Cycle of Insanity If, as Einstein is reputed to have said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, then the corollary should be true as well: If you keep getting the same results when you are expecting different ones, you must be doing the same thing over and over again, and you are probably insane! Every year (at least once) we say Le’Shanah Haba’ah Birushalayim(may we be redeemed in Yerushalim this time next year) indicating our desire end the milenia-old cycle of mourning for the destruction of Jerusalem on, and leading up to, Ti..
The Vilna Gaon My current love-affair with the Vilna Gaon’s Biur Hagerah is one of my most exciting Torah learning experiences ever. The Vilna Gaon, or Gerah as he is known, is an 18th century colossus towering over all of modern Torah scholarship. His personality synthesized piety and intellect, Halacha and Kabalah, Torah wisdom and general knowledge, and modernity of thought with unwavering adherence tomesorah (tradition). He stripped the halachik canon of any questionable practices not grounded in the Talmud and probed every law in the Shulchan Aruch for its Talmudic ess..
Especially in this age of celebrity worship, we raise our own standards of spiritual aspirations by setting up role-models who personify the values we most admire. Tzarror vs. Nekom The very worst of Midyan rises to the fore at the end of ParshatBallak. With the help from Billam they identify the core of Israel's might: It is in its moral fiber. Armed with this insight Midyan attacks the essence of Jewish morality, the exclusive intimacy of its family life and its relationship to God (both highlighted in Billam's exquisiteMah Tovu Ohalecha Yisrael prophecy, now the opening of..
Individual and community: who is primary? Is it the citizen or the state; the individual or his community? When should individuals sacrifice their identities on the altars of social expectations and norms? A Journey Bamidbar is the story of a transformational journey. It is the story of the small, G-d-fearing family that had immigrated to Egypt where they were later enslaved. After being freed they became fused into a mighty nation as they traversed the treacherous Sinai desert. The story however, is not as it might sound, one about the evoluti..
Reflections from my trip down the memory lanes of a lost world On the surface many of them looked no different from the non-Jewish aristocracy of their time, but when they served Hashem in study and prayer, they were like angels of G-d. Their ways were the ways of pleasantness and all of their pathways were peaceful. Straight From the Jungle Last Sunday and Monday in South Africa I was tracking leopards in the bush, parked in the middle of a herd of elephant and staring at a large male lion less than twenty feet away. Isolated from the world and immersed in the wonders of ..
The Yehuda-Yehudis dance Chanukah is an exquisite choreography of masculine and feminine energy harmonized into a unique dance of beauty and holiness. Both the laws and the story of Chanukah express the deep, quiet, inner power of the feminine as well as the assertive impact of the masculine. The Greeks forbade the study and practice of the Torah (a primarily male activity) and they also legislated the defilement of Jewish brides by the emperor. The Maccabi brothers, led by the hero of the story, Yehuda, battled the Greeks and the Hellenists to reclaim the social fabric of a ..
The outcomes of our efforts can exceed anything we thought possible How superficial! Would you not be shocked if a rabbinic search committee told you the qualities they were looking for in their next rabbi, in addition to wisdom were physical strength, good looks, wealth, and old age? Well, these are the five leadership qualities enumerated by Chazal(Vayikra Rabbah 26:9) that set the Kohein Gadol (Chief Kohein) apart from his team. Really? How superficial! How limiting! What if there was a really good candidate who was saintly, empathetic and decisive ..
By putting the needs of another before our own, we displace our egos and create space for sanctity to find a home. Vehiskadishtem: Be holy Our national mission, the purpose for which we were taken out of Egypt and made into a nation, is to be holy. The parshas of Tazria-Metzora are sandwiched between two majestic injunctions to become holy: "Vehiskadishtem, vi'hiyissem kedoshim" (Vayikra 11:44) and "Kedoshim tiheyu" (you shall be holy - Vayikra 19.2). When we are holy we 'vibrate' on a Divine wavelength that enables us to resonate with the Divine and to connect ..