Monday, January 27, 2020

Divrei Torah

The Decision

The birth of Moshe represents a turning point of the Jewish saga in Egypt. This would-be savior is arrived as the Jewish slaves are being mercilessly crushed by Egyptian oppression. Pharo had legislated that all Jewish infants be flung into the Nile river and delivered to

Shemot: What’s in a Name?

The parsha is called Shemot, Names. It is deceptive. It begins with a list of the names of the Children of Israel. Not an inauspicious beginning. Yet it then seems to veer off. We begin to encounter names that suggest either, or both, unhappiness and disenfranchisement.

Akedat Yitzchak, Finishing Sha’ar 26:  Yaakov’s Efforts With Esav

Point of interest to me, I hope to you: Last year, we were finishing the sixth sha’ar of Akedat Yitzchak on 2 Tevet, so we did just about exactly 20 she’arim this year. Given the 104 she’arim in the book, I think with only four more years we will have studied a small percentage of R. Yitzhak Arama’s jam-packed book. A little

The Moral Equivalent of War

For over 20 years I taught about Chanukah in Jewish day schools. Most of the background information we discussed was about the war against the Hellenist forces of the Seleucid Empire. Since I majored in history, I relished describing the battles and political maneuverings. Some kids loved it, others not so much. But that’s what we have

Balancing Human Effort and Divine Intervention

R. Arama says the sha’ar will discuss how far we have to go in our personal efforts to secure what we find productive and fend off what is damaging. Lack in such effort (aside from reducing the odds life will go as we want) also leads to less providence for a person.

We will see more of what he means

Oh, the Pain!

I love you, Yaakov avinu! There is no character in all of Tanach who is as accessible to me as he is. First of all, I feel a special connection, because my father was Jacob and my first son is Yaakov. It was very cute when my son was growing up and we would talk about the Torah reading and mention Yaakov. He always wanted to know if we were

Dreams Lack Clarity: Yaakov’s Ladder Dream

R. Arama thinks that the famous ladder of Yaakov’s dream symbolizes reality; the link between the physical and the heavenly; the vehicle of Hashem’s influence descending to Earth’s inhabitants. For him, the angels in the dream were great “people,” whose thoughts and musings have them reach upwards, step by step, to where Hashem

Good Investment Strategy

A few years ago I visited someone to introduce him to our yeshiva for adults and ask for his support. He had never heard anything like it; honestly, he was impressed. He said he liked our unique approach that gives access to in-depth Torah learning and provides real skills to those who didn’t acquire that knowledge earlier in life. He

Putting the World Aright

Last time we closed with R. Arama’s telling us we should love and want good outcomes, oppose and object to bad outcomes and those who would bring them. In his view, Yaakov and Rachel acted to support what needed to happen, and therefore acted appropriately.

A Restored

Betraying a Brother Can Never Be Casual 

Part 1: Stealing the Birthright

Parshat Toldot begins with an incident putting Yaakov in a seemingly bad light, where he takes advantage of Esav’s exhaustion to extract the rights of the first-born. R. Arama tells us he will discuss the norms of brotherhood, the problems with deceit

Why Noach?

Parshat Noach does not begin where it should. Or, perhaps, Parshat Bereishit does not end where it should.

Parshat Bereishit concludes by describing mankind’s corruption and Hashem’s resolve to erase mankind from the face of

Kol Nidrei: Vowing to Be Different

Kol Nidrei always puzzled me. Why begin the holiest day on the Jewish calendar with a legalistic formulation? Why not begin with a description of the kohen gadol’s Beit Hamikdash service about which we read during the Yom Kippur Musaf? Why not begin this holy day with a recitation of Hashem’s awesomeness as we will do when we recite the

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