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The Blessing Of The Black Mark

Avi and Rachel had always assumed, as most people do, that within a year or two of their marriage they would be blessed with a child. But, as we know, that isn’t always the reality.

The Torah as G-d’s Song

The Torah scroll is the nearest Judaism comes to endowing a physical entity with sanctity.

The Breakfast Of Champions (Part IV)

Monona Grove was headed to “State” and the Silver Eagle fans went insane. The coming games would not be played in monotonous high school gyms erected in the 1950s. They were off to the University of Wisconsin's colossal Kohl Center where they would play before a crowd of 12,000. The games would be broadcast to a statewide television audience of millions, as a battery of newspapers and stations would be begging for interviews. The Kohl Center was just a short drive from Monona, technically in the same city.

The Eternal Flame

It was a few minutes after sunrise. A new day had begun, and everyone was preparing for work, school and shopping for Shabbat. But the sun was setting slowly in our basement, as it was setting calmly for my mother-in-law. It was time for her to take leave of family, children and everything in this world.

A Sense of History

The ancients saw the gods in nature, never more so than in thinking about the harvest and all that accompanied it.

From Darkness To Light

Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. The mere mention of these three potent words invariably strikes fear into the hearts and souls of God-fearing Jews everywhere. Each weekday morning, the piercing cry of the shofar penetrates our collective consciousness and urges us to mend our ways, repent our transgressions and return wholeheartedly to our Father in Heaven.

The Parameters Of Justice

Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers -- how is that compatible with the idea that children may suffer for the sins of their parents?

Twenty Dollars – And Help From Above

I returned to work after the pre-summer Memorial Day weekend and found on my desk a brochure sent from the American Friends of Kupat Ha’ir. It described a tragedy that had recently taken place in Eretz Yisrael. A tzedakah campaign had been created after the father of 13 children was suddenly killed in a car accident, leaving behind a wife and the 13 children – including a six-day-old baby.

Testing And Prophecy

On the face of it, the test is simple: if what the prophet predicts comes to pass, he is a true prophet; if not, not. Clearly, though, it was not that simple.

Spiritual DNA And The Observance Of Shabbos

I recently heard a Pirkei Avos shiur in which the speaker said that our spiritual DNA derives from our patriarchs and matriarchs. The great tests they withstood and for which they gained ever greater prominence was witnessed by the Jews who followed them, many of whom succeeded in overcoming great challenges as well. It seems that an individual’s great effort helps the spiritual strength kick in.

How to Give

These stories all have to do with the mitzvah of tzedakah whose source is in this week’s parshah.

The Breakfast Of Champions (Part III)

With absolutely nothing to lose, including his employment for the coming year, Dan Zweifel devised a strategy for a team that could not seem to catch an offensive rhythm and for players that had protracted shooting slumps and 10-minute-long droughts. His solution, his only recourse, was defense.

Singing in the Rain

In an April Lessons in Emunah column, I wrote an article called “Learning to Dance in the Rain” about two friends who were very ill. One was in a hospice. The doctors had given up hope and the family waited with a heavy heart. But there was still One Doctor left. And He began to heal her. Slowly, the disease began to reverse itself, slowly it began to withdraw.

Greatness Is Humility

One of the more unusual aspects of being a chief rabbi is that one comes to know people one otherwise might not.

Nissei Nissim

It took a few months, but I finally summoned up what little koach I had to go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt”l, for “Sunday Dollars.” I wanted to take my new baby to the Rebbe. Although he was about three months old at the time, I had not been strong enough until now to attempt a trip to 770 Eastern Parkway.

Philosophy or Prophecy

The biblical covenant has the same literary structure as ancient near eastern political treaties.

A Walk In The Park

A few short months ago I lost my one and only uncle. He was very special and a great void was felt. He left a wonderful wife, children, grandchildren and great- grandchildren – and, Baruch Hashem, even some great-great-grandchildren.

Justice And Compassion

Shakespeare is expressing the medieval stereotype of Christian mercy (Portia) as against Jewish justice (Shylock).

My Happiest Tisha B’Av

I knew it wasn’t the right attitude to have but Tisha B’Av 30 years ago was one of the happiest days of my life.

Tisha B’Av Musings

My 40th birthday was looming, and the doctors were taking no chances. Every pre-natal visit was a repeat performance of the earlier ones. I was practically read the riot act, made to feel like the most irresponsible mother in history.

The Breakfast Of Champions (Part II)

Brief synopsis: Monona Grove High School in Wisconsin was a most unlikely candidate to make it to the 1998 high school basketball championships, referred to as “State.” Especially so since the coach is a very young rookie named Dan Zweifel, who replaced the veteran Coach Verhelst. Andy Witte, the team’s star player, will do anything to please Coach V.

And Therein Lies A Story

Like many religious Jews, our bookshelves contain a variety of sefarim. Among the sifrei Mishnah, the Gemara, the Chumashim, among others, there is one sefer that has special meaning to my family and me.

Shabbat In The Pub

The GPS had not been invented when Shelly set off on a Friday afternoon many years ago to join the Bnei Akiva camp in the English countryside. The organizers always managed to find a farmer who welcomed young campers under adult supervision; thus they set up their tents and during the week took the opportunity to learn the halachot of building an eruv. There would be no problems on Shabbat and they would be able to carry within the campsite.

A Word Of Thanks

The highway was packed with bumper-to-bumper traffic, and there I sat with hands gripped tightly on the steering wheel, begging the cars to move. My heart swelled at the thought of seeing my son, who was just coming back from his year of learning in Eretz Yisrael. How I had missed him! Though I was used to him being away (if you can ever really get used to a child being away), a special space in my heart was empty – as I waited for him.

The Breakfast Of Champions (Part I)

Dear Readers: You may remember how we once did an experiment with a story (about a monster fire in Arizona) without Jewish protagonists, but containing a universal lesson that I believed worthy to record for the readers of Chodesh Tov. We are there yet again, this time directly north in Wisconsin. Please bear with me as we once again record a story we investigated in the hope that the lesson is unique and worthy of our attention. It is going to take us five full columns to complete the tale, and I thank you in advance for your patience.

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