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ON THE PLAINS OF MOAV


View eastward toward the Plains of Moav from a vantage point slightly to the south of Jericho. In the foreground is the northern tip of the Dead Sea. 

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THE “THIN, STILL SOUND”


Last week we discussed the words of Bilaam, which ring down through the ages: “Am levadad yishkon … Behold! It is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations.” (Numbers 23:9) The reality is that we are completely alone among the nations. Yishmoel (the Moslem World) hates us and Esav (the Western World) hates us, and we should never yearn for their love. The only affection for which we as a Nation should yearn is the love of Hashem, as it says, “Your love is dearer to me than all earthly delights….” (Song of Songs 1:2) 

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WORDS OF TRUTH FROM OUR ENEMIES


Some of the most basic truths emerge from the mouths of our enemies. They come to correct us; Hashem sends them only because we need them. As it says, “Beware lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others and bow to them. Then the wrath of Hashem will blaze against you…” (Deuteronomy  16-17)  

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THE ASHES OF LIFE


Recently, while attending a wedding, my wife and I met a security guard, a former Iraqi soldier. He described the frightening world of Iraqi society – even more chaotic since the death of Sadaam Hussein! – with open warfare in the streets and no semblance of civilized behavior. 

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DO NOT COVET


“Lo sachmod … You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:14) This is the last of the Ten Commandments, positioned at the end of the series perhaps because these cosmic words would so clearly affect the future of the Children of Israel. 

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TZITZIS … AND WORLD SECURITY


On May 22, a bombing attack occurred in Manchester, England. A few weeks later, there were violent attacks in London. President Trump and other Western leaders condemned these attacks. The Prime Minister of England stated, “Enough is enough.” But even powerful leaders seem helpless in the face of this growing threat.  

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A MOTHER AND TWO CHILDREN

“When the ark would journey, Moshe said, ‘Arise Hashem, and let your foes be scattered. Let those who hate You flee from before You.’ And, when it rested, he would say, ‘Reside tranquilly, O Hashem, among the myriad thousands of Israel.’” (Bamidbar 10:35)  

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LEARNING FROM THE ANIMALS


We have just completed the Holiday of Shavuos, which is the culmination of Pesach, so really we are still working on themes from Pesach. The question is: where do we go from here? Is this it? Is this where the work of Pesach ends? Or does it all go onward?  

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THE MOST DEEPLY HIDDEN


Why is Dovid Hamelech the eternal king of Israel?

There was never anyone else like him. He is Kodesh Hakadoshim, Holy of Holies. He tried to remain hidden just as the Ribono shel Olam is hidden. His descendant, Moshiach ben Dovid, is extremely hidden. It seems quite likely that Moshiach ben Dovid is in the world today, but we do not yet know who he is. 

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MOSHE ORLANSKY


In last week’s column I mentioned the death of Moshe Orlansky.

Reb Moishe was my friend. I davened next to him at Yeshiva Sh’or Yoshuv for almost two decades. His livelihood was making doughnuts and muffins, but his life was Torah. “V’ani sfilosi … ” (Psalm 69:14), which, I believe, can be understood as “I am tefilla/prayer.” Reb Moishe was prayer. He could fill the entire Sh’or Yoshuv Yeshiva Study Hall with the sound of tefilla

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THE CANDY MAN

I don’t even know his name. I know that he survived the Holocaust. He An old man, he is bent over, a widower. He is alone, and yet he is not alone. He is not depressed. He gives out candy. You know about the candy man. He’s the one who gives out candy to the children in Shul.  

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IN YOUR BLOOD SHALL YOU LIVE!


I have trouble praying at the Western Wall (Kosel). At the holiest place on earth one can feel very strongly the absence of the Holy Temple. On a recent visit, I had a powerful sense that the Wall itself was impenetrable, as if my prayers were bouncing off the massive stones in front of me. How could I pray through this barrier that seemed so impervious to the tears I wanted to shed? 

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EVERYTHING ELSE IS "GMG"


We have completed the epic holiday called Passover and are counting the days until Shavuos. This reflects our ancestors’ historic physical and spiritual march from Egypt to Mount Sinai, which in turn reflects the spiritual activity which should be going on at all times within the soul of a Jew, as we continuously work to free ourselves from our spiritual Egypt and deepen our attachment to the Master of the Universe.  

