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Torah Thought for the Week

May 6, 2022

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 ...

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That the Torah speaks in refined language is a principle of Biblical studies. The classic example is back in the Book of Genesis. There, when G‑d tells Noah to take all the animals into the Ark, He speaks of the "clean" animals (hatehorah) and the "animals which are not clean" (asher einenah ...

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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 the question is, ...

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Once upon a time, Yiddish speaking Jews coined the phrase luftmentsh to describe that incurable dreamer type who is always building castles in the sky. Luft means air and someone who lives in the air with pie-in-the-sky fantasies qualifies for this title of dubious distinction. "If only this deal ...

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Why are so many marriages failures? And why do so many fail so soon after the wedding? This week we read about the first shidduch in history. Abraham sends his trusted servant, Eliezer, to find a wife for his son Isaac. He returns with Rebecca and they live happily ever after. The verse tells us ...

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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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In the beginning G‑d created heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1) For a change, let's talk a little philosophy. "We are often burdened by the past" From the first verse of the Torah it seems that once upon a time there was nothing. Then the Creator brought the universe into existence. According ...

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I call today upon heaven and earth as witnesses for you. I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. And you shall choose life, so that you and your children may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19) Do we really need the Torah to tell us to choose life? Which person of sound mind would choose ...

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Tzorres. Reproach. Dire predictions and horrifying forecasts of the curses and calamities we will encounter in our lives if and when we should stray from the good and G‑dly path. The portion we read this Shabbat is known as the tochachah, or rebuke. It is always read in close proximity to Rosh ...

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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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Will the real prophet please stand up? There are false prophets out there; there always have been. Way back in the times of the Bible, the Torah was already warning us (in Deuteronomy ch. 13) that we would encounter individuals who look like prophets. They might even seem to make miracles like ...

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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‑d spoke 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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What is the biggest miracle of our generation? The fall of Communism? The peaceful political transition in South Africa? That Fidel Castro still runs Cuba? Surely for us, indisputably, the greatest miracle of all must be that after the Holocaust the Jewish people picked themselves up and rebuilt ...

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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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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 this week's parshah, we read the strange but famous Biblical narrative of the heathen prophet Balaam and his talking donkey. At one point an angel blocks the donkey's path and the animal stops in its tracks. Balaam is frustrated and strikes the donkey. "And G‑d opened the mouth of the donkey and ...

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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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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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