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  • Oh, That’s Cold! Part 1

    I love studying really practical discourses! This one was about Purim and Haman’s origins from Amalek.   There are many explanations about Amalek, his intentions and complexities, but this one was original.   Amalek is classified in the Talmud “as knowing his Master and intentionally rebelling against Him”. This begs the question, if Amalek knows his Master (G-d) and witnessed the miracles of the Jewish People (in Egypt and in other times) then how could he intentionally rebel against G-d?   When someone doesn’t know when their intentions are not......

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  • Footsteps in the Sand

    I’m not sure the origin but y’all are familiar with the poem about the person who is walking with G-d and sees two footprints and then as the going gets difficult only sees one footprint. Wondering the person asks G-d where were you in the most difficult times? G-d answers I was carrying you.   According to Jewish tradition Hashem is always carrying us; in good times and rough times. The challenge is to us to open our eyes to see that indeed Hashem is there. The more we recognize......

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  • Who is your Taskmaster?

    Are you enslaved? Enslaved to your emotions or your way of thinking? Perhaps you’re enslaved to something of substance?   In any case, most of us are enslaved to our world view. It may be substantive and worthwhile, maybe even holy. But, it’s still the world view that we see from the eyes behind our eyelids.   Ever try looking at yourself from the other angle (outside of yourself)? Don’t worry; you’re in good company. It’s pretty hard to do this. So, if we can’t see ourselves from the outside......

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  • Her or Derher

    “I’m listening, I can tell you exactly what you said”, said every husband to wife.   In Yeshiva, sometimes when dozing off in shiur (class) or being preoccupied with some other nonsense the Rabbi would say “du herzt” which means do you hear?   The answer would be as above, “of course, I can tell you exactly what you said”. The Rabbi would proceed to ask “du herzt tzi du derherzt”, are you listening or are your internalizing.   Both words mean to hear but one is to internalize and......

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  • What do you practice?

    In this great video on Facebook, this little boy preaches beyond his years about which behaviors do you practice.   Whatever you practice you will get good at. So, if you practice complaining you will get good at it and find fault in everything. If you practice anger, you’ll get really good at it and you’ll find every opportunity to get angry even at the smallest things. See this link.   It struck me when reading this week’s Torah portion that if you practice faith in G-d you’ll get good......

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  • It’s That Time of the Year – Resolutions

    Have you paid attention to your inbox (digital and mail)? Are you getting those January solicitations to join the gym? Try out the newest diet? Join a new business coaching program?   January is a milestone in time; the end of one year, the start of a new one. People reflect on things they wished they had accomplished, feel guilty about the midline bulge and resolve that “this year” it’s going to be different. Hence, the capitalization of your emotional roller coaster by the companies of the world.   So......

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  • It’s time to warm up!

    The weather across the country has been freezing! It’s time for a thaw.   Maybe that’s why in this week’s Torah portion the Frogs jump into the ovens?! In plague #2 against Pharaoh and his People, Frogs, an amphibious creature, jumps into the Egyptian ovens as an act of sacrifice.   In the plague #1, the cold Egyptian water turns to blood.   We have the cold turning warm and the cold putting out the fires.   Sometimes in life when we are cold we ought to warm up. This......

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  • Fiery Ears

    I recently heard this nice thought; “listen and silent have the same letters”. I’m not sure who is the author of this statement but it surely reflects two approaches in how we relate to others.   Some peoples silence is a simple tactic to get the other person to finish talking so they can fully have the stage when it is their turn to respond.   For others, they are actually listening, taking in what the other person is saying trying to internalize and relate or at best sympathize.  ......

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  • I know that I am living but am I alive*

    They have eyes but don’t see, ears but don’t hear… so says King David. One can be alive but not really living. Jacob lives the last 17 years of his life, and although he is reunited with his son Jacob, it is after all, Egypt, the lowliest of lands. And yet, the Torah and the commentators tell us that 17 is the numeric equivalent of Tov = Good.   The word that opens the Parsha this week is Vayechi – “and he lived”. In Yiddish you might say “gelebt” which loosely translated would be......

