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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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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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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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"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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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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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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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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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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"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 PATH OUT OF EXILE


I believe that it is appropriate during the Sefiras HaOmer countdown between Passover and the holiday of Shavuos to contemplate our own life and our relationship to events in the world around us. Especially in this era of history, a realistic assessment of world events is likely to lead one closer to the Master of the Universe, as it becomes increasingly clear that we cannot depend on the surrounding culture.  

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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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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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"YOU CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER"


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.  

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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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GETTING PAST FEAR


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.  

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DARKNESS AND DARKNESS


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

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THE EIGHTEENTH OF TEVES


In this week's Torah reading, our ancestors descend into Egypt and the days of exile begin. Immediately, the Torah informs us, "a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know of Joseph." (Exodus 1:8) Exile begins innocently. We may even think it is for our benefit, but it never works out for us, because we are meant to live in subservience only to G-d. 

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HOW DID WE SURVIVE EGYPT?


This week's Torah portion ends with the words, "Vayaishev Yisroel ... Thus Israel settled in the Land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen; they took property in it and they were fruitful and multiplied greatly...." (Genesis 47:27) 

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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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THE WORLD KNOWS MOSHIACH IS COMING


"The Little sister - she prepares her prayers and proclaims her praises. O G-d, please heal her ailments now. Let the year and its curses conclude ... Let the year and its blessings begin!" (Achos Katanah) 

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BRINGING OUR FATHER HOME


 When children play hide and seek, they are looking for someone who's there. If he's not there, there's no game. 

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HOW PEACE COMES


"When you will go out to war against your enemies...." (Deuteronomy 21:10). Thus begins this week's Torah portion. We are learning a lot about war these days. 

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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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