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"UNDERSTOOD ONLY BY G-D"


We are not going to be able to unravel the mystery of the Red Heifer. If King Solomon could not fathom this, how can we expect to? Nevertheless, I would like to think about this unique commandment.  

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CITY OF THE ANTS


“When [Moses] finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open. The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households and all the people who were with Korach and the entire wealth. They and all that was theirs descended alive to the pit; the earth covered them over and they were lost from among the congregation” (Numbers 16:31-33). 

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MY BEST FRIEND


In this week’s Torah portion we learn about what could be termed “depression.” Its effects are so serious that they lead directly to the greatest catastrophes in Jewish history. Its essence is expressed by the following words of the Spies : “There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of the giant … We were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes” (Numbers 13:33).  

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"EIGHT"


We have now passed through the holiday of Shavuos and have entered what the non-Jewish world calls “the long, hot summer.” When I was younger, that meant trouble. As a kid, I remember the long, hot summer meant that bored kids, out of school, were looking for trouble. 

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WHY DAVID MUST COME FROM THE MOST REVILED NATION


There is a magnificent chapter in The Book of Our Heritage (the classic translation of Sefer HaToda’ah by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov zt”l), which I have the custom of reading aloud to the family on Shavuos. It is called “Ruth and David,” and I cry every time I read it.  

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SURVIVING THE REBUKE


Every word in the Torah reaches infinitely upwards. The more we understand, the closer these words carry us toward the Gates of Heaven. The rebuke particularly stands out, to me at least, as among the most optimistic passages in the entire Bible.  

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TWO DREAMS


“The seventh year shall be a complete rest for the land, a Sabbath for G-d …” (Leviticus 25:4)
. After six years of toil, the Land rests.

At this season, just after Passover, I mark two personal occasions, and I would like to tell you about them.  

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CRACKING THE EGG SHELL


As we travel from Egypt to Mount Sinai during these days of Sefiras haOmer, we are reminded of the challenges of this season. Indeed, as I mentioned in a recent article, the ceaseless and almost-irresistible power of the evil inclination is constantly trying to pull us back into Egypt.  

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"A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS AND A HOLY NATION"


(Note to Readers: From Shabbos Chol ha Moed Pesach until Shabbos Dvarim (which will occur on 9 Av/August 13), there will be a discrepancy between the parsha which is read in Israel versus that which is read outside Israel. Our articles will follow the order of the parsha which is read outside Israel.)

When car windows were smashed in Far Rockaway during Passover, a resident was quoted in the news as saying: “I don’t really [care] about the … window. They didn’t touch a thing in [the car]. … It was obvious vandalism, and the question is, was there a motive? Why was this neighborhood targeted on Passover, our holiday?” 

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WHAT THE LEADERS OF THE WORLD EXPECT OF THE JEWISH NATION


(Note to Readers: From Shabbos Chol ha Moed Pesach until Shabbos Dvarim (which will occur on 9 Av/August 13), there will be a discrepancy between the parsha which is read in Israel versus that which is read outside Israel. Our articles will follow the order of the parsha which is read outside Israel.)

Passover is over. We have left Egypt and find ourselves in those special days called Sefiras HaOmer (Counting the Omer). We are marching towards Mount Sinai and literally counting the days until we arrive at that world-changing encounter with the Master of the Universe.  

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DO I WANT TO LEAVE EGYPT?


Do I want to leave Egypt?

What a question! Of course I want to leave! Moses is here with us, along with his brother Aaron. You’re asking if I want to leave with them? They are going to write about us in the Torah, in the Haggadah! This is the greatest moment in history! 

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A WEDDING IN MOSCOW


“Behold, I send you Elijah the Prophet, before the great and awesome day of G-d. He shall restore the hearts of fathers to children and the heart of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with destruction” (Malachi 3:23-24; Haftara reading of Shabbos Hagadol). 

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EXODUS FROM EGYPT IN OUR DAYS


“In His goodness, He renews daily, perpetually, the work of Creation!” (Morning liturgy)

G-d is continuously, perpetually recreating the universe. This is possibly the most upbeat message in the entire world. No matter how disastrous, catastrophic, absolutely black the current situation, the potential exists that, at the next moment, we will find ourselves in the complete purity of the world as it was at creation, before it was sullied by man’s rebellion.  

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WHY EVIL KINGS ARISE AGAINST US


In these days between Purim and Passover, I would like to consider a subject which pertains to both holidays and also to our current world scene. With Purim comes Haman and with Passover comes Pharaoh, both classic examples of powerful kings whose entire being is consumed by hatred of the Jewish People.  

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WHY IS "THIRTEEN" SO FRIGHTENING?


I was raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in a world of elegant apartment buildings. The doorman greets you and then you board the elevator. Up you go! And what do you find after the twelfth floor? It is obvious! After twelve comes ... fourteen! What else could it be? As we learned in school: “11… 12 … 14”!

