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To War, to War

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In October 1987, I was inducted into the Israel Defense Force, not their finest hour. At my tekes hashba’a (swearing-in ceremony, even though we religious soldiers didn’t “swear,” we just “declared” our loyalty to the state), I was moved by the thought that I was privileged to live in the first generation since...

What Do They Want From Me?

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Eikev 5776


Have you ever found yourself muttering: “What do they want from me?” Really, you haven’t? I’ve spent most of my life mumbling that phrase. When I was a kid and my parents asked me to take out the garbage, I’d think, “What do they want from me—isn’t it enough to be cute and cuddly?” When my coach would yell to give him more, I’d think to myself, “What do they want from me—how does he know I’ve got anything left in the tank?” When my teachers would tell me that my work wasn’t good enough, I’d think to myself, “What do they want from me? I bet he/she couldn’t do any better.” I could go on like this for a while, maybe filling both pages...

Avoid Heresy, Even More Than Sin!

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Sermons of the Aruch HaShulchan, Week 14, Sermon 26:


Sermon 26, the last one in the book (although not of this series, since I’ve taken them out of that order), is more big-picture than we’ve seen until now. While we’ve seen indications that Aruch HaShulchan was addressing a populace losing their connection to faith and observance, in this sermon he takes on the importance of proper faith more directly, working to show his listeners how much their loss of faith will hurt them, in many different ways. [Sadly, many of his points are equally if not more relevant today.]

Two Ways to Leave Hashem: Idolatry and Heresy

He starts by pointing out that only some verses in the Torah...

Hearts and Minds

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A few years back Congregation Agudath Sholom here in Stamford, CT, became the proprietor of a couple of old Jewish cemeteries. These cemeteries had belonged to now defunct organizations from the early 20th century, when Jews had become enamored with the principles of socialism. The ideology is just as passe (except to Bernie) as the clubs that supported it. Recently, I performed a funeral at one of these sites. It was a graveside service and I got there a bit early, so I wandered about the few dozen graves. They were from about 1910 until 1960, but the most striking of them all was one grave stone from 1929 emblazoned with a huge hammer and sickle. I was amazed at this...

Torah as the Cure to Our Ills

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Sermons of the Aruch HaShulchan, Week 8, Sermon 16: Torah as the Cure to Our Ills

One of the challenges of Aruch HaShulchan’s sermons [this was characteristic of traditional sermonizing] is that he does not telegraph where he’s heading. The style assumes that readers [and listeners] were willing to go along for the ride, for a while, to watch the darshan take them from a source whose relevance is a mystery and see where it goes. I’m not sure speakers today can expect or receive that level of audience indulgence.

He opens with a Midrash Rabbah from Ha’azinu asking a seemingly technical halachic question, whether one can treat an earache on Shabbat. The answer is equally banal...

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