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Tu b’Av Love and the Power of “Shema”
 
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Parsha
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Posted on: November 29th, 2012

JudaismParsha

At the beginning of this week’s parshah Yaakov sent a message to Eisav. In the message were the words, “im Lavan garti – I lived with Lavan.” Rashi explains that Yaakov was informing Eisav that he had kept the entire Torah, as the word “garti” is the same numerical value as the amount of mitzvos in the Torah: 613. The following strong question concerning this statement has been discussed by the Rishonim and Acharonim: How could Yaakov say that he kept the entire Torah when he married two sisters, Rachel and Leah, which is biblically prohibited? Additionally, the Gemara in Yuma 28 says that Avraham Avinu kept the Torah; presumably the other avos did as well. How then did Yaakov marry two sisters?

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Posted on: November 28th, 2012

JudaismParsha

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).

The-Shmuz
 

Posted on: November 22nd, 2012

JudaismParsha

When Yaakov met Rachel at the well, he experienced conflicting emotions. He felt tremendous joy at having finally met his bashert, yet he raised his voice and cried. Rashi explains that he cried because he came empty-handed. He said, “My father’s servant came with ten camels laden with gifts and finery, and I come with empty hands.”

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Posted on: November 22nd, 2012

JudaismParsha

The Rambam writes in the 10th perek of Hilchos Ishus (halacha 13-14) that if a man marries a woman, he is obligated to have sheva berachos for seven days. If one marries several women at once, he must have separate sheva berachos for each one for seven days – consecutively. The reason for this is because we cannot mix one simcha with another simcha.

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Posted on: November 15th, 2012

JudaismParsha

The theme of my column is leadership. As a general rule I avoid extrapolating leadership lessons from current events. The following is my reasoning. First, the information available from current events is often incomplete and inaccurate. Even when the information is relatively complete and accurate it is unanalyzed. Therefore the basis for lessons learned may prove to be faulty. Second, current events are often too current. To attempt to draw practical lessons in a dispassionate way would be insensitive.

The-Shmuz
 

Posted on: November 14th, 2012

JudaismParsha

And Lavan and Betuel answered and said, “It is from Hashem that this has come forth. We can speak neither for nor against it.” – Bereishis 24:50 Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, went to find a wife for Yitzchak. He approached the city of Charan, waited at the well, and asked Hashem for a sign. […]

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Posted on: November 14th, 2012

JudaismParsha

We learn in this week’s parshah of Eisav’s sale of his birthright to Yaakov Avinu. There are several questions surrounding the legitimacy of this sale. The Rivash (Teshuvos 328) questions why the sale was valid, since Eisav sold something that did not exist at that time. The halacha is that one may not sell anything that is not in the world at the time of the sale. Since the bechor did not yet exist or take effect at that time, how could the sale have been valid?

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Posted on: November 14th, 2012

JudaismParsha

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.

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Posted on: November 8th, 2012

JudaismParsha

In his book, Thirteen Days (1968), Robert Kennedy publicized the inner workings of the Kennedy White House during the terrible days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He described how the President’s special advisory group, known as ExComm, debated the options available to defuse the crisis in light of the intelligence presented to them.

The-Shmuz
 

Posted on: November 8th, 2012

JudaismParsha

“And Sarah died in Kiryas Arbah, which is Chevron, in the land of Canaan, and Avraham came to mourn for Sarah and to cry for her.” – Bereishis 23:2 Every word in the Torah is exact and every nuance measured. Therefore, Rashi is bothered that the Torah places the burial of Sarah next to the […]

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Posted on: November 8th, 2012

JudaismParsha

In this week’s parshah we learn of the episode whereby Avraham sent his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Yitzchak. Eliezer met Rivka and decided that she was right for Yitzchak. After discussing matters with her parents and her brother, Lavan, Eliezer was ready to return with Rivka to Avraham and Yitzchak. Prior to their departure Rivka’s family blessed her, saying that she should become “thousands of myriad…” and may her offspring inherit the gate of its foes.

The-Shmuz
 

Posted on: November 2nd, 2012

JudaismParsha

Hashem appeared to Avraham and told him that the people of Sodom were wicked and would be destroyed. The only ones who would be saved were Lot and his family, because of the merit of Avraham. Hashem then sent two malachim, Gavriel and Michoel, to accomplish this task.

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Posted on: November 2nd, 2012

JudaismParsha

We learn in this week’s parshah about the wickedness and demise of the residents of Sedom. Further, we learn from medrashim that the residents of Sedom did not show much hospitality. Similarly, the mishnah in Avos 5:10 says that there are four different types of middos that people live by. The first is one who says, “What is mine is mine and what is yours is yours.” The mishnah says that this is an intermediate middah; others say that this is middas Sedom. Rashi, in Kesubos 103a, says that the people in Sedom would not allow anyone to benefit from their possessions even if it would be of no loss to them.

Freiman-102612
 

Posted on: October 26th, 2012

JudaismParsha

Many trees upstate were damaged by the hurricane that swept through the East Coast at the end of last summer, and I was involved in finding the safest equipment to clean up the mess. I love trees and found the chore of cutting them down very difficult, especially knowing that the stately 60 year old trees would be impossible to replace. Even though we planted new trees, I don't know whether I will be there to enjoy these new saplings when they are 60 years old.

Leff-102612
 

Posted on: October 26th, 2012

JudaismParsha

The new Jewish year is still young. The new Parshas HaShavua cycle is but a few weeks old. It is indeed time for new beginnings.

The-Shmuz
 

Posted on: October 24th, 2012

JudaismParsha

And Hashem said to Avram, “Go for yourself from your land, from your birth place, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” – Bereishis 12:1 With these words begins one of the ten great tests of Avraham. The Ramban explains that these were trials by fire, designed to bring Avraham’s greatness to the surface, taking it from the potential to the actual. They helped form him into the singular tzaddik he became.

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Posted on: October 24th, 2012

JudaismParsha

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.”

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Posted on: October 24th, 2012

JudaismParsha

In this week’s parshah Hashem commands Avraham Avinu to perform the mitzvah of bris milah. The pasuk tells us that Avraham was 99 when he performed the bris milah on himself. The Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer (29) and Tosafos, in Rosh Hashanah 11a, say that Avraham’s bris was performed on Yom Kippur. The Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer adds that Shem, Noach’s son, performed the bris on Avraham. There are several explanations as to why Avraham had Shem perform his milah.

The-Shmuz
 

Posted on: October 17th, 2012

JudaismParsha

In this pasuk, Hashem appears to Noach, telling him the world has turned to evil and He will now destroy all of life. Noach, his family, and the animals that remained pure will be the core of a new world. The reason for this destruction is stealing – “since the land is filled with robbery.”

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Posted on: October 17th, 2012

JudaismParsha

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.”

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