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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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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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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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HOW CAN STONES PROTECT US?


Imagine the scene: Jacob is fleeing from Esau, on his way to find a wife in the home of Laban. He is completely alone, as if there is no one else in the world, and – “because the sun had set” and darkness surrounded him – he finds the need to protect himself in this lonely, dark world. So he arranges twelve stones around his head.  

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"MAGDIEL IS ROME"


In a few weeks we will, please G-d, read the Torah portion of Vayishlach, which concludes with the words, “Now these are … the chiefs of Esau (father of Edom) … the chief of Magdiel” (Genesis 36:40-43). 

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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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TWO KINDS OF WEEPING


In a certain study hall in Jerusalem, there was a Rabbi who would continually pace up and down between the lecterns, carrying on an intense conversation in learning … with himself! This was a delightful and sometimes amusing spectacle. As he paced, however, he was also aware of his surroundings. One day, I was explaining to my study partner my personal criterion for a good leader of the prayers, namely that he should make me cry. 

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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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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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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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ANA HASHEM HOSHIA NA … PLEASE G-D, SAVE US!


“Jacob was left alone and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.” (Genesis 32:25)

Who was more alone than our father Jacob? Jacob is alone and his children are alone. “Behold! It is a nation that will dwell in solitude and not be reckoned among the nations.” (Numbers 23:9) That is our unique position in the world and also our strength. 

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MORE EVIL AUTOMOBILES


We have just returned after two months in the Holy Land. It was hard to leave, but we have much to accomplish, and the words of Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch Shlita"h still ring in my ears: "Yisroel, you are a soldier and soldiers have to go where the battle is." 

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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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DON'T BLAME THE MEDIA


People are upset at the media.

During the War in Gaza, it seemed as if the entire world was against Israel! And for good reason! It was! I want to ask: are you surprised? 

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