There are not ten Commandments in the Decalogue; there are only nine. There are ten Statements though, which is why we call them the Asseret Ha'Dibrot (Ten Statements), not the Ten Commandments. According to the way we count the Decalogue, the first is not a commandment at all, it merely states: “I am Hashem your Divine Power who removed you from Egypt, from a place of slavery.” (In the Christian version, the first commandment includes: “You shall have no other gods before me;” but in the Torah this is part of the second statement.) There seems to be no ..
Parshat Bo I would have expected the first mitzvah (commandment) of the Torah to be the first of the Ten Commandments - to have faith in one G-d. The Rambam sites this mitzvah first when he lists all the 613 mitzvot and the Vilna Gaon refers to it as the foundation of all the Mitzvot. Perhaps the first mitzvah could have been “Love your neighbor as yourself” which Hillel refers to as a foundational principle of the Torah, or the laws of Shabbat about which the Talmud says, Shabbat observance carries the same weight as observance of the entire Torah. The first..
Parshat Va’eirah, 5778 Emunah- the challenge Emunah, a natural and deep awareness of Hashem, has not always come easily to me. Yes, I have always believed in Hashem, but Emunah is so much more than a “belief.” I have always known Hashem, but Emunah is more than cognitive, mind-based knowledge. Emunah is even more than the intuitive knowledge that you know in your heart. Emunah as defined by the Chazon Ish, is a unique form knowledge that resides at the deepest levels of your soul. It is this deep soul-level Emunah that I have spent a lifetime building...
Shemot, 5778 Suffering and Success Why does every major accomplishment of the Jewish People seem to come at a terrible cost? Freedom came at the cost of centuries in slavery. Nationhood came at the cost of forty years of desert wandering, the death of a generation of Jews and uninvited battles with powerful tribes. Even in our times, the Jewish State seems to have been made possible by the horrors of the holocaust and it is kept viable through the constant sacrifices of beautiful young men and women to terror and war. Is suffering inherent particularly to Jewish success or i..
Vayechi, 5778 לעולם אל תהי ברכת הדיות קלה בעיניך (מגילה ט"ו:) Never take the blessing of an ordinary person, lightly. Every cell of the body is attached to a Divine source and is nourished by the soul. As such we hold wisdom in every bodily cell In the same way we can generate energy and transmit and project it outwards, we can also sense and receive human energy from others. Often you meet people who exude a lot of energy. It is not only extroverts and high-energy people who give out this energy. Sometimes a quiet introvert exudes a powerful, albeit less obvious energy. Ener..
Inner power (introduced in last week’s essay) is not a weak form of power; it is not a substitute for the willingness to fight. Inner power lies in not having to resort to a fight because the energy you project is powerful enough, without the use of force, to persuade others of the rightness of a course of action. The players in the struggle for power over the fate of Binyamin, youngest brother of the clan of Israelites, are their leader Yehudah and the Viceroy of Egypt who, unbeknownst to Yehudah, is his brother Yoseif. Yehudah, determined to recover Binyamin at any cost, draws up to the V..
Democracy may have started in ancient Athens, or 18th century England, France, and the USA. But the convergence of digitalization, mobile technology and social media has taken democracy to unprecedented levels. This new democracy has obliterated boundaries, diminishing one of the most important tools of power: control. Loss of control has enabled silent revolutions that toppled governments, undermined establishments, challenged conventions and disrupted industries. (See Professor Taylor Owen’s important piece in the World Economic Forum last year, What can governments learn from digital disrup..
Parshat Vayeishev 5768 When what you read in the news and what you learn in the weekly Parsha intersect, it is important to pause and notice. The theme of gender abuse continues both in the U.S. media and in Parshat Vayeishev. In this week’s Parsha however, the victim is no innocent young girl as was the case with Dinah last week, nor is the perpetrator a male sexual predator like Shechem was. This time the perpetrator is a powerful woman, Ms. Pottifar, wife of one of the most influential men in Egypt. The victim is Yoseif, her dashing, seventeen-year-old slave, and as the only Jew in Egy..