The Scrolls of the People

I recently attended the dedication of a new Torah scroll to a synagogue, so I thought I would present some ideas that I wrote about in my book, Gateway to Judaism, regarding Torah scrolls. The First Scrolls Forty years after the Exodus from Egypt, when the Jewish people were finally preparing to enter the Land of Israel, Moses wrote down everything that God had told him on Mt. Sinai and in the ...

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Toward a Simpler Life

As summer approaches, I think back to one of our most memorable summer trips.  Our family attended a Shabbaton where I was scholar in residence, at Kesher Israel congregation in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  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, had a tour of an Amish town and house, ...

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Strings Attached: The Mitzvah of Tzitzit

Our parsha, Nasso, concludes with the mitzvah of Tzitzit, the obligation to attach fringes to four-cornered garments.  What is the meaning of this commandment?  It is interesting to note that virtually all societies mandate some type of clothing, no matter how minimal or crude.  Often, the purpose is obviously not utilitarian, and sometimes it is completely impractical, like a man’s tie.  What then is the explanation for this universal human ...

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Shavuot and The Revelation at Mt. Sinai

The revelation and giving of the Torah on Mt.Sinai was an overwhelming experience for the Jewish people. The Torah describes in great detail how every man, woman and child experienced the word of God with all of their senses.  The uniqueness of this account cannot be emphasized enough.  God did not whisper to a lone individual on a mountain top, rooftop, on the road or in a cave. It was ...

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If I Forget Thee O’ Jerusalem

This week on the 28th of Iyar (Wed, 8th May) we celebrate the 46th anniversary of the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem from Jordanian occupation and city’s reunification during the Six Day War in 1967.  The Jewish people have a special relationship with the Land of Israel, but our bond with the city of Jerusalem is as deep as the bond between mother and child.  Jerusalem is first ...

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Israel – Despite Everything

The period of the counting of the Omer was once a celebration and appreciation of the bounty of the land of Israel.  To a great degree that aspect has been forgotten, along with an appreciation for the land itself. I am taking this opportunity to try to help correct the problem.  The State of Israel has many detractors and critics, both from outside and inside. Sometimes, all the politics, criticism ...

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The Best of Times; The Worst of Times

For the Jewish people who came out of Egypt, the period between the Exodus and the revelation at Mt. Sinai was one of continuous spiritual awakening. Their relationship with God grew stronger and closer miraculous events occurred daily.  For the Jewish people in subsequent generations, this period is also one of the greatest of times of the year, in which the nation prepares itself for a renewal of its commitment ...

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Whitewashing History

I was just looking at some pictures of a tour that I lead of Prague, Vienna and Bratislava; three places that were extraordinary centers of the Jewish community and Jewish learning. In Prague is found the Altneushul which has been in almost continuous use since about the 14th century. That is absolutely amazing to contemplate the fact that Jews have been praying and learning in this place for about 700 ...

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Some Thoughts on Mowing the Lawn

Since spring has now truly started, I feel obligated to mow the lawn so that the kids can actually play outside without stumbling over abandoned cars and refrigerators hidden by the prehistoric forest in my back yard.  Mowing the lawn got me thinking about the fact that it is OK for me to cut the grass now, but not to trim my beard. We are now in the period of ...

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Identity Through Kashrut

Kashrut has contributed very significantly to our survival as a distinct nation. Jews all over the world have common dietary patterns, we have been identified in some countries by our diet, and we tend to live in close proximity to each other. I can be confident that the curried hamin of the Calcutta Jews has no milk and meat mixed together in its ingredients. When I eat kosher French cuisine I ...

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