What Do you Live For?

The Talmud, at the end of the first tractate, Brachos, learns a fascinating lesson from the verse: "This is the Torah [the law]: when a person dies in a tent...” [19:14] This verse speaks about impurity that attaches to everything in the same building as someone who passed away. But Rebbe Shimon Ben Lakish says that the beginning of the verse is hinting that Torah is not truly established in a...

Learning from the Spies

Our Torah reading relates the tragic story of the Spies, sent to travel through the Land of Canaan in advance of its conquest by the People of Israel. “Send men for yourself, and they will spy out the Land of Canaan, which I give to the Children of Israel, one man for each of the tribes of their fathers shall you send, every leader in them.” [13:2] G-d told Moses, “send men for yourself” — you,...

The Importance of Good Company

This week, we witness Moshe throwing up his hands in despair. Moshe, Moshe Rabbeinu, our master teacher, he who transmitted the entire Torah directly from G-d to the Jewish People, has had it with the Jews. He's done. "And Moshe said to Hashem, 'why have You done such a bad thing to Your servant, and why have I not found favor in Your eyes, that You would place the burden of this entire nation...

Our Moral Compass

Recent stories illustrate the need for a moral compass, guidance to find correct behavior. Current events have given me new insight into how urgently we need the Torah to lead us in every area of our lives. In an opinion piece appearing today, a writer in the Jewish Chronicle confessed that he was ashamed [his word] of what he had written just days earlier. What he wrote previously included...

Where Effort Really Counts

In this week's reading, we learn about the commandment of Shmittah, the Sabbatical of the Land. The Torah says: “Six years shall you sow your field, and six years shall you prune your vineyards, and gather its produce. But in the seventh year, it will be a Holy Sabbath, a Sabbath to God; you shall not sow your field, and you will not prune your vineyards.” [Leviticus 25:3-4] The commentary of...

First, Choose a Direction

This week's reading begins with Rivka's pregnancy, which came about only after many years and many prayers. And then we read a verse which, according to Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki himself, begs further explanation: "And the children struggled within her, and she said 'if...

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Losing Perspective

What on earth — or perhaps, off earth — did Nimrod and his followers think they could accomplish? How could building a tower enable them to “make war against G-d?” [Rashi to 11:1]

Not only is the idea nonsensical, but they contradicted themselves: “They said: ‘Come, let us build a city and tower, its head in the Heavens, and make a name for ourselves, that we not be scattered across the earth.'” [11:4]

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Daunting or Doable?

It is not in Heaven, such that one could say ‘who will go up to Heaven and take it for us’… For this matter is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it” [30:12, 14]. At first glance Torah observance can seem daunting, filled with myriad rules and regulations governing every aspect of life.

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We Don’t Know the Story

In this week's reading, we are told "you shall be 'simple' with Hashem your G-d" [Deut. 18:13]. As you might suspect, "simple" is a very incomplete translation of "Tamim," which also means pure and unsullied. Our forefather Yaakov is called "a simple man, dwelling in...

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An Active Response to Tragedy

The Ninth of Av, which this year begins on Monday evening, is a national day of mourning for the Jewish people. 3329 years ago, we mourned needlessly on this day, responding to the report of the spies that we would be unable to overcome the Canaanites and move into...

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Transfer of Leadership

What grew Jewish communities in America was not the Rabbi of the synagogue, but those who built day schools to educate the next Jewish generation, as Moshe taught Yehoshua. Giving our children a strong Jewish education remains the singular way that we preserve a Jewish future.

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