On Love and Truth

The concluding Aliyah of the entire Torah, which we read on Simchat Torah, narrates the death of Moses. The Torah states: “And the children of Israel wept for Moses” (Deuteronomy 34:8). Rashi notices that when Aaron died, the Torah implies that the national mourning following the death of Aaron was even more encompassing then the […]

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Time To Rejoice

Following the intensity of the High Holy Days, we celebrate Sukkot. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935) sees Sukkot as a healthy counterbalance to the intensity and gravity of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Spiritually, the Sukkot represent G-d’s protection for the Jewish people across the millennia. Historically, Sukkot is also known as the “Holiday of […]

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What is Judaism?

For some people, Judaism is chiefly about the community, and its spirit of togetherness and camaraderie. For others, who are more philosophically inclined, Judaism is mainly about a set of theological principles, which describe the tenets of Jewish spiritual belief and ideology. For others still, Judaism is primarily about concrete religious practice – the implementation […]

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It’s All About Your Family

Rosh Hashanah, according to the liturgy and the Talmud, is supposed to be, inter alia, about creation writ large, and the creation of humanity in particular. However, the Torah and Haftarah readings for Rosh Hashanah discuss family rupture, rather than creation. We read about a family breakup – the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael (which […]

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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 from a place called Aram) […]

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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 a female POW to let her […]

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Justice: A Jewish Invention

Hitler claimed that “Conscience is a Jewish invention”. He was right. In the words of the great Catholic historian, Paul Johnson: “All the great conceptual discoveries of the human intellect seem obvious and inescapable once they had been revealed, but it requires a special genius to formulate them for the first time. The Jews had […]

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Defeating Defeatism

President Kennedy’s inaugural address is considered to this day to be one of the greatest speeches in the history of American politics. Kennedy did not write this speech all by himself. He was aided by his Jewish speechwriter Ted Sorensen. In his speech, the President spoke about all the great challenges which await not only […]

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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. The Kabbalah teaches that there are […]

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Our Greatest Enemy

This Shabbat, Moses speaks to us, the People of Israel, the following words: “I stand between you and G-d” (in Hebrew: “אנוכי עומד בין ה’ וביניכם”). On the immediate level, Moses is simply reminding the Jewish People that he, Moses, serves as the “go between”, the intermediary, the spiritual messenger going back and forth between […]

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