Torah Thought for the Week

June 5, 2020

“Nothing new under the sun,” wrote King Solomon in Ecclesiastes. And so, we discover in this week’s Torah reading that infidelity and other marital problems aren’t exactly a new societal phenomenon. One of the main features of our Parshah is the story of the sotah, a woman accused of adultery.

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How many Jews are there in the world? 13 million? Perhaps 14 million, if you’re generous. How many Jews were there before World War II? Apparently the number was around the 19 million mark. So if we deduct the six million wiped out in the Holocaust, we are down to 13 million—which is exactly where ...

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Karl Marx may have been the pioneer, but many other Jews were also involved in the struggle for communism, particularly in the early days of the Russian revolution. Personally, I don’t think that we have any apologies to make for this phenomenon. Having suffered unbearably under successive ...

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The first kohanim were Aaron (Moses' older brother) and his four sons. Together with their future descendents, they were chosen by G‑d to conduct the service in the Sanctuary as representatives of the entire people of Israel. Due to his sanctified position as a minister serving in G‑d’s Temple, ...

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The wisest of men said there is a time to weep, which implies that there will be occasions when weeping is inappropriate. Though King Solomon's exact words were there is a time to weep and a time to laugh,1 obviously there are times when other responses are called for. Clearly, life is not simply ...

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“That’s some new kitchen Sandra just had done. State of the art!” “Psst . . . did you see the new car Mark just took delivery of? It’s got every gadget in the book!” Common conversation. Rather routine, everyday talk. They tell of a rep on the road who had broken all records for sales in his ...

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This Shabbat, Tammuz 3, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s passing. Since his passing, interest in his teachings has grown and his influence is felt today more than ever. The Rebbe’s prolific works are studied daily and have been translated into dozens of languages; ...

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"He is a self-made man who worships his creator." Who said it? About whom? It doesn't really matter as long as we make sure the description doesn't fit us. This week's parshah details the offerings of the princes (nessi'im) of the twelve tribes at the time the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary in ...

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I’m a little confused. We are about to celebrate Shavuotand I’m told it is the "Season of the Giving of the Torah." But isn’t there another holiday when we celebrate with the Torah? Simchat Torah, right? So why are we celebrating twice? Why two festivals to remember the same thing? The answer is ...

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One section stands out from the rest in this week’s Parshah. It is known as the Tochachah, “The Rebuke.” There we read a whole litany of disasters that will befall our people should we turn our backs on G‑d and abandon His way of life. The tradition is that the baal korei (Torah reader) himself, ...

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Holy Matrimony? The first kohanim were Aaron (Moses' older brother) and his four sons. Together with their future descendents, they were chosen by G‑d to conduct the service in the Sanctuary as representatives of the entire people of Israel. Due to his sanctified position as a minister serving ...

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Once upon a time, a pious Jew was traveling through the countryside in Eastern Europe. He came to a shtetl where the local schochet (ritual slaughterer) had just taken ill. The town butcher had no one to do the slaughtering and was desperate when he bumped into the visitor. The traveler looked ...

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Is it a sin to argue with G‑d? Is it sacrilegious to question the Divine? Well, Abraham did it. Not for himself, but on behalf of the people of Sodom, whom G‑d had decided to destroy because of their wickedness. Abraham was the paragon of chesed, the personification of kindness and compassion. He ...

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What is the difference between spirituality and spiritualism? Spirituality is an awareness of the spirit, of the soul; it is a sensitivity to things beyond the immediate and the material. That’s why some describe the study of spirituality as metaphysics — the study of that which lies beyond the ...

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Who is more important, the Jew or the Jewish people? Is it Reb Yisroel or am Yisroel? In last week's parshah we read the first chapter of the Shema. This week, we read the second. Yet there are so many similarities between the two. In fact, certain sentences are virtually identical. Why would ...

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When the Ten Commandments are repeated in the Torah as part of Moses' review of the Israelites' 40 years in the wilderness, Moses describes how G‑dspoke those words in "a mighty voice that did not end" (Deuteronomy 5:19). One of the explanations offered by Rashi is that Moses is contrasting G‑d's ...

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This week's Parshah (Torah reading) is the Parshah of Pinchas the Zealot: the courageous young priest who stood up against idolatry and immorality and, in the end, saved Israel from a devastating plague. While Pinchas' radical response made him a hero worthy of having a Torah section named after ...

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In honor of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's (of righteous memory) 24th  Yahrtzeit (anniversary of his passing) this coming Saturday the 16th. Excerpts from an address given by Nobel-laureate Elie Wiesel on April 7, 1992, at a congressional dinner held in Washington on the occasion of the Rebbe's 90th ...

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Are you a spectator or a participant? Do you only watch the soccer World Cup, or do you sometimes kick a ball yourself? A few years ago, it was decided to widen the seats at Wimbledon. Apparently, the problem was rather simple—obesity. It appears that the fans who admire the tennis stars in ...

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Karl Marx may have been the pioneer, but many other Jews were also involved in the struggle for communism, particularly in the early days of the Russian revolution. Personally, I don’t think that we have any apologies to make for this phenomenon. Having suffered unbearably under successive ...

Read more »

The first kohanim were Aaron (Moses' older brother) and his four sons. Together with their future descendents, they were chosen by G‑d to conduct the service in the Sanctuary as representatives of the entire people of Israel. Due to his sanctified position as a minister serving in G‑d’s Temple, ...

Read more »

Who is holy? Is it the mystic in the mountains, the monk in the monastery, or the guru in the garage? Perhaps it is the lady with the crystal ball or the meditating yogi? People today have fallen in love with Spirituality, Mysticism and Kabbalah. Great. I’ve even given a whole series of Kabbalah ...

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Why We Keep Kosher This week's parshah, Shemini, introduces the Torah's dietary laws. Animals must chew their cud and have split hooves to be kosher, fish need fins and scales, and a list of forbidden fowl is enumerated. To those of us in Jewish education, it is a continuing source of ...

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Is it possible to be spiritual and selfish at the same time? Let us have a look at the words of the Torah that shed important light on this question. Vayasa Moshe et ha-am — “Moses made the people journey from the sea.”1 The great miracle had happened. The sea had split and the Egyptian army was ...

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Some people are bulldozers. They move mountains, conquer countries, achieve the seemingly impossible. But then when there are no more mountains to climb, they falter. Routines, maintenance and sustainability are not their strong points. They respond to excitement and challenge, not to the ...

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Some years ago, the United Nations held the International Summit on Sustainable Development, here in Johannesburg. The Summit was a great success. One wonders, though, whether all the wonderful decisions and resolutions that were adopted were ever implemented. In other words, were they themselves ...

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How did the Jews, who had just weeks earlier personally experienced the Revelation at Sinai and the Ten Commandments, justify their demand for an idolatrous golden calf? Well, on the face of it, it did seem as if it might have been a genuine expression of a need for leadership. What was their ...

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A seemingly dubious distinction belongs to this week’s Parshah, Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20–30:10). It is the only reading in the Torah — from the first Parshah of the book of Exodus (in which he is born) until the end of the book of Numbers — where the name of Moses is not mentioned. Tetzaveh’s opening ...

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    And in the beginning, G‑d was homeless, and so G‑d asked His people to set Him up with some digs. Where does it say that? Well, nowhere, actually. But it does say that G‑d instructed Moses to tell the people, “They shall make for Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” Now ...

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Cyberspace, outer space, inner space. Genome maps, globalization, going to Mars. Smart cards, smart bombs, stem cells and cell phones. There is no denying it: we live in a new age. Science fiction has become scientific fact. And the question is asked: In this new world order, with science and ...

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