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Friday, May 24, 2019

Divrei Torah

Details, Details, Details

Parshat Behar effectively concludes the legal section of Vayikra, the sefer with the highest degree of halachic density. The entire book of Vayikra contains only two stories that interject in an otherwise unceasing stream of halachot. The beginning of the parsha presents the intricate laws of shemittah and stresses their delivery

Learning From Every Person: Being Open to Self-Criticism

The mishnaic sage Ben Zoma famously asked four rhetorical questions, recorded in the first mishnah of Pirkei Avot, Chapter 4:

Ben Zoma said: Who is wise? He who learns from every man... Who is mighty? He who subdues his [evil] inclination... Who is rich? He who rejoices in his lot... Who is he

The Power of Words

There was a husband who would often speak badly to his wife. Eventually, she went to her rav in tears and told him she wants a divorce. The rav offered a novel suggestion that might save her marriage. She was to purchase a piece of plywood, some nails and a hammer. “The next time your husband insults you,” said the rav, “go

Our Need to ‘Fit In’

We’re all very familiar with the idea of peer pressure, associating with the right people, distancing from negative influences, etc. Where does this “pressure to conform” really come from?

In this week’s parsha we are told: “You shall not make idols for yourselves” (Vayikra 26:1),

For the Love of Wisdom

The midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 27) brings a story of Alexander of Macedonia who at that point had conquered the known civilized world and was now approaching a certain kingdom at the other end of the world. On his way there, he went to a certain province called Qartigna, which was comprised solely of women, and Alexander decided he

Pesach Sheini: Seeking Spiritual Food

Sir Moses and Lady Judith Montefiore went on their first long journey to Eretz Yisrael in 1827. On the way from Malta to Alexandria, Egypt, there was a major storm that threatened to capsize the boat. They said Tehillim fervently. The captain told everyone to prepare for the end! Finally, the Montefiores had a thought. By Italian

Sefirat HaOmer and Lag BaOmer

Ask the average yeshiva student what Sefirat HaOmer is all about. What do you think you will hear in reply? Typically, they will tell you that Sefirat HaOmer means “you can’t...” “You can’t shave. You can’t take a haircut. You can’t listen to live music. You can’t attend a wedding.” They also know that you have to

Reaching for the Stars

Adapted from the dvar Torah by Dean Rachel Friedman at Lamdeinu on Yom Ha’atzmaut 5779

In Bereishit 13:16, God promises Avraham numerous descendants using a graphic simile for extraordinary multiplication.

“And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth; just

Rav Itzeleh Volozhiner and the Bi’ur

Rav Itzeleh (Yitzchak) Volozhiner succeeded his father as rosh yeshiva of the premier yeshiva in Europe. A Torah scholar and famous orator, he also served as a leading representative of the Jews to the Russian Czar. Rav Itzeleh Volozhiner was royalty in the yeshiva world, the son of Rav Chaim Volozhiner with descendants that

Walking Out the Door of Religion

Parshat Emor portrays the scathing blasphemy of an unnamed Jew whose pedigree was questioned. This desecration of God’s name threatens communal sanctity, and the offender is publicly stoned. This entails the first moment a Jew willingly “abandoned“ religion. In the supernatural context of the desert, this decision is jarring,

The Forest or the Trees: Priorities in Torah Study

The third chapter of Pirkei Avot ends with a cryptic statement on the importance of various areas of study: “Rabbi Eliezer Chisma said: The laws of bird offerings (kinnin) and opening of niddah—these, these are the bodies of halachot (hen hen gufei halachot). Astronomical calculations (tekufot) and numerology (gematriot) are

Yom Ha’atzmaut: Redemption Under Construction

Repeatedly, Dovid Hamelech employs the metaphor of a tower or a fortress to portray redemption. This image of a tall edifice soaring above humanity aptly captures the power of redemption to reshape history. Beyond the metaphoric connotations of a tower, this image helps visualize the image of the Mikdash we all eagerly await. More