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Sermons of the Aruch HaShulchan for Shabbat HaGadol

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(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 suggests that the psalm refers to two kinds of...

Finding Inspiration After Purim

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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 final, short chapter of the book.

The Gemara (Megilla 12a) says that Achashverosh ruled for 14 years. In the third year, he made his enormous feast, to which Vashti refused to come (Esther 1:3). After this feast, Achashverosh began gathering young women to be his wife. Esther was taken to be Achashverosh’s wife, after a year of preparation, in the seventh year of...

Fashion Passion

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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 known since antiquity, especially in the Far East, but the modern incarnation was patented in 1891. But in the late ‘60s, big toy manufacturers bought the rights to the name Ouija (Hasbro still owns the name). There are those who claim that a psychophysiological effect, called “ideomotor response” (akin to self-hypnosis), is causing the person to produce the messages, which are revealing...

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

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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 found a comment of Rambam’s that sort of continues the theme of aggadic insertions and says something meaningful about Purim as well. In the last paragraph of Laws of Megilla (2:18), Rambam mentions that all the books of Nach are atidin libatel, will be nullified (or, more likely, will fade away) in the future, with the exception of Megillat Esther, which will join Torah and Oral Law as that which...

Here Comes Da Judge

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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 at the solemnity of courtrooms and pompous judges, and the song was more popular in the U.K. than it was in the U.S. I guess there’s more pomposity to make fun of over there. In any case, a healthy respect for the judicial branch of government (with a periodic joke thrown in) is critically important for the smooth running of successful societies. Here in the States, the Trump administration is sending...

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