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..
Vayikra, 6:2 The Sale of Chameitz is not a sham, it is a very deep spiritual practice Selling your chameitz (unleaven bread etc. forbidden to eat or possess on Pesach) when you know very well that after Pesach you will receive it all back untouched! Running around the house with a candle and feather looking for ten pieces of chameitz that you or your children have just hidden away! Who are we deluding? Every Mitzvah, every Halacha, is an artistic expression of mounds of wisdom and knowledge that we call “the Torah of that Mitzvah”. Thi..
Devarim 1:12 Three rhetorical questions “Where are you?” I asked myself as I emerged from a very deep slumber early this evening. I have done so much traveling these past couple of weeks, that for a few moments after a nap trying to recover from jetlag, I truly had no idea where I was! “Where are you?” Isn’t that the question Hashem asked Adam after man’s first act of disobedience? And did that act not initiate sin and ultimately culminate in the destruction of the Batei Mikdash (Temples)? Was that act not the starting point of the journey on which we still find ..
The prophetic donkey Not only can animals smell, hear and see things that humans cannot, at times they can even intuit spiritual forces of which humans seem to be oblivious. Both the Ramban and Rashi are intrigued by the capacity of Bilam’s donkey to “see an angel of Hashem” (Bamidbar 22:23). “Even humans do not see angels other than in visions or dreams,”  says the Ramban, “angels are spiritual forces that cannot be detected by the senses”. For this reason, he suggests initially, this particular animal simply intuited a danger that stopped its progress in its tr..