<I>Vayetze:</I> Luz, Ladders and Life's JourneysOur beloved Torah is rich in imagery, yet never more so than in the famous dream of Ya'akov's Ladder. What a marvelous metaphor this is - the angels going up and down as <I>Hashem</I> blesses Ya'akov on his journey.
<I>Toldot:</I> The Divine Deception of DaddyIs G-d really prepared to affirm a <I>bracha </I> given under false pretenses, in violation of His own maxim, <I>"ayn mitzvah leeyday avera"</I> - no <I>mitzvah</I> can be effected via a sin?
<I>Chayei Sarah</I>: A Bargain At Any PriceAt first, Efron appears quite magnanimous. He calls Avraham a "mighty prince" and seems to give him carte blanche over the field. "In the choicest of our graves you may bury your dead!" he tells Avraham.
<I>Noach</I>: Every Man a SupermanNoach, as the late Rodney Dangerfield would have said, is the Biblical character who "gets no respect." Despite being characterized as an <I>"Ish"</I>, a <I>"Tzadik"</I> and <I>"Tamim"</I> (perfect), his prominence is continually dissected and debated, and he never quite makes it into the "Legion of Torah Super-Heroes".
<i>B'reishit</i>: Regrets Only? No Way!What is going on here? G-d regrets making Man? As if He - who exists in the future as well as the past and present - didn't know what Man would do. G-d is "heartsick"? This is a Divine emotion?
<I>Nitzavim-Vayelekh</I>: The Sky's the LimitHigh-minded platitudes and ideas are suitable for contemplation and discussion, but they don't take the place of the actual performance of <I>mitzvot</I>. Debate the esoteric meaning of every nuance of every word, if you like, but make sure you get your head out of the clouds and <I>bentsch</I> after the meal.
<I>Nachamu</I>: Can Tears Turn To Cheers?To understand the double phraseology of <I>Nachamu</I>, we must first try to grasp the double nature of <I>loss</I>. When we lose something precious to us, something really precious, there is shock, and then there is after-shock.
<I>Devarim</I>: The <i>Mentsch</i> Who Would Be KingMoshe <I>Rabbeinu</I> had so many amazing qualities that it would be hard to enumerate them all. Yet, in the final stage of his life - a stage which begins in this week's <I>sedra</I> - three qualities that exemplify leadership stand out.
<I>Pinchas</I>: Moon Over <I>Moshiach</I>Of all the <I>parshiyot</I> of the Torah, none is more familiar to us than <I>Pinchas</I>. It is from this <I>sedra</I> that a section is read each and every Jewish Festival. As we read of the various <I>korbanot</I> (sacrifices) brought in the <I>Beit HaMikdash</I> on the holidays, it almost seems, well, monotonous.
<I>Chukat</I>: Holy Cow!Far be it from me to try to understand what Shlomo could not, but one lesson clearly emerges from this <I>mitzvah</I>: If you want to purify someone else, you had better be prepared to endure some <I>"tum'ah"</I> yourself.
<I>Korach</I>: That First Step is a Doozy!Granted, his rebellion against cousins Moshe and Ahron - and against <I>Hashem</I>! - was divisive, distressing and demeaning. But did it really merit the earth opening up and swallowing the perpetrators?
"And On the Seventh Day..."This week, at least in the secular calendar, marks the anniversary of one of <I>Am Yisrael</I>'s most important events, the Six-Day War. It was a moment that changed history, enthralled - and shocked - the world, and set into play a ripple effect that is felt to this very day.
<I>Naso</I>: With Open ArmsIn just 15 words, <I>Hashem</I> - via the <I>Kohanim</I> - promises us knowledge, wealth, security, peace and an eternal relationship with Him.
Can We Count On You?If even one letter is missing - if even one Jew is missing or incomplete - the Torah/Israel is in need of <I>tikkun</I> (repair). Let us remember that at the <I>Tikkun Leil Shavuot</I>: Every one counts!
<I>Behar-Bechukotai</I>: The Value of ValuesThe book of <I>Vayikra</I> careens to a close with the chilling section of the <I>Tochecha</I>. These graphic prophecies of doom describe, in frightening detail, the misfortunes that can be our fate if we forsake <i>Hashem</i> and His Torah.
<I>Acharei Mot/Kedoshim</I>: To Be Wholly HolyThis week's double <I>parsha</I> is highlighted by G-d's commandment to us to "be holy." Through 51 separate <i>mitzvot</i> enumerated in the <I>sedra</I>, we're given a glimpse of the all-pervasive nature of this elusive ideal.
The Trauma and the TreasureAs our leaders wisely proclaimed years ago, there is no allowance, no permission for celebration on <I>Yom Ha'atzmaut</I> until we first give honor on <I>Yom Hazikaron</I> to those who made such celebration possible.