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TAKE IT SERIOUSLY


We stand before the Fateful Day, the Beginning of the Year, the First of the Yomim Tovim.  

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HIS FACE TURNED WHITE


This is a true story.  

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THE LURE OF EGYPT


Passover is approaching. We have to think about how the exodus from Egypt applies to us.  

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THE WORK OF OUR HANDS


The world is in such a mess! How can the Messiah emerge from this disaster? If you start to enumerate the problems, you will run out of ink and paper before you finish. “Rabbi Yochanan said: [the Messiah] Ben David will come only in a generation that is [either] entirely virtuous or entirely guilty” (Sanhedrin 98a). If you are at the bottom, what can you do?  

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PURIM AND FOOD


You never thought you would hear this from me!

I’m going to tell you about a diet. 

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THE DAY WE ACCEPTED THE ENTIRE TORAH


At Mount Sinai, the Jewish People “stood at the bottom of the mountain” (Exodus 19:17). “Rav Avdimi bar Chama bar Chasa said: [This] teaches that the Holy One Blessed is He, covered them with the mountain as [though it were an upturned] vat. And He said to them, ‘If you accept the Torah, fine. But, if not, your burial will be there.’”  

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THEY SHALL MAKE A SANCTUARY FOR ME


“V’asu li mikdash … they shall make a sanctuary for Me, so that I may dwell among them…” (Exodus 25:8)
. We don’t have it any more! We don’t have the Ark, the Table, the Menorah, the Altar. We don’t have the Tabernacle and the Courtyard.  

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THE SLAVE'S EAR: FURTHER THOUGHTS


Two years ago, I wrote an article entitled “The Slave’s Ear,” in which I discussed the Jewish law pertaining to a Jewish slave who wishes to remain with his master after the seven-year period of servitude has elapsed. 

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UNDER THE ETERNAL CHUPAH


We have arrived at Mount Sinai, the dividing line in history. Until now we were engaged, but this is the chupah (wedding canopy). After this comes the incredible saga of the Jewish People’s eternal marriage with the Master of the Universe. It is the quintessential love story.  

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STANDING AT THE REED SEA


The events in these Torah portions are literally earth-shaking. “Kol Hashem al hamayim … the voice of G-d is upon the waters, the G-d of Glory thunders; G-d is upon vast waters….” (Psalm 29). We should have the events of the Exodus from Egypt constantly in mind because they are echoed in today’s world. 

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THE STONE IS FOR THE TEMPLE, NOT THE TUNNEL


Friday night during the Shabbos of the Torah portion Shmos I had a dream in which I saw huge slabs of white stone – perhaps thirty feet long or more – lying on the ground. I said to a man near me that G-d had told me he should start building the Holy Temple using those stones. 

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TOO BIG A JOB FOR AN ANGEL


In this week’s Torah portion, we are deep in Egypt, seeing first-hand how G-d extricated us from this fearsome exile. From this we learn how He will extricate us from our present exile. As the Chofetz Chaim said, “We can learn about the end of our [current] exile from what happened at the end of our exile in Egypt” (Quote from Rabbi Elchonen Wasserman zt”l).  

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RASHI'S PREDICTION


In today’s Torah portion and in today’s world we have arrived in exile. 

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"TO DUST YOU SHALL RETURN"


For those raised in a Torah environment, it is difficult to imagine the struggles of baalei teshuva. One of the most challenging areas is “end of life” issues.  

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FROM EGYPT TO ARAD


“Ani Yosef! Ha-od Avi chai?… I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” 

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YOSEF AND CHANUKAH


Techias hamaisim
must be a very important inyan. It is the subject of the second bracha in Shemoneh Esreh, which we say at least three times every day. Chazal emphasize that Hashem’s strength is demonstrated by the resurrection of the dead.  

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OUR LIVES DEPEND ON UNITY


The subject matter of this week’s Torah portion and the holiday of Chanukah coincide.

Vayeishev is the Torah portion of exile; Chanukah is the holiday of exile.  

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