Saturday, September 22, 2018

Divrei Torah

Nitzavim/Rosh Hashanah: United We Stand

Last month, a dream came true. Thanks to the help of some dear relatives, my son and I were able to go to Eretz Yisrael for a whole week before my son’s bar mitzvah. We went to learn in the Mir Yeshiva and Ponevezh. We davened at the Kotel. We met with Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, Rabbi Povarsky, Rabbi Binyamin Finkel and many great

Ki Tavo: Material Wealth in the Modern Era

The opening section of Parshat Ki Tavo is framed by the encounter with financial success. Having cultivated a successful harvest, a person presents his finest fruits to the Mikdash amidst fanfare and festivity. The Mishnah describes actual parades that spontaneously assembled to accompany rural farmers on their celebratory journey

Ki Savo: Having an Attitude of Gratitude

Many store owners post a dollar bill on the wall behind the cash register to remember their first dollar of profit. We have a related concept in this parsha, where we take the first fruit from that year’s crop and bring it to the Beis Hamikdash. There, we recite a special thank you to Hashem for the bounty we received.

Lessons in Parenting

Parshat Ki Teitzei speaks of the ben sorer umoreh, the rebellious child. This rebellious child became so caught up in his gluttonous ways that he stopped obeying his parents. He lived only for himself and only for the moment. His parents were to take him to the elders of the town and cast him out. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (71a)

Ki Seitzei: It’s Time to Wake Up

Last week my wife woke me up at 1:30 a.m., saying “Get up quickly! Someone is knocking on the front door!” I was half asleep and tried to ignore reality. “Get up now! Somebody’s knocking on the door and I heard the phone and your cell ringing.” Sure enough, there was pounding at the door and the doorbell was ringing. At

Ki Teitzei: Ideology and the Preservation of Human Dignity

Administration of the death penalty by beit din accomplished two very different goals: It served in a punitive capacity to punish the criminal and it also provided a deterrent against future crimes. Based on this latter “deterrent” function, the Torah proscribes hanging the bodies of severe criminals—blasphemers and idol

Shoftim: Appreciating Jewish Courts and Police

In the first part of Sefer Devarim, Moshe both rehashes desert highlights (and lowlights) as well as cautioning the people about the challenges of life in Israel. The next two sectio, Shoftim and Ki Teitzei, recount a broad list of mitzvot, and it is this “registry” of mitzvot that lends the sefer of Devarim its nickname

Shoftim: Wholesome Simplicity

A friend of mine discovered a growth and underwent tests. The results put him into an exclusive club no one wants to join: cancer. He underwent surgery, chemo treatments and radiation. Throughout this ordeal I was deeply moved by his attitude and trust in Hashem. In one conversation he told me, “Hashem has a plan for me. Whatever

Re’eh 5778: Beginning Near the End

Last summer, my wife and I went to Lake Placid, New York, and toured the Olympic bobsled track training center. We learned a very interesting detail: the competition in this sport is so close that the race is won by a mere 1/1000th of a second! A crucial part of the race is the “loading”—how quickly the bobsledders run and

Re’eh: A Land of Abatement and Legacy

Our experience in Israel is multi-dimensional and oftentimes paradoxical. This land distills so many different values and experiences that rarely can a single phrase or term capture its various layers and the depth of our relationship with Israel. The Torah employs a battery of phrases to capture life in Israel; sometimes these

Learning to Move Along

We read in Parshat Re’eh that one should not make any cuttings in one’s skin for the dead (14:1). Apparently, this was a mourning custom in ancient times. At the same time, we know that when an immediate family member dies we are supposed to cut our lapels and rip our clothing to mourn our loved ones. What is the difference

Eikev: Is It Easy to Fear Hashem?

It amazes me how palpable the Divine providence is in Eretz Yisrael. During my trip there recently I felt Hashem guiding me with each step. On my first day, my cousin Aviva called me out of the blue, thinking I might be interested to know that Rabbi Binyamin Finkel—otherwise known as Rabbi Binyamin “Hatzadik”—was having