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THE DAY OF HEALING


As I write, hundreds of rockets have been falling on Israel. Our own grandchildren returned after Shabbos to their home near Ashkelon to the sound of air-raid sirens. 

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PE’AH IN THE SHADOW OF GAZA

 

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TOWER OF FIRE


Have you ever heard of the Ashalim Solar Power Plant? 

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LARGER THAN LIFE


We say about some people, “They were larger than life.” 

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FREEDOM FROM WHAT?


My chavrusa (study partner), a respected rebbe in Yerushalayim, mentioned a disturbing conversation he had with one of his talmidim, who asked, “If marijuana is legal, why shouldn’t we smoke it?” In other words, why shouldn’t we be on drugs?  

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LIFE MAKES NO SENSE WITHOUT TORAH


The Talmud discusses the generation before Moshiach. “It was taught in a Baraisa: Rabbi Nechemia says: [In] the generation when the son of David will come, insolence will increase; honor will dwindle; the vine will produce its fruit, yet wine will be expensive; the entire kingdom will turn to heresy and there will be no rebuke.” (Sanhedrin 97a) 

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RAIN AND REDEMPTION


Next Shabbos the month of spring arrives. With the advent of Nissan, hope blooms in our hearts and flowers bloom in the fields and on the trees. During this season we have to remember that Zman Chairusainu (the Season of our Freedom) can come only after we have been released from slavery. There is no redemption unless there has been danger. That is why redemption is so powerful. 

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WE ARE THE OLAH!


Is it not strange that Passover comes four weeks after Purim? They are the same basic story: the Children of Israel are threatened by a powerful foe and saved by miraculous intervention. Why did the Torah establish one major Holiday after the other?

I believe the Torah is warning us that, throughout our long journey, this story is going to happen over and over. We are going to be in mortal danger many times until the Final Redemption arrives.  

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HAMAN FAILED!


Haman cast lots concerning which day he would try to destroy all the Jews, G-d forbid. Since he was “all powerful” and ruled a kingdom which spanned the entire world, how could the Jews escape? He had it figured out. It was “all over.” 

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IRRATIONAL!


 We have now entered the second month of Adar (which happens only during a Jewish Leap Year, seven years out of every nineteen-year cycle). During this time of year, the Torah tells us to increase simcha. But, even without the Torah’s encouragement, I believe that we all feel the optimism inherent in this season, which is assisted by a change in weather. It has been a cold winter where we live, and – Baruch Hashem! – a relatively wet winter in Israel, and now we sense the beautiful season of spring approaching.  

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“ASSEMBLE ALL THE JEWS”


Rabbi Yaakov Landau Shlita”h, the Rabbi of Congregation Chanichei Ha Yeshivos in Lakewood, spoke recently about the current state of the world. He compared our current situation to the times of Purim, when Haman ordered that letter be “sent by courier to all the provinces of the king, to destroy, to slay and to exterminate all the Jews from young to old, children and women ….” (Esther 3:13) 

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A SECOND CHANCE

  
I would like to bring you up to date on a few things.  

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THE STREETS OF YERUSHALAYIM


 I walked out of shul. The streets of Yerushalayim were still damp from the previous day’s rain. I had davened slowly and felt peaceful. The cares of the world seemed lighter, because it was clear to me that all the disturbing events of our times have been predicted as a prelude to the coming of Moshiach, and we can surely anticipate that Moshiach will be here soon.  

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CUFFLINKS


“They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them.”(Exodus 25:8) 

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HOW DID WE FORGET?


And now we enter a new world. 

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THE SAP OF REDEMPTION


Is it a coincidence that this climactic Torah Portion, in which the Children of Israel meet Hashem at Mount Sinai, should fall out during the week of T’U b’Shevat (The New Year of Trees)? Well that question is of course unnecessary, because there are no coincidences. 

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STAND FAST AND SEE THE SALVATION OF HASHEM


The power of this week’s Torah Portion challenges description. It is not simply what happened to our ancestors, but it reflects our situation today. 

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DO NOT BE AFRAID, MY SERVANT JACOB!


And we leave Egypt. 

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EXILE AND REDEMPTION


The Torah goes at great length into the Egyptian Exile because we have to understand the reality of Exile. The Torah goes at great length into the Redemption through Moses because we have to understand the reality of Redemption. 

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G-D HEARD THEIR MOANING


“A new king arose over Egypt who did not know of Joseph  … Pharaoh commanded his entire people, saying, ‘Every boy that will be born … you shall throw him into the river ….” (Exodus 1:8ff) We were threatened then and we are threatened now. 

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WITH DAWN, A CRY OF JOY


Exile begins. 

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TWO WORDS


Many decades ago, a few years after we got married, before the dawn of Torah in our lives, my wife and I lived for over a year in England. I was studying English Language and Literature at Balliol College, Oxford (founded 755 years ago). Although some might think those years were a waste, it is not true. Hashem guides one through life, and I was led to study English-language skills which I use to this day in books, articles and public speaking. I was taught clarity and proper use of the English Language. 

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“LISHMA” … FOR ITS OWN SAKE


This Friday night there will be six lights on the Chanukah Menorah in addition to the Shabbos lights. The house will be full of light. What is special about the Chanukah lights is that you cannot use them for seeing your way. They are just for looking. 

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THE WORLD IS WAITING FOR OUR BLESSING


My wife and I had been speaking at the University of Michigan. At the Detroit airport, returning to New York, we had to wait for a shuttle bus. There was a man behind the counter, apparently from Haiti. He acted like a functionary, exhibiting no warmth or friendliness. As we left for the bus, I said “Thank you,” and reached out to shake his hand. This gesture had a remarkable effect. He suddenly emerged from behind the counter, bowing to us and smiling. 

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LOOKING AT AN ANGEL


“Vayishlach … Jacob sent angels ahead of him to Esau….” (Genesis 32:4) 

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TAKE WORDS


“Jacob departed from Be’er Sheva and went toward Haran….” (Genesis 28:10)  

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BE’ER SHEVA THEN AND NOW


“[Yitzchak Avinu] went up … to Be’er Sheva. Hashem appeared to him that night and said, ‘I am the G-d of your father Avraham. Fear not, for I am with you. I will bless you and increase your offspring because of Avraham my servant.’ He built an altar there, invoked Hashem by Name, and there he pitched his tent …. Avimelech went to him from Gerar….” (Genesis 26:23-26)  

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THE LEAST COMFORTABLE PATH


Recently, my wife and I visited Ma’aras Hamachpaila, the Cave of Machpaila in Chevron, the burial place of our Fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and our Mothers Sarah, Rebeccah and Leah as well as Adam and Eve. Standing before the ancient stone building, we felt the kedusha wash over us. 

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BEYOND NATURE


We learn from our Father Abraham that we are different from all other nations. We are directly connected with the Master of the World; we are not bound by the laws of nature. 

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THE OLIVE TREE


The High Holidays are a massive spiritual mountain. Wherever we are on that mountain, we have a lot of climbing to do.  

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