Teachings on the Parsha, on the Chagim and on Jewish Thought
Parshat Shemot: The Power of Curiosity
Moshe does not stop questioning. From the very first moment that G-d wants to appoint him to rescue the Bnei Yisrael from Egypt, he is questioning. Why me? Maybe I do not fit? Maybe Aaron is a better candidate? Maybe Pharaoh will not listen to me because I’m heavy-tongued? Maybe Bnei Yisrael will not believe […]
Dad, will I ever be a disappointment to you?
Dad, will I ever be a disappointment to you? This is a question that my daughter asked me a few years ago. In fact, I was not ready for it and instinctively answered her: “Sweetie, you’ll never be a disappointment to me, I’m proud of you and I love you. I will honor any choice […]
Yaacov Avinu did not die
Two portions in Sefer Bereshit contain the word ‘life’ in their title – Chayei Sarah and Vayechi. Surprisingly enough, these portions do not deal with life but rather with death – the deaths of Sarah and Abraham, and the deaths of Jacob and Joseph. The Sages made a similar observation when they wrote: “Our patriarch […]
On Zealousness, Peace and Hanukah Candles
If we were to restage the story of the victory of the Hasmoneans today, we would probably have to categorize the Hasmoneans as a group of extreme fundamentalist freedom fighters. Most of us probably feel very uncomfortable and distressed when reading the following reaction of Matityahu to a Hellenist Jew: “A Jew came forward in the […]
Light and Darkness, Pain and Joy – Reflections on Chanukah and Parashat Miketz
“I want you to listen to me very carefully, Harry. You’re not a bad person. You’re a very good person, who bad things have happened to. Besides, the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act […]
We usually tend to relate to Eisav as the wicked son (Eisav HaRasha), but I wish to reconsider the matter and discuss another topic – “poor Eisav”. “And Rebecca loves Jacob”. Say no more. Try to imagine the traumatic experience of growing up when your mother loves your brother and does not love you. Consider […]
What kept Abraham from consulting with Sara on the Akedah?
Sara’s life is suddenly cut short, at a young age (at least in those days) – 127 years. According to the Midrashim, Sara died of a heart attack when she heard about the Akeda from Yitzchak (or from the Satan, in other versions of the story): “When he came to his mother, she said to […]
The Never-Ending Journey of Lech Lecha
Perhaps it is this challenge of permanency and belonging that has shaped the concept of the eternity of Avraham’s future nation, Am Israel. Avraham’s journey of Lech Lecha never really ended, and we are the ones who continue that eternal journey.
The Power of Permission
The Torah is not a joy-killing mechanism, but a system meant to refine the joys of life and elevate them to a spiritual dimension. As we start reading the Torah again from Bereshit, let’s pay attention to the profound message of the first mistake of mankind regarding our relationship with G-d.
On Sukkot, Sense of Belonging and True Resilience
Our careers, expertise, possessions, and assets do not define who we are. It is our deeper purpose in the world that gives meaning to our lives and gives us the sense that we belong here. True belonging is not defined by our social strata and is not achieved through the acquisition of wealth. True belonging is based on the courage to present who we truly are. That is the message of Sukkot, the season of our rejoicing.
“If I’m Here, Everything is Here” – Reflections on Z’man Simchateinu
Sukkot teaches us that our happiness and our sense of security comes from within us and not from any external factor. We tend to think of our brick homes as providing us with a sense of safety and belonging. But in truth, as long as our safety depends on external factors, we will remain inherently insecure and unhappy.
Kol Nidre and True Colors – Comparing Notes
The Kol Nidre prayer is one of the most authentic, meaningful and moving moments of the year, and not just for observant Jews. However, it does not have any significance according to Jewish law.
Not Fearing Crises – Reflections on the Sounds of the Shofar
Many people float through the stream of life instead of swimming to the destination they need to reach to fulfill their life’s mission. It is only when facing a major crisis or hitting rock bottom that we wake up from our slumber. Especially this year, in light of the global crisis that we are all facing, Rosh Hashana should give us the strength and courage to not be afraid of crises and change.
Rosh Chodesh Elul: Hashem is my Light and Salvation
A couple of years ago, on Rosh Chodesh Ellul, during one of the darkest and most challenging periods in my life, I visited the Alma Cave with my children.
What I experienced there in the cave, was among the most powerful moments of my life. It was a special lesson of faith, resilience and personal growth.
New Inner Vision Glasses for Life
By improving our inner vision, by putting on new glasses and seeing the world through different eyes, we can hear God callings to us through the events in our lives, through our social interactions and through our closest relationships “The blessing that you will hear”.