The Scent of SuccessThere were 11 ingredients in the <I>ketoret</I>, one of which was the <I>chelb'na</I> (galbanum), which had a rather unsavory odor. Yet, its inclusion was absolutely required, and its omission would render the <I>ketoret</I> invalid.
<i>Mishpatim</I>: The Order of the DayThis week's <i>parsha</i> contains 53 <i>mitzvot</i>. It follows on the heels of the <i>Aseret HaDibrot</i>. You may ask: "Why aren't the 10 Commandments enough? Why engage in 'overkill' by legislating every possible nuance of human behavior?"
<i>Bo</I>: I See the LightOf all the Ten Plagues, I find Darkness (<i>Choshech</I>) the most intriguing. After all, we experience darkness every night (or during our periodic power outages). So, while locusts or fiery hail or giant frogs may be quite shocking, what is all that terrifying about darkness?
<i>Vayigash</I>: In the Name of the FatherThe confrontation between Yosef and Yehuda - first at the pit, now in the palace - is played out with high drama. The stakes are great. Yehuda not only knows that he is placing the lives of all the <i>shvatim</I> (tribes) at risk; he is also prepared, with his brothers, to go to war against Egypt and to try to wipe them out.
"Pure" JudaismThe saga of Yosef - which will now occupy us until the end of <i>Sefer Breisheit</i> - is one of the most dramatic and compelling stories not only in <i>Tanach</i>, but in all of literature. Sibling rivalry; a fall from grace; suffering; reunion and redemption - it's all here, folks.
"And Yakov Stood Alone""I lived with Lavan," says Yakov, and Rashi comments that Yakov "remained a stranger, keeping the 613 <i>mitzvot</i>."
<i>Vayetze</i>: A Little <i>Sechel</I> Goes a Long WayThere was always a fifth, unwritten volume of the <i>Shulchan Aruch</i> inside our heads, a bell that would go off when we needed to know how to react in any given situation. As the U.S. Supreme Court said in its landmark ruling on pornography: "We may not be able to exactly define it, but we know it when we see it."
A Man for All ReasonsYakov, to borrow a term, was a true "Renaissance Man." He seemed to embody all the features of the ideal Jew: Scholar, fighter, lover, businessman, father of a very diverse family. He had a "feminine side" - sensitive and empathetic - as well as a masculine one.
<i>Chayei Sarah</I>: The Son Also RisesThis week's <i>parsha</i> pays tribute to Sarah - the role model extraordinaire for Jewish womanhood. Beautiful, kind, forceful, sensitive; she blazed the Jewish path no less than her illustrious husband, Avraham.
<I>Vayera</I>: Our Soul HeroesThis week's <i>parsha</i> - containing both the destruction of S?dom and the episode of the <i>Akeida</i> - defies our understanding.
On a Wing and a PrayerI have often said that there is very little in this world - and certainly the next - that we understand with full clarity or certainty. It is just beyond our scope.
<i>Noach</I>: Men of StealThe creation of the world brings with it such grandeur, such promise of eternal blessing. But alas, in record time, the situation deteriorates into crisis and catastrophe.
Be Happy - That's an Order!That popular little ditty, "Don't Worry, Be Happy!" might be reversed on Jewish Festivals, when we're commanded, "Be happy - don't worry!"
Let's Make a DealHow should we approach G-d on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur? What should be our posture on these most awesome of days? Should we be pushy or penitent? Tough or tentative? Bashful or bold?
<I>Ekev</I>: A"Well-Heeled" People<i>Ekev</i> is known as <i>"parshat Eretz Yisrael"</i> due to its strong emphasis on Israel as the focal point of Jewish history. G-d, Torah and Israel are a matching set. Only when they coalesce as one unit can Judaism find its complete expression and our destiny be fulfilled.
We Want <i>Moshiach</I> (Soon)Yes, we mouth all the right words and sing all the appropriate slogans. But deep down, does it really make a difference in our lives? Do we turn our attention to creating the environment that will sustain a <i>Bet HaMikdash</i>, do we nourish the spiritual soil in which a <i>Moshiach</i> will sprout, or do we rather work overtime to improve the material world in which each of us dwell?
<i>Tazria</I>: It?s in the BloodWho among us understands the mystery of life and death, or <i>tuma</i> and <i>tahara</i> (impurity and purity), the main subjects of this week's <i>sedra</i>? Not many, I dare say.
<i>Vayakhel</i>: ?Reflections? on the <i>Sedra</I>Rashi explains the provenance of these mirrors: when their husbands would return exhausted from slave labor in Egypt, the women would fix them a meal and then bring them in front of the mirror. Teasingly, seductively, they would say, "I'm prettier than you!" This would entice the men to have relations with their wives, and produce a new generation of Jews. Thus, the rather strange term <i>"mar'ot