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THE LEMON TREE


In Israel we have a small garden behind our home. It has a border of soil, maybe two feet wide. Not much space, but there are beautiful flowers. My wife, bli eyen hara, understands plants, and this place looks like Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden) to me. Besides the flowers, there are a few trees. One is a lemon tree. 

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THE HIDDEN WORLD


“The heavens declare the glory of G-d, and the expanse of the sky tells of His handiwork. Day following day brings expressions of praise, and night following night bespeaks wisdom. There is no speech and there are no words; their sound is unheard.” (Psalm 19) 

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THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL


I love the season of Sefiras Ha Omer, the forty-nine days between Passover and Shavuos during which we count the Omer. They are elevated above ordinary days. They themselves feel like a Yom Tov! In fact, the Ramban, in his commentary to Leviticus 23:36, explains that Shavuos is related to Passover as Shemini Atzeres is related to Sukkos. Sefiras Ha Omer is the “Chol Hamoed” linking Passover to Shavuos

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SURROUNDED BY TORAH


“Does a non-Jew really understand the pleasures of this world? Did he ever wake up a few hours before sunrise, drink a hot coffee, and then, with a clear mind, study Torah without interruption for two hours, followed by immersion in a hot mikveh as preparation for an inspired, fiery davening? Does he have any idea of the true pleasures of this world?” 

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IT IS TIME


I write these words after Shabbos, as the Yom Tov of Pesach is leaving us. 

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THE SMALLEST NATION


This week’s Torah Portion describes the inauguration of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. 

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OVERTURNING HOMES AND HEARTS


A grandson of Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman zt”l said, “When I served [my grandfather] food, he would … ask if I wanted to eat…. I often told him that I am a baal taavah and the food he ate would not be sufficient for me…. He would sigh and comment, ‘Eating is for me like fasting for you.’” (Quoted in Yated Ne’eman, 29 Adar) 

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MASTERS OF TIME


Before we became observant, life was like a carousel. We rode round and round. When the music stopped, we got off … at the same place we had started. 

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LEARNING FROM THE “VOV”


This momentous Shabbos ushers in the Month of Miracles. 

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ONE HUGE STEAK


A prominent rosh yeshiva once remarked to me, “I never ate a steak in my life.” 

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IF YOU ARE QUIET, YOU WILL HEAR


When my wife and I were college students, we joined the “Peace Movement,” protesting the Vietnam War. This was before we became aware of our Jewishness; we were looking for something to fill up the spiritual vacuum, but there was no peace in the Peace Movement.  

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SEVEN WORDS


Just seven words. It was not a Gemora, not a Rashi. It was a few words from a commentary explaining a Tosfos. I was sitting in Yerushalayim early Shabbos morning and trying to understand those seven words. 

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WHAT WE HAVE LOST


“Al naharos Bavel … by the Rivers of Babylon, there we sat and also we wept when we remembered Tzion…. If I forget you, then let my right hand forget its skill; let my tongue adhere to my palate, if I fail to remember you, if I fail to elevate Yerushalayim above the foremost of my joys….” (Psalm 137) 

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ONE THING I ASKED OF HASHEM!


Our grandson, Shmuel ha Levi Jungreis, was kind enough to buy us a copy of the Artscroll volume “Rav Pam on the Haftaras,” in which the late Rosh Yeshiva offers his beautiful insights on the relationship of the haftaras to the respective Torah Portion and the contents of the haftaras themselves. 

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RATIONAL BEHAVIOR


During one of those recent, frigid days, my wife noticed a lady wheeling a stroller with one hand, and, with the other, holding onto a young boy. The boy was crying loudly and bitterly. My wife saw that his coat was hanging off one arm, completely open; he was obviously freezing. Her heart went out to him, and she said to the lady, “Maybe you’d like to close his jacket.” The lady looked directly at my wife and said, “No.” 

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HOW CAN WE SING WHEN WE ARE IN MOURNING?


