It’s been a rough few weeks. It began with the news of a heinous crime just blocks from where I live on Manhatan’s Upper West Side: a nanny viciously took the lives of her two young charges. Hurricane Sandy came next, contributing additional loss of life and financial devastation of a magnitude never before experienced by our East Coast brethren.
Usually, when I begin a speech, I start with something interesting, lighthearted or funny - to get your attention and lead into the speech itself. Permit me to deviate from that this week, because there is nothing funny, lighthearted or interesting about what so many of us are experiencing, and if not us, than our friends, loved ones and neighbors, and if not them, than people a few miles away from us in Long Beach or Far Rockaway who have lost everything to 14 foot waves, or a little farther away where helpless Senior Citizens are living without water or power in high rises on the Lower East Side.
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov once revealed what he called a great secret - people eat for free and they work for free. He explained this with the following parable.
We are all familiar with the famous midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 30, 12) that compares the four species we take on the holiday of Sukkos to the four different types of Jews: the esrog, which has both smell and taste, corresponds to those who learn Torah and perform good deeds; the lulav, which has taste but no smell, corresponds to those who learn Torah but do not perform good deeds; the hadasim, which have a pleasant smell but no taste, correspond to those who perform good deeds but do not learn Torah; and finally, the aravos, which have neither smell nor taste, correspond to those who have neither Torah nor good deeds.
I rarely take the extended warranty when purchasing new electronics. I figure that this warranty must not be worth much if they feel the need to pressure me into buying it. They must know what I have learned the hard way: there is no such thing as a real guarantee. In my more naive days, I purchased this "peace of mind," as they call it, but never cashed in. Usually, by the time the item broke, I had forgotten about the extended warranty and purchased a replacement.
A passage at the end of the Zichronot blessing in the Mussaf Amidah of Rosh Hashanah appears to have two slightly different versions. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim, 591:7) rules that this is the correct text: “V’akeidas Yitzchak hayom l’zaro tizkor.” It also rules and those who change the words and specify “l’zera Yaakov tizkor” are mistaken and guilty of changing the text instituted by Chazal. The source for this ruling is a responsum (chapter 38) by the Spanish and then Algerian Rivash (14th century).
It is hard to believe that Elul is upon us and that the Day of Judgment is only one month away. In a short 30 days we must face our Creator and have our deeds evaluated in the hopes of a receiving a merciful blessing for a good and healthy year. We spend the month of Elul focused on repentance, and we learn the holy books of mussar to inspire us to grow and change.
I sleep every Tisha B’Av night on a narrow cushion in front of the Me’aras HaMachpelah in Hebron. I do this because the following chiddush came to me many years ago: When the spies went to Israel, the pasuk says “vayavo ad Chevron” – “and he came until Hebron.” He instead of they. Rashi says only Calev ben Yefuneh went to Hebron, to pray to Avraham Avinu that he not fall for the plan of the spies.
They say that one mother can take care of five children, but five children cannot take care of one mother. One of the most challenging situations, and perhaps the most unnatural, is when children need to take care of aging or infirm parents. Why is this so difficult and why do so many of us fail at caring for our parents when they need us most?
On the 43rd day of the Omer I asked a child how many days there were to go. He immediately answered that 37 days remained. In response to my inquiry about his calculations, he excitedly announced that there were 37 days left to the school year! While all of us--he included--were counting down to the monumental day of receiving the Torah, he was also counting the days until he would be absolved of learning the very same Torah in the formal school environment!
The message of the Biblical account of the Spies has tremendous relevance today, here in the modern State of Israel. With a nuclear threat from Iran, enemy states on its borders, the ever-constant fear of terrorism, and pressure from the International Community, Israel is not without its challenges. But it’s also the ‘Start Up Nation,’ with a healthy, growing economy when most of the world’s economies are failing.
The episode of the spies has rightly puzzled commentators throughout the centuries. How could they have got it so wrong? The land, they said, was as Moses had promised. It was indeed “flowing with milk and honey.” But conquering it was impossible. “The people who live there are powerful, and the cities fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of the giant there … We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are … All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the titans there … We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and so we seemed in theirs” (Numbers 13:28-33).
Have you noticed that we seem to have preferential memory for the unpleasant things that happen to us? Try as we might to provide our children with good experiences and positive memories, it is the memories that evoke fear, pain, sadness, etc. seem to be the ones that stand out.
JewishPress.com presents two weekly Parsha video series in English made in Israel by young rabbis determined to reach out to inspire the world from...
According to the Ramban, the verse "your foes who dwell upon it will be desolate" (Vayikra 26:32) is a partial blessing within the curse that guarantees through all generations that the Land of Israel will not receive any foreign nation in place of her true indigenous people.
In both the company of fellow Jews and in the presence of gentiles, we must be relentlessly careful to conduct ourselves with morality, consideration towards others and honest financial dealings. A Jew must always be conscious that the Hebrew Nation represents HaShem in this world and that Israel is a direct reflection of His Divine Ideal.
It is simply not the same to put on tefillin or keep kashrut or observe Shabbat in the Diaspora as in Israel. The Torah is the constitution of a holy people in the holy land. Only in Israel is the fulfillment of the commands a society-building exercise, shaping the contours of a culture as a whole. Only in Israel does the calendar track the rhythms of the Jewish year.
Is it really possible for any self-respecting New Yorker to love parking tickets? I have seen those orange rectangular pieces of paper become the nemesis of society. As a result, those trying to earn a meager living giving out these tickets have become Public Enemy Number One. We view them as “out to get us,” deliberately attempting to make our lives miserable.
Israel must demonstrate confidence in ourselves and an iron determination to defy our antagonists. Mordechai teaches that it is not through appeasement that one achieves peace but rather through strength, self-assurance and unequivocally firm resistance to tyranny and injustice.
I am the best! You are the best too! There were over 600,000 neshamos at Har Sinai, and each one was different. In order to be inspired to grow we must sense the best in ourselves; in order to be a mentch we must see the best in others.
Rav Dov Lior is not only a Torah scholar; he is quintessential Jewish patriot, whose allegiance is pledged fully to God, Torah, the People and the Land. His courage in speaking the truth is undeniably tangible, without regard for any public controversy or dispute.
All responsible leaders in our community have roundly condemned the recent violence in Beit Shemesh and Meah Shearim.
Generally speaking, any food produced by a non-kosher animal is non-kosher. Thus, the egg of a non-kosher bird is not kosher but the egg of a kosher bird, such as a chicken, is kosher. If one comes across an egg and does not know which bird laid it, how does one tell a non-kosher egg from a kosher egg?
It is the hardest passage of all, one that seems to defy understanding. Abraham and Sarah have waited years for a child. G-d has promised them repeatedly that they would have many descendants, as many as the stars of the sky, the dust of the earth, the grains of sand on the seashore. They wait. No child comes.
Rabbi Dan Roth's very first day teaching in yeshiva did not at all go as planned. After learning in kollel for many years in some of the best yeshivos in Israel, Rabbi Roth got his first job teaching in a program for teens-at-risk. A short time before taking the job, he wrote a sefer on modern-day lessons gleaned from the teachings of Pirkei Avos. In the process of writing the book, he realized that he had a talent for making Torah concepts relevant and down-to-earth.