Lag B’Omer – The 33rd Day of the Omer (5779)

In the first century of the Common Era, the Jewish people experienced a major tragedy during the period of counting the Omer.  The greatest sage of the generation was Rabbi Akivah, who had taught vast numbers of people.  The Talmud relates that 24,000 (!) of Rabbi Akivah’s students, who constituted the primary chain of Torah transmission, died as a result of an epidemic between Passover and Shavuot. The Talmud states ...

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The Land Of Israel

The first commandment God gave to the first Jew was to go to the Land of Israel God spoke to Abraham, and said, "Go for yourself, from your land, from your relatives and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you."[1]   Abraham, Sarah, their family and their retinue all came to Israel, then known as Canaan.  They traveled around the land, engaged in commerce and, of ...

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Israel Independence Day 2019

During the period of the Omer, between Passover and Shavuot two significant events in modern Jewish history also occurred -- the founding of the State of Israel on the 5th of Iyar, 5708 (May 14th 1948) and also the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem by the Israel Defence Forces on the 28th of Iyar, 5727 (June 7th 1967).   The day of founding of the State of Israel (Yom ...

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Countdown to Sinai 5779

The Jewish people’s journey toward nationhood began on Passover.  The Exodus redeemed them from physical slavery and subjugation, but they still lacked a national identity and purpose. This was conferred upon them only later -- when the Jewish people both heard and saw the words of God at Mt. Sinai. In those moments, the newly formed nation obtained its spiritual identity and national calling through the Torah, and the redemption ...

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Some of My Favorite (Seder) Things

The Exodus is mentioned numerous times in the Torah, and our calendar is based on the first month (Nissan) as the month of the Exodus. The Torah tells us not to oppress the stranger because we were strangers in Egypt, do not hurt the downtrodden, do not cheat in business etc. because we were slaves in Egypt. The Ramban (Shmot 12:12) says that the reason there are no names for ...

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Springtime is Pesach-time

Passover is always observed in spring, on the fifteenth day of the month of Nissan (around March or April). The Torah describes the month in which Passover falls as the first month, and emphasizes several times that Pesach occurs in the springtime: God said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying: This month shall be for you the beginning of the months; it shall be for you the ...

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Exile of the Body, Exile of the Soul

As we are no preparing for Passover, of course, we begin to think about the exile in Egypt and about exile in general. When one becomes familiar with the Torah and with Judaism, one will observe that exile features frequently in the Torah. Adam and Eve are exiled from the Garden of Eden, Cain is exiled, Abraham has to go into exile in Egypt and Jacob and his sons also ...

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What Kashrut Is and What Kashrut is Not

What Kashrut Is Not This week’s parsha, Shemini, contains most of the laws of Kashrut, the dietary code of Judaism. Anthropologists have viewed the laws of kashrut as superstitious taboos, or a reflection of the eating habits and norms of the ancient Near East.  One author explained the prohibitions of kashrut as purely a matter of economic necessity.   A number of scholars explain the laws as being an ancient attempt at ...

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Laws and Customs of Purim

Laws and Customs of Purim (From Gateway to Judaism, Mordechai Becher, Mesorah-Artscroll) Purim is preceded by the Fast of Esther on the 13th of the Hebrew month of Adar (usually corresponding to late February or early March).  The fast begins at dawn and ends at night.  It commemorates the fact that Queen Esther and the Jews of her city fasted before she entered the king’s chambers to ask him for ...

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Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Very soon Jews all over the world will celebrate the festival of Purim. Our Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, and we were exiled to Babylon and Persia (modern day Iraq and Iran). Haman ascended to power under the Persian Empire and was at the peak of his political influence and wealth.  As we know, Haman hatched a plot to destroy all the Jewish people, something with ...

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