Monday, September 16, 2019

Divrei Torah

Retirement in the Torah

You might be surprised to learn that the Torah discusses the topic of retirement. In Bamidbar we read the Levites had a mandatory retirement age. “From fifty years of age they shall withdraw from working and they shall no longer work” (8:25). The commentaries discussed what it meant to be retired. While we live longer these

Lessons From the Spies

Within the letters of the word shlach lies the story of the spies. They first chose out of free will to see a land despite the fact that there were already guarantees. Reversing the word shlach, we arrive at the word chalash, weak. In this case, the free will decision was an exhibition of weakness as God already promised a land

Hilchot Aveilut: 10 Differences Between Sephardic and Ashkenazic Practice

This week at Shaarei Orah, sadly, our minds shift to hilchot aveilut. We are in the middle of shiva for our beloved member Avi Gilad of blessed memory. Our discussion should serve to honor the memory of Avi, who loved Hashem, his family and the communities in which he was a beloved component.

Too Much or Too Little?

The mighty fall fast and fall hard! Parshat Beha’alotecha begins by showcasing a confident nation, primed to enter the land of destiny and to usher in historical utopia. The encampment has been divided into four quadrants encircling the Mishkan, which itself is guarded by teams of Levites who will protect but also help port that

Making the Right Choices

Avi was sitting in a Jerusalem restaurant with a group of Israelis who had recently committed to keeping Torah and mitzvos. The waiter brought watermelon for dessert. One of the men picked up a watermelon slice and very loudly recited “Baruch atah... shehakol niyah bidvoro” and took a big bite. Avi said to the man, “That was

The Glory of Giving Back

In reference to the lighting of the Menorah, the midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 15:5) relates that Hashem said to Bnei Yisrael, “You should provide light for me the same way I provided light for you [in the wilderness], in order so that you should be raised up [i.e., glorified] before the nations of the world.” The midrash explains

Religious Specialization

At 176 pesukim, Parshat Naso “tops the charts” as the longest parsha in the entire Torah. Its heft is a product of the protracted final section of Naso that delineates the gifts of the 12 nesi’im, or tribal leaders. Even though their gift-packages were identical, the Torah enumerates each and every one of the 12 collections.

Kiruv at Its Best

In reference to the Birkat Kohanim, the pasuk that appears immediately before the actual blessings states, “Thus shall you bless the children of Israel, speak to them.” What is the importance and meaning of the extra words “speak to them”?

R’ Mordechai Kamenetzky explains with the

The 30-Day Challenge

Early in our marriage, my wife and I lived in Eretz Yisroel in the neighborhood of Maalot Dafna, with twin girls of 18 months. The “Maalot” part of Maalot Dafna—the steps of Dafna—described that the whole community was built on a hill, with sets of steps every 20 feet. One day, my wife was bouncing our double stroller down

Motorcycling and Jewish Pride

We recently were privileged to participate in the annual Celebrate Israel parade. Among the hundreds of groups that marched, one group rode up Fifth Avenue on two wheels, with great fanfare. This was the Chai Riders Motorcycle club. About 70 Jewish motorcyclists rode their Harleys and Goldwings, giving rides to

Shabbat Between Milah and Tevilah

A Classic Debate

In March 2019, for the first time, I was asked to rule on a classic and very beautiful issue in halacha. A convert who had undergone his brit milah and was waiting to recover until he was ready for his tevilah to complete his conversion asked if he was permitted to observe

Shavuot: Torah of God and Torah of Man

The gemara in Kiddushin (32a) cites a debate about whether a teacher/rav can waive the honor due him from a student, to be mochel al kevodo. Rav Yosef allowed this relinquishment, but surprisingly Rav Chisda disallowed this renunciation of honor. Ultimately, the debate surrounds a seminal question: Is the honor or prestige afforded