Vayishlach – Peace and Self-Defense

Jacob’s daughter, Dinah is kidnapped and victimized by Shechem the son of Chamor. When her brothers hear about this and enter into negotiations with Chamor, they deceive him and trick him into having all the men in his city undergo circumcision. When the men were weak and recovering, Shimon and Levi, entered the city and waged war on the inhabitants, killing the men and capturing the women and children. There ...

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The Place

The Torah relates that Jacob “encountered the Place.”  Our Sages explain that the word Place is actually a name of G-d, Who is called The Place. We use this name of G-d in a number of our prayers and call Him, Ha-Makom, The Place. Why is this so? The Midrash explains that “He (G-d) is the place of the world, and the world is not His place.”  Rabbi Chaim Volozhiner ...

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Sitting in the Tents of Torah

Jacob is described as “wholesome, one who dwells in the tents.”  Rashi explains that Jacob dwelt in the tent of Torah and spent his time studying. (What exactly he was studying before the giving of the Torah is a matter of discussion amongst the commentaries)  Like Jacob, 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 First Jewish Burial

In our Parsha, Chayei Sarah, Abraham buries his wife Sarah in what was the very first Jewish burial. Why do we bury the body? In Tibet bodies are left out to be eaten by birds; in many societies bodies are cremated. Why does Jewish law insist on burial? The answer lies in our attitude to the body and soul.  The human body is the vehicle that God has given the ...

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Modesty, Shmodesty! As Long As You Look Good!

In this week’s Torah portion, our matriarch, Sarah, is described as beautiful, as other great women in the Torah in numerous places. So clearly, beauty is considered a quality, and yet, we know that modesty is also considered of great value in Judaism. So this week we will talk a little about modesty. He has told you, O man, what is good! What does God require of you; but to do ...

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For the Love of the Land

This week’s parsha, Lech Lecha, begins with the first commandment G-d ever gave to the first Jew in history which was to go to the Land of Israel.  G-d spoke to Abraham, and said: Go, from your land, from your relatives and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name ...

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Reward and Punishment

God rewards those who fulfill His commandments and punishes those who transgress them.  The ultimate reward is the World to Come, and the ultimate punishment is excision of the soul [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent="yes" overflow="visible"][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type="1_1" background_position="left top" background_color="" border_size="" border_color="" border_style="solid" spacing="yes" background_image="" background_repeat="no-repeat" padding="" margin_top="0px" margin_bottom="0px" class="" id="" animation_type="" animation_speed="0.3" animation_direction="left" hide_on_mobile="no" center_content="no" min_height="none"][the soul is cut off from any connection to the spiritual existence of the World to Come.]107  ...

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Simchat Torah

Originally, different customs existed regarding the reading of the Torah on Shabbat.  In Israel, the Torah was read in a three-year cycle, while in Babylon the custom was a yearly cycle.  Eventually, the Babylonian custom became universally accepted, and to this day Jews throughout the world publicly read the entire Five Books of Moses in the course of every year.  The reading of the Torah is both completed and begun ...

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Booths and Clouds

The most distinctive feature of the festival of Sukkot, and the mitzvah from which it derives its name, is the Sukkah, the “booth.” The Torah writes, You shall dwell in booths for a seven-day period; everyone included in Israel shall dwell in booths: So that your future generations will know that I caused the Children of Israel to dwell in booths when I took them from the land of Egypt; I ...

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Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement and Joy

The Torah designates the tenth day of the seventh month (Tishrei) as the “Sabbath of Sabbaths,” the day that we call Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. In the seventh month on the tenth of the month you shall afflict yourselves and you shall not do any work…. For on this day He shall provide atonement for you to purify you; from all your sins before G-d you shall be purified ...

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