Re'eh: Summary and HaftorahIn the discipline of the Mitzvot, and in the wisdom of the Torah, we will find an anchor to secure and steady us amid the raging seas.
Your Family or Your FortuneValuable treasures hidden here just below the
surface in this week's Torah reading. Let's examine just one of them.
Rashbi and the RainbowRashbi is remembered on Lag BaOmer. Why, then, do we light bonfires and why did our Sages say no rainbow was seen during his lifetime?
Yitro: To "Summit" All UpYou have to see the forest as well as the trees to lead a Torah true life. The way the Ten Commandments were given teaches that lesson.
<I>Beshalach</I>: Believing is SeeingWhat is the <I>groyse metzia</I> of believing in <I>HaShem</I> after such a potent show of strength? Who wouldn't believe in Him at that point? And what about our free will - how can we freely choose to believe in G-d after such a compelling event?
Roads That Lead Nowhere"Why celebrate?" Rabbi Teichtal asked one of the participants. "What will be the end of this <I>shul</I>?"
<I>Vayechi</I>: Feeling Your OathsI swear, this isn't so simple. Before Yakov dies, he makes Yosef swear that he will not bury him in Egypt, but will return him to <I>Eretz Yisrael</I>. Now, this is <I>after</I> Yosef has already agreed to his father's request. But apparently, that's not good enough; Yosef must take an official oath.
<I>Vayeshev</I>: As the Dreidel SpinsYosef was a dreamer. The "little brother" who dreamt that one day he would be a prince indeed became one. Yosef learned that dreams can really come true - with hard work and <I>HaShem</I>'s blessing.
<I>Ki-Tetzei</I>: In Elul, What You Give, You GainEach weekday morning during Elul, the <I>shofar</I> sounds. It calls to us <I>l'hishtaper</I>, to improve ourselves, particularly in our relationships with others. Where should we start? With our families, of course. That is the best "testing ground" for the Elul Syndrome, a.k.a. <I>Ani L'dodi V'dodi Li</I>.
Tisha B'Av: Lebanon and the Letter of the LawWhy was the <I>Beit HaMikdash</I> (Temple) destroyed? That is the question we should all be asking ourselves as we observe Tisha B'Av - the "Black Fast" - this Wednesday night-Thursday.
<i>Matot-Masei</I>: We Need Jews"I can no longer watch from afar as our brothers in Israel daily risk their lives for our future, and not be a part of them, and so, I am fulfilling what must be the destiny of every Jew. I hope you will join me."
<I>Pinchas</I>: Terror - Then and NowThe vindication of Pinchas reminds us that in the real world - especially for a Jew - we have to often fight for serenity and scream for silence, as strange as that sounds.
<I>Korach</I>: Vote for Me, I'll Set You FreeKorach's high-minded appeal to <I>Bnei Yisrael</I> to rebel against Moshe and elect Korach as leader is packaged in moralistic phraseology - democracy, the "rights of the people," "share the wealth," etc.
<I>Beha'alot'cha</I>: Passion Has Its PlaceWe turned up our noses at the <I>mahn</I> (manna) and we said, "We remember the fish we freely ate in Egypt...." What are we, seafood lovers all of a sudden? And is Egypt famous for its fish?
<I>Bamidbar</I>: Making the Desert BloomDo you want to discover the essence of any Jewish idea? Then examine its name, its <I>shem</I>. That is where you will discover its soul, its <I>neshama</I> (note that in the center of the word <I>neshama</I> is <I>shem</I>).
Of Sirens, Treasure and TraumaThe thinking Jew is continually confronted by the obvious question: Why must joy be preceded by suffering? Why must we first be traumatized by war and pain, and only <I>then</I> be delivered into victory and triumph?
Torah and Taste BudsSo, you want to be a <I>chacham</I>? Then let's examine the <I>Haggadah</I>'s treatment of the Wise Child.
Vote No to SlanderMissing from this cavalcade of <I>lashon hara</I> is the clear statement of what each party stands for and what it will do to secure our future.
Myths, the Megillah and MoshiachAchashverosh is even willing to accommodate the special needs of the Jews, their meals and <I>minhagim</I>, because that represents no threat to him. But there is one thing that Achashverosh, like so many other of our "hosts", cannot abide.
<I>Tetzaveh</I>: For Whom the Bells TollThe commentator <I>Akeida</I> says that each garment was meant to convey a lofty moral message. Let's talk about one of those garments, the robe, or <I>me'il</I>.
Youth Must be ServedFacing off against the crowd are "Chicago's Finest," a wall of mounted police in riot gear. They are under strict orders by the Windy City's legendary, autocratic Mayor Richard J. Daley to hold back the crowd, to be brutal if necessary, but to show the protestors just who is "Boss."
(Mayor Daley's nickname).
Did Yitro Get the "Point"?Other commentators add that Yitro heard about a third cataclysmic event - the giving of the Torah. So why did Rashi exclude that?
<I>Bo</I>: Coming and GoingThe end, say <I>Chazal</i>, does not justify the means, and so we have to control our behavior even - perhaps, especially - in those situations where it would be so easy to lose control.