Rabbi Raziel Shevach was murdered several weeks ago near his home in the Shomron (north of Yerushalayim). I never met him, but I understand he was a beloved person who extended himself greatly for his fellow Jews. That makes it hurt even more. It hurts when the haters are strong and those who bless the world are suffering. This is extremely painful. 

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“WHO CAN STAND BEFORE HIS COLD?”


Did we ever have a winter like this? Who can remember such cold? On the Shabbos of January 6, wind chills in the New York Metropolitan Area reached minus twenty degrees! 

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SUDDEN REDEMPTION


Why did I not visit Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin in prison? Only after his release did I realize that he had been imprisoned in New York and not Iowa. I could so easily have gone there. I know what it means to visit a prisoner. Decades ago, when Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis was scheduled to speak to Jewish prisoners in Rikers Island Prison in New York City, an emergency arose and she asked me to fill in for her. 

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THE PURPOSE OF THE U.N. IN HASHEM’S PLAN


“A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know of Joseph… and [the Egyptians] became disgusted because of the Children of Israel.” (Exodus 1:8-12)  This is amazing. How could Joseph have been forgotten? He saved Egypt! 

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THE LAMPS ARE GOING OUT


"The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our life-time." 
  

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A TEN-STRINGED INSTRUMENT AND A LYRE


As I have mentioned in the past, this week’s Torah Portion is to me the emotional high point of the entire Written Bible. Who can fail to be shaken by these words? 

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LIGHT CARVED FROM UNDER THE THRONE OF GLORY


Chanukah is about light. 

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DO YOU WANT YOUR NAME TO BE ERASED

“In the generation when [Moshiach] the son of Dovid will come, Torah scholars will decrease. And [as for] the rest [of the people], their eyes will become worn out through grief and anxiety. Numerous troubles and harsh decree will be appearing anew. Before the first [trouble] is over, a second one will … appear…. The meeting place will be [used] for licentiousness [and]… whoever turns away from evil will be [considered] foolish….” (Tractate Sanhedrin 97a) 

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THE ROSES OF EDEN


There is a long and rather surprising end to this week’s Torah Portion, beginning with the words, “these are the offspring of Esau ….” (Genesis 36:9) I counted thirty-four verses, listing name after name of the descendants of possibly the most evil person in history! Why does the Torah want us to know the descendants of Esau? 

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REAL PEOPLE CRY AND LAUGH


“Then Yaakov … raised his voice and wept.” (Genesis 29:11)  

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THE FOUNTAINS OF THE GREAT DEEP


“There was a famine in the land, aside from the first famine that was in the days of Avraham, and Yitzchak went to Avimelech, king of the Pilishtim…” (Genesis 26:1) 

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MY BRIDGE TO G-D

“Toras Hashem temima … The Torah of Hashem is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of Hashem is trustworthy, making the simple one wise. The orders of Hashem are upright, gladdening the heart. The command of Hashem is clear, enlightening the eyes….” (Psalm 19) 

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INTENSE HEAT

Our Father Avraham was born in the year 1948, counting from Creation. The Prophet Malachi was born approximately 1400 years later. Jewish prophesy begins with Avraham and ends with Malachi. It is amazing to see how connected they are, and how we – some 2400 years after Malachi – are connected to them. 

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THE POINT OF PROPHESY


“Know with certainty that your offspring shall be aliens in a land not their own, and they will serve them, and they will oppress them, four hundred years. But also the nation that they will serve I shall judge, and afterwards they will leave with great wealth … And the fourth generation shall return here ….” (Genesis 15:13-16) 

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NOAH AND NORTH KOREA


I had the privilege during just before Yom Kippur of speaking at Yeshiva Zeev Hatorah in the Holy City of Yerushalayim. This is the holy Torah institution presided over by the illustrious Rabbi Shmuel Brazil shlita”h. One of the students there, a young man named Yoel Fingerer, asked a very interesting question. We were discussing the War of God and Magog and the contemporary conflict between the Children of Yishmael (the Moslem Nations) and the Children of Esav (the Western Nations). 

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