If we can wear these perceptive new glasses, we will see immediately, even during the current crisis, how even the most excruciating challenges we face are designed for our benefit. When we find the courage to look inside ourselves, we can understand that what seems to be a curse may actually be a blessing.
The Power of Listening
When we are not able to really listen to our loved ones it is often because we think they are threatening us, when in fact they serve as the mirror for our weaknesses. We instinctively feel the need to get into defense mode, or to flee, block our ears, and even blame others for our errors.
If we have the courage and patience to listen to the end, we can truly grow and deepen the bond with those closest to us. This will give us the courage to listen to opposing opinions, not to be afraid of them and not to try to silence them. Once we can let go of all these defensive strategies, we will begin to realize that true listening in the key to self-growth
Unfreezing Our Hearts – Reflections on Tu B’Av in COVID-19 Times
Tu B’Av, should be the happiest day of the year and a festival of true and authentic love. Olaf from “Frozen” teaches us that true love is putting someone else’s needs before your own.
On Tu B’Av and Ahavat Chinam
We have been practicing social distancing for months, because it has proven to be the most effective way to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, the pandemic of Sinat Chinam (baseless hatred) from which we have been suffering for thousands of years should be battled with the exact opposite weapon – social closeness.
Changing the Culture of Dispute
The remedy for the whole of society must begin with our personal actions, so I wish to suggest a road map to conduct what our Sages define as ‘machloket le’shem shamayim’ (dispute for the sake of Heaven). If we can implement these principles in every conversation, argument and conflict in our lives, between families and friends, in the workplace and in the political arena, and especially on social media, it will bring our society to a much healthier place.
The Courage to Cry
Authentic tears can melt away the layers of apathy and cynicism we wrap ourselves in and open the locked gates within our hearts. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch writes that just as sweat is the sign of a physical workout, tears are the sign of the soul’s workout since “tears are the sweat of the soul.”
Question Marks – the Essence of Jewish Faith
Every encounter with death raises theological questions, challenging questions, unanswered questions. Many of us have experienced this struggle, particularly recently with the many lives tragically lost during the Coronavirus pandemic. This is the essence of the Red Heifer commandment, an obscure and incomprehensible mitzvah that even King Solomon, whose wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people, […]
The Opposite of Love is not Hate
The word Machloket (dispute) is often perceived as a negative concept. Korach’s story in this week’s Torah portion is a classic example of a negative dispute – a controversy full of intrigue and egotism. Yet the opposite of Machloket is not the avoidance of conflict. The Sages taught us that the opposite of a negative dispute is Machloket L’Shem Shamayim, […]
One Letter Can Make All the Difference
Sometimes we feel emotionally and spiritually blocked, struggling to recalculate the route for the journey of our lives, and searching for the path without seeing any light at the end of the tunnel. Unblocking ourselves begins with attuning our perspective to the Divine abundance that surrounds us. Moshe Rabbenu sent twelve spies to tour the […]
The Torah: A Love Story
According to tradition, the upcoming Shavuot holiday celebrates the day the Jewish people received the Torah. Following the tradition of the Kabbalists, Jewish communities spend the holiday eve awake, studying Torah until dawn, in a custom known as “Tikkun Leil Shavuot”. This tradition’s source is a parable told by our sages that recalls the night […]
Pesach Sheni in the Time of COVID-19: Another Chance for Unity
Pesach Sheni is a very unique mitzvah in the Torah. The common principle is ‘avar zemano – batel korbano’ = once the time has passed, the korban is canceled. Why specifically on Pesach are we granted a second chance? Why this is not an option in any other chag or korban? There is a special element in […]
On Uncertainty and the Festival of Freedom
The ability to lean fearlessly into uncertainty for a long while and to feel comfort and security precisely in the landscape of question marks. There is redemption in a profound experience of uncertainty. It’s an opportunity to embrace our vulnerability and to realize that there is something much bigger than us. It is an opportunity to discover that the real sense of safety comes from the divine side of us and our engagement with it. “Let go and let God”!
Food for Thought for Shevi’i Shel Pesach
The quality of the prayers is very important, but it must be remembered that if this is an exclusive prayer, in which there is no room for every Jew, something in this prayer is flawed.
Turning Loneliness into Solitude
When facing the fear of loneliness on Leil HaSeder, one has the potential to experience self-redemption, turning the loneliness into solitude and fear into resilience.
On Kedusha (holiness) and Boundaries
Sefer Shemot & the Mishkan After the dramas and miracles, the plagues and the signs, and the fascinating stories about the splitting of the Red Sea and the revelation at Mount Sinai, we come to the second half of Sefer Shemot, which contains a long and tedious description of the construction of the Mishkan (tabernacle). […]