Where is Moshe?

The parshiyos that we are currently reading feature Moshe prominently in the story of the Exodus, the Red Sea and the time in the desert. It is fascinating to note, however,  that if you look through the Haggadah Moshe is just not there, he is not mentioned. He is mentioned in one place as an aside – coincidentally. Rav Yossi of Galilee was talking about how many plagues hit the ...

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Fall and 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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Shalom – Salaam

I was once at a resort near Sydney, Australia and it was close to sundown. There were six men in our group and we wanted a minyan for mincha. There were four elderly Jewish men nearby playing cards together, so I went over to ask them if they would join us for 10 minutes. They responded with shock, “We are in the middle of a card game, we can’t stop.” ...

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The People of the Book

This month on the 20th of Teves was the anniversary of the printing of the first volume of the Talmud, and also marks about a year from the last celebration, siyum, of the completion of the study of the Talmud by Daf Yomi (a folio a day).  One of the hallmarks of Jewish life throughout the ages has been a passion for study.  This characteristic is so marked that for ...

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The Siege of Jerusalem

The Jewish calendar includes six days of fasting.  Four of these days are linked to the destruction of the Temples and the exile of the Jewish people.  These will be the focus of the following chapter.  The other two, the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, and the Fast of Esther, Ta’anit Esther, will be considered along with the holidays to which they are closely related: Yom Kippur with the High ...

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Ideological Warfare

I would like to address an aspect of Chanukah which I think is a little misunderstood. Chanukah is very popular, and I think this popularity is due to many people having a misconception about it. They look at it as some type of 4th of July, some type of fight or struggle to Jewish independence, or a struggle for the Jewish people to have a freedom, and so on and ...

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The Spiritual Battle

The underlying theme of the conflict between the Jews and the Greeks is the clash between two diametrically opposed worldviews.  [In the Jewish view of reality, everything in the physical world is a reflection of the spiritual.  A physical conflict is a superficial manifestation of a deeper spiritual conflict.]  There are, of course, many points of contention between Jewish tradition and Greek philosophy.  The spiritual essence of the Judeo-Greek conflict ...

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Chanukah Background

Chanukah begins in a short time so here is a little historical introduction to the Chanukah festival, to which we will hopefully add some spiritual insights in the coming weeks. Approximately 200 years before the events of Chanukah, hundreds of thousands of Jews returned from the Babylonian exile to the Land of Israel.  In time, they rebuilt the Temple in Jerusalem and established an independent Jewish monarchy.  Meanwhile in Greece, after ...

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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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It’s Night and Day

With the long winter nights now starting so early, I have started to think about day and night and their significance in Jewish thought.  We know that in secular law, the calendar day starts and ends at midnight, however, in Jewish tradition the day starts the evening beforehand. So for example, Shabbat, starts Friday evening around sunset and it ends on Saturday night when the stars come out. So both ...

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