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! 


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). 


“G-d has taken you and withdrawn you from ‘kur habarzel’… the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a nation of heritage for Him, as this very day…” (Deuteronomy 4:20). 


There is a dispute whether the world was created in the Jewish month of Tishrei or Nissan (Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 10b-11a). In a real sense, the answer is …. both! Tishrei marks the anniversary of physical creation; Nissan marks the anniversary of spiritual creation.  


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


We have reached a new level in our weekly Torah portion. From the Book of Genesis through last week’s Torah portion, in which Israel receives the Torah at Mount Sinai, the Torah portions have been narrative, beginning with the epic story of Creation, the formation of the Nation of Israel, and culminating in the redemption from Egypt and the (literally) earth-shaking meeting between G-d and His Chosen People at Mount Sinai.  


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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