The Real Zalman

– A Book Review

Parshat Chayei Sarah

Being Present in the Relationship

In the 1930 Marx Brothers movie, Animal Crackers, Groucho Marx plays the role of Captain Jeffrey Spaulding, an African explorer attending a party in his honor at the estate of society matron Mrs. Rittenhouse. Upon his arrival at the party, a famous song (one that stuck with the comedian throughout his career) was sung and went like this Read More >>

Parshat Tazria

Listening to Those Around Us

In Parshat Tazria, we read of the individual inflicted with a Tzara’as (sometimes erroneously defined as leprosy). The illness, we learn, is caused by a spiritual impropriety (such as lashon ha’ra) committed by the afflicted individual (who is known as the Metzora).


Parshat Bechukotai

Repairing our Relationship with

In Parshat Bechukotai, we read that if we follow G-d’s laws we will enjoy G-d’s blessings.  However, if we reject G-d’s laws, we suffer severe curses.  But what exactly is it that brings on the curses?  Surely if we simply err in our observance of G-d’s laws, that will not bring out G-d’s wrath.  There are separate punishments as well as atonements associated with correcting those errors.  So what is it about our behavior that makes us subject to the horrible curses?

Parshat Shmot

On Prayer

For forty years, Moses worked for his father-in-law Yitro as a shepherd, carefully tending to Yitro’s flocks.  Moses was diligent and dedicated. Over time, Moses probably learned the location of all the best watering places and knew where the sheep could graze undisturbed by others and without encroaching on others’ land. His life was fairly predictable. Maybe he had to deal with an occasional wild animal or other minor disturbance. But for the most part, every day was pretty much like the day before.


Parshat Lech Lecha

Finding Your Faith

Parshat Lech Lecha begins with the famous words that G-d spoke to Abraham (then Abram): “Lech Lecha, me’artzecha, u’mi’moladetecha, el ha’aretz asher areka.” “Go ‘to you,’ from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land I will show you” Read More >>

Parshat Naso

Understanding Your Role

In Parshat Naso, we see an interesting contrast between two types of service. In one famous passage, we read about each of the 12 separate offerings brought to the Mishkan (the Holy Tabernacle) by each of the 12 tribes. In paragraph after paragraph we read the identical language describing each tribe’s offering with the only difference in description being the name of the individual tribal chief bringing the offering. The classic question asked is: Why does the Torah have to repeat each offering word for word?

Parshat Vayeishev

Unity in our Community

In Parshat Vayeishev, Jacob sent his son, Joseph, out to look for his brothers. Joseph encountered an unnamed man who asked Joseph what he was looking for. Joseph replied, “אֶת־אַחַי אָנֹכִי מְבַקֵּשׁ” (“Et Achai Anochi Mevakesh”); “I am (Anochi is) looking for my brothers.”

Parshat Ki Teitzei

Being Responsible for Each Other

In looking at the first mitzvah on returning lost articles, the Torah says that if the other person is not near to you and you do not know him, you still hold on to the item to identify its owner so you can eventually return it. As Ramban and others have commented, how is it possible that you don’t know who the person is AND you know that the person is not near to you. If you don’t know who he is, you don’t whether he is near to you or far from you. Read More >>

Parshat Ekev

Building a Partnership with

“V’ata Yisrael — And now Israel, what does G-d/Hashem, your G-d/Elokecha ask of you?” This question in Parshat Ekev can be rephrased as: “OK – I’ve read the history, I’ve read the laws, I’ve seen what our people did in the desert and how they received the Ten Commandments and worshipped a golden calf. But, G-d, can’t you just tell me what you want from ME?” Read More >>

Parshat Shoftim

Expanding our Boundaries

I didn’t really have a Shabbat thought this week. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I did have one. I was going to write about the law in Parshat Shoftim that says “Lo Tasig G’vul Re’echa”; you must not move back the border of your fellow’s field. Rashi emphasized that if you move your neighbor’s border you are stealing. In particular, as Rashi explained, this law (Lo Tasig) applies inside the Land of Israel. (Outside the Land of Israel, moving your neighbor’s border is simple theft; inside the Land of Israel, it involves theft and a violation of this specific additional negative commandment.) Read More >>