Jewish Journal

Rabbi Dov Fischer

  • Torah portion: Miracles on the plains

    September 16, 2015 | 10:23 am

    We live in an age of miracles — as, in fact, every age has. In ancient times, miracles could be seen more clearly because God revealed Himself more manifestly. He spoke directly to our forebears. He smote Egypt with Ten Plagues, delivered the Jews from bondage to freedom, divided...

  • Torah portion: Not just wandering—living, Parashat Matot-Masei (Numbers 30:2-36:13)

    July 15, 2015 | 1:32 pm

    In this week’s double Torah portion, we read in Chapter 33 of Bamidbar (Numbers) about the many dozens of stopping points where the Jews encamped in the Sinai Desert during our people’s four decades’ sojourn from Egypt to Israel. Verses read like these: “And they journeyed from...

  • Have You Heard the Latest? Gossip Has a Dark Side

    April 23, 2015 | 12:59 am

    In the second half of this week’s double Torah portion, we encounter a disease that may be called “biblical leprosy.” The stricken person’s skin turns white, is pocked with lesions and granuloma-like deformities, and the person is perceived to be so contagious that he must be...

  • Torah portion: Law and order Jewish style

    August 27, 2014 | 10:13 am

    The first sentence of this week’s Torah portion says it all: “Judges and [law-enforcement] officers shall you establish for [yourselves] within all your borders.” Judges to interpret and oversee righteous application of the law. Law-enforcement officers — cops — to keep the peace...

  • Torah portion: Even Nixon

    August 6, 2014 | 10:50 am

    This week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan, is remarkable for so many reasons. It includes within its four chapters the first paragraph of the Shema (“Hear O Israel”) and the Ten Pronouncements (often mistranslated as the Ten Commandments). It includes one of the Four Questions asked...

  • Torah Portion: Living with clergy killers

    June 18, 2014 | 9:26 am

    Korach is a fascinating Torah portion because, as happens so often when the Torah narrates real-life events, the characters ring incredibly true. We all know superficially good people who have so much going for them, yet who propel themselves down a horrific course of...

  • Making an Orthodox sense of an unorthodox census

    October 4, 2013 | 10:23 am

    The Pew survey, reported last week in major news outlets, inadvertently mischaracterizes Orthodox demographic trends quite dramatically and necessarily undercounts us significantly, for the same reason that other random-digit-dialing and surveying techniques do.  I previously have...

  • Glatt or not? Parashat Re’eh (Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17)

    August 1, 2013 | 11:33 am

    The Torah says that the laws of kashrut separate us from the nations and make us a holy people by precluding us from eating detestable things (Deuteronomy 14:2-3, 21). Inasmuch as kashrut is a defining aspect of Judaism and the Jewish people, it seems worthwhile to look a bit more...

  • What happened at Sinai

    May 1, 2013 | 12:55 pm

    This week’s double Torah portion, Behar-Bechukotai, begins: “And the Lord spoke to Moshe at Mount Sinai” (Leviticus 25:1). At the end of our reading, we conclude the Torah’s third book with: “These are the mitzvot that the Lord commanded Moshe for the children of Israel at Mount...

  • Opportunity of a setback

    January 16, 2013 | 1:49 pm

    This week’s parasha is one of the most central to the Jewish narrative. We read of the final plagues, the storm brought by God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm gathering on the border of Egypt, the Divine command to prepare for the Exodus by baking the matzot and eating the...

  • Never alone

    November 20, 2012 | 9:46 am

    In this week’s parasha, Yaakov flees for his life, departing from Beersheva back to Charan — back to the beginning. How optimistic it had been when Avraham came to Israel two generations earlier, abandoning Charan presumably forever (Genesis 11:32-12:6). Avraham “went, took and...

  • Rhyme and Reason

    June 27, 2012 | 2:00 pm

    This week’s portion bears one of the Torah’s great enigmas. What exactly did Moshe Rabbeinu do that prompted God to bar him from crossing the Jordan into Israel?

    What was the infraction?

    Most students are taught that Moshe’s misfeasance was that he hit the boulder even though...

  • Courage to Lead: Parashat Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

    July 12, 2011 | 6:27 pm

    We ended last week’s parasha with the Jewish nation crying as quasi-leaders sinned publicly with Midianite women, who had come into our camp at the Moabites’ behest.

    We would have no rest from these Midianites, nor from their Moabite agitators. God ultimately would warn us to...

  • Despite Obama's speech, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria will outlive us all

    May 20, 2011 | 10:50 am

    In approximately 18 months Barack Obama may no longer be President, or just a lame duck limping to January 2013.  At most, he would be President for another 5 and half years.

