Believing In Ourselves

This week is Parshat Va’etchanan, but the Shabbat is actually known as "Shabbat Nachamu," which means the "Sabbath of Comfort." It is because we had previously three weeks of mourning for the destruction of the Temple, the exile, and all the subsequent tragedies due to that exile, culminating in the most intense mourning on the fast of Tisha B'av, which occurred this year on Sunday.  During the three weeks preceding the ...

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The Thirteen Principles

Now that the month of Tamuz is here, I believe it is an appropriate time to discuss belief, Emunah.  An ideal place to start is Maimonides, who, writing in the 12th Century, was the first Jewish scholar to systematically list and explain the principles of Jewish belief.  His “Thirteen Ikarim,” principles of faith, became the most authoritative formulation and they are studied in Jewish communities around the world. A condensed ...

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Absolutely!

There is a popular misconception that “Judaism is not a religion of dogma” and that it makes no demands on belief.  However, it is clear from the Torah itself that there are obligations of the intellect as well as obligations of action. I am the Lord your God, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.  You shall not recognize the gods of others ...

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Simplicity

During the months of summer, I often find myself thinking of some of our memorable vacations. One comes to mind as especially enjoyable.  Our family attended a Shabbaton at Kesher Israel congregation in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where I was scholar in residence.  The Rabbi, the synagogue and the community were all wonderful, warm, fantastic and incredibly hospitable. On the way there we visited the Amish in Lancaster County, took a buggy ride, ...

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Institutionalized Insomnia

The first time that I stayed up learning all night on Shavuos was when I was about 14 years old. We lived in Doncaster, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia and attended a traditional shul, which, until that year did not have a Rabbi.  The shul hired a young Rabbi, an American, Yeshiva University graduate, who had a profound influence on me.  One thing that I recall clearly was Shavuos night ...

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Responding to Tragedy

When, God forbid, a person hears of the death of a close relative or of anyone whose death causes him anguish he should say “Blessed are You God, Our God, King of the Universe, the True Judge.”[1]  In accordance with our belief that God is just and righteous, we accept upon ourselves His judgment; and even though the death causes us grief, we affirm our belief in God as the ...

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My Lawn’s Upsheren

Now that the weather has warmed up a little I feel obligated to mow the lawn so that my grandchildren can play there without stumbling over abandoned vehicles.  In an activity similar to mowing the lawn, I also plan on trimming my Sefirah beard and both of these events that made me think about the fact that one of my grandchildren turned three around this time last year and had ...

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Moving the Mountain

The Jewish people experienced a unique event at Mt. Sinai.  Hashem spoke to an entire people and elevated every member of the nation, at least momentarily, to the level of prophecy.  How could the Jewish people preserve, to the greatest possible degree, that connection to Hashem and the clear perception of His presence for all time?  Our Sages answer, that building the Mishkan, the portable Temple, in the desert was ...

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The Land of Israel – 5781

The counting of the Omer is intimately connected to the Land of Israel, declaring the first crops of the land as belonging to God, and acknowledging His gift to our people of 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 ...

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Chosen People – Chosen Food

The second half of this week's parsha, Shmini, deals with the laws of kashrut, the dietary laws. The Torah itself does not explicitly give a reason for these laws and much literature exists offering rationale and reasons for kashrut. One of the those is sociological and involves maintaining Jewish identity through Jewish eating. Kashrut has contributed very significantly to our survival as a distinct nation.  Jews all over the world have ...

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