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Are We There Yet?

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Beha’alotcha 5776

One of the biggest differences between our world and the pre-modern world is the ease of travel. Most of us don’t sweat a trek around the world. I was recently listening to a couple discussing how they traveled from Australia to the U.S. during the period of Counting the Omer, between Pesach and...

Holding On to Our Self-Confidence and to Membership in the Jewish People

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Sermons of the Aruch HaShulchan, Week 6, Sermon 7


This is the last of the sermons not labeled as either for Shabbat HaGadol or Shabbat Shuvah, but it takes up a theme we’ve seen and will see: Torah’s effect on the Jewish people.

He opens with verses from before the giving of the Torah, where Hashem tells Moshe to remind the Jewish people of all they had seen, Hashem’s saving them in Egypt, carrying them on griffon vulture’s wings, and how—if they obeyed Hashem and kept to the covenant—they would continue to be special to Hashem.

To explain, R. Epstein starts with an idea from a book called Ma’aseh Hashem, by the 16th-century R. Eliezer Ashkenazi. The latter had noted...

One People, One Heart

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The Bi-Cultural Day School here in Stamford, Connecticut, has a strong tradition of sending the eighth grade to Israel for a few weeks. For many years this trip took place in February. There was something wonderful about that idea, namely, I got to miss the coldest, snowiest month of the year here in the Northeastern USA. Even though we encountered some snowy days in the Yerushalayim area over the 10 years I’ve been accompanying the group, that snow disappears within a day and we’re back to reasonable touring weather. However, this year the school decided to shift the tour to May. Please, believe me when I say that my loathing of Connecticut winters had nothing to do...

Poverty and Exile as Prelude to Wealth

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Sermons of the Aruch HaShulchan, Week 4, Sermon 23


We generally see nega’im, the afflictions of tzara’at, as negatives, punishments for some sin. But Rashi to Vayikra 14:34 records a case where a Midrash saw a nega as having a positive outcome. Reacting to the verse’s saying Hashem would “give a nega tzara’at in the houses of your heritage,” Vayikra Rabbah said the Emorites buried gold and treasure in their walls; since part of the treatment of tzara’at is to remove the afflicted stones, the Jews would find this treasure.

Aruch HaShulchan wonders why Hashem would choose such a roundabout way to give Jews wealth; to answer that, he takes on the question of the relative...


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Many years ago, I taught World History. I’ve always loved history. Even as a kid I enjoyed reading books which were heavily concerned with historical issues, and that included fiction. My mother introduced me to historical novels, and I learned, perhaps, more historical facts and context from these works of imagination than from textbooks, but, like a nerd, I read those, too. But enough about me. The key to understanding history, I believe, is to view the connections between events. To be able to see that event ‘x’ could happen only because event ‘y’ had occurred. That’s why it’s normally important to see chronology in Torah, too. Even though our Sages have said...

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