    During the same period, more thousands of Jews will continue being added to the population of Judea and...

  • Drinking does not drive the Purim celebration

    March 11, 2011 | 12:03 pm

    We are an American generation sadly marred by excess, addiction, and reduced public morals. On line at the supermarket we see magazines that headline Lindsay Lohan, Brittany Spears, and Charlie Sheen.  Purim is around the corner, and the question arises: What’s the deal with...

  • Ways we connect

    February 2, 2011 | 11:41 am

    Parashat Terumah is the first of the weekly Torah portions with a narrative that fails to excite. We have been reading about the world’s creation, the Flood and its diluvial ramifications, the stories of our matriarchs and their husbands, the Great Exodus from Egypt that brought us...

  • Perfect timing

    December 1, 2010 | 12:38 pm

    Two years have passed since the incarcerated Joseph correctly divined the wine steward’s dream in prison, predicting that Pharaoh would pardon the steward and return him to his station. All Joseph had asked, in return, was that this chief sommelier remember him to Pharaoh upon his...

  • Virginia Thomas and the question of true forgiveness

    October 27, 2010 | 10:31 am

    Virginia Thomas and Anita Hill are at it. This is quite a story.

    Justice Thomas’ wife calls professor Anita Hill at her Brandeis University office and leaves a voice mail that apparently says, according to The New York Times:

    “Good morning Anita Hill, it’s Ginni Thomas. I...

  • Ginny Thomas and the question of true forgiveness

    October 25, 2010 | 10:24 am

    Ginny Thomas and Anita Hill are at it.  This is quite a story:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/20/us/politics/20thomas.html?_r=1&emc=na

    Justice Thomas’s wife, Ginny, calls Prof. Anita Hill at her Brandeis University office and leaves a voice mail that apparently says, according to...

  • On Gin Joints and Destiny

    October 13, 2010 | 9:16 am

    “And God said to Avram: ‘Go forth, for your [best interest], from your land and from the place of your birth and from the house of your father to the land I will show you’ ” (Genesis 12:1).

    This week’s parasha begins with God bringing Avram (later known as Avraham) to an...

  • Caring for the Single

    August 17, 2010 | 6:41 pm

    With approximately half of American marriages ending in divorce, the social crisis unfolding within the institution of the American family concerned me deeply as a congregational rabbi during the 1980s and ’90s, my first two decades in the pulpit. I spoke about it. I wrote about...

  • The Big Reveal

    December 22, 2009 | 8:00 pm

    After the Golden Calf, Moshe prays to God, begging forgiveness. In the course of his prophetic dialogue with the Creator, Moshe asks to see God’s glory. God responds that no person can see His face and live. However, He will allow Moshe to see His back (Exodus 33:17-23). Rashi,...

  • The Naked Truth

    October 20, 2009 | 11:15 pm

    Noah, the complete, righteous soul of his generation, gets himself good and drunk after the flood experience has passed. He has planted a vineyard, acted as his own vintner and sommelier, and become so inebriated — perhaps publicly in the open field, perhaps lying asleep in bed —...

  • A Loss Worth Noting

    August 5, 2009 | 8:19 pm

    This summer’s “cultural news” has been dominated by the deaths of several particularly prominent celebrities: Ed McMahon, who entered our homes for years as Johnny Carson’s sidekick. Farrah Fawcett, whose pin-up poster sold more than 12 million copies in the 1970s and adorned...

  • Don’t Do Well — Do Good

    April 29, 2009 | 3:23 pm

    This week’s Torah portion lays out a comprehensive array of divinely ordained commandments that define the range of Judaism’s unique values. Legislated to an assemblage of just-liberated slaves, these are the concepts and aspirations taught orally to Moshe at Mount Sinai and...

  • Them vs. Us

    December 10, 2008 | 10:53 pm

    Was it Mort Sahl who said, "Just because I'm a paranoid, doesn't mean that they're not out to get me"?

    In this week's parsha, the narrative begins with the drama of Yaakov and his tender flock -- two wives, two quasi-wives, 11 sons, a daughter -- preparing to meet with an oncoming...

  • Back to School

    August 7, 2008 | 12:51 am

    I primarily do two kinds of teaching: Torah classes in a wide range of areas within my extended congregational community and California civil procedure and advanced torts at law school. As the terms wind down, my law students often ask whether I would mind devoting time in our last...
  • Gift of unanswered prayers

    June 12, 2008 | 2:33 pm

    Not many people among Irvine's pedestrians and shoppers wear yarmulkes -- yet.