Wait! What happened to thirteen?  

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PURIM AND PESACH


Two mighty holidays are approaching.

But when you examine the themes of Purim and Pesach (Passover), they are almost identical. Why are they celebrated one after the other, thirty days apart? Why do we need what is essentially the same story repeated, one thirty days after the other?  

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THE EVERLASTING TABERNACLE


Why are there so many Jewish accountants?  

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SAMUEL THE PROPHET


Only minutes north of Jerusalem, the tomb of Samuel the Prophet stands on a hill overlooking the Holy City. This place is vital to us; I do not see any reason why it should not be filled with worshipers at all hours. Samuel was the greatest prophet after Moses (Radak). As the verse says, “Moses and Aharon were among His priests and Samuel among those who invoke His Name” (Psalm 99). Moses’s grave is at an unknown location outside Israel; Samuel the Prophet’s is easily accessible.  

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"HASHEM HU HA-ELOKIM!"


How could the Jewish People worship the Golden Calf so soon after receiving the Torah? This is an old question, but its implications are totally contemporary.  

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THE FACE OF THE GENERATION


This week’s Torah portion says, “I shall set My meeting [in the Sanctuary] with the Children of Israel, and it shall be sanctified with My glory. I shall sanctify the tent of Meeting and the Altar …. I shall rest My Presence among the Children of Israel and I shall be their G-d. They shall know that I am the L-rd, their G-d, Who took them out of the land of Egypt to rest My Presence among them” (Exodus 29:43-46). 

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TESTIMONY


I have often mentioned the Chofetz Chaim’s words, “We can learn about the end of our exile from what happened at the end of our exile in Egypt” (Source: Rabbi Elchonen Wasserman zt”l). This teaches that events which take place before the Final Redemption will resemble events which took place in Egypt. My son-in-law, Rabbi Osher Anshul Halevi Jungreis, mentioned to me the verse in Micah which draws a parallel between the Exodus from Egypt and the Final Redemption. 

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NO SEPARATION


As you have read in these columns, I grew up in a very liberal home, in which “religion” was considered a crutch for naïve, unsophisticated people. We lived in America, where there is a doctrine called “separation of church and state.” Since “religion” was not “real,” it was pushed off to “Sunday,” when you took a rest from “reality.”  

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YOU ... WE ARE NOT WORRIED ABOUT!


I had been called for jury duty. As I walked into the courthouse, I had no idea what I would hear or see. My briefcase contained holy books and some food. Who knew how long I might have to stay here? I took pains to present an appearance that would properly represent G-d. At least I could try to honor His Name in this challenging environment.  

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THE SECRET OF THE FIFTEENTH DAY


Six months ago, I wrote about Tu B’Av, a holiday which brings hope after the terrible events of Tisha B’Av. There is something about the Fifteenth day of the Jewish month which is related to redemption. The first day of Passover, the first day of Sukkos, Tu B’Shevat, and Shushan Purim all occur on the Fifteenth day of the month. 

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SWEET GRAPES


The Jewish People crosses the Red Sea!

A nation that has been crushed in Egypt suddenly bursts forth like blossoms in the spring! Surely there is no other nation like this, able to rise not only from slavery but from the slave mentality, a nation uniquely close to G-d, far above what other nations can even imagine. 

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I HAVE A PLAN


The deputy mayor of Jerusalem was recently quoted as saying the government has given up hope on preventing attacks against Jews. I believe that. The government has no plan.

I have a plan.  

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SEVENTY WOLVES


In the old, old days, long before I became observant, I lived in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a world of wealthy, assimilated Jews who fled the Torah as if it were poison. From nursery all the way through twelfth grade, I attended what was considered an “elite” private school. Our class, numbering about one hundred, was composed almost exclusively of assimilated Jews, with a smattering of others as a result of the school’s liberal philosophy. Feelings of guilt as a result of our comfortable lifestyle made it almost mandatory to include a few non-Jews.  

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THE BOY IN THE BARBER SHOP


Recently, in the barber shop, a boy was waiting for the next appointment. He wore a hockey uniform and sat hunched over his phone. He looked at no one. He said nothing. When his turn came, he wordlessly walked to the barber’s chair. No “good morning.” No smile or interaction. He looked into space. No word came from his mouth or light from his eyes.  

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WE ARE ORPHANS!


We have arrived once again at that moment, painful for me, when we leave the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, not to meet again until next year. It is like mourning for one’s parents. How can we go on?

Just who were these angelic but achingly real people? 

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"JOSEPH COULD NOT RESTRAIN HIMSELF"


We have just participated in one of the most remarkable dramas in the entire Torah. It began in the Torah portion of Vayeshev with Joseph’s dreams, continued through Mikeitz and concludes this week with the words “Ani Yosef … I am Joseph.” This extended scenario, in a way, represents the culmination of the lives of our Patriarchs. This is where the foundation of the entire future relationship among the Children of Israel is established.  

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