Torah Thought for the Week

May 13, 2021

Once there was a small town consisting of only a few Jewish families. Between them, they had exactly ten men over the age of bar mitzvah. They were all dedicated people, and they made sure that they never missed a minyan. One day, a new Jewish family moved in to town. Great joy and excitement; now ...

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Are converts looked down upon in Judaism? Is conversion to our faith frowned upon? To be sure, I have been privy to plenty of disparaging remarks over the years—ironically, often made by people who themselves are far from religiously observant. “A leopard doesn’t change its spots” is one of the ...

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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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And on the eighth day the foreskin of his flesh shall be circumcised (Leviticus 12:3) This verse comes from the opening lines of this week's Parshah and, as they say, the rest is history. A Bris is a covenant and through the millennia, Jews have kept this mitzvah like no other and have ...

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How do you develop confidence when you don't have it? How does one overcome fear, nerves and anxieties? Well, without going into major psychological dissertations (which I'm not qualified to do in the first place), let's see if we can find some insight in this week's Parshah. Everything was set ...

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"In every generation," say our sages, "a person is obligated to see himself as if he himself has come out of Egypt." Mitzrayim, the Hebrew word for "Egypt," means "boundaries" and "constrictions"; yetziat mitzrayim, "going out of Egypt," is the endeavor to rise above all that inhibits the soul ...

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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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Not only animal-rights groups have difficulty with this week’s Parshah; many if not most people in our modern era have a problem with the whole concept of animal sacrifice, which is a major theme of the third book of the Torah, Leviticus. But I have no wish to enter into a rationalization of ...

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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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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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The locomotive was making its first appearance in a little town of old. No one had ever seen a horseless carriage before. Every one of the townspeople gathered at the new station to witness history in the making. The gun was fired and with a flourish of huffing and puffing the locomotive roared out ...

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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.” The great miracle had happened. The sea had split and the Egyptian army was no ...

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So what's with the blood on the doors? The Torah tells us of the final steps leading up to the liberation of Israel from slavery in ancient Egypt. On that fateful night, G‑d dealt the final blow to the Egyptians by smiting the firstborn of each of their households while sparing the firstborn of ...

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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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The weekly Parshah is enlivened these days with the arrival of Abraham on the biblical scene. Our founding father brings new life to the world, as he spreads the message of monotheism in a hitherto pagan society. He also shows his prowess as a fearless fighter for justice, putting his own life on ...

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Do sermons really work? Can the words of any one individual really have an effect on the way people live their lives? Is anyone out there actually listening? (Reading?) Rabbis are probably unrealistic when they anticipate dramatic results from their sermons. The late Rabbi Sydney Katz of ...

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Why is the world so mesmerized by weddings? What exactly is it that so avidly captures the imagination? We wait with eager anticipation, we dress up, we get emotional at the ceremony, and even for the guests it can often be a romantic experience. One woman I know attends every wedding I conduct in ...

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I have always been intrigued by the traditional way in which diamond merchants seal a deal. They shake hands and say “Mazel and Brocha” (“good fortune and blessing”). Once those few words have been said, the deal is done and it has all the power of a legal, contractual transaction. It is a ...

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Why do certain people find satisfaction in Judaism while others are bored stiff? Why is faith exciting for some and irrelevant for others, a joy for one guy and an absolute burden for the next? One fellow cannot imagine going to work without first putting on his tefillin and the other hasn't seen ...

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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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Some conclusions are more obvious than others. Sometimes the most obvious conclusion isn’t necessarily correct. Drawing our own conclusions can often be a risky business. Take the case in this week’s Parshah. The spies sent by Moses return from their reconnaissance mission of the Promised Land ...

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Okay, I admit it. I'm not sure how I would have behaved if I were in the position of the Jews back in the wilderness. We always criticize their lack of faith in G‑d and the rough time they gave Moses. Even as G‑d was providing them with the most incredible miracles — bread from heaven and water ...

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“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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