Parshat Re’eh

The Power of Choice

This talk is dedicated to a friend, David Hillel ben Brana, who currently needs a full and complete healing. As he battles his illness, he embodies the philosophy of choosing life in the spirit of this talk.

This week’s Torah portion Re’eh opens with one of the most important statements about how G-d has given us the ability and responsibility to make our own moral choices freely.

Parshat Korach

Breaking Negativity

Sherlock Holmes, the fictional master detective, and his sidekick Dr. Watson were camping in the woods. In the middle of the night, Sherlock wakes up Dr. Watson and asks him what he sees. “Millions of stars,” said Dr. Watson. “And what do you infer from that?” asked Sherlock. Watson then explained the astronomical, astrological, meteorological, and theological implications of seeing that many stars, at that time, and at that location. Watson asked Sherlock what he saw. Sherlock responded, “Watson, don’t you see? Someone stole our tent.”

Parshat Kedoshim

On Being Holy

In Parshat Kedoshim (Ch. 19, v. 14) we are told “Do not curse the deaf, do not place a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear/have awe for your G-d, I am Hashem.”  We typically read these statements as a lesson in how we should treat others.  We become better and holier people depending on how we treat others “less fortunate” than ourselves.  For example, Ibn Ezra commented that if we are not sensitive to the needs of the deaf or the blind, we need to fear G-d who could just as easily make us deaf or blind. 

Parshat Mikeitz

Converting our Dreams to Reality

One evening, Dutch physicist Niels Bohr went to bed and had a dream. He saw the nucleus of an atom with the electrons spinning around it, just as the planets do around the sun. Immediately upon awakening, Bohr is claimed to have said that he knew the dream was correct. According to the story, he tested the idea and confirmed its accuracy. Bohr was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1922. Bohr’s dream changed history. In this week’s Torah portion, Mikeitz, a Bor’s dreamer changed history. Let’s see how that happened. Read More >>

Parshat Pinchas

Dealing with Stress

In Parshat Pinchas, we read the story of the daughters of Tzelofchad.  In short, their father died leaving no sons.  The laws of inheritance as they were then in effect meant that the daughters would be dispossessed of inheritable property.  Claiming that it was unfair, the daughters approached Moses and asked whether there was an exception by which they could retain their inheritable share. Moses brought the case to G-d and G-d approved the daughters’ request.  The daughters could inherit from their father.

Parshat Emor

“Perfecting” Ourselves

In Parshat Emor the Torah includes rules concerning the qualities of those animals brought as sacrifices.  Specifically, the animal must be pure or perfect (“Tamim” in Hebrew) and cannot have any defect or deformity (“Ein bo moom”).  The Torah follows that general admonition with a list of specific blemishes or deformities that would disqualify the sacrifice. But why does the Torah say that the animal sacrifice has to be pure or perfect (Tamim) AND have no blemish or defect (Ein bo moom)?  Isn’t it enough to say that the animal must be perfect?  Doesn’t that imply that it has no blemish or defect? 

Parshat Vayishlach

Spiritual Growth

In Parshat Vayishlach, Jacob was poised for a fateful meeting with his brother Esau. Jacob hadn’t seen Esau for around 20 years and feared what might happen. Indeed, for all Jacob knew, Esau was ready to kill Jacob for having stolen the birthright and blessing to which Esau believed he was entitled. Read More >>

Parshat Ve’etchanan

Seeing is Believing – Or is it?

Seeing is believing. If so, why does the quintessential expression of Jewish faith begin “Hear, O Israel”? Why not “See, O Israel”? Throughout Parshat Ve’etchanan, Moshe reminds the people that they have seen great things. In another very famous statement of faith, Moshe says “Ata Hareita La’da’at – you have been shown in order to know that G-d is G-d and there is nothing else but Him.” Read More >>

Parshat Terumah

Following Instructions

My father and my father-in-law had something interesting in common. When it came to putting things together, they both disliked instructions. My father would call them “obstructions” — they got in the way and were difficult to understand. My father-in-law ignored them. If he had to put something together, he would dump out the parts and look at a picture of what the thing should look like. Then, he would just put it together. At the end of the process, there were always a couple parts left over and we would ask him what they were for. Read More >>