Monday, January 20, 2020

Divrei Torah

Tough Love: Ki Tavo 5779

Please, forgive me. Even though that’s an appropriate sentiment for this time of year, it’s not describing how I feel right now. It’s the deep emotion I felt on the only occasion I gave a potch to one of my beloved children. She had run out into the street with a bus bearing down, and wasn’t showing any understanding for the

How Eliezer Found Yitzchak the Right Wife

We’ve come to the section of the sha’ar where R. Arama asks questions about the parsha and answers them. He opens with Bereishit Rabbah 58, where R. Kahana wonders at Kohelet’s feeling the need to point out the obvious truth that the sun rises and sets.

Flow Of the World, Flow of the

Join Acheinu for Day of Jewish Unity

(Courtesy of Acheinu) On Tuesday, September 24, Jews from around the world are being asked to unite and pray in the annual Day of Jewish Unity coordinated by Acheinu, a division of Dirshu, the world’s largest Torah organization.

This year’s Day of Jewish Unity is a focused “call to action” to

R. Yitzchak Arama’s View of the Akeida Itself

Last time, R. Arama set up the Akeida as an opportunity for Avraham to show his readiness to listen to Hashem on a most difficult task. Now, he fleshes out some of the challenges Avraham faced in building his way to proving his readiness.

Questions About the Akeida

To Discuss Hashem’s Knowledge, Remember Not to Think of Hashem in Human Terms

My summaries of R. Arama’s Akeydat Yitzchak minimize a remarkable aspect of the work, his ability to yoke his expression of his philosophical worldview to his consecutive reading of the Torah. In a way which reminds me of Sefer Ha-Chinuch’s structuring his presentation of mitzvot by the order in which they appear in the Torah, R. Arama

The ‘Little Things’ Count

Joe Wallis was a very successful weapons and aircraft dealer. He was once giving a tour of his facility to a prospective purchaser, a representative of a helicopter manufacturer, who asked about two identical buckets of bolts. Wallis explained these were special bolts to hold helicopter rotor blades in place. One bucket was filled with

Safe Haven

No other weekly parsha is visited during the year as often as Pinchas, which is this week’s reading, at least in all those places within two week’s walking distance from Yerushalayim. Everyone else must save this message until next week. The good news is that the first group is larger than the latter, because for the first time in over

Prophecy, the Jewish Way

R. Arama tips his hand at the beginning of the nineteenth sha’ar, telling us he intends to contrast the Torah’s version of prophecy to the one advanced by philosophers, among whom he includes several traditional thinkers (he singles out Ralbag, as we will see). He is invested in the topic, in other words, because a common view seems to

Spying Out Good Qualities

There are many puzzling aspects to parshat Shelach. One of these is Moshe changing Hoshea’s name to Yehoshua. The gemara, brought down by Rashi, states Moshe changed his student’s name as a prayer. Moshe asked that HaShem save Hoshea/Yehoshua from the spies’ counsel. This of course raises numerous questions.

The Traits of Perfection Are Inextricably Intertwined

All or Nothing Perfection

R. Arama tells us he plans to make two points in the seventeenth sha’ar. First, admirable qualities are not separate from mitzvot, and, second, Avraham was shown the spiritual rewards for goodness, which became part of his belief in Hashem.

Are We There Yet?


Someone once asked me, ‘Aren’t road trips with your kids just amazing?’ I answered, ‘If by ‘amazing,’ you mean better than being locked in a room with mosquitoes, then I agree.’ For the record I hate mosquitoes! 

Judge vs. King

Parshat Naso

Our haftarah this week relates to us the well-known story of Shimshon HaGibor. Over the past few years I have written about the difficulties in understanding the decisions and actions of this final Shofet, as well as the behavior of the nation itself. But the truth

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