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  • Fight, Flight or Fly Higher

    How do we react to challenge? Do we fight back or do we run away?   Back in the day when there was ongoing blatant anti-semitism, Jews needed to fortify themselves to maintain their identity so by and large we fought back. Not always with guns and swords but with greater resolve to be faithful to G-d and Judaism. Of course there were those who ran away and attempted to assimilate so as not to “stand out”.   Although today there surely is anti-semitism but by and large the world......

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  • Good Looks

    This week’s email is dedicated to my father in honor of his 70th Birthday celebrated this week, with wishes for long life, good health and nachas from all his children and grandchildren!   The bond between parent and child is profound and unique. When children are young, a parent experiences intense physical love for their child.   When children grow into young’uns the intense love may evolve into appreciation for the uniqueness of the child; their smarts, their talents, etc.   When they are teenagers…well, it reminds me of the......

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  • Patience is a Virtue

    I can tell you it is not a virtue that I have naturally or that I have mastered. It is though something I strive for :-).   Some people are just more patient, they are “gelasin” that’s a yiddish word for even-keeled. It sounds better in Yiddish. Others are “farhitzed” also a yiddish word, that means cooked or shvitzed (oy vey with these yiddish words). They can’t sit still and need it to happen now! They need the next challenge, next opportunity!   The fact is that both are necessary......

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  • Stay in Your Lane!

    Much of life is analogous to a road or journey. As the traveler, we move along, sometimes fast—sometimes slow, as we trek this thing called life. Perhaps some see it as Ralph Waldo Emerson did: “life is about the journey, not the destination.”   Educating children is also compared to a journey, according to the teachings of Proverbs. l’naar al pi darko: “Educate a child according to his/her way, so that even when he grows old he will not turn away from it.”   “Way” indicates a pathway. A road.......

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  • Tired? Dig a well.

    Do you ever feel completely depleted? You know those days or weeks where it just doesn’t stop and then you pause at a given moment and realize that you’ve been running on fumes. You think to yourself, “I just can’t go on, I don’t know how I’m going to find another ounce of stamina to move forward”.   Sometimes, this happens physically and often it happens spiritually. The spiritual engine seems to have idled and it looks like there is no more gas. Funny sounds are coming from places where......

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  • Servitude is the Greatest Liberation

    Do you ever want to take a break from yourself? A break from thinking? A break from feeling? The more sensitive and in touch you are, the smarter you are, the greater the desire to take a break, to greater the need to just still the mind.   Yoga, mindfulness meditation and regular meditation are all helpful to this end. But imagine living the paradox, where you feel and think and still experience peace of mind and heart?!   Meditate on that for a bit :-)!   There is help and it......

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  • The Isaac Well Factor

    Discipline, being calculated, stringency are all qualities that we employ in our lives for our personal well-being, as well as those under our purview. Imagine a world where that wasn’t the case. We’d eat whatever we want, we’d say whatever is on our mind, we’d all be nomads living unproductive lives.   Conversely, if discipline and calculation rules the day, where is the joy, where is joie de vivre? Is that gloomy world the one that G-d wants?   In fact we need a balance between the two. But which......

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  • All Alone?!

    Do you ever feel all alone? Like no one gets you and your trying to move something along that is meeting human obstacle after obstacle. Or like the entire world has gone mad and you’re the only sane one? (If you answered yes to the last question, I know a good therapist.)   Last week I attended a session at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta called a Fishbowl. Inside the Fishbowl were three entrepreneurs. And we were watching the conversation taking place between these entrepreneurs and the interviewee. One......

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  • Living in Anticipation

    Some people live from anticipation to anticipation. As soon as one anticipated event or milestone is reached the next one is on the horizon. It may be 1 month or 6 months away, but the anticipation of that next destination keeps the person going.   Being fully present is difficult, living in the present is a challenge. Yes, Chabad philosophy in particular emphasizes the need to be present in everything we do. It is a value par excellence.   The first Chabad Rebbe taught us this value in the context......

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  • Time to Hug!

    It’s been a rough week for all of us, it’s time for a hug!   The Sukkah walls will hug us beginning this evening and for the next 8 days. It’s the Divine embrace that each of us will draw from for the rest of the year. An embrace that provides each of us with the resources we need to live a more G-dly and goodly life this year!   The joy of Sukkos is fully realized on account of the 4 Kinds (Lulav, Ethrog, Hadasim and Aravos). The analogy......