<I>Toldot</I>: Listen, Do You Want to Know a Secret?<I>HaShem</I> appears to Yitzchak and reassures him that He will be with him and bless him, "because Avraham obeyed My voice (<I>asher shama Avraham b'koli</I>)." This is strange. Why should Yitzchak be protected if it was Avraham who obeyed <I>HaShem</I>?
<I>Vayera</I>: A Man for All ReasonsJewish legend is replete with stories of visits from beyond, Eliyahu-like strangers who appear from out of nowhere, popping into our lives to teach us something important - usually about ourselves - and then disappearing as mysteriously as they came.
G-d's Reign and G-d's RainLong before there was a Katrina, a Rita or a Wilma, there was a Great Flood, which made all the other weather systems feel like a summer sprinkle.
<I>Bereishit</I>: Stand Tall or Slither SmallWhy is it such a punishment that the snake finds food everywhere, within easy reach, having only to slink along effortlessly to encounter a full menu of foods that fill his belly? This easy access to sustenance almost seems like a <I>bracha</I> (blessing).
Doing the WaveYom Kippur is over and you hope you have been inscribed for good. Now, it is time to live life, to celebrate life.
<I>Ki Tavo</I>: When Will I Be Loved?Anti-Jewish sentiment is part and parcel of the curses enumerated in the <I>Tochacha</I> of our <I>sedra</I>: "You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the field." But why does this happen to us and what can we do to prevent it?
To the ChildrenIn the aftermath of the disengagement trauma, young people throughout the Jewish world are asking pertinent, probing questions that trouble their souls and cloud their vision of the future. My kids, too, press me for answers and direction. As a concerned parent, I cannot ignore their heartfelt pleas.
<I>Ki Teitzeh</I>: The Plane TruthWe have to be strong, to go the extra mile - especially in Elul - to be ultra-scrupulous and diligent in <I>mitzvot</I>. And so, I offer the following amazing story I heard recently.
G-d's Rain and the Reign of G-dWhy don't the elders - <I>a la</I> the case of the false witnesses - simply declare that if a person is found dead, it must be G-d's will that he died? Why are they involved in this incident after the "judgment" has already been passed on the unfortunate victim?
<I>Chukat</I>: The Statute of LibertyIf we are choosing one aspect of the Torah to be representative of the whole document, why not pick something more famous, more dramatic? Like <I>Shabbat</I>, perhaps, or love of G-d. Why choose something so oblique that even the wise Solomon couldn't grasp it?
Who Loves Ya', Arik?Ariel Sharon can still be welcomed back by his people, still find lasting love among all those who stuck by him through the years and worked so hard to elect him as prime minister. But, there is a condition. We Jews do not believe in "free love".
<I>Sh'lach</I>: Faith Up to the TruthWhat is it that causes men of conviction, strong men, men with a history of unshakable resolve, to falter and lose faith? What causes warriors to become wimps, what makes heroes lose heart?
<I>B'ha'alot'cha</I>: Serving G-d With Soul and BodyI remember, as a <I>semicha</I> student, attending one of our Practical Rabbinics sessions. We listened to a recent graduate describing the life of a pulpit rabbi. He made the following remark: "To be a successful <I>rav</I>, you must be strong."
<I>Kedoshim</I>: In a League of Our Own<I>Kedoshim</I> comes between Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron. On both days, we acknowledge those who set themselves aside for extreme courage, sacrifice and devotion to G-d. Some chose their role willingly, others had it forced upon them, but both illustrate how exalted, how special, how <I>kadosh</I> this nation can be.
Once Upon a Time in Bnei BrakThe message of <I>matzah</I> and the power of Pesach is all encapsulated in one amazing story of the <I>Haggadah</I>.
Maintaining Matzah ModeWhat's so special about <i>matzah</I>? Clearly, among all the many symbols of Passover, <i>matzah</I> stands "tall" as the preeminent representative of the <I>chag</I>.
This Month's for You, Bud"This month shall be for you the head of the months." So we are commanded to honor Nissan - when history began anew for us with our liberation - as the first month in the calendar. But what does "for you" mean?
<I>Ad D'lo Yada</I>: A Serious Purim MessageAll kidding aside, the story of Purim is not as simple and fluffy as it appears on the surface. A question that has always bothered me: Why did Mordechai stubbornly refuse to bow down to Haman when his refusal endangered a whole nation of Jews?
<I>Pekudei</I>: The Last Word In Giving<I>HaShem</I> did a great "favor" for Moshe. He knew deep down that each of us wants to give, and derives satisfaction and joy from helping others. In this way, we emulate G-d, who is the ultimate Giver. And so, He found a way for Moshe - whose life was all about giving - to be part of this effort, too.
<I>Ki Tisa</I>: Stand Up and Be CountedNo doubt that the central theme in our <I>parsha</I> is the tragic episode of the <I>Egel HaZahav</I>, the Golden Calf. Yet, the <I>sedra</I> begins with the counting of the nation, by means of the half-shekel.
<I>Mishpatim</I>: Spiritual AerobicsEven the most obvious <I>mishpat</I> has cosmic implications unknown to the mortal mind; and every mysterious <I>chok</I> has recognizable value and meaning.
<i>Bo</i>: When Will I Be Loved?Can you picture a Jewish People, an Israel, loved and admired by the world at large? An Israel that perennially wins the "Most Admired" prize in international voting?