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21 Elul 5779 -
? Saturday, September 21, 2019


Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Ki Tetzeh: Levinas, Ammon and Moav – On the Neutral Neighbor

Many commentators wonder why not proffering bread and water is considered such a great crime. Because turning away goes from being a sign of neutrality to being an act of hostility.

Redeeming Relevance: Ending Poverty, the Torah Way: Parshat Reeh:

How does contemporary Judaism deal with the great challenge of Torah laws no longer practiced?

Guns Kill People AND People Kill People; American and Gilead

One of the more fruitless political debates in the United States is whether strict restriction of gun permits would add to public safety. One of the reasons it is fruitless is that both sides muster flawed analogies to other societies.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Pinchas: Are We All Sinners?

In Judaism, since sin is not a foregone conclusion, we hold ourselves fully accountable for it. Likewise do we hold others accountable – if not to us, then certainly to God. And so the daughters of Tzelophad put this out about their father – and about everyone else.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Chukkat: Are We in Israel to Eat Fruits?

In contrast to the previous generation – and as we will soon see more clearly – this generation was really saying, “Let’s get to our land already.”

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Korach: The Dangers of Delusion

We assume we know as well as our leaders less because they have failed to prove themselves or have shown deficiencies than because of our attachment to seeing ourselves a certain way. And, as was true of Korach and his group, we do so to our detriment.

Redeeming Relevance: The Mistake of Moshe’s Life

There are two more positive lessons that can be learned. The first is to always second-guess ourselves. The second lesson is that no matter how devastating events may be, we must muster the courage and strength to keep going.

Redeeming Relevance: How Not to Ruin a Perfectly Good Blessing

The priestly blessing in this week’s parsha begins with the famous request that God bless and keep/guard (shomer) the Jews. While the meaning of blessing is reasonably straightforward, the meaning of keeping or guarding is less clear.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Emor: The Challenge of the Rearguard Mother

Long before the Danites’ penchant for connection with gentiles would reach its climax in the days of Shimshon, the Torah warns them of its great dangers

Redeeming Relevance: The Mother’s Sin Offering and God’s Need for Darkness

The ethics of each new birth represents a microcosm of that debate. We have good reason to hope that the education and upbringing we provide our children will ensure that they bring more good to the world than evil. But there is not a single one of us who can bring up even the best of our children to never do evil. And given that this is the case, giving birth is also an act of responsibility for the evil that one thereby adds to the world.

Redeeming Relevance: Shmini: Fathers and Sons; Uncles, Cousins, Brothers…

Events that took place after the sin of Nadav and Avihu elucidate the real issue behind whatever sin or sins they actually committed: They challenged the traditional hierarchy of children following their parents and juniors following their seniors. It is presumably this issue more than any individual sin that the Torah wants to bring to our attention.

Redeeming Relevance: A Bad Sin and a Good Drash

For an interpretation to qualify as a good drash, it must present an insightful idea that is somehow enhanced by the original text.

Redeeming Relevance: Vayikra Avoidance Syndrome and the Torah on One Foot

Because sefer Vayikra is more difficult, we tend to look at it less. But because we look at it less, we also understand it less, which – in turn – keeps it difficult and less appealing. In a nutshell, that is what I call Vayikra Avoidance Syndrome.

Redeeming Relevance: Pekudei: Blessed Work

So what is melakhah, and how is it different than avodah? And why is that only Moshe sees it that way. Finally, why is blessing something that seems to flow directly out of it?

Redeeming Relevance: The Need for Godly Space… Away from God

Paradoxically, putting on the veil would help Moshe connect with spirituality but when he was actually speaking with God, Moshe would nevertheless remove it.

Redeeming Relevance: The Mishkan’s Opportunity Cost

For most of us, sacred spaces help us to focus, whereas we would otherwise not focus at all. Hence they are worth the opportunity cost they create. But we are well advised to keep that cost in mind. The fact that we are able to focus on God in the synagogue does not mean we should forget God outside!

Redeeming Relevance : Parshat Yitro: A Unique Diverse Event

Without the excuse of not being completely sure about the truth of God and His commandments, there is still a doubt whether people will do what they know to be right and to their advantage.

Redeeming Relevance: What’s with the Blood on the Doorposts?

It seems very likely that when the Jews put the blood on the doorposts, it was meant as a strong statement of protest against Egypt and about the holiness of life. In other words, whereas the Egyptians made even human life a commodity, the Jews were bidden to sanctify the essence of life even in animals.

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Shemot: To Help is Noble, to Give a Sign is Divine

We are sorely lacking signs from God today. They are lacking, since our courage and resourcefulness often end when we have no indication of what God wants from us. This is the tragic situation of God’s hiding Himself

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Vayigash: How Many Daughters did Ya’akov Have?

Earlier commentators may well have still shuddered in awe when they thought of Ya’akov’s daughters – how could it be that they would exist and that we would not know about them?

Redeeming Relevance: It’s Not Always the Thought that Counts

Given Reuven's less-than-altruistic motivations, the Torah could have given us a much more negative spin on what occurred. But it doesn’t. That is because the bottom line is that Reuven did the right thing. And that is what the Torah cares about the most.

Redeeming Relevance: When a Brother is Not

Understanding relationships leading to understanding the parsha

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Chayei Sarah: Avraham’s Canaanite Wife

Avraham showed himself to be a mentor for all peoples that God created. If he had previously kept his distance, he would now go to the other extreme of marrying a Canaanite woman, and fathering and raising her children.

Why God “Protects” the Tree of Life

Why is the status or identity of this seemingly central tree not mentioned before Adam sinned. Was it permitted at that time or forbidden?

Redeeming Relevance: Rosh Hashanah: What was Avraham Supposed to do for an Encore?

No matter how hard we work on ourselves, we can never be totally prepared for the challenges ahead. And that is actually a good thing. Not only would life be less interesting, but a great deal of its meaning would otherwise be taken away. As Rebbe Nachman said, “If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?”

Redeeming Relevance: Ki Tetzeh: Remember Not to Keep People Waiting

Since not saying lashon hara is easier said than done, here is something to help you: Just remember what happened to Miriam!”

Redeeming Relevance: Parshat Re’eh: Spilling Blood and Spilling Water

In view of the seeming sanctity that the Torah imparts to blood, why would it tell us to spill animal blood indiscriminately?

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