Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Divrei Torah

Parah Adumah, Democracy and Worshipping Human Constitutions

There are very few commandments as evocative as parah adumah—the ceremony of the red heifer. This sacrifice is processed and burned outside the Mikdash, while its ashes are mixed with spring water and sprayed upon someone who has come into contact with the dead. This extraordinary but inexplicable mitzvah is introduced as the


Purifying Our Souls

One of my favorite books is “Incredible,” written by my cousin Rabbi Nachman Seltzer. It is the life story of Rabbi Yossi Wallis, current CEO of Arachim, a global organization that imparts the beauty of Torah and mitzvos to secular Jews. No one could have predicted this trajectory for Rabbi Wallis. His parents were Holocaust survivors


First Things First: Torah

Regarding Sichon’s victory in the war it engaged in with Moav, the pasuk says: “Regarding this the moshlim [poets] would say: ‘Come to Cheshbon—let it be built and established as the city of Sichon’” (Bamidbar 21:27). The Gemara explains that moshlim [poets] can also refer to those who rule [moshel] over their yetzer (their


Opportunities Not to Be Missed

The parsha of Balak can be thought of as the parsha of missed opportunities. The rabbis point out that Balak, rather than asking Balaam for a blessing, instead asks that Bnei Yisrael be cursed. This is the first of many missed opportunities.

Balak sends emissaries to Balaam to induce him to curse Bnei


Today’s My Lucky Day

In 1982, my parents were sent to the former Soviet Union by Lishkas Ezras Achim, a Chabad organization that sent material and spiritual aid to Jews in the Soviet Union, laden with tefillin, mezuzahs and Jewish books to distribute to local Jews. My father was a world-renowned epidemiologist and that made it easier to travel under the guise


The Power of Tefillah

The Jewish nation covers an enormous spectrum of people. There are Jews out there from all over the world, all different shapes, sizes, colors, cultures, occupations, customs, tastes and many more differences. There are also many, many different mitzvot, 613 to be exact, that just like Jews from all over the world are so different they also


Legacies and Continuity

We hope and expect that our children will carry on our Jewish traditions and values. After spending a small fortune on tuition, summer camps and trips to Israel, we look forward to their continuing our legacy, customs and heritage. Yet, apparently this is not always the case.

When Aaron, the


In Memory of Our Friend David Thaler, Moshe Dovid Ben Yitzchak Isaac, z”l

This week, the family and friends of David Thaler, z”l, met via Zoom to share memories on his second yahrzeit. I recalled my first encounter with David; that revealed so much about him. As chairperson of the Middle School Child Study Team in Fair Lawn, I initiated a meeting with the parents of a severely emotionally disturbed student who


Causing a Ruckus, the Right Way

Machloket is not something we want to get involved with. And we see this poignantly from this week’s parsha from Korach and his followers. Machloket is so influential and contagious, that Rashi says that in the case of Datan and Aviram—two of Korach’s followers—their children were also included in the decree of being eradicated from


Finding Optimism in Difficult Times: Messages From Sefer Yeshayahu

This past week I finished teaching Yeshayahu as part of a podcast series for the OU’s Torat Imecha Nach Yomi initiative. It was a strange experience to put myself back into the eighth century B.C.E. when everything happening around me felt so pressing. I found, though, that it was Yeshayahu who gave me a perspective that felt most


Using Possessions Wisely

After high school, I had an internship on Wall Street for an investment adviser who worked for a major Jewish businessman and philanthropist. One day, my boss showed me a newspaper clipping about a large business in distress. A few investors came to the rescue. What interested him was the fact that they omitted the name of the largest


Fallen Monuments and Modern Hubris

During the recent protests, society has begun to face important dilemmas regarding monuments that commemorate national heroes whose lifestyles were discrepant with current norms of racial equality. Some monuments celebrate people or organizations directly involved in discriminatory policies—such as the monuments that celebrate