    The city's Orthodox Jewish community indeed has expanded in recent years to four Orthodox congregations -- including our own Young Israel, two Chabad congregations, and a fourth where I previously served...

  • To tell the truth

    April 10, 2008 | 6:00 pm

    The traditional English translation for the disease tzora'at that is eponymous with this week's Torah portion, Metzora, is "leprosy."

    However, as our commentators explain, biblical leprosy was something very different from the bacterial leprosy of modern times that is attributed to...

  • Lessons of gratitude

    December 27, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    In the course of a lifetime, we encounter any number of friends.

    Some are friends by happenstance -- friends who happen to attend school with us, happen to work where we do or reside near us. When we graduate from school, change careers or relocate, most such friends slowly...

  • Even the subtlest slight deserves a challenge

    December 6, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    It happens to all of us. You are with friends, engaged in small talk, and then someone makes a disparaging comment about a common acquaintance. You didn't see the insult coming, but there it is. It's entered the conversation.

    What should you do? Should you challenge the slight or...

  • We have the right to an indivisible Jerusalem

    November 1, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky invites a forthright open dialogue, a conversation about Jerusalem. Contemplating Israeli talks with those governing the autonomous Arab enclaves of Judea and Samaria -- Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestine Authority -- Rabbi Kanefsky writes that it is time for us to...
  • Sleepovers for Strangers

    October 25, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    Patriarch Avraham sits outdoors, in front of his tent, recovering from his recent circumcision. Hashem visits with him, teaching and modeling for us the mitzvah of bikkur cholim -- visiting the sick.

    We are commanded to walk in Hashem's ways, as the Talmud teaches in Sotah 14a....

  • The Well-Blessed Person

    August 30, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    This week's portion, Ki Tavo, is best known for its bikkurim (first fruits) passages, the verses we are commanded to recite when bringing our first fruits to the Kohen at the Temple in Jerusalem (Devarim 26:5-10). You will recognize the text as one of the most frequently quoted...
  • Where it comes from

    May 3, 2007 | 8:00 pm

    Not all of us realize it, but Parshat Emor is one of the most frequently read Torah portions we encounter. We typically read it in May, and again on Passover's second day and on the first two days of Sukkot. It is read on these two festivals because, like D'varim (Deuteronomy)...
  • Courage Under Fire

    February 8, 2007 | 7:00 pm

    Tziporah enjoyed extraordinary social status within her native land. But after Yitro, the priest of Midian, gave his precious daughter as a wife for Moshe, she was the subject of gossip among a new people (Bamidbar 12:1). Hakodesh Barukh Hu intervened on Tziporah's behalf, but there...
  • The Old Switcheroo

    November 22, 2006 | 7:00 pm

    In Parshat Toldot, we encounter the remarkable event described in Genesis 27, as Yitzhak prepares in blindness to confer an eternal blessing on one of his twin sons.

    He wants to extend that blessing to the viscerally evil Esav, who nevertheless always has acted with the utmost...

  • Dousing Dreams

    October 13, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    Your child comes home and says she wants to be a doctor someday. Your spouse or serious beau tells you he or she dreams of being something greater. And you douse the dream with a comment: "You aren't smart enough," "You don't have the skills needed to do that" or "No one will take...

  • Playing Favorites

    September 8, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    When I was a kid, I was a very important person in shul. My dad was not at all prominent in the greater society -- he merely worked for his brother, selling toys and stationery as a wholesaler in Manhattan's Lower East Side, starting his workday at 7 a.m. and working through 7 p.m....

  • Goggles of Faith

    June 23, 2005 | 8:00 pm

    I first saw night-vision goggles when I watched Harrison Ford in Tom Clancy's "Patriot Games."

    The bad guys were prowling in a dark bedroom. Suddenly, a good guy switched on the room lights, practically blinding them.

    The technology was featured again in "The Silence of the Lambs,"...

  • Growing a Shul in Calabasas

    August 26, 2004 | 8:00 pm

    It is now two years since I moved to Calabasas to become the rabbi of a new Orthodox congregation. And there is no time like the eve of the Jewish New Year to take stock.

    People said it couldn't be done. Some believed there was not much hope for an Orthodox synagogue in this...

  • Times’ Shalhevet Article Is Not News

    August 7, 2003 | 8:00 pm

    I have tried explaining it to friends outside Los Angeles. But the Los Angles Times of Sunday, Aug. 3, cannot be explained in words alone. One must have held the paper in hand to appreciate what appeared that day.

    A dear friend from the East, who that morning had e-mailed me the...

