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Fear Or Distress?

Jacob and Esau are about to meet again after a separation of 22 years. It is a fraught encounter. Once, Esau had sworn to kill Jacob as revenge for what he saw as the theft of his blessing. Will he do so now, or has time healed the wound? Jacob sends messengers to let his brother know he is coming. They return, saying that Esau is coming to meet Jacob with a force of 400 men. We then read: “Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed” (Genesis 32:8).

After A Few False Starts, A Match Made In Heaven

I almost never met the man I married. No, I am not from a very strict chassidishe home where dating is taboo and a brief meeting suffices before the engagement is announced. My husband and I actually dated for a few months, by which time my parents were beginning to grow concerned and the neighbors were having a heyday gossiping about us. But if not for a significant helping of siyata dishmaya, we never would have managed to get together in the first place.

Our Friend, Adversity

It is painfully difficult to start and end the hectic day seeing my daughter wander, almost lifelessly, from room to room and sibling to sibling with no desire to venture out into the scary world of society. With her bundle of strengths and weaknesses, and despite my countless pep talks, our 27-year-old daughter chooses to spend most of her time in the comfort and safety of our home. That is until recently, when terrible loneliness finally pushed her out the door.

The Rare Torah Oracle

Rebecca, hitherto infertile, became pregnant. Suffering acute pain, she went to inquire of the Lord – “vateilech lidrosh et Hashem” (Bereishit 25:22). The explanation she received was that she was carrying twins who were contending in her womb. They were destined to do so long into the future.

Many Happy Returns

I never thought I would see the day when “Yossie” would smile. He was not an unhappy man, but rather very serious in demeanor. He never said hello, or any words, to his customers other than those absolutely necessary.

The Ever-Amazing Reb Elimelech (Part XIV)

As has been noted in a previous column, Reb Elimelech – like the Baal Shem Tov before him – asserted that pessimism and depression cause sin and spiritual apathy. Repentance (yes, even repentance!) that causes depression and sadness distances the Holy Presence.

We Are All Children Of One Creator

It was the mid ‘60s and I was living with my mother and brother in public housing on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. We moved there from Brooklyn a decade earlier to be near my mother’s family when my father died suddenly of a stroke.

Screening Our Calls

As I sit at my home computer typing these words, virtual gale-force winds are blowing through my apartment, filling it with fresh – and free – air. This has not always been the case. In fact the electric bill for the past two months was astronomical, due in large part to our high usage of air conditioning virtually around the clock.

The Highchair

Yael was tired of sticking the highchair together with glue or Sellotape. It had lasted through five children, a miracle in itself, but now it seemed to have given up all hope – and decided to self-destruct.

Completing His Father’s Journey

The call to Abraham, with which Parshat Lech Lecha begins, seems to come from nowhere: “Leave your land, your birthplace, and your father’s house, and go to a land that I will show you.”

The Objective Basis For Morality

Is there such a thing as an objective basis of morality? For some time, in secular circles, the idea has seemed absurd. Morality is what we choose it to be. We are free to do what we like so long as we don’t harm others. Moral judgments are not truths but choices. There is no way of getting from “is” to “ought,” from description to prescription, from facts to values, from science to ethics. This was the received wisdom in philosophy for a century after Nietzsche had argued for the abandonment of morality – which he saw as the product of Judaism – in favor of the “will to power.”

Making Amends

Where I now work, there is a small kitchen where workers can have lunch. We take our lunch breaks at different times, and I usually take mine at the same time as an unassuming young man named Benny Green, a 25-year-old who works in the company’s stockroom.

Reb Elimelech’s Ascent To Leadership (Part XIII)

In 1648 and 1649 Bogdan Chmelnitzky and his hordes of Cossack warriors perpetrated an annihilation campaign against the Jews of Poland and the Ukraine....

How Shall We Live?

It is the most famous, majestic and influential opening of any book in literature: “In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth.” What is surpassingly strange is the way Rashi – most beloved of all Jewish commentators – begins his commentary:

Our Gains, The Enemies’ Losses

Some 30 years ago a certain well-known rabbi in Manhattan came to Israel and brought much of his congregation with him, to a barren ridge where our forefathers and foremothers traveled to and from Jerusalem and Hebron. The rabbi and his followers left the ravages of assimilation and headed to the unknown. The rabbi swiftly gathered in Jews from all over the world and all over Israel to the cozy town of Efrat.

Tishrei Memories

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur have come and gone. It is time to return my beloved Machzor to the bookshelf. Gifted to me by my beloved parents, of blessed memory, for my bat mitzvah, it is one of my most precious possessions.

The Upsherin

Have you ever been to an upsherin, a hair-cutting ceremony? I had never been to one until I was invited by my gentleman friend, Sy, to attend one in honor of his great-grandson, Gabriel, given by his grandparents, Steve and Robin Kerzer. Even Sy, an Orthodox Jew, had not heard of it. Both of us knew it was the custom not to cut a boy’s hair until he was three years old, but we had no idea what was involved.

All’s Well That Ends Well

On August 29, 2011, I took my three kids to a New York Mets baseball game and was sitting in the front row. During the last inning, my 12-year-old son Eliezer was hit in the face by a line drive (the clip is on YouTube, “Baseball hits boy, Mets-Marlins”). He was rushed to the hospital and received eight stitches; he was discharged the next day.

‘I Inspire Myself’

We first met Shlomie (name and some details have been changed) over 20 years ago. He davens in our shul, and he and my husband share a love of photography. Over time, we got to know each other well.

Yom Kippur Thoughts

Yom Kipper, the Day of Atonement, is the supreme moment of Jewish time, a day of fasting and prayer, introspection and self-judgment. At no other time are we so sharply conscious of standing before God, of being known by Him. But it begins in the strangest of ways.

The Last Command

By now Moses had given 612 commands to the Israelites. But there was one further instruction he still had to give, the last of his life, the final mitzvah in the Torah: “Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be My witness against the people of Israel” (Deuteronomy 31: 19).

My Personal Shofar Blower

Rosh Hashanah memories take us to our shuls, homes and families. They remind us of promises made about how we would change our lives and rearrange our priorities. There may also be memories of the delicacies we ate when we were children – the chicken soup, gefilte fish and great desserts. And one sound, the sound of the shofar blasting away with its shrill notes of tekiah, shevarim... and finally the long, very last sound – the tekiah gedolah.

Reb Elimelech’s Ascent To Leadership (Part XII)

Wandering from town to village, the Holy Brothers neglected their physical needs and were sustained by meager coins or scraps of food that were donated along the way.

The Master Conductor Of All Events

The incident occurred during The Three Weeks when work at my place of employment for the summer months came to a standstill. I was to meet with a couple of high school buddies of mine at the train shelter in Cedarhurst, from where we had planned to walk to the park.

Carrying Both Pain And Faith

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a kind of clarion call, a summons to the Ten Days of Penitence that culminate in the Day of Atonement. The Torah calls it “the day when the horn is sounded,” and its central event is the sounding of the shofar.

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