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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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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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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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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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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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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


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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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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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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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 VERY GOOD BOY


Eliyahu is a nine-year old boy who lives in Israel. 

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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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ROYAL APPAREL


As I write, it is the coldest day I can remember in my entire life. Since when does the New York temperature drop to zero, with gale-force winds? Is anything normal these days? 

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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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WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BE AFRAID


As I write these words, the headlines read, "Terror in Tel Aviv, Gush Etzion." And then, the following week, the headlines read, "Terrorists kill four rabbis." 

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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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RAISING OUR EYES


"[Isaac] raised his eyes, and behold: camels were coming... Rebecca raised her eyes and saw Isaac ...." (Genesis 24:63-4)

King David said, "I raise my eyes to the mountains; from where will my help come? My help is from Hashem, Maker of heaven and earth..." (Psalm 121) 

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PROTECTED BY HIS NAME


Sukkos is illogical.

Imagine: we culminate the entire Yom Tov cycle by sitting in a hut that offers no protection whatsoever against the elements of nature or the threat of man! 

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