Monday, December 10, 2018

Divrei Torah

Parshas Va’eschanan: Sharing the Love

Russell Moskowitz grew up with very little knowledge about being Jewish. He was living the American dream, working at a nice job for Fuji Bank in the World Trade Center, on the 79th floor of 2 World Trade Center. In three days he would turn 25. He was making his mark at a young age. On Tuesday morning of September 11, 2001, he felt

Marriage and Intermarriage

The Talmud (Baba Batra 121a) tells us that there were no greater festive days for Israel than the 15th of Av and the end of Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur we were forgiven our sins. Naturally, that would make it a very joyful day. The 15th of Av, apparently, was also celebrated as a big “shidduch” day. Reportedly, the custom was for

Desperation, Despair and Doing:  Dealing With Devastation and Destruction

The Gemara in Gittin 56b tells a story about R. Yochanan ben Zakkai, the leader of the Jewish people at the time of the destruction of the Temple, talking to the Roman general Vespasian who was laying siege to Jerusalem. After he impressed Vespasian with his wisdom, Vespasian offered to grant his requests (within reason). R. Yochanan made

It’s Tisha B’Av: So Smile...and Cry and Cry

As early as the late 19th century the question of adapting Tisha B’Av prayer to the dramatic changes in the modern Jewish world emerged. In light of the renaissance of our people, the return to Israel and the rehabilitation of Yerushalayim, how can our tefillot on Tisha B’Av describe a city that “lies in mourning, empty and

Parshas Devarim-Shabbos Chazon: Tears of Introspection

There are countless stories of Jews of all backgrounds who start sobbing uncontrollably upon first seeing the Kotel. Most don’t even know what overcame them and have difficulty articulating their feelings. Two weeks ago I went to Eretz Yisrael for the first time in 14 years. When I reached that pivotal moment of seeing the stones

Matot/Masei: Is Living in Israel Considered a Mitzvah? Does It Matter?

In celebrated fashion, Maimonides and Nachmanides debated whether residence in the Land of Israel constitutes one of the 613 mitzvot. From a purely literary standpoint, their dispute revolved around a “vague” verb in Parshat Masei. As the Jews are perched on the East Bank of the Nile and primed to enter the actual Land of

Unrepresented: The Shidduch Crisis

There were these five orphaned sisters—Machlah, No’ah, Chaglah, Milcah and Tirtzah. Try as they might, they were unable to find their bashert and marry into a decent family. Time was passing by and they felt as if they were missing the boat. What could they do? How could they ensure they would not be “left out” as their

Parshas Matos-Masei: Managing Life’s Journeys

I had the great zechus (privilege) to live in Eretz Yisrael for 11 years, both as a single person in yeshiva and for six years as a “young married” with four children, including twins! Fourteen years ago we moved to America, dreaming one day to return to our beloved land…but we’re still here. This past week I experienced a

Pinchas: Multi-Generational Experience in Israel

The long-awaited future is finally here. An entire generation has passed and a new generation is finally poised to enter the Land of Israel, seize historical opportunity, and advance toward monarchy and the construction of a Temple. Their parents’ generation had initiated tragic rebellions and insurrections that ultimately

Pinchas: Creating a Foundation of Holiness

A few years ago, I experienced pain in my neck, shoulder, upper back and knee. I rubbed in a warming ointment, but it did not alleviate the pain. Massage helped, but only momentarily. I didn’t know what to do. I asked a doctor friend of mine for direction. He told me to stand straight with my feet slightly apart so he could

Balak: Sordid and ‘Sworded’ Tongues

Word of the advancing Jewish nation has spread among the entire Middle East. Forty years earlier, this band of slaves had been miraculously liberated from the totalitarian regime of Egypt and had been exposed to a spurt of Divine miracles. Though their entry to Israel had been significantly and tragically delayed, here they were at

Jewish Motorcyclists Celebrate Shared Jewish Values

“You mean to say that there are motorcyclists who are Jewish? How can that be?” I am often asked that question because the traditional image of a motorcyclist is one of an outlaw, a bad guy with tattoos who belongs to a gang and terrorizes others. Jews are supposed to be people of the book. How can these different