Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Divrei Torah

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


Shabbat HaGadol: A Unique Opportunity in Our Time

Just this week, I read a powerful piece by Rabbi Yogi Robkin from Plano, Texas. I was just blown away by his introductory quote from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, over 120 years ago.

“If I had the power, I would provisionally close all synagogues for a hundred years...Jews and Jewesses without synagogues,


Always There

Which verse in the Torah summarizes what Judaism is all about? A midrash quoted in the Ein Yaakov offers several different answers to this question. Ben Zoma suggests, “Shema Yisrael,” the basic statement of faith in Hashem that we declare every day. Ben Nanas maintains that “Love your neighbor as yourself” is a more inclusive


Corona Diary #3: Size Matters

There are rare and dramatic moments in history in which it becomes clear to humanity that we have reached the upper limits of technology and can proceed no further. God desires that we decipher and improve our world, thereby advancing the human condition. However, periodically He reasserts the limits of human achievement. When religious


Out of the Narrow Places: Nissan 5780

- בניסן נגאלו; בניסן עתידין ליגאל

Nissan is the month of redemption, past and future (See RH 11a); the month where at the seder we must each “see [her]self as if [s]he left Egypt,” per the Haggadah. To leave Egypt we have to see ourselves as in Egypt, however. And that task has for many become


Life Is Not Always a Bed of Roses

Reading through Tehillim, one might imagine that Dovid HaMelech, King David, had it made in life. He is often quoted as praising God and constantly thanking Him for the good things that occurred to him. For example, in Psalm 145, we read, “I will bless Your Name for ever and ever. Every day I will bless You and I will praise Your