Rabbi Elie Spitz wrote a wonderful book, titled "Does the Soul Survive?," dealing with life after death, but for me this title is the question that I continuously ask in regard to life after birth. Does our soul survive the journey that we lead it through in our lifetime? How do we...
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Tag: Torah Portion
May 27, 2004 | 8:00 pm
April 22, 2004 | 8:00 pm
This is the story of Peh Ra. All his life, Peh Ra felt like a cattle owner, walking among his animals and marking them with a red-hot branding iron. Peh Ra had a nice collection of branding irons. Some people he branded "losers," others were marked "nerds" or "geeks" and, of course,...
April 15, 2004 | 8:00 pm
In this week's Torah portion, Moses elaborates the laws of impurity. Touching or holding something impure will render people, clothing, food, beverages, containers, wood, leather, earthenware and ovens impure. Shemini is concerned with the consequences of contact with living,...
April 8, 2004 | 8:00 pm
Most of us remember our parents telling us when we were children that when they were our age they had to walk two miles, every day, in the snow, uphill, both ways, to go to school. In ancient times we can imagine our ancestors telling their children that when they were their age they...
January 1, 2004 | 7:00 pm
"Biblical stories are in our present -- in the cheder [Easter European elementary school] we cried when we learned of the sale of Joseph -- and we rejoiced in his ascendancy to power. There was a freshness, a vigor, a nearness, which we felt in that drama." -- Rabbi Joseph B....
December 18, 2003 | 7:00 pm
Part of my traditional upbringing as a yeshiva bocher was the belief that anything that took my attention away from a page of Talmud was bitul Torah -- a waste of time. And while that may have been a good lesson for an easily distracted teenager, I have since discovered as an adult...
December 11, 2003 | 7:00 pm
We are all familiar with Jacob, the refugee who returns to his homeland to the dreaded encounter with his vengeful brother Esau. I believe most of us read the story through Jacob's eyes, but is it the only way? What if it were possible to unearth these biblical heroes' diaries? What...
December 4, 2003 | 7:00 pm
It was somewhat overwhelming, though not totally surprising, that listening to Simon and Garfunkel in concert turned out to be a significant religious experience for me. I found that they have the ability to remind us what the seeking and dreaming "Ya'akov" that is inside us actually...
November 13, 2003 | 7:00 pm
A saleswoman, driving home in northern Arizona, sees a Navajo woman hitchhiking, stops the car and invites the Navajo woman to join her.
As they drive, the Navajo woman glances repeatedly at a brown bag on the front seat between them.
"If you are wondering what's in the bag," the...
October 2, 2003 | 8:00 pm
It is easy to feel small. As you fall asleep one night, try to watch yourself in your mind's eye, your body growing quiet on your bed as your mind begins to wander. You are one person falling asleep in one room. Beyond you are two, five, 20 others in your home or apartment building...
July 17, 2003 | 8:00 pm
Last week's Torah portion ended with a dramatic cliffhanger. A plague was in progress, punishing the Israelites for worshipping the false gods. Despite earlier prohibitions and the snare of idolatry, an Israelite man openly brought a Midianite woman into the camp. (Commentators infer...
April 17, 2003 | 8:00 pm
In our Torah portion this Shabbat, Moses, who is closer to God than any other human being, pleads with God, "Show me Your presence."
Why does Moses want this? He got to talk to God. He got to witness God's miracles in Egypt and at the Red Sea. When all the Israelites were assembled...
April 3, 2003 | 7:00 pm
Did you ever notice how we tend to make up our minds so quickly that we become closed to ideas that might change our opinion?
Â Recently, I came across the following sign prominently displayed on an executive's desk that succinctly summarized it: "Don't confuse me with facts --...
February 6, 2003 | 7:00 pm
It's Thursday night at Toras HaShem, an outreach yeshiva in North Hollywood and some 40 people are here to hear Rabbi Zvi Block's weekly Torah portion sermon. Tonight the class includes college-age women wearing long skirts; a number of septuagenarians; a middle-aged man, who is...
