Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Divrei Torah

Lech Lecha: Accepting Hashem’s Majesty

Titles and introductions mean a lot. About a year ago I went to the Friday night shalom zachor of the grandson of one of our popular elected officials. Of course there were many people there that night, and the atmosphere was festive. When the host saw me, he gave me a very warm greeting and led me to sit next to a distinguished

Noach: Going the Extra Mile With Kindness

Before I gave my parsha shiur late Thursday night, I was wiped out from Sukkos and all the lectures I gave on Yom Tov, and I expected sparse attendance. “Maybe I should skip this week,” I thought. Nevertheless, I pushed myself to prepare, and while it was a smaller crowd, I gave it my best. The next morning, an old friend who

Parshat Noach: Wings of a Dove

What is unique about the qualities of the dove that succeeded in fulfilling Noach’s mission, returning with an olive branch?

Rav Shlomo Pesach Toperoff, z”tl, author of “The Animal Kingdom in Jewish Thought,” explains that the word Yonah is derived from yanah, “to oppress or

Hashem’s Name: The Seal of Authority

A few years ago, a unique bottle of wine was sold at an auction. The bottle was found in an old Pennsylvania mansion and had the initials TJ imprinted in the seal. It was believed to have been part of Thomas Jefferson’s private wine collection and was sold at the auction for $8,373. The proud buyer invited his friends to a

Bereishit: Where It ‘All’ Began

For six days Hashem shaped our entire universe. All matter was designed and crafted into a universe carefully calibrated to ensure long-term sustainability. Finally, toward the end of the sixth day, the pinnacle of creation was fashioned from the earth itself. Man was created in the Divine image and Hashem Himself breathed life

Kohelet and Political Struggle

Who wrote Kohelet, the biblical book of Ecclesiastes? The traditional answer to the question of Kohelet’s authorship is Shlomo HaMelech, King Solomon, who according to tradition wrote Shir HaShirim, Kohelet and Mishlei (Kohelet Rabbah 1:1), which were copied and finalized by Chizkiyahu and his counterparts (Bava Batra 15a). My question is not which person wrote

Sukkos: It’s All About Trust

Last year on Erev Sukkos I found myself in the kosher supermarket like many others getting their last-minute items for the upcoming Yom Tov. My wife had asked me to purchase toasted pine nuts for a new recipe she was making for Yom Tov. I’m not new to kosher shopping, but I had to admit I didn’t know where to look. Would they

Israel and Sukkot: A Festival of Unity and a Land of Unity

The experience of four minim is one of the most colorful and vivid mitzvah experiences. It combines multiple fruits and branches into one bouquet, marking the successful conclusion of the harvest season. Aiming to achieve hiddur mitzvah (adornment of religious experience), we decorate many mitzvot (such as a sefer Torah). However,

Serving Hashem With Unselfconscious Joy

The Simchat Beit Hashoeva, the most joyous and amazing celebration in the world, took place on Chol Hamoed Sukkot to celebrate the drawing of the water for the water libation. The Gemara says, “One who has not witnessed the celebration of the Simchat Beit Hashoeva has never seen real joy” (Sukkah 51a). One aspect of this joyous

Reassessing Our Values on Sukkot

What if we were told that we only had a few months left to live? What regrets would we have? Would we regret that we did not spend more time in the office? Would we regret that we did not spend enough time watching television? Would we regret that we did not accumulate enough gadgets and possessions along the way? In short, what is

The Way of Sukkot

The following is based on a holiday message from my friend Rabbi Lior Engelman.

Sukkot is a time for recognizing our spiritual giants, and this gets expressed in the ushpizin (“guests”) custom of welcoming a different patriarch into the sukkah on each night of the holiday: Abraham, Isaac,

Celebrating Without Our ‘Things’

A story is told of a great tzaddik and his rebbetzin who possessed almost no material items. They owned only one item of significance: a special pair of tefillin. One year on Sukkot eve, the husband chanced upon a lovely etrog and wanted very much to buy it, but had no money with which to pay for it. Eager to fulfill the upcoming