FOR YOM KIPPUR 5767 In my Rosh Hashanah essay, Life in Paradox, I wrote about the Katuv Hashelishi that explains paradox: even the paradox of human behavior - including our own. There is almost always a force, sometimes within us and sometimes external to us, that explains why we did things that without recognition of that force, appear absurd even to us. That does not remove from us our own accountability, but it allows for mercy, empathy, understanding. That is the understanding Avraham asks Hashem to apply on the Day of Judgment. In the new Shiur series, Tomer Devorah, Shi..
Journeys are typically linear. They are a means of getting from one point to another. Some journeys are not about getting from one place to another but about the experience itself. A trans-Atlantic voyage for example, is linear; a Caribbean cruise may well be circular. A cruise, unlike a voyage, is an end in itself. Journeys bring about change. A voyage changes your location. A cruise may change your mind-space. You may land up at the same geographical point from which you departed, but your experience will have been different and you will probably be in a different mi..
What you are willing to sacrifice is what you gain The opening passage of the Parsha holds the key to understanding courage. Zimri desecrated G-d’s name by publicly flaunting his illicit relationship with the Midianite Princess, Kozbi bat Tzor. Pinchas reacts passionately and in accordance with the Halachah of that time, assassinates Zimri and kills Kozbi. Hashem responds by rewarding Pinchas with an everlasting Brit Shalom (Covenant of Peace) manifesting in the hereditary rights of Kehuna. From now on Pinchas and his male descendants would be Ko..
A year draws to a close so that a new one can open another chapter in the journey of our lives. Rosh Hashanah marks the passage of time not only in a personal micro sense but also in a universal macro sense. Eras come and go, and with them trends and movements. We need to notice the passage of our own journeys of growth, and we should also note civilization’s journey and its evolution. We are witnessing a strange awakening in the world: an awakening to spirituality, and to the need to be concerned with, and protective of, the environment; an awakening to the role of values, purpose and me..
Kedusha: The Challenge The Torah's highest spiritual expectations are not attainable by everyone, but its Halachik (legal) expectations are. "Kedoshim Tiheyu" ("you shall be individuals of sanctity") is a Halachik expectation, it is a commandment, a mitzvah. We are obligated not only to aspire to sanctity, but to achieve it. And no, Hashem is not joking, He is absolutely serious! What is kedusha (sanctity) and how do you achieve it? Kedusha is the ultimate level in the Mesilat Yesharim's remarkable manual of spiritual greatness. In this essay I bas..
Devarim, 17:14-15 Kelei Yakar Leadership of cowardice vs. leadership of courage The recent and increasingly frequent breakdown of American infrastructure, from the power blackout in the northeast a few years ago to the recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis, bears testimony to the unwillingness of successive administrations to spend money on investments that will not buy votes in the short term. Is that leadership or servitude? Clearly leadership by the people and of the people is not always leadership for the people. Leaders by the people and of the peopl..
Devarim 26:16-19 Sforno (Note: If you are able to, please pre-read the verses quoted above and the Sforno) Choice vs. Compulsion How are we raising our children? Are we compelling and inspiring them, or allowing them to experience the magic of the Mitzvotthemselves and then make their own choices? How are we living our own religious lives? To generate passion and energy for our Avodah (spiritual practice) we need to make a mindful choice to live a life of Shemirat Motzvot(religious observance). While parents, teachers or rabbis can c..
Devarim: 12: 18-20 Abundance is a flow Chukim (Statutes), the laws of spirituality, often appear to be counter-intuitive. The Law of Abundance is one such Chok. The law of abundance is stated in Mishlei (Proverbs) Chapter 18: “Matan adam yarchiv lo – it is a person’s generosity that creates the space for abundance”. Abundance is not a static quantity of matter or money. Abundance is a flow, a spring of constantly renewing vitality. The renewal can be in any area: financial, social, family, health, or wisdom. Abundance is not about how muc..