  • U.N., Refugee Camps and Our Money

    June 27, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    Why is the United Nations running refugee camps like Jenin, for people who claim to be living in their own land? How could a refugee camp under U.N. auspices become a world center for recruiting and training suicide bombers? And why is the United States essentially bankrolling these...

  • Taking the West Bank Off the Chopping Block

    June 13, 2002 | 8:00 pm

    The recent landslide vote of the Israeli Likud Party, utterly rejecting an Arab country west of the Jordan River, reflects the evolving mindset of the largest political party in Israel. There is good reason for that position -- the land of Judea and Samaria, birthplace of Judaism and...

  • A Mitzvah Resolution

    September 6, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    We all have favorite mitzvot: slowing down the pace on Shabbat, building a sukkah, frolicking at Purim, studying Jewish texts, praying to God. With Rosh Hashana at hand, my New Year's resolution is to share the amazing experience we call hachnasat orchim. It means opening one's home...

  • Time to Survive

    August 23, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    Either the authoritarians of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority have the power to direct, control, intercept and stymie Arab terrorist attacks against Israel, or they do not. If this year's proliferation of Arab mass murder has been within the Palestinian Authority's power to...

  • That Run-Down Feeling

    July 5, 2001 | 8:00 pm

    The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) plans to construct a grotesquely invasive "Bus Rapid Transit" corridor (the term is MTA's) along Chandler Boulevard in the East San Fernando Valley, and MTA's 300-page-plus environmental impact report (EIR) deceives the public in its...

  • The Price of Freedom

    February 1, 2001 | 7:00 pm

    To facilitate pidyon shvuyim (redeeming captive Jews from secular prisons) we are commanded to go so far as to sell a community's Torah scroll. Yet it is hard to rejoice that Bill Clinton pardoned four chassidim from the village of New Square, N.Y., along with an alleged tax evader...

  • Choosing to See the Forest

    December 14, 2000 | 7:00 pm

    The Christmas season dilemma arises for so many Jews in our city that it sadly deserves attention and comment. When I was a boy, growing up in a parochial Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood, I certainly harbored no yearning for a Christmas tree at home. I was thrilled with my little...

  • No Big Deal

    November 30, 2000 | 7:00 pm

    While The Jewish Journal was describing intermarriage as "no big deal" and as an issue over which "objections... have clearly collapsed," I was getting engaged last week -- to someone, uh, Jewish. During the period that I dated, my experience differed from, say, the singles life of...

  • Tight Races

    November 16, 2000 | 7:00 pm

    Initially, one cannot help but think that the surge of retired, elderly Jews to Florida, augmented by this year's Lieberman Factor, has redefined Florida politics into an Israel-style method of governance. While the rest of America was voting and deciding on Tues., Nov. 7, Florida...

  • A Time to Mull

    October 26, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    So it turns out that the Arabs of Judea and Samaria really hate the guts out of us Jews.

    For seven years, Israel had been engaging in confidence-building steps. Israel even gave Yasser Arafat weapons to build a police force and agreed to patrol in "joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols"...

  • A Killer Walks

    September 7, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    It was three years ago this week that Palestinian Arab murderers bombed Jerusalem's cheery, cafe-lined Ben Yehuda Street into a nightmare of death and destruction - murdering, among others, Yael Botwin, a 14-year-old girl from Claremont. This past week, Mahmoud Abu-Hanud, the butcher...

  • Thoughts on the Lieberman Selection.

    August 17, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    As a centrist observant Jew working in the secular professions, I am particularly struck by Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore's selection of Senator Joseph I. Lieberman as his vice-presidential running mate for the November 2000 elections.

    The life of the Orthodox Jew at this...

  • It Would Be Nice if We Did Something

    July 6, 2000 | 7:59 pm

    Several years ago, before I became an attorney, the news of Iran's star-chamber proceedings and convictions of Jews would have sent me protesting in the streets. I would have joined - or organized - massive protests, including nonviolent sit-downs at major arteries, like Wilshire...

  • Will We Line a Murderer’s Pockets?

    May 25, 2000 | 8:00 pm

    The California Supreme Court currently is weighing a challenge to the state's law that bars felons from selling book and movie rights to profit from their crimes. Nevertheless, while our state's High Court deliberates, bookstores in Los Angeles may soon be selling the autobiography...

  • L.A.‘s Forgotten Victim of Arab Terrorism

    December 9, 1999 | 7:00 pm

    Last week marked the sixth yahrzeit of Yitzhak Weinstock, a young American-Israeli who was murdered in a Palestinian Arab terrorist attack near Jerusalem. Hundreds of Jews have been murdered by Arab terrorists in Israel in the six years since the Oslo accords were signed, so perhaps...