Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Divrei Torah

Mirror Image: Vayetze 5779

The non-Torah world has three areas which I can’t resist. The first is Boston-based-sports franchisesand, for me, the Pats are still the Boston Patriots. The other two are science fiction and really good acting. The latter two items converged in a recently aired TV series, called “Counterpart.” It describes how this world separated

Shabbat’s Partner: The Jewish People

Bereshit Rabbah 11 quotes Rabbi Shimon barYochai, where he portrays Shabbat as complaining to Hashem over her lack of a partner; Hashem then promises her the Jewish people will be her partner. At Sinai, Hashem reminds the Jews of this commitment, when Hashem says, “Zachor et yom haShabbat lekadesho, remember Shabbat to declare it

Person of Prayer

Chayei Sara 5779

It takes a tough person to daven a tender Mincha. Here’s the problem: Mincha falls out, for much of the year, during the work day. In Jerusalem, the final time for Mincha gets as early as 4:39 p.m., and in New York as early as 4:28 p.m,, clearly within business hours.

What Avraham Taught the World

R. Arama starts his she’arim with a brief summary of what he intends to tell us. Here, he plans to make a point about Shabbat and its role in teaching us important truths of the world, but makes a digression I found too enlightening to pass up.

The Value of the First Six Days of

Who Was Avraham?

Lech Lecha 5779

Most of you know the story of Avraham breaking the statues in his father’s idol emporium. Can’t you just imagine the sign out front of the shop: Terach & Son, Idols for all Occasions. There’s so much about that story we don’t know. How old was Avraham? What errand did Terach

Starting the 10 Steps of Creation

R. Arama is ready to read the first chapter of Bereishit with us (which, conveniently, we just read in shul, so we hopefully have these passages more in mind than we might usually), to find the “10 sayings” a Mishnah in Avot said Hashem used to create the world. As you recall, he has decided the first of those sayings was yehi or, let

Vayeira: Seeing the Future

Parshat Vayeira has always troubled me. A quick look at the text would seem to suggest that Sara lied to Hashem. Just after one of the three angels visiting Avraham says that at this time next year Sara will have a son, the Chumash states:

Now Abraham and Sarah were old, coming on in years; Sarah had

Let’s Do It

Bereishit 5779

What are the Three Scariest Words (TSW) in the English language? There was an NPR piece about the TSW a boy can hear. They were “be a man.” Some people still think that “I love you” are the TSW. Some

Appointing a Past Sinner

Is someone who sinned in his youth qualified to serve in a communal position, such as a pulpit rabbi? Can a ba’al teshuva, someone who grew up non-observant, be appointed to such a position? This question is particularly relevant given recent discussions about a U.S. Supreme Court nominee. While I am not

Being Free to Fly Upwards

Yom Kippur is a day of Divine forgiveness. If we have done the work we need to do, we are told in the Torah that “On this day he will atone for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins, before the Lord you will be cleansed.” (Lev. 16:30). But what is that work that we must

A Blessing Past and Present

I have always felt bad for Parshat V’zot Habracha. It is the only parsha that is not read on a Shabbos, unless, of course, Simchat Torah coincides with Shabbos. Why? Why this irregularity? Indeed, the whole procedure for Torah reading on Simchat Torah is most irregular and disconcerting. It is unlike

Be Prepared: Ki Tavo 5778

When I was young, preparing for New Year’s was simple: Who would provide the house? And who would provide the alcohol? But I was young, pre-religious and New Year’s was January 1. Now that I’ve been observant for half a century, preparing for Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei, has proved much

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