Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Divrei Torah

Politics & Parsha: Yitro 5775: A People’s Court

It may well be—after Joseph’s famine relief planning agency—the next most crucial creation of a government bureaucracy in history. Yisro teaches Moses that he can’t do it alone. The lawgiver must step back, and allow other lesser, less expert judges to rule as well. That is one critical lesson. The other—that Moses was still the


“Don’t Forget the Tambourines!”

It is a familiar domestic scene, one that we have all experienced. The family is about to leave on a well-deserved long vacation. All the suitcases are packed and ready to go. Then, someone, usually the mother, shouts out: “Did we all remember everything? Once we get started, we’re not turning back!”


Parshat Bo: “Tell Me a Story”

Since back in early autumn, when we began reading the Book of Genesis in the synagogue, we have been reading one long story. It has been a very dramatic story, extending over many centuries. It began with the creation of man, and proceeded with the narrative of the transformation of a small family into a large nation.


Unnecessary Anger

In the spring of 1894, the Baltimore Orioles came to Boston to play a routine baseball game. What happened that day was anything but routine. The Orioles’ John McGraw got into a fight with the Boston third baseman. Within minutes all the players from both teams had joined in the brawl. The warfare quickly spread to the stands. Among the


Parshat Shemot: Sleepless Nights

Executive Vice President, Emeritus of the Orthodox Union

Can you sleep at night? There is so much trouble in the world. Violence, wars large and small, natural disasters, disease. We all personally know many who are suffering at this very moment. Some are friends and acquaintances living in plain sight.


Parshas Vayechi “Changing the World”

I’ve always been impressed by something my grandfather told me many years ago. I believe he quoted the following in the name of Rabbi Israel Salanter, the 19th-century founder of the Mussar Movement, which advocated the perfection of our ethical behavior:

“When you’re young, you think


Yosef haTzaddik–a Message for Us All

Put yourself, for a moment, in Yosef’s place. You have just revealed your true identity to your brothers. An identity that for the past 22 years was totally irrelevant. No one cared. Not about who Yosef was or where he came from. Dreams? The idle thoughts of a teenager long grown up.

But now it all


Obligation and Responsibility

In one of the most moving monologues in the Bible, Yehuda stands before Yosef and takes complete responsibility for his brother Binyamin; he spares no effort to free him from prison, even risking his own life on behalf of his brother. His impassioned plea to Tzaphnat Paneiach–Yosef–demonstrates his complete devotion to his family and


Is Leisure Kosher?

The Jewish attitude to leisure is complex and reveals a fundamental divide over religion. The New York Times reported this summer that a Hasidic camp had ceased sports activities. If taken at face value, the article implies that Judaism, or at least the Satmar version, forbids any leisure activity. Is this an accurate depiction of


Yosef’s Enduring Chanukah Message

Just last week I brought my car in for an oil change. I asked the gentleman helping me how long it would take for my car to be serviced. He told me that I should be on my way in an hour, and directed me to the waiting room. I walked into a room at full capacity but, slowly, each chair emptied as names were called. As time passed I


“...But By My Spirit...”

It is a common scene in the United States at this time of year. The shopping malls, television commercials, and all public venues are transformed visually. As December 25 approaches, we see the evidence that we do indeed live in a predominantly Christian country. Images of Santa Claus and his reindeers, evergreen trees with dazzling


Sanitizing Our Souls in the Pursuit of Purity

If one were to examine the fundamental precepts of Judaism, there is one concept that seems to be pervasive throughout our history and prevalent in multiple facets of our religious observance. Taharah, ritual purity, is one of the hallmarks of our practice as Jews and manifests itself in a variety of ways across the