My son lost his backpack when traveling back to his base. He had put it in the hold of the bus in which he was traveling. He would need to replace his wallet, tefillin, clothes, books, phone charger and all of his documentation. Of course the tefillin was the most important item of all. It was a bar mitzvah gift from his grandparents and specially written for him, and we all know how expensive tefillin are. But obviously the sentimental value was irreplaceable.
It was the Septuagint, the early Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, that translated tzara’at, the condition whose identification and cleansing occupies much of Parshiyot Tazria and Metzora as lepra, giving rise to a long tradition identifying it with leprosy.
It was early evening in Jerusalem. I was exhausted, and thankful that the light rail train had arrived. Along with all the other passengers, I jockeyed for a place to stand where I could place some of my bundles on the floor. At the next stop a seat became available, and I was grateful to be able to claim it.
Why was spontaneity wrong for Nadav and Avihu, yet right for Moshe Rabbeinu? The answer is that Nadav and Avihu were kohanim, priests. Moses was a navi, a prophet. These are two different forms of religious leadership. They involve different tasks and different sensibilities, indeed different approaches to time itself.
In 1648 and 1649 Bogdan Chmelnitzky and his hordes of Cossack warriors perpetrated an annihilation campaign against the Jews of Poland and the Ukraine. Almost 100,000 Jews and 300 communities perished at the hands of these murderous mobs. All of the Jews, including infants, were targeted for murder; the general populaces nearly always joined in the attacks, and the torture and degradation of Jews was an integral aspect of the murderer’s procedures.
A little more than six months ago, my sister-in-law passed away after battling a serious illness. For more than 30 years she had given symposiums on the Holocaust to youngsters in the Philadelphia area, and we talked about her activities many times on our visits to the U.S. After her passing I was determined to do some kind of volunteer work for Yad Vashem in her memory.
It was an ordinary day and Dovid (name changed) was preparing to catch the late afternoon EL AL flight to Eretz Yisrael. He had yahrzeit for his father and planned his trip so he’d arrive there just in time to join his brother at the kever. He parked his car in the area that facilitated a faster trip to JFK for his flight. Little did he know that he was being observed by a team of thieves who were “working” the Diamond District that day in order to rob the merchants of their goods.
It was Moishele, and Itche, and me. We did everything together. We even made our own language, which only we understood. In shul they jokingly called us “the troika,” after the three bishops whose authority extended across Poland.
It is said that giving charity can save one from death. We also believe that there is no such thing as a “coincidence.”
In her book The Watchman’s Rattle, subtitled Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction, Rebecca Costa delivers a fascinating account of how civilizations die. Their problems become too complex. Societies reach what she calls a cognitive threshold. They simply can’t chart a path from the present to the future.
The Schwartzes had three vehicles but only two drivers. At any given time the third vehicle, the 2005 red Ford van, could be seen on different driveways throughout the neighborhood – and sometimes even in Miami Beach and Hollywood, Florida. The Schwartzes kept a third vehicle, knowing that not everyone had a car.
The popularity of the rise of chassidus did not go unnoticed by those who did not share the same allegiance. As long as the movement was limited to the commoner and isolated in a few pockets of Poland no one perceived it as a threat. But all of this had changed by 1772.
We think of a sin as something we did intentionally, yielding to temptation perhaps, or in a moment of rebellion. That is what Jewish law calls b’zadon in biblical Hebrew or b’mezid in rabbinic Hebrew. That is the kind of act we would have thought calls for a sin offering. But actually such an act cannot be atoned for by an offering at all. So how do we make sense of the sin offering?
It’s my first moment of wakefulness, and I’m chilled to the bone. Pull the covers over myself, I’m thinking, while I decide to roll over to look at the clock. It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’m exhausted. But attending morning minyan – even once – is the least I can do.
The name Bezalel was adopted by the artist Boris Schatz for the School of Arts and Crafts he founded in Israel in 1906, and Rav Kook wrote a touching letter in support of its creation. He saw the renaissance of art in the Holy Land as a symbol of the regeneration of the Jewish people in its own land, landscape and birthplace. Judaism in the Diaspora, removed from a natural connection with its own historic environment, was inevitably cerebral and spiritual, “alienated.”
I lost control of my car while driving in Brooklyn when a speeding taxi slammed into me. I thought my life was about to end when my car slammed directly into a tree. Baruch Hashem I survived, even though the taxi driver never stopped to help me.
There is a deeper message in Parshat Tetzaveh - the principle of the separation of powers, which opposes the concentration of leadership into one person or institution. All human authority needs checks and balances if it is not to become corrupt. In particular, political and religious leadership (keter malchut and keter kehunah) should never be combined. Moses wore the crowns of political and prophetic leadership, Aaron that of priesthood. The division allowed each to be a check on the other.
Shabbat is a time of menuchah, of rest. It is also a time of simcha, of happiness. We are often too busy during the week to stop and think about how we can do something simple to bring simcha into someone else’s life. When we can combine the menuchah of Shabbat together with its inherent simcha, we can bring ohr laYehudim, light to all of us.
It is not what G-d does for us that transforms us, but rather what we do for G-d. A free society is best symbolized by the Tabernacle. It is the home we build together. It is only by becoming builders that we turn from subjects to citizens. We have to earn our freedom by what we give. It cannot be given to us as an unearned gift.
My children were growing up and leaving the nest. Wanting to fill up my days with a challenging project, I heard through a friend that a local high school needed an English teacher.