<I>Yitro</I>: Going the DistanceTwice, God tells Moshe <I>Rabbeinu</I> to warn the people not to come close to Mt. Sinai. In fact, Rashi comments that Moshe is puzzled by the second warning, and tells God that he's already relayed the order to distance men and animals from the Mountain of God; but God tells Moshe that he must warn the Jews a second time.
<I>Shemot</I>: A Rose By Any Other NameIt seems that appearances and manner of speech are important. They can create reality. Our sages told us (<I>Shemot Rabbah</I>, chapter 13) that "<I>B'nei Yisrael</I> were redeemed from Egypt in the merit of the fact that they did not change their names, their language and their dress."
The Ox Horn Incident"The Greeks ordered that the Jews write on the horns of their oxen: 'We have no part in the God of Israel.'" Why did Antiochus choose oxen? And even granted the agrarian nature of the Jewish nation, what did Antiochus hope to accomplish by such a bizarre decree?
Hanukkah: Threes ReduxThe Torah is begging us to look for the three that runs through the whole Yaakov story, beginning in <I>parshat Vayishlach</i> and culminating in <I>parshat Miketz</I>, with its hints of Hanukkah. That three is found on the Codex of Hanukkah - the dreidel, the <I>sivivon</I>. Can you guess?
<I>Toldot</I>: The Mothers of Our NationRivka <I>Imeinu</I> calls all the shots: in a one-of-a-kind prenatal diagnosis, only she is given the prophecy of the destinies of her twin boys. She recognizes the essences of the developing boys, and it is Rivka who devises and puts into motion the plan that brings the blessings to Yaakov.
<I>Vayera</I> and Mt. Moriah"What is <I>Har HaMoriyah</I> (Mount Moriah)? The mount from which <I>hora'ah</I> (teaching, instruction, Torah) went out to Israel." (<I>Ta'anit</I> 16a) Rashi explains: "This refers to the <I>Lishkat HaGazit</I> (the Temple's office of hewn stone) in which stood prophets."
<I>Breishit</I>: The Fourth HourAs we leave the Tishrei holiday period , we now enter the real, <I>gashmi</I> (as in <I>"mashiv haruach umorid hagashem"</I>) world.
The Dance of SukkotAnd there was dancing at the <I>Simchat Beit HaShoeiva</I>. To explain it, one must return to Yom Kippur in the Temple.
<I>Ki-Tavo</I>: The Jordan River RulesThe lesson of teamwork is of primary importance to our nation, a small, Jewish minority living in an overwhelmingly hostile Muslim Middle East. And the Torah stresses this lesson in this week's <I>parsha</I>.
<I>Re'eh</I>: The <I>Trempist</i>This week's <I>Haftarah</I> portrays Israel, "afflicted, storm-tossed and not comforted," as it leaves the years of curse behind and returns to the Land of Israel. On "not comforted," the <I>Oznayim L'Torah</I> explained that there never was the option of coming to <I>Eretz Yisrael</I> and just sitting here like the Swiss in Switzerland.
<I>Ekev</I>: The AgendaSuch is the power of <I>ekev</i> that David <I>HaMelech</I> said: "Why should I fear in the day of evil, the sin of <I>ekev</I> surround me?" (Psalms 49:6) To ignore <I>ekev</I> is to court disaster, but to uphold it, "Your servant is careful with Your commands, in keeping them is much reward (<I>ekev</i>)." (19:12)
<I>Chukat</I>: Yiphtach and Peace NowThis week's <I>Haftorah</I> is the story of Yiphtach, in which an outcast from Gilead leads the Jews in victory over the Ammonite oppressor. The question is: why this <I>dvar Torah</I> for a <I>parsha</I> that features the <I>Parah Adumah</I>, and the deaths of Miriam, Aharon and Moshe?
Yom Ha'atzmaut: Affairs of the HeartIn our relations with our fellow Jews, of all stripes, religious or non-observant, gentle or rude, pleasant or unpleasant, the Torah imposes the obligation of being motivated by logic of the heart.
<I>Shemini</I>: High Tension Lives<I>Daf Yomi</I> aficionados recently learned a <I>Gemara</I>,on <I>Pesachim</I> 77a, that sheds light on the recently concluded Pesach holiday, and on the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, described in this week's Torah reading.
<I>Vaera: Kal Vachomer</I>This week's <I>parsha</I> features two <I>kal vachomer</I> arguments. A <I>kal vachomer</I> is an extrapolation from a minor premise to a major one. As we will see, both <I>kal vachomer</I> arguments involve the same plague and lead to the same lesson.
