Monday, March 25, 2019

Divrei Torah

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

Yom Kippur and the Faith in Future Collective Teshuva

Yom Kippur inspires reflections about personal repentance as well as national atonement. We plead for personal deliverance just as we voice our hopes for our ultimate return to Yerushalayim and the restoration of a Yom Kippur experience centered in the mikdash. Our solemn day of prayer concludes with these dreams being bellowed:

Smile, It’s Rosh Hashanah

We all want to eventually get into Heaven. We spend much time studying Torah and doing mitzvot so as to pave the way to Gan Eden. Yet, what is it that is most valued and appreciated in guaranteeing our admission there? You might smile when you read the answer.

The Gemara in Taanit (22a) recounts