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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God Bless America

Abraham’s relationship with God was rooted in a covenant, an agreement between two parties, each having obligations toward the other.  Abraham and his descendants were obligated to practice circumcision, kindness and justice and to have faith in God.  God in turn promised that Abraham’s descendants would maintain a special relationship with Him.  They would be given the Land of Israel and would be a “blessing to all nations of the ...

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Shabbat of Peace

I did a lot of traveling over summer – I was in Canada, South Africa, South Korea and Japan.  It was incredibly helpful and convenient to my phone with me.  I was able to be in contact with the other people in the group with whom I was traveling; I was able to be in contact with my family, and the office.  I was able to book hotels and confirm ...

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Jews In Booths

Five days after the intensity of Yom Kippur, Sukkos, the festival of joy and happiness, begins.  This festival lasts eight days in Israel and nine days everywhere else.  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 God: On the first day shall be a sacred holyday when you shall not do any laborious work: On ...

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Is Fasting an Act of Suffering?

One of the best-known features of Yom Kippur -- sometimes the only thing people know about this day -- is the fact that we are forbidden to eat and drink. What is the meaning and purpose of these prohibitions on Yom Kippur? An anthropologist visiting a synagogue on Yom Kippur might think that since no one is eating or drinking for an entire 24-hour period, the congregants are all suffering terribly. ...

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To Be or Not to Be? The Question of Rosh Hashana

According to Jewish tradition, before God created the first human being, a debate took place in the heavenly court. When the Holy One blessed Be He came to create man, the ministering angels formed into groups, some saying that man should be created, some saying that he should not be created…[the angel of] Kindness voted to create man, because people would perform acts of kindness,[the angel of] Peace voted not to ...

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On Happiness

What is the meaning of happiness? How do we achieve it? It appears from this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavoh, that happiness is a major value and indeed is looked at as a duty as well. The Torah tells us that one of the reasons for G-d punishing the Jewish people was that they did not serve Him with the appropriate amount of joy, Simcha. How do we understand Simcha? There ...

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Are You Listening?

As we approach Rosh Hashana and anticipate the blowing of the shofar during prayers, I would like to present five different shofar soundings from our history. The sixth will be, G-d willing, the shofar that heralds the redemption and the Mashiach. Shofar During the Inquisition - Sefer HaTodaah, Rosh Hashanah, Eliyahu KiTov Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen of Spain, expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492. It was the ...

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