What Does the Exodus Have to Do With It?

Usually, we classify the mitzvot, commandments, of the Torah into commandments that pertain to our relationship with Hashem and commandments that pertain to our relationship with other people. There are some who had a third category, the commandments that govern the relationship between body and soul, in other relationship with the self. When we think about the commandment to remember the Exodus, we would be inclined to define it as being ...

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Divine Destiny and Egyptian Guilt

One of the famous questions that is asked regarding the Exodus from Egypt and the whole issue of the slavery of the Jews in Egypt is that, indeed G-d had actually told Abraham that his children would be slaves in a foreign land, he predicted the exile, He said the Jews would be enslaved. If so, the commentaries ask, then the Egyptians should not get punished, because they were fulfilling ...

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The Old-New Shul in Prague

Whitewashing History in 2019

I recently gave a class on a Thursday night at a shul in Monsey on Forshay Road.  Tragically, that was next door to the site of a horrific anti-Semitic attack this Chanukah.  I taught using some ideas from two great Rabbis of Prague, the Maharal and Rabbi Yechezkel Landau (Noda BiYehudah). Prague was an extraordinary center of the Jewish community and Jewish learning.  In Prague, the Altneu Shul, has been ...

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Jewish Beauty and Greek Beauty

According to the Getty Museum ancient sculptors used canons—sets of “perfect” mathematical ratios and proportions—to depict the human form. The earliest known canons were developed by the Egyptians, whose grid-based proportions influenced Greek sculptors in the Archaic period (700–480 B.C.). Over time, sculptors and painters sought to create a canon that would allow them to depict the perfect human body—not a body based on a real person but a body ...

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Chanuka is Not the Fourth of July

  Many people think that Chanukah is type of a festival of political independence, freedom fighters, patriots, something like a July 4th, or whatever, Jews fighting for political independence against the Greek Empire, or something to that effect. In truth, Chanukah is really a clash of cultures. It was the Hellenistic world view versus the Jewish world view. And these two cultures were diametrically opposed. The Greeks were bothered by the very ...

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In Appreciation of Winter

As a young boy growing up in Melbourne, Australia, fall was almost non-existent and winter only meant that I had to wear shoes when playing outside and, occasionally, a parka. It never snows in Melbourne, and a brutal winter day can sometimes go down to the mid-40s.  Immediately after I finished high school (in December, the beginning of the summer in Australia) I left to learn in Yeshivas ITRI in ...

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The Tragedy of Translation

As we enter the month of Kislev, and the weather turns colder, we start thinking about Chanukah, menorahs, latkes and donuts.  Some of us, of the more nerdy variety, start to think of Philo Judeaus, the Septuagint, Alexandria and Greek tragedies.  One aspect of the Greek opposition to Torah was their objection to the idea that any one people could be “chosen” or have a Divine revelation.  Their campaign against ...

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Aquariums and Ikarim

I am reading “Fishes: An Introduction to Ichthyology” to prepare for my upcoming Torah Safaris of the Camden Adventure Aquarium and the Atlanta Aquarium.  The author, although putting the word “design” in quotes, keeps using the word when talking about the incredible senses, anatomy and structure of fish that are perfectly designed, oops, adapted for its aquatic environment.   Now, to me reading about the creatures of the sea (about 30,000 ...

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Expensive Real Estate Indeed – Hebron and the Cave of Machpelah

One of the earliest recorded purchases of land was Abraham’s purchase of the Machpelah cave and field in Hebron for the burial of his wife, Sarah.  The Torah provides us with the details of his protracted negotiations with the Hittites, Abraham’s insistence on paying “full price,” and his concern that the elders of the Hittites should agree to and witness the purchase because this was the beginning of G-d’s promise ...

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The Need to Know

It is clear from the Torah that there are obligations of the intellect as well as obligations of action. I am the Lord your G-d, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.  You shall not recognize the G-ds of others in My presence. The first two of the Ten Commandments obligate us to acknowledge G-d’s existence and His involvement in the world, and to ...

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