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Q & A: The Sandak (Part IX)

22 Tevet 5773 – January 3, 2013
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)

We Weep For The Beautiful Children Of Newtown (Part Two)

As I wrote last week, who among us can find the words to console the tragically stricken parents of Newtown, Connecticut whose lives have been forever shattered? There are no words of consolation that can bring relief to their bleeding hearts. There are no magic words that can give these stricken parents even a moment of relief, and if anyone knows this it is we, the Jewish people; our blood-drenched history testifies to it.

Believing In The People

The sedra of Shemot, in a series of finely etched vignettes, paints a portrait of the life of Moses, culminating in the moment at which G-d appears to him in the bush that burns without being consumed. It is a key text of the Torah view of leadership, and every detail is significant. I want here to focus on just one passage in the long dialogue in which G-d summons Moses to undertake the mission of leading the Israelites to freedom – a challenge which, no less than four times, Moses declines. I am unworthy, he says. I am not a man of words. Send someone else. It is the second refusal, however, which attracted special attention from the sages and led them to formulate one of their most radical interpretations.

The Struggle

Once a week or so some of my friends and I get together for activities and a little socializing. Over time I have gone through some personal changes and growth, and I sometimes feel out of place with these girls, some of whom I have known for years. I experienced a real struggle during a recent get-together that will surely have a long-lasting impact on me.

‘The Maid’s Sons’

15 Tevet 5773 – December 27, 2012
During my formative years, one of my rabbeim once told our class that he wished to tell us something very profound, something we may have a hard time believing: “I want you all to know that every student in this room has the capability to become one of the gedolei hador.” I recall that at first that comment encouraged and inspired me. But within a short time, I began to feel very dejected. In fact, I have thought of that comment many times since then and it took me a long time to understand what bothered me about it.

Parshas VaYechi: The Yaakov and Dovid Connection

Parshas VaYechi describes the last days of Yaakov Avinu’s life and it is therefore appropriate that the haftorah is a description of the last days of Dovid HaMelech’s life (the beginning of Sefer Melochim). But is that the only association? The last days of someone’s life? If so, there are other examples of the last days of someone’s life in Navi that could have been chosen. There must be deeper connections between the lives of Yaakov and Dovid.

Snow Job

Mr. Farber looked out his kitchen window and admired the snow all around. It had piled up during the night, covering everything with a beautiful blanket of white. While he was eating breakfast, Yaakov and Elisha knocked on his door. "Do you want your snow shoveled?" asked Yaakov.

Daf Yomi

Size Is Indicative Of Importance ‘He Took Out Wood to Cook an Egg…’ (Shabbos 89b)

Q & A: The Sandak (Part VIII)

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)

Gedolim Had It Easy

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.

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