Who Owns Me? Mishpatim is a concise compendium of the laws that govern our relationships with the things that we and others own. It begins by defining ownership of that which is closest to us: our own bodies. We might have assumed that of all the things in the world, the things over which we have the most unassailable rights are our own bodies. This is not so. We in fact do not own our bodies at all, and therefore neither we nor a Beit Din (a court of Law), can sell ourselves as slaves. We are owners of our labor and can trade in our own labor, but we do not own our bodi..
Last week I extolled the virtues of family. The tale in this week's Parsha of familial brutality shocks us to the bone. Yoseif's brothers act on their hatred of him and callously plot Yoseif's murder. Only Yehuda's intervention saves him from murder and relegates him to a fate not much better: slavery in Egypt. Their actions toward Yoseif seem brutal; their disregard for their fathers devastation reveals an unimaginable lack of compassion. Is thatJewish family? No, that is not family. Family, as we said in last week's essay, stand by one another almost unconditionally, they d..
Dear Friend I do not use the word "Friend" trivially. I feel so close to you even though in many cases our contact is merely digital. For some time now you have been reading and learning some of my innermost thoughts and ideas; this brings people closer. I feel comfortable sharing them with you in ways that friends share thoughts and ideas. I have also had some two-way communication with many of you and that has been very meaningful to me. Often without knowing it, you stimulate my thinking and facilitate new ideas as I imagine you on the receiving end of a shiur or essay. Thank..
Much has been said and written this year about the once-in-twenty-eight-year phenomenon of Birkat Hachamathis Wednesday. There are many dimensions to it: halachik, philosophic, kabbalistic and astronomical. Birkat Hachama is recited on the day that the sun, at sunset, is positioned against the same constellations on a Tuesday evening as it was on the Tuesday evening on which it was created 5770 years ago. This is one of the few occasions in our calendar governed by solar rather than lunar cycles (the other being the day we start to recite “vetein tal umattar”..
"One who knows himself knows Hashem, and one who does not know himself, how could he know Hashem? Journey with me "One cannot know Hashem if he does not know his inner-self, his soul and his body. For what could one who does not know the essence of his inner-self want with wisdom?" - Ibn Ezra Shemot 31:18 The journey to self-discovery is a journey to wisdom. Without self-knowledge, Torah is a collection of facts and rules whereas it should be so much more than that. Torah should integrate every facet of life into a single, coherent worldview. It is such a worl..
Yesterday does not predict tomorrow Timeless values rather than transient, political events are the subjects of these essays. But this week’s events in the United States are not transient and they are far more than political. They call for comment. The US elections are the third event in eight years that permanently changed the course of global history. But there is something even more startling about those events than the changes they ushered in. In all three cases we saw the failure of yesterday to predict tomorrow. The three events were 1) September 11th; 2) the current..
The Wisdom of Trust The creation of Adam and Chava on the sixth day, inaugurated a short period of intellectual and spiritual grandeur for man, a grandeur that lasted for no more than six hours. Then it was shattered – not by Chava or Adam eating from the forbidden fruit of the Eitz Hada'at, but because their union was compromised by the poison of mistrust. Adam and Chava were super-intelligent. They were "arumim" (Chakimim, wise, according to the Targum Yonattan). Their wisdom however was not vested in their individual beings but in the unit of their togeth..
This essay was written on my Father Avi Mori Reb Ahraham Chaim ben R. Dov Ztz’l’s 17th Yahrzheit, 12th Kislev, le’ilui nishmosso venishmas Imi Morassi Marras Maiiia bas R.Dovid Haleivi. It is dedicated to their blessed memory. What is Family? The blood relationship between members of a family defines whofamily is but not what family is. Two sons of the same parents are brothers, two daughters are sisters; two people descended from the same grandparents but not the same parents are cousins. But what does it mean to be a..