Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Divrei Torah

To War, to War

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

What Do They Want From Me?

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

Avoid Heresy, Even More Than Sin!

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

Hearts and Minds


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

Torah as the Cure to Our Ills

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]

Are We There Yet?

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

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

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.

One People, One Heart


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

Poverty and Exile as Prelude to Wealth

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



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

Blogging R’ Lichtenstein: Explaining the Sufferings of Exile

As I noted last time, I have to fit 23 sermons into 21 weeks, and this week seems as good as any to combine two into one. That’s because two of the sermons deal with the sufferings of exile, trying to understand the possible value in the suffering of the Jewish people. This and other sermons suggest that his community struggled with the

Holy Community


Every year when we get to Parshat Kedoshim, we try to define “holy.” I try to say something clever and meaningful, but somehow I usually feel that I’ve missed the mark. “Holy” is one of the things that’s hard to define, even though we do believe that we recognize it

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