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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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WHAT IS DARKNESS?


“Blessed are You, L-rd, our G-d, King of the Universe, Who forms light and creates darkness, makes peace and creates all” (Morning Service).

Like anything written by our sages, these words are filled with eternal significance.  

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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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LISTENING TO REBBE


This week’s Torah portion describes the culmination of a spectacular sanctification of G-d’s Name on the part of Pinchas, son of Elazar, son of Aharon the High Priest. Without exaggeration, he saved the Jewish people.  

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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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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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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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A SATISFYING AROMA


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

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THE CENTER OF THE WORLD


Years ago, there was a movie called “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Why are the nations of the world obsessed with the Ark of the Covenant? Why is Jerusalem the center of world attention and the Temple Mount the most coveted location on earth?

 

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DARKNESS AND DARKNESS


There is physical darkness and spiritual darkness. These distinctions are not theoretical.  

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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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EVIL AUTOMOBILES


The Torah portion of Bereishis described how Hashem made a perfect world. This week’s Parsha describes how man can destroy it! I regret to say this (although everyone knows it): today’s world resembles Sodom a lot more than the Garden of Eden. But Hashem has limited tolerance for the destruction of His world. What happened to Sodom is very relevant to us today. 

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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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