Monday, December 10, 2018

Divrei Torah

Do You Need a Rabbi for a Wedding?

I. What a Rabbi Does

Most of us have been to enough Jewish weddings that we know how they work. We can easily officiate. Even without a big crowd, all a man has to do is give a woman a ring in front of two witnesses and say the “harei at” formula. Who needs a rabbi? If you really want an

Stop Kvetching, Make Coffee

In this week’s parsha of Beha’alotcha, all sorts of complaining takes place. We read that “The people took to complaining...” (11:1). This was not about anything specific, such as running out of food or water. The Ramban suggested that this was just general complaining about the challenges of rough living conditions in the

Chronic Complaining Is Dangerous for Your Health

When I was younger, doctors were just starting to understand the horrible health effects smoking can have on people. This information led to higher taxes, warning labels on cigarette packages and age restrictions on purchasing cigarettes. Through additional studies we learned that smoking is dangerous for anyone who inhales

Parshas Beha’aloscha: Traveling With Hashem

On a quiet summer night I was relaxing on the edge of the water in Tiveria, taking in the air of that uniquely beautiful city. As I gazed across the Kineret, I couldn’t help noticing a boat with bright neon lights and music playing. It was a “party boat” filled with people creating their own hedonistic world, in sharp

The Soul’s Illumination

We all know that in addition to our physical body, we possess a soul—a neshama. But what is a neshama, and is there a concrete way to relate to it?

The ‘Breath’ of God

To begin to understand the neshama, we must look to the Torah’s

Count Everyone; Everyone Counts

This week’s parsha of Bamidbar starts with a common mistranslation offered by Artscroll and others. In Chapter 1, verse 2, God commands Moshe, “Se’u et rosh kol adat Bnei Yisrael.” It is commonly translated as “Take a census of the entire Jewish people.” However, those who know Hebrew can tell you that

Rabbi, Can I Take Out My Phone for a Minute?

In addition to my work at Congregation Shomrei Torah, I had the privilege of being a middle school rebbe for several years. One day, in the middle of March, I took my students out for recess and it started to snow. The policy of the school is to not allow students to take their phones out during the day.

Shavuos: Being a True Representative of Hashem

A good friend of mine, Dovid, flies weekly from Newark to Rochester, New York, for business. The Rochester airport is quite small and the staff all know him. Frequent flyers like Dovid know that delays are part of the deal, so he always brings pastries to give to staff whenever there’s a delay. Why this gesture? He said simply,

When Did We Really Receive the Torah?

Although Shavuos is a biblical holiday, it is never described as “Zman Matan Toraseinu” in the Torah. And there have been some very good suggestions made as to why the association between the giving of the Torah and the holiday of Shavuos is only made in (later) rabbinic literature, despite the date of public revelation, when

The Walls That Protect Us

Our attention was recently focused once again toward the State of Israel, not only due to the 51st anniversary of Yom Yerushalayim or even due to the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Instead, we witnessed an array of rocket activity as tensions escalated between Israel and Iranian forces located in Syria in the aftermath of

Shmita: Learning Reliance on Hashem


When I was a teenager learning in Eretz Yisrael, I returned to America in the summer to earn money for the following year in yeshiva. One summer I was working as an intern for an investor on Wall Street. The salary was quite good, but it was not enough to cover all my expenses

Shavuot: A Day With No Ritual

Soon the holiday of Shavuot will arrive, a time known for when God delivered the Torah to the Jews at Mount Sinai. There is a fundamental question that must be asked about this holiday that can shed light on the document of the Torah to which most religions are founded upon.

The question is as