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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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PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION


In our Torah portion, our father Jacob says to Esau, “I will make my way at my slow pace … until I come to my lord at Seir” (Genesis 33:14).  

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"OVER ALL HIS BROTHERS HE LAY"


“Rabbi Isaac said: Why were our forefathers infertile? Because the Holy One Blessed is He desires the prayers of the righteous” (Yevamos 64a).

 
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SURVIVING SODOM


We were in Israel during last summer’s missile attacks. The sirens would sound and we would rush to the shelters. This year there is no siren; there are no shelters; there is no warning. The attack can come at any time, at any place. The Arab you knew for years from the neighborhood grocery store can kill you. The Arab in the Bezeq truck can kill you on his way to “work.”  

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CONTROLLING THE INNER ISHMAEL


In this week’s Torah portion we meet Ishmael.  

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SECOND MARRIAGE


My wife and I got married twice. The first time, before we were observant, a very liberal “rabbi” handed us a “kesuba” (marriage contract) which read “ani l’dodi v’dodi li … I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3).  

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"EXHAUSTED NATION"


“Perhaps you will say in your heart, ‘These nations are more numerous than I. How will I be able to drive them out?’  

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LESSON IN CHARACTER REFINEMENT


During the Sefiras HaOmer period of counting the 49 days between Passover and the holiday of Shavuos, we are working intensely to refine our character, trying to merit receiving the Torah on Shavuos. During Passover, I was privileged to perform the rare mitzvah (Torah commandment) of “shiluach hakan” - sending away the mother bird before taking her young (Deuteronomy 22:6-7). 

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THE IRON FURNACE


“G-d has taken you and withdrawn you from ‘kur habarzel’… the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a nation of heritage for Him, as this very day…” (Deuteronomy 4:20). 

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WHERE IS BAKU?


Next week is Passover, and I can think of no better introduction to the festival of our liberation than to report to you on our recent speaking trip to Baku.  

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A SATISFYING AROMA


“Ketores - the Incense Offering - the dearest of all the offerings.”  (Rashi on Numbers 16:6)  

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STARS OF ISRAEL


"When Jacob finished instructing his sons, he drew his feet onto the bed; he expired and was gathered to his people." (Genesis 49:33) So ends an era. But the influence of the Patriarchs is so powerful that it remains with their children until the end of time. All of our prayers begin with the words, "G-d of Abraham, G-d of Isaac and G-d of Jacob...

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REFLECTED LIGHT


Chanukah is the quintessential holiday of exile.

The neiros (Chanukah lights) illuminate the darkest season of the year. This is the only holiday that begins during the period of the waning moon. The days of Chanukah actually become darker and darker ... until the very end, because Chanukah ends just when the sliver of the New Moon is becoming visible in the night sky. 

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MITZRAIM!


Now we descend with Joseph to Egypt.

The significance of our ancestors’ sojourn in Mitzraim (Biblical Egypt) must be prodigious, because we never cease to mention it. Every Sabbath begins with, “zaicher l’ytzias Mitzraim … a memorial of the Exodus from Egypt,” and every holiday cycle begins with Passover, the entire theme of which is the story of our Redemption from Mitzraim. 

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MIRACLE AT KENNEDY AIRPORT


The world was filled with idolatry. One man, our Father Abraham, understood that there had to be a Creator. He found the Torah and its Author. From our Father Avraham descended a nation of Priests, “goy kadosh … a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6) In today’s darkness, Hashem is still close to us. If we look for Him we can find Him. We simply have to keep looking.  

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WHY WE NEED TO ACT LIKE ANGELS


The essential message of Yom Kippur is that everything depends on our spiritual condition. To the extent that we follow Hashem's will, our life will be good. The economy is not the determining factor. Politics is not the determining factor. Social issues are not the determining factor. The only thing that counts is our relationship with G-d. That's it. 

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