January 30, 2003 | 7:00 pm
Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, known as the Rav to his many thousands of students, takes exception to the usual distinction many make between the chukim (decrees) and the mishpatim (judgments). Usually, some think that chukim are nonrational laws, while the mishpatim are rational,...
January 23, 2003 | 7:00 pm
What makes a good parent? Once, while waiting on line at Passport Control in Israel, I overheard two American couples talking.
Each was describing how much luggage they had brought. Finally, one said to the other, "We brought nothing for ourselves. The truth is we could have done...
January 2, 2003 | 7:00 pm
The art of public speaking is a special gift. In the anthology "Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History" (Norton & Co., 1997), New York Times columnist William Safire collects 200 of history's outstanding instances of oratorical eloquence.
He divides this compendium of great...
January 2, 2003 | 7:00 pm
"So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frog came up and covered the land of Egypt." (Exodus 8:2-3) That is how Parshat Vaerah portion describes the plague of frogs.
Did you know that sometimes our rabbis like to have fun when they interpret the Torah?...
December 12, 2002 | 7:00 pm
For many of us, this season is marked by being with families and sharing our family stories. In the Torah cycle it is the time of the year that we read the powerful story of a family of brothers, a story about forgiveness and reconciliation. Buried in this story about brothers is a...
December 12, 2002 | 7:00 pm
Good and Bad Luck
Have you ever thought: "Oh, I'm having such bad luck. Nothing's going my way." In this week's parsha, Vayigash, Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. He says: "Don't feel bad about selling me into slavery. It happened for a reason. Now I'm a leader, and I can...
December 5, 2002 | 7:00 pm
Most of my congregation knows from references I've made over the years that I am a devoted sports fan. Ever since I was a youngster,
sitting with my dad watching football on TV, I've had "my teams" -- the Rams, the Dodgers and the Bruins. On rare occasions I have even gone to the...
October 31, 2002 | 7:00 pm
There are three patriarchs in the Bible: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Which of the above were they? Well, Abraham created a new religion. He was an innovator. Jacob spent his life traveling and encountering adventure after adventure. He brought the God of Israel's religion to all the...
June 20, 2002 | 8:00 pm
In this week's Torah portion, we are introduced to the concept of a chok (statute) -- a divine law that we do not understand.
We are required to do it without knowing why, or what we are accomplishing spiritually with the performance of the mitzvah.
Question: Are chukim statutes...
June 6, 2002 | 8:00 pm
Yes, I know that this week is Pinchas, but I must return to the second of last week's two portions, Balak, for what happens there is too relevant to pass by unmentioned. In this famous portion, King Balak sends the prophet-magician Balaam to curse Israel, because he is scared of...
May 30, 2002 | 8:00 pm
A woman in Alcoholics Anonymous once told Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twersky, a leading psychologist, the following story: An old friend of hers, who was still an alcoholic, asked her how long she had been sober. She responded that it was already two years. The friend couldn't believe it and...
May 9, 2002 | 8:00 pm
This week's Torah portion begins a new biblical book, after which the parsha is named in English, "Numbers,"and in Hebrew, "Bamidbar," best translated as "In the Wilderness."
Juxtaposing the two very different names turns out to have resonance, both then and now. Between leaving...
April 25, 2002 | 8:00 pm
OK. Now what's an omer?
It is a unit of measure -- like a pound or a kilo. That is how sheaves of barley were measured. The Israelites were commanded to bring an omer of barley to the Temple on the second day of Passover. If you don't believe me, read this week's Torah portion, Emor. It says it right there. Then they were supposed to count 49 days from that day, until Shavuot. Lag B'Omer falls on the 33rd day of the counting of the omer. Get it?
April 18, 2002 | 8:00 pm
All of us have heard, or experienced a variation of the following story, told of a father and his daughter. She, a busy professional; he, a retired widower. In one of their virtually nonexistent exchanges, he asks: "With your booked schedule, will you be able to attend my funeral?"...
April 11, 2002 | 8:00 pm
April 11, 2002 | 8:00 pm
The great Israeli author, Shai Agnon, related a fable about a little boy and his old father, who together tended a goat. Each day the goat wandered off and returned at evening, its udders filled with the sweetest of milk. The boy wished to know where the goat went, and on what grass...