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Gedolim Had It Easy

15 Tevet 5773 – December 27, 2012
This week’s parshah opens up with the statement “Vayechi Yaakov b’eretz Mitzrayim shevah esreh shanah – “And Yaakov lived in Egypt for seventeen years.” The Bal HaTurim explains that the gematria of vayichi (lived) is seventeen. The Torah is telling us that the life of Yaakov was seventeen years. Up until that point, he had suffered so much that his years couldn’t rightfully be called a life. The sum total of the years that he spent without torment was the seventeen years that he lived in Mitzraim. That was his life.

Who Were Yosef’s Eidei Kiddushin?

14 Tevet 5773 – December 26, 2012
In this week’s parshah Yosef brings his two sons to his father Yaakov to receive blessings before his death. Rashi tells us that when Yaakov was about to bless Yosef’s sons the shechinah left him as a result of some of Yosef’s sons’ evil descendants.

A Tefillin Mirror

Question: Must a bar mitzvah boy buy a mirror to ensure that his tefillin are perfectly center on his head?

Miracles Of Faith

Having faith is often difficult, especially when having to deal with more than one life challenge.

We Weep For The Beautiful Children Of Newtown

I am interrupting my series of columns on the power of prayer to focus, this week and next, on the atrocity that occurred two weeks ago in Newtown, Connecticut, and its repercussions.

Putting Judaism Before Assimilation

The drama of younger and older brothers, which haunts the book of Bereishit from Cain and Abel onwards, reaches a strange climax in the story of Joseph’s children. Jacob is nearing the end of his life. Joseph visits him, bringing with him his two sons, Manasheh and Ephraim. It is the only scene of grandfather and grandchildren in the book. Jacob asks Joseph to bring them near so that he can bless them. What follows next is described in painstaking detail:

Yosef HaTzaddik’s Image: For Him And For Us

8 Tevet 5773 – December 20, 2012
Yosef Hatzaddik is not only the central character at the end of Chumash Bereishis. I believe that Yosef is also the character who best serves as a role model for many in today’s world.

Sharing The Pain

7 Tevet 5773 – December 19, 2012
People all over the world are conveying their prayers and expressing their appreciation for my decision to share my personal trials in a public forum.

What’s Your Currency?

For 22 years Yaakov Avinu was in a state of mourning. His beloved son, the one who most closely followed in his ways, the one he envisioned as the leader of the next generation, had been taken from him while still a youth. For all those years Yaakov was inconsolable. Now the brothers came back with the news, “Yosef is still alive!” At first Yaakov could not believe it. The brothers convinced him it was true by showing him the wagons Yosef had sent.

Cleaners Confusion

Yaakov had spent Shabbos at his yeshiva for a few weeks running. "Don't forget to bring your suit in to the cleaners," said his mother, before he returned home. "It's been a while since it was cleaned."

The Rabbi’s Seat

Many years ago, I was offered two rabbinical positions. One was to serve as assistant rabbi at a prominent congregation in Manhattan. The other was to start a new Orthodox congregation in West Orange, New Jersey.

Daf Yomi

Sow The Seeds Of Repentance ‘This Potted Plant’ (Shabbos 81b)

Q & A: The Sandak (Part VII)

Question: I was at a brit where the father and grandfather of the boy argued over who should be sandak. The grandfather had served as sandak once before, but he persisted and, as they say, “might makes right.” I am curious as to your view on this matter. M. Renkin (Via E-Mail)

The Concept Of Arvus

In the beginning of this week’s parshah Yehudah tells Yosef that he must allow Binyamin to return to his father because Yehudah had guaranteed Binyamin’s return. As the pasuk says: “ki avdecha arav es hanar… – for your servant has guaranteed the boy…” (Bereishis 44:32; see also 43:9).

A Broken Oven And The Meaning Of Friendship

It was the last week of the summer season that I would spend in my upstate home. I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend, although a busy week of cleaning and closing up the house for the year was in store.

Dreidel For Dollars

2 Tevet 5773 – December 14, 2012
"A bunch of us are getting together on Motzaei Shabbos for a Chanukah party," Shraga told his friend Pinchas. "Would you like to come?"

A Generous Spirit

Pharaoh had a dream. First, seven “good” cows came out of the Nile. Then seven “bad” cows came up and consumed the first cows. When he awoke in the morning, he called for Yosef to interpret the dream. Yosef explained the seven “good cows” represented seven years of plenty that would be followed by seven years of famine.

Chanukah And The Secret Of Jewish Existence

29 Kislev 5773 – December 13, 2012
A congregant once told me that he was spending a large amount of time trying to explain Judaism to a coworker. His colleague thought that all Jewish holidays had the same theme, and he proudly summarized this theme at his family's two-minute Seder: "They tried to kill us, Hashem saved us, we won, now let's eat!!" He proudly bragged that this sentence was the family's personal, abbreviated Haggadah.

Daf Yomi

A Matter Of Intention? ‘The Primary Labors Are Forty Less One…’ (Shabbos 73a)

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