The theme of chameitz, (the leavened bread and other substances prohibited during Pesach) is prominent in our current parshios. In addition to leavened bread the word chameitz, orchometz also means vinegar, a substance that, like wine, is forbidden to a Nazzir (Bamidbar 6:3). Both usages of the wordchameitz describe a food product developed by a fermentation process. It is also interesting that during this fermentation process, if the process were stopped earlier a different product would result. In the case of bread, matza results from stoppin..
The visions of our tomorrows are limited by the paradigms of our yesterdays. To be able to see this vision we need to shatter some paradigms first. Movement Before saving Noach from global disaster, the Torah informs us what about him earned that right to special treatment; he was righteous and perfect in his generation. But when Lech Lecha, the parshaabout the life and times of Avraham, opens, we are not told why Hashem singles him out and directs him to leave his place of birth. The Ramban (Bereishis 12:3) makes this observation, and the SeffasEmmes (Lech..
The lenses through which we see the world determine not only how we experience it but also how we respond to it. The Dangers of Secularization One of my greatest learning and teaching challenges is to be vigilant about seeing and showing the world through the lens of a pure, authentic Torah Hashkaffa (worldview) and not one tainted by secularity. The lenses through which we see the world determine not only how we experience it but also how we respond to it and to the events of our lives. A person who has become embittered or who is simply prejudiced for..
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 ..