The Heritage of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs

Abraham and Sarah, the parents of the Jewish people were renowned for their kindness and hospitality and indeed their children have, for thousands of years, also been noted for their philanthropy.  Every Jewish community in the world, no matter how small or poor, has always had charitable societies and funds. A typical example was the Jewish community of Rome in the 17th century.  Although numbering only a few thousand, they ...

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The People of the Book

As we begin the cycle of reading and studying the Torah once again from Bereshit, Genesis, I believe that it is appropriate to focus on the commandment of Torah study.  One of the hallmarks of Jewish life throughout the ages has been a passion for study.  This characteristic is so marked that for centuries we have been identified as the “People of the Book.” Unlike other religions and cultures, Judaism ...

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Winter

Winter is rapidly approaching, and I am patiently waiting for a few dry days so that my Sukkah boards will dry out.  Personally, I don’t like winter, and I don’t enjoy the snow, however, from a Jewish perspective, winter isn’t really so bad.  One reason that we are positive about winter in traditional Jewish thought is due to the fact that when winter arrives the nights are longer. Nights are ...

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Symbolism and Rationale of Sukkot 5781

Five days after the solemnity and intensity of Yom Kippur, Sukkot, the festival of joy and happiness, begins.  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 G-d: On the first day shall be a sacred holy day when you shall not do any laborious work… On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you gather ...

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Teshuva and 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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Hope and Optimism 5781

It is customary to add a Psalm to our prayers during the month preceding Rosh Hashanah.  The Psalm is Chapter 27 and is one of most beautiful prayers in the book of Psalms. “A Psalm of David. The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life. Of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, my enemies and my adversaries, ...

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A Baal Teshuvah of Whom You Have Never Heard

It’s the season for repentance, so a few words about a Jew who returned to Judaism.  Sir Waldemar Mordechai Wolff Haffkine (1860 – 1930) worked with Louis Pasteur and was the leading pioneer of vaccinations in India.  In fact, in Mumbai today there still exists the Haffkine Institute for vaccine research.  Late in his life, Haffkine become a deeply religious man.   He returned to the observance of the mitzvos and ...

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Oil Change

I just returned from taking my car for an oil change and safety inspection.  We do not only regularly inspect our cars, but, as someone who frequently flies, I happen to know (and am very happy that) the FAA inspects every plane on a regular basis. We do inspections all the time; cars, airplanes, fire detectors and computers. All our transportation methods and many other complex technologies get inspected regularly. One ...

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Shofaros of History

As the baal tokeah for Gateways on Rosh Hashanah I bought a new shofar two years ago.  It had caught my eye at the Judaica store: it was not polished beautifully, it had a rustic, earthy look to it, but it had a beautiful sound.  I removed the numerous layers of price stickers and found underneath a certification from the Beit Din of Gush Katif. This shofar, a reminder of ...

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To Be or Not to Be?

We are just beginning the month of Ellul, the month of preparation for the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShana and also for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  It is customary for Ashkenazim (Jews of European origin) to blow the shofar every day of the month of Ellul at synagogue after the morning service.  Sephardic Jews (of Middle Eastern and North African origin) begin special prayers known as Selichot, at ...

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