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Teshuvah Is Easy; Change Is Difficult

9 Tishri 5774 – September 12, 2013
With the entire nation gathered at the foot of Har Sinai, Moshe Rabbeinu went up to receive the Torah. When he came down forty days later, the Jewish people were in a very different state from when he had left them. Through the influence of the mixed multitude, they were engaged in a form of idol worship. While it’s true that the vast majority of the people didn’t actively engage in the act, for such a people so soon after hearing, “I am Hashem Your G-d,” directly from our Creator, this was so egregious that it was considered as if they had each participated. The only hope was for Moshe to beseech Hashem for mercy.

The Mitzvah To Eat On Erev Yom Kippur

There is a mitzvah to eat on Erev Yom Kippur. The pasuk says that we should do ennui to our soul on the ninth day of Tishrei. The Gemara, in Yuma 81b, explains that the pasuk cannot be referring to the ninth day because we know from other pesukim that the ennui is on the tenth of the month. Therefore the Gemara explains that the pasuk is teaching us that whoever eats on the ninth day is considered to have fasted on the ninth and tenth days.

Shabbos Shuvah: The Wonder Of Words

29 Elul 5773 – September 4, 2013
Why do we call this Shabbos, Shabbos Shuvah? Is it because it’s the only Shabbos during the Aseres Yemei Teshuva? That can’t be the reason. After all, we don’t call this Shabbos, Shabbos Teshuvah. It’s specifically called Shabbos Shuvah. So you’ll tell me, shuvah, teshuvah—same thing, right? Both mean repentance. But we will see that the difference between teshuvah and shuvah is all the difference in the world.

A Diamond With A Flaw

Hashem told Moshe to engrave the names of the twelve shevatim onto the stones of the Ephod as a remembrance. Rashi explains that this was so that the memory of Reuven, Shimon, Levi, etc. would be invoked when the kohen gadol did the avodah, and Hashem would then remember their righteousness.

Until When Can We Tip The Scales?

The Mishnah in Rosh Hashanah 16a says that on the first day of the year (Rosh Hashanah), every human being passes in front of Hashem and is judged. The Gemara there (16b) says in the name of Rabbi Kruspadai that there are three sefarim opened on Rosh Hashanah – one for tzaddikim, one for reshaim, and one for beinonim. The tzaddikim are inscribed for life, the reshaim are written for death, and the beinonim must wait until Yom Kippur to see what the judgment on them will be. If they are “zocheh,” they will be inscribed for life; if not, they will be marked for death.

Netzavim-Vayeilech: ‘Perfectly Candid’

25 Elul 5773 – August 30, 2013
"A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.

Nitzavim-Vayeilech

Peter Drucker famously said, “Long range planning does not deal with future decisions, but with the future of present decisions.” Sadly, history is replete with examples of leaders who have not only ignored this principle, but who have lost focus of their immediate goals. By doing so, they not only fail to think about the second and third layers of effects, but they fail to consider the possibility of unintended consequences.

Can Hashem Tell Us What The Halacha Is?

24 Elul 5773 – August 29, 2013
There is a famous pasuk in one of this week’s parshiyos, Parshas Nitzavim, which carries strong halachic ramifications.

The Gym And The Spa

After many grave warnings against leaving the ways of the Torah, Moshe Rabbeinu tells Klal Yisrael that learning and keeping the Torah is within easy grasp of each of us. “Acquiring it doesn’t require wings to fly to the heavens, and studying it doesn’t demand crossing oceans.” Rather, Torah is well within the reach of each person.

The Bikkurim Recitation

17 Elul 5773 – August 22, 2013
At the beginning of this week’s parshah the Torah discusses the halachos of bikkurim. When one sees the first fruit blossoming, he is to tie a red string on that fruit, bring them to the Beis HaMikdash, and give them to a kohen. While there, he must read a passage from the Torah found in the beginning of this week’s parshah.

The Mitzvah To Be Happy

At the end of a long prophecy of what will befall us if we don’t follow the ways of Hashem, the Torah seems to lay the blame on one issue: because you did not serve Hashem…amid gladness and goodness of heart when everything was abundant. It seems the pivotal point of these two extremes is based on simcha, implying that serving Hashem with happiness is critical to our success as a nation.

Shabbos – A Day With Hashem: Living Emunah

11 Elul 5773 – August 16, 2013
We live in a time when something just six months old is considered outdated. Our generation strives for the most comfortable and easy way of life, and thus we are never satisfied with the “old-fashioned” devices. We, as Torah-abiding-Jews, definitely try our hardest not to get caught up in this wild and mad pursuit of worldly pleasures and comforts, but we can certainly learn an important lesson from this craziness.

I’d Be The First To Thank Hashem, If…

10 Elul 5773 – August 15, 2013
The Torah lays out our attitude and approach to the different nations and tells us, “The Mitzrim cannot be totally rejected because you lived in their country.” Rashi is bothered by this mixed expression. If we are supposed to be grateful for the good the Mitzrim did for us, why use the expression “don’t reject them”? This doesn’t sound very appreciative.

Returning A Lost Object

9 Elul 5773 – August 14, 2013
In this week’s parshah the Torah discusses the halachos of hashavas aveidah (returning a lost object). The Gemara in Baba Metzia 27b derives from the pasuk in this week’s parshah, which says that one who finds a lost object should hold it until he is derosh acheichah, that the finder must investigate whether the man who claims that the lost object is his is being truthful. The Torah accepts simanim (signs) that one can provide as proof that the object is indeed his.

Parshas Shoftim: Shabbos Yerushalayim!

3 Elul 5773 – August 8, 2013
Does the title of this article sound familiar? Anyone over the age of 30 probably remembers a certain song by a certain boys choir with the “Shabbos Yerushalayim.” The song was released circa the late 1980’s, and you guessed it, it was sung by R’ Yerachmiel Begun’s Miami Boys Choir.

The Religion Of Evolution

The Jewish nation as a totality was given the mitzvah of appointing judges. These judges were commanded to mediate with righteousness according to the Torah’s laws. One of the rules of a judge is that he may not accept a bribe because a “bribe will blind the eyes of the wise.”

Cutting Down Fruit Trees

2 Elul 5773 – August 7, 2013
The Rambam is of the opinion that a safek is permitted min haTorah. The rabbanan forbade one to take a chance and do something that is a safek issur. Many Rishonim disagree with this ruling and say that a safek is forbidden min haTorah. The Rishonim ask on the Rambam’s opinion from many places in Shas.

Shabbos Mevorchim Elul

27 Av 5773 – August 2, 2013
The summer season we pined for on those dreary, shivery winter days is all but coming to a close. What better way for reality to sink in than the call of the shofar that wrests us from our repose on the first of Elul, reminding us that we have serious work ahead. Luckily we get thirty days to pull ourselves together, so that we have a leg to stand on when we petition Hashem on the Yom HaDin to grant us mechila for our shortcomings of the past year.

Parshat Re’eh

26 Av 5773 – August 1, 2013
Our rabbis teach that the first step of repentance is ackowledging our sins and errors. If we feel that our behavior is on the right track then by definition we will fail to identify our shortcomings. Sadly, then our repentance will never leave the start gate.

Writing Hashem’s Name

In this week’s parshah the Torah writes about the mitzvah to destroy avodah zarah. At the same time, the Torah says not to do avodah zarah to Hashem your God. As the pasuk says: “va’avaditam es shemam min hamakom hahu, lo sa’asun kein la’Hashem Elokeichem.”

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