The Rule of ThreesIt seems to me that the preponderance of threes in the Joseph story begs interpretation in connection with Chanukah.
<I>Vayetze</I>: Truth or ConsequencesIt seems that Yaakov's challenge in life was to remain the <I>Ish Emet</I>, the man of truth, despite all the trials and tribulations of <I>Galut</I>, of <I>Vayetze</I>.
<I>Lech Lecha</I>: Go to YourselfTwo hundred years ago, students of the Baal Shem Tov, led by Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, repeated the Avram journey and made <I>aliyah</I>. The Rebbe of Vitebsk described the spiritual and physical journey in his book <I>Pri Ha'aretz</I>.
The Jewish Obesity Epidemic - Part IIThe fitting lesson for the week after Sukkot is that of <I>parshat Breishit</I>, that of the Tree of Knowledge, the <I>Eitz Hada'at Tov Vara</I>. Like Adam <I>HaRishon</I> exiled from Eden into the big, cruel world, we are all beginning a journey into a new year.
The Jewish Obesity EpidemicFor all those who naively thought that religious Zionism's philosophy is on the rocks because of the Disengagement, I can only offer a letter written over 100 years ago by Rabbi A. Y. Kook to his father-in-law, the <I>Aderet</I>.
Rosh Hashanah: Land and PeopleDuring these days of Judgement, God ascertains if we lived up to His standards for a Jew. However, "each individual Jew is unique, with a special task in life, which he alone can fulfill."
<I>Shoftim</I>: Nothing to Fear But....If we are not to fear mortal men and not armies, then what are we to fear during this period of Elul? Rabbi Zev Leff gives the answer: <I>"Achat sha'alti me'et HaShem...."</I> - "One thing I ask of the Lord...."
<I>Ekev</I>: HeelsUnfortunately, and to <I>Am Yisrael</I>'s great shame and sadness, thousands of Jews not only were trampled upon in Gush Katif, dispossessed of home and livelihood, but they will, Heaven forbid, soon be deprived of their places of prayer, their synagogues. God will come , but no Jews will be there, only Arab terrorists.
<I>Va'etchanan</I>: The Whole PictureTruly, this week's events are beyond words of description. As is this week's <I>parsha</I>, which therefore leaves its two main themes to pictures. When it comes to <I>Eretz Yisrael</I> and Torah, we are told: see the picture.
The Yeshiva of ShfaramBefore getting down to business, the sheikh told the two friends that they had to first accompany him to one old building in his village. To their utter astonishment, the sheikh led the two Jews to... the synagogue of Shfaram!
<I>Matot</I>: Stern OrdersWith the word <I>"matot"</I>, the Torah introduces the conflict between sectors of society, and between the nation and its army (which, in the <I>parsha</I>, goes out to war against the external enemy, Midyan, not against its own citizens).
<I>Sh'lach</I>: A Woman's Place is in <I>Eretz Yisrael</I>A woman's place is in... <I>Eretz Yisrael</I>. Of course, men belong here, too, but our rabbis tell us that "the women in particular loved <I>Eretz Yisrael</I>." How this began, and how it manifested itself, lead to some fascinating insights into the relationships of Jewish men and women and <I>Eretz Yisrael</I>.
The Omer Sacrifice and the GulagThe <I>Gemara</I>, <I>Menachos</I> 65a, mentions two arguments that the rabbis had with the Sadducees. The arguments seemingly have nothing to do with one another. But Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook (in <I>Mishpat Kohen</I>, and quoted in the <I>Harav Kook Haggada</I>, page 297) says there is a connection between the two.
The Rasha on the TerritoriesThe <I>Haggadah</I> says the <I>rasha</I> is one who <I>"kafar ba'ikar"</I>, he denies the role of God in history. So, he makes up nonsensical rationalizations for his Disengagement, such as equating Israel with Pharaoh.
Shakespeare and the Pesach HaggadahRabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook explains that by having farmers bring their produce to Jerusalem, our largest and capital city, and by mandating that the city-dwellers go out and extend a lavish greeting to the country bumpkins, the Almighty was ensuring mutual appreciation and unity among the people.
<I>Shemini</I>, Purim and the Jewish Temperance LeagueLast week, we were told to celebrate, with revelry that includes drinking alcohol <I>"ad d'lo yada"</I>, until we lose our powers of reason. Yet, in this week's Torah reading , Aharon is warned, "You and your sons are not to drink wine and other intoxicating beverages when you come into the <I>Ohel Moed</I>."