Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

ISIS in the Torah In the Mishnah, Rabbi ben Bag Bag teaches: “Turn [the Torah], and turn it, delve deeply into it, for everything is to be found in it”. The Torah includes in embryotic form, all conceivable forms of wisdom, and existential guidance. Nothing human is foreign to it. And the Torah does not […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

The Four Levels of Fulfillment   Our parashah includes a celebrated and powerful teaching “Man does not live by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3). Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, conveys to us the ultimate meaning of this verse, and illuminates for us the human path to a genuine and everlasting sense of fulfillment and inner nourishment. […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

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 the Ten […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

Know Before Whom You Stand The Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth and final book of the Torah, which we start reading this Shabbat, is different from the previous books of the Torah. Its span is only 36 days, the last 36 days of Moses’s life. In it, Moses gives a series of speeches, before he […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

Anger: The Enemy From Within   Moses is fuming with anger in this week’s Torah reading (Numbers 31:13). As a result of his rage, Moses forgets to instruct the people an important law regarding kosher food (Rashi on Numbers 31:21). This is not the first time that Moses “loses it” in the Torah, and as a […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

The Sacred Barbecue Millions of Americans celebrated Independence Day last Saturday by enjoying a festive and delicious barbecue on July 4th. In our parashah, we read about the Divine command to bring forth a daily offering before the Almighty. The Torah describes this offering an “exquisite aroma” (Re’ach Nichoa’ch) to the Almighty. What’s going on here? Is the Torah […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

The Symbolisms of Human Dignity When I was a college student, I found myself one morning sitting in a class next to a person who was nonchalantly sketching a swastika. I immediately felt offended and upset. Being Israeli, I had no qualms about telling her what I think of the inappropriateness of sketching such a […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

Respecting Boundaries/Knowing Your Limits   Korach was an incredible success story. Korach was super wealthy, and he also enjoyed social prominence, wisdom and charisma. And Korach also occupied the prestigious and meaningful spiritual status and role of being a Levy. But all this was not enough for Korach. Korach wanted more, much more. Korach wanted to take even […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

Democracy in Judaism Our Parashah includes the famous story about the spies whom Moses sent to check out the Land of Israel, in order to assess the land’s resources, and the military capacities of its inhabitants. Ten of the twelve spies submitted a defeatist report to the nation, and caused a devastating crisis of faith […]

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Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

Judaism and the Death Penalty On Wednesday, the State of Nebraska abolished the death penalty, thus becoming the 18th state which no longer exercises capital punishment. In Europe, the death penalty was by and large abolished during the 20th century. What is the Jewish approach towards capital punishment? On the one hand, formally the death penalty is […]

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