Rabbi Sessler D’Var

בס”ד Two Kinds of Enemies  We read this Shabbat a text which also appears in the Passover Haggadah. This text includes the following three words: “Arami Oved Avi” (ארמי אובד אבי).There are two ways to understand these words. According to Rashi and the midrash in Sifre, it means that there was an Arami (a person […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’Var Torah

בס”ד The Ultimate Battle Lamentably, when wars break out, all too often soldiers give free reign to their lower and animalistic drives. In the absence of law enforcement, in the mayhem of the battlefields, terrible crimes are committed against helpless victims, including defenseless women. The opening mitzvah of our parashah commands a Jew who captured […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’Var Torah

בס”ד Solipsism and Its Discontents   We are reading a very exciting parashah this Shabbat. Every parashah is exciting, but Parashat Va’etchanan is particularly replete with some of the most pivotal and foundational tenets of Jewish spirituality. Our parashah includes, amongst other things, the verse of Shma Yisrael, the first paragraph of the Shma, and […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’Var Torah

בס”ד Murder in the name of G-d / The Problem of Religious Fanaticism Our Torah portion last Shabbat presented us with the quint-essential zealot, a man called Pinchas, who took the law into his own hands, and murdered a fellow-Jew who was steeped in idolatrous practices and immorality. The Torah is very wary of anarchy, […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’Var Torah

בס”ד The Gift of Failure  Every book of the Torah deals with a central issue of the human condition. Genesis is about “family and its discontents.” From Isaac and Ishmael to Jacob and Esau and Joseph and his brothers, sibling rivalry in particular, and familial disputations in general, constitute a chief leitmotif in the opening […]

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Rabbi D’Var Torah

בס”ד Personal Growth: The Purpose of Human Existence Our parashah contains the tragic story of the twelve spies whom Moses sent out from the desert, in order to check out and survey the Promised Land. Ten of the twelve spies came back to the people with a defeatist attitude. They stated that because the cities […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’Var Torah

  בס”ד Judaism and the Lust for Life Irving stone called his biography of Vincent van Gogh “The lust for life.” The same title can be used to describe Judaism. Many religions shy away from, and categorically prohibit, some of life’s chief sensuous pleasures as sinful and unworthy. For example, in Islam alcohol is strictly […]

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Rabbi D’Var Torah

בס”ד Fear of G-d Our opening parashah mentions several times the concept of “Yirat HaShem / fear of G-d.” Fear of G-d entails having a sense of basic human decency, of having a conscience. Rashi states that fear of G-d is “something which resides in the privacy of a person’s heart and thought.” We live […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’Var Torah

בס”ד We Are Not That Special One of the most contentious and least understood Judaic concepts is the notion of ‘chosen-ness’. Every Friday night, as we recite the kiddush, we proclaim before the Almighty that He “chose us and sanctified us from all other nations.” In addition, whenever an individual ascends to the teyva for […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’Var Torah

בס”ד Israel at 69  In 1948, when Israel was established, there were only six hundred thousand Jews living in the land, most of whom were either Holocaust refugees or Holocaust survivors. Today, Israel’s population exceeds seven million Jews. In the 1950’s, the CIA predicted that Israel will economically implode, as a nation of six hundred […]

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