Clean Hands and the Temple

During the Covid-19 pandemic I have been washing my hands every more than normal.  As an observant Jew even in normal times I am constantly washing my hands. When we wake up in the morning, we wash our hands by taking a cup and pouring water over each hand three times. Before we eat bread we wash our hands in a similar manner and say a blessing. Before we pray ...

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Cause of the Destruction

We are at the end of the three week period of mourning for the destruction of both the first and second Temples and, in general, for all the tragedies of the exile and dispersion of the Jewish people. What terrible sins led to the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the Jewish people?   If we understand the fundamental flaws that precipitated these events, we can begin to take ...

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Don’t Take Israel for Granted

The Talmud in Tractate Chulin says something quite astonishing. It states that “idolaters outside of Israel are not really idolaters; they are just following the customs of their ancestors.”  In other words, authentic idolatry only exists in Israel! Now that is a shocking statement, because it appears that Israel, the holy land, the land of prophecy, the land where all the commandments apply, the land where almost all the prophets ...

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The Three Weeks

The Seventeenth of Tammuz begins a three week period of mourning that culminated with Tisha B’Av, the Ninth of Av.  The Mishnah states: Five things happened to our ancestors on the 17th of Tammuz — The First Tablets were broken, the daily offering ceased, the walls of Jerusalem were breached, the evil Apostomus burnt a Torah scroll, and an idol was set up in the Sanctuary. The first calamity to occur on ...

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Able to Say Kaddish

I recently observed the Yarhzeits (yearly anniversary of the passing of a relative) of my parents of blessed memory. Unfortunately due to the current circumstances I was not able to say kaddish for them.  Thank G-d in the last couple of weeks I have been able to attend a minyan again, albeit outdoors, socially separated and with a  mask, but a minyan nonetheless. I recited kaddish at the first minyan ...

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God Bless America

I feel that it is appropriate to publish an essay that I wrote a number of years ago. Enjoy! Abraham’s relationship with God was rooted in a covenant, an agreement between two parties, each having obligations toward the other.  Abraham and his descendants were obligated to practice circumcision, kindness and justice and to have faith in God.  God in turn promised that Abraham’s descendants would maintain a special relationship with Him.  ...

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Boredom and Berachos

Many people seem to be bored with their lives. They look for diversion in activities such as swimming with sharks, bungee jumping and extreme sports. Others obsessively pursue whatever is new — fashion, music, or high-tech gadgets. This boredom really stems not from a lack of novelty, but from a lack of appreciation of life itself and all the blessings of life. A person who takes pleasure in his very ...

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Tactical Mitzvot

A great rabbi once said that it is easier to memorize the entire Babylonian Talmud than to change one character trait.  Self-improvement is one of the greatest and most difficult challenges that a person faces.  How does one go about overcoming a negative trait? The answer was supplied by my karate teacher many years ago (when I was fit and flexible).  He said, “Always attack where the opponent is weakest.” The ...

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Flags and Tribes

This Shabbos we will be continuing reading about the various tribes, their duties, their encampment, flags and donations to the Mishkan.  This division into tribes was also seen earlier at the crossing of the Red Sea, where G-d took the unified waters of the sea and split them into multiple parts to create paths, one for each tribe. I think that one idea behind these divisions it that Hashem demonstrated ...

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Question: What is the Jewish Calendar? Answer: Its Complicated

Measuring and marking the passage of time is a universal human preoccupation. At least forty different calendars are in use around the world today.  The most widely used systems are the solar calendar, based on the cycle of the sun, and the lunar calendar, based on the cycle of the moon.  Because of its orbit around the earth, the moon alternates between being fully exposed to sunlight (full moon) and ...

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