Sunday, October 22, 2017

Divrei Torah

Stimulated By an Idea of the Griz

Blogging Rav Lichtenstein, Zevachim, Week Two

As I noted last week, sacrifices can seem an off-putting topic, too distant from current experience to relate to it. In watching R. Lichtenstein study it, one aspect that jumped out was his repeated reference to, and

Finished Product: Vayishlach-5776

Did you ever notice that at the beginning of many movies or shows there are certain characters whom you expect to be villains? Then later in the performance you’re disappointed if they turn out to be good? Shouldn’t we root for everybody to be good guys? Well, we don’t. I believe that, l’havdil (let’s differentiate between holy

Command and Torah Study

Blogging R. Lichtenstein, By His Light, Week 2:

In his methodical way, R. Lichtenstein structured his four talks to the American students at Yeshivat Har Etzion in Winter 5747 starting from the universal and moving to the particularly Jewish. The two talks whose summaries I’m going to even more briefly discuss here take up two aspects of being

Jack vs. Red

Many of you have probably already figured out that I’m going to discuss the difficult relationship between Ya’akov and Esav. However, for me the title contains a very poignant irony. My father OB”M was named Jacob or Jack, but far and away his most popular nickname was Red for the small amount of bright hair encircling his bald pate.

Transferring Impurity or Identity

Blogging R. Lichtenstein, Taharot Week 1:

I really don’t have enough stories to start with one each week, but this time I still do. I heard it several times, possibly once from R. Lichtenstein himself. One year in the mid-to-late 1960s, R. Soloveitchik was learning Baba Kama with his shiur; a

In the Name of God


Often I begin these articles with a light-hearted introduction to my quite serious topic, but not this week. Too many tragic ideas are swirling around in my head to allow comedy to emerge. It sort of begins with the terrible events of this year’s Haj. On September 24 there was a horrific

The Role of the Land of Israel

Blogging R. Lichtenstein, Minchat Aviv, Week 2: The Role of the Land of Israel

I will not be able to start each of these posts with an anecdote about how I relate to the material, but for this second week, I still can. Early on in my year at Gush (5742-3. 1982-3), R. Lichtenstein hosted at a

The Meaning of the Word Mabul: A Flood of Possibilities

The word mabul is typically translated as “flood.” But in order to truly understand the meaning of a word, we must determine its three-letter root.

The word has four letters, the first of which is a mem. Usually, a mem at the beginning of a noun is not a part of the root.


This is very embarrassing. There are so many times when I have this great urge to do things that I know are wrong. Especially when I’m listening to a speaker, I have this itch that I fight to not scratch. I just want to interrupt and crack a joke or correct what I consider to be an error. I know that it’s not nice, but I feel this need

Blogging R’ Lichtenstein: Introduction

This past Rosh Chodesh Iyyar, the world of Torah and avodat Hashem lost a giant, mori ve-rabi R. Aharon Lichtenstein. Many people are taking on important acts and learning projects in his memory, ואני בעניי, I in my limited capabilities, wanted to join in that.

The idea that came to me

Five Rashis, Ha’azinu: Finding Our Way to Goodness

A project in memory of Baruch Leib HaKohen b. Mordechai Yidel ve-Dobba Chaya

Most of this parsha is the song Hashem told Moshe to teach the Jewish people, to place in their mouths. Few of us remember that it’s one of the few parts of the Torah we are told to know well. Rashi adds more than a

Love Is a Greatly Focused Thing

Many times in these articles I’ve preached against belief in magic. But there are some concepts within Judaism that do seem to smack of the enchanted. Kapparah or atonement is one such principle, and it dominates the imminent Yom Kippur scene. How can sins just disappear? In the words of Isaiah: If your sins are blood-red, they’ll

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