Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Divrei Torah

Shhhh!

Tazria-Metzora 5777

We Jews are a garrulous group. We just love to talk and shmooze and kibbitz. As a result of this, I guess that it’s not surprising that our Sages seemed to be fighting an uphill battle against idle conversation. We’ve begun the Pirkei Avot season, and the rabbis warn

Ramban to Devarim, Week One: Preparing a New Generation for Their Great Adventure

I remember fellows in yeshiva pondering who was greater, Rashi or Rambam, since they seem to be the two most impactful scholars of the post-Talmudic Torah world. I don’t think I’m the first or only who would argue that Ramban belongs in that conversation, since his responses to each of those authors (and others, such as

Just Four You

Pesach 5777

A few years back, I wrote an article about the significance of the number four at our annual Seder gatherings. I called that modest effort: Let the Fours Be With You. Well, I’m back again to revisit this fascinating issue. In Judaism when we’re constructing a presentation for a

Sermons of the Aruch HaShulchan

Sermon 13: First, Foremost and Faith

The Torah (Shemot 12:2) tells the Jewish people that the month we now call Nisan should be the first of the calendar. Aruch HaShulchan wonders what Mechilta Bo 1 means when it infers that it’s the first month for Jews and not non-Jews, but

Again and Again

Vayakhel-Pekudei 5777

Don’t you hate it when you’re reading to little kids, you’re putting everything you’ve got into this amazing rendition of a childhood classic, and as soon as you finish the book or story, instead of a standing ovation or full-throated “Bravissimo!” they

Sermons of the Aruch HaShulchan for Shabbat HaGadol

(Drasha 6): Holding On To Hope in the Face of Our Inadequacy

This sermon opens with an extended analysis of Tehillim 68. The first verses of the Psalm ask for Hashem to arise, scatter His enemies, so that the righteous will see and celebrate before Hashem. Aruch HaShulchan

Finding Inspiration After Purim

We celebrate Purim every year to commemorate the celebration in ancient times, when joy conquered fear and good vanquished evil. The story of Esther and Mordechai, as told in the Book of Esther, takes place over many years. Too often, we skip the dates in the text and miss an important message hiding in plain sight in the

Fashion Passion

Tetzave—Purim 5777

Back in the ‘60s, Ouija boards became a fad. At parties, people would close their eyes, appear to be in a trance and move the little planchette across this board with numbers and letters to “discover mysteries from beyond.” Talking boards or automatic writing have been

Purim Will Never Cease: Rambam, Aggadah and the Eternal Purim

Last time, we concluded a series on Rambam’s inclusions of aggadah in his Mishneh Torah. As I finished, I realized that my plan was to start Aruch HaShulchan’s drashot for Shabbat HaGadol, which seemed odd to do before Purim (next Monday will, at least, be Shushan Purim).

Instead, I

Here Comes Da Judge

Mishpatim 5777

That irreverent reference in my title comes from a famous routine on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In from the late ‘60s, but it originated in a song and skit by Afro-American entertainer Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham. The whole point of the phrase and the skit was to poke fun

The Importance of Praying in Hebrew and the Push Toward Fixed Prayer

This is the last of our random sample of places Rambam inserts aggadic material into Mishneh Torah. Next time, I hope to review them briefly to see if any themes or ideas characterize them all. Here, let’s look at his understanding of how fixed prayer came to the Jewish people.

Remember that

Weapons Rights

People often make fun of rabbis, and I take it personally, so cut it out! No, no. I mean about the way rabbis parse material, whether it’s a verse or a Mishna. Many critics are thrown into a tizzy about the lengths these scholars will go to squeeze out the last drop of meaning from the text. Well, those disapproving onlookers

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