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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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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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TERRORIZED BY THE NEWS


I do not like the term “terrorism.”

It makes us cringe, as if we were slaves to our enemies. The word induces fear, but we are not supposed to be afraid of people. “G-d is with me. I have no fear. How can man affect me?” (Psalm 118) 

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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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CONTROLLING THE INNER ISHMAEL


In this week’s Torah portion we meet Ishmael.  

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LEARNING FROM BAILA


Baila is four years old. She lives in Jerusalem. Her family was in the U.S. this summer. In the airport, before the return trip, Baila’s mother asked the children what most excited them about returning to Israel. Listen to Baila’s answer.  

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WHY DO PEOPLE FIGHT?


Someone whose father fought in the Battle of the Bulge gave me a book about this epic chapter in the history of World War II. Even reading about war is difficult. The reality is hard to imagine, especially for Americans, who have long been insulated from armed conflict. But war is real. Today, with the threat of long-range weapons and close-range enemies, it seems to be edging closer. Governments, who are supposed to protect, in some cases actually threaten the world! 

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FOUR WORDS


This is a final notice from Internal Revenue Services to inform you that the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you. Please call the following number immediately …..” 

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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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THE FULL MOON


A remarkable day called T’U b’Av (“the Fifteenth of Av”) occurs this Friday, July 31. The Midrash describes it as “the day on which the digging ceased” (Eichah Rabba). 

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THE DREAM


It is naïve to pretend that our troubles are over, but when the holy day of T’U b’Av - the fifteenth of the month of Av - arrives, along with the next Sabbath known as Shabbos Nachamu, when verses of consolation are read, who can say that he doesn’t breathe easier, knowing that we have passed through incredible trials and that G-d Himself is giving us consolation? 

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THE REAL SUPREME COURT II


Two weeks ago, I wrote an article concerning the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding the status of Jerusalem. This week’s Torah portion delineates the boundaries of the Land of Israel, as it says, “This is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance” (Numbers 34:1 ff).  

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THE REAL SUPREME COURT


Not only do we read the Torah portion of Balak this week, but we read it on the Seventeenth of the month of Tammuz, the day the walls of Jerusalem were breached. This was an attack on spirituality itself, an attempt to drive the Master of the Universe out of His own world!  

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TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE RED HEIFER


This week we are presented with the classic “chok,” a law which is seemingly incomprehensible. As the Artscroll commentary puts it, “The Midrash focuses primarily on one paradox in the laws of the Red Heifer: Its ashes purify people who had become contaminated, yet those who engage in its preparation become contaminated.” (Introduction to the Torah portion Chukas, Stone Chumash) King Solomon exclaimed concerning this mitzvah (Torah commandment), “it is far from me” (Ecclesiastes 7:23). 

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WHAT EXACTLY IS EXILE?


How contemporary is every word of Torah!

Tragically, the events of this week’s Torah portion are reflected in our own days. As our sages tell us, “In the period which will precede the coming of the Messiah, insolence will increase … those who dread sin will be despised … and truth will be absent…” (Sota 49b). 

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SPIES AGAIN


In this week’s Torah portion, the Jewish People encounters the other nations and becomes petrified. But we are not supposed to be afraid! As King David tells us, “G-d is with me. I have no fear. How can man affect me?” (Psalm 118) 

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"YOU HAVE RAISED MY SOUL FROM THE LOWER WORLD"


What does King David have to do with the holiday of Shavuos?  

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UTTERLY HELPLESS


“Until the time of Jacob, there was no feebleness that preceded death. Jacob came and beseeched G-d for mercy, and from then on feebleness came into being, as it says: And he said to Joseph, ‘Behold, your father is ill…’” (Bava Metzia 87a). 

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THE VOICE OF G-D IS UPON THE WATERS


“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. The voice of G-d is in power! The voice of G-d is in majesty! The voice of G-d breaks the cedars; G-d shatters the cedars of Lebanon…” (Psalm 29).  We say these words every Sabbath eve. 

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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 APPEARANCE OF DARKNESS


In Biblical times at this season, we were marching with Moses toward Mount Sinai. It was a time of tremendous anticipation. Did the Children of Israel know what was coming? Could anyone have imagined the stupendous events which were about to occur at Mount Sinai? 

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WHAT IS SEFIRAS HaOMER?


We are in the count-down – excuse me, the count up! – from Passover to Shavuos.

It’s amazing! It’s great! But there are so many things I don’t understand. 

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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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