Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Divrei Torah

Are Porch Minyanim Kosher?

I. Pesach, Prayer And Bentching

In the current phase of the coronavirus pandemic, all shuls around the world are closed and nearly every Jew globally is praying without a minyan. Even during its strictest period, the Israeli government allowed a few minyanim to continue under health department guidelines. In the U.S., I know of a


A Time of Renewal

Parshiyot Tazria-Metzora

As this Shabbat marks the first day of Iyar, we read the special haftarah for Rosh Chodesh, the complete chapter 66 of sefer Yishayahu, the final perek of the sefer. Throughout the Hebrew calendar we mark 11 roshei chodesh (the month of Tishrei is not included, as it is


Payment for Canceled Pesach 2020 Vacations

Rav Schachter: Equity and Compassion

In a ruling of great importance, Rav Herschel Schachter (Piskei Corona number 27) urges those whose Pesach programs were canceled to resolve payment issues in beit din in a spirit of peshara/equity and compassion. Rav Schachter’s brief ruling emerges from


When the Righteous Suffer

Chazal make at least seven suggestions (Arachin 16a) to help us make sense of the cause of the mysterious disease of tzara’as. Presumably, if we understand the disease and its spread, then we can control it, thereby protecting ourselves. However, when multiple reasons are given for a phenomenon, it’s a good indicator that no single


Making the Most of Confinement

In February this year, the famous refusenik, Rabbi Yosef Mendelevitch, spoke for our yeshiva at a community shiur hosted by the Agudas Yisrael Bircas Yaakov. He related how decades ago he was imprisoned in the Soviet gulag for 11 years, often in solitary confinement, for “heinous crimes” such as wearing a yarmulke or keeping Shabbos.


Coronavirus Diary #5: The Holocaust and Its Lessons

The Holocaust was a historical rupture—an unprecedented horror so revolting that it doesn’t fit “neatly” into the stream or flow of history. This nightmare must continue to shape our overall thinking—about our lives, our culture and our Jewish historical mission. The lessons of the Holocaust are timeless but each generation and


Take Nothing for Granted

Sometimes it takes a calamity to remind us of the old adage, “Take it one day at a time.” A little over a month ago, many of us took our daily lives for granted. We worked, shopped, went outdoors and visited our friends and relatives. Who could ever have imagined that all of that would come to a crashing halt due to an invisible


Insights Into the Biblical Root ‘Ayin-Bet-Resh’

This is a very important root in Tanach. Its basic meaning is “cross over.” I cannot discuss every aspect of this root. I will limit myself to a few.

1. The word “evrah” appears many times in Tanach with a meaning like “anger.” For example, it is at Gen. 49:7, “ve-evratam,” regarding Jacob’s rebuke to Shimon and Levi. Also, we recite Psalms


Rising Up by Lowering Down

Right before the portion of Tazria, the previous parsha concluded by teaching laws regarding animals, birds and various other creatures. Immediately after, Tazria begins, where the laws regarding humans are discussed. We can ask, if humans are the pinnacle of creation, shouldn’t their laws be discussed before that of animals? The first


Corona Diary #4: Four ‘Novel’ Questions for ‘Corona’ Pesach

Judaism has always encouraged questions. Our oral tradition is founded upon the Socratic method of questions and answers between study partners, or chavrutot. On the night of Pesach, questions are particularly pivotal; multiple irregularities are introduced into the Seder to prompt questions. In fact, the Torah itself encoded four different


Seder Night: The Promise of Matzah

This Pesach is a very difficult one for Jews all over the world. Many are mourning the loss of close relatives or friends. Others are sick and need a refuah sheleima. I personally know multiple people currently in the hospital. Many are there due to COVID-19. However, a few are there for happy reasons—they just gave birth to a


Gratitude From Love

The Jews are suffering heavily, and finally after decades upon decades of untold misery and pain, Hashem tells Moshe, “And now come, and I will send you to Pharoah, and take out My people—the Bnei Yisrael—from Egypt” (Shemot 3:10). We would think that Moshe wouldn’t hesitate for a moment, but rather spring into action and hasten