of Jews throughout the centuries.  In fact the very word aliyah means to “go up” because the Jewish people have always regarded moving to Israel as an ascent, an act of spiritual elevation. At times, this dream was realized, but more often, circumstances prevented it becoming anything more ...

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New Moon, New Month, New Festival

This week we will be celebrating the first Rosh Chodesh, New Month, of the new year. The concepts and lessons contained in the Jewish calendar are so central to our belief that it is necessary to teach and emphasize them regularly.  One of the ways in which Jewish tradition makes us aware of the cycle of the calendar and brings home its messages is by celebrating every new moon, Rosh ...

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Sukkot: Jews in Booths

Five days after the solemnity and intensity of Yom Kippur, Sukkot, the festival of joy and happiness, begins.  This festival lasts eight days in Israel and nine everywhere else.  The Torah describes the festival as follows: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Festival of Sukkot, a seven-day period for God: On the first day shall be a sacred holyday when you shall not do any laborious work:…On ...

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Yom Kippur — The Day of Atonement

The Torah designates the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei) as the Sabbath of Sabbaths.  It is a day of atonement from sins, a holy day, that we now call Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In the seventh month on the tenth of the month you shall afflict yourselves and you shall not do any work, neither the native born Jew nor the convert who dwells among you.  For ...

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An Introduction to the Rosh Hashanah Prayers

An Introduction to the Rosh Hashanah Prayers – The Rosh Hashanah prayers are divided into three main sections, each focusing on one of the primary themes of the day.  As we progress through the prayers, these meditations help us achieve a mental and spiritual state conducive to real change and self-improvement.  One of the central themes of the Rosh Hashanah prayers is the emphasis on recognizing God as the King.  ...

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Is Repentance a Torah Commandment?

“For this mitzvah is not far from you; it is not in heaven that you shall say ‘Who will ascend for us to the heavens...’” (Deuteronomy 30:11) Nachmanides states in his commentary that this verse refers to the positive commandment of repentance. He cites two verses as sources for this mitzvah: Deuteronomy 4:30 “...you shall return to the L-rd your G-d...”, and Deuteronomy 30:1, “And you shall return to your ...

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A Brief History of Time

According to Jewish tradition, before God created the first human being, a debate took place in the heavenly court. When the Holy One blessed Be He came to create man, the ministering angels formed into groups, some saying that man should be created, some saying that he should not be created… Kindness voted to create man, because people would perform acts of kindness, Peace voted not to create man, because people ...

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