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  • Standing With the Water Carriers

    This past week we experienced a calling to open our homes, our lives to share with others. People were in need and we were there to respond. Not everyone gets their name in the paper for their acts of kindness, but they are kind nonetheless.   Why is it that people open their homes to complete strangers in a time of need? Perhaps the urgency pressures us to access parts of ourselves that remain concealed in peaceful times.   In fact this idea is reflected in the opening of this......

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  • It’s All In The Smile

    The Mishna states “receive everyone with a pleasant face”. We are being taught in this Mishna the importance of having proper social interactions. You may be in a bad mood but you can always smile to another. Your bad mood is not their problem!   Why is the smile so important? I recently read an essay from the Rebbe with a nuanced comment that addresses this question – perhaps.   There is a parable given by the Alter Rebbe regarding the month of Elul. In the parable the Rebbe says......

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  • Shiny Penny Syndrome

    The nature of the human is that the things we can’t have, things that are inaccessible, difficult to achieve or expensive are the those we want most.   When things are easily accessible or common we often times disregard their value.   ***   During the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, the Holy Baal Shem Tov says that G-d is accessible to each and every one. He uses an analogy of a king who comes out of the palace and goes out to the field where the common man......

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  • A Dream Come True

    After many years of dreaming of taking my family to the beautiful natural sites of the west, the dream came true!   Dena and I just got back from a 15 day road trip with all of the kids. The magnificence, beauty and wondrousness of each of the stops would have justified the trip unto itself. Combined together it becomes a thing that fantasy and fairy tales are made of.   Among the many fascinating sites (Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, The Grand Canyon to name a few) we also had......

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  • Charlottesville, Tinshames and the Eclipse

    Hearing the news and seeing the rally marches from Charlottesville, was appalling and frightening. Could it be in the USA in 2017, these words, these actions?!   It’s easy to get caught up in one’s political leanings, to blame this party or the other. To blame one individual or the other. I’ll leave that to those that actually get paid to have an opinion on that.   For me as a Rabbi and a Chabad Chasid, I attempt to look to the deeper dimension and ask myself what can I......

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  • A Bit of Moses

    As Yom Kippur draws to an end, I find myself changing gears from being a spiritual leader to a coach as the players enter the final inning or the last round. People are tired, it’s been a couple of weeks of preparation for the High Holidays and then two days of Rosh Hashanah, a long evening of Kol Nidrai and now after a full day of fasting, everybody (me included) is wiped out.   So, as we enter Neilah, the finally prayer of the season, I find myself serving as coach.......

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  • I’m in love again!

    Before I got married, a family member told me that “marriage would be the most difficult thing I would work on in my life, but it would be the most rewarding”.   I thought about this, this week as we observed Tisha B’Av, the day which commemorates the destruction of the two Batay Mikdashos – Temples – in Jerusalem and the exile of the Jewish People. The destruction of Jerusalem is much more than a commemoration of an event of the past. It is really about all the suffering of......

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  • See, what you’re gonna see!

    It’s always a little humbling when the lights go on. Suddenly you see how you really appear. It’s humiliating, embarrassing and most of all humbling.   I’m talking about perspective, worldviews, paradigms, etc. We think a certain way based on our upbringing, other influences and our own choosing. Of course, we have only those tools to work from. So we engage with the world from that vantage point. Sometimes that vantage point and paradigm is helpful and sometimes it becomes a point of tension and contention between us and others.......

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  • Thank you G-d for afflicting me, please hit me again!

    Said no one ever! Or maybe they did. There is a sentiment among certain religious groups to preach the idea that suffering is good, should be welcomed and thanked for. To be fair these are fundamental Jewish values as well and can all be sourced to the Midrash, Talmud and other good sources. But to say thank you?   Let me put the subtle distinction in context.   We all face challenges in life. When we experience challenge in life the growing person looks at the challenge and finds lessons......

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  • Say What You’re Gonna Say, Do What You’re Gonna Do

    Talk is cheap, although it seems to come at a big price these days. But really, anyone with an opinion articulates it without fear. That is in part because today everyone feels that speaking your mind is ok no matter the context, language or opinion.   How about action? Doing? Society today has accepted pretty much any behavior as acceptable. However, those behaviors are generally behaviors of self expression. In other words, society has accepted that anything you do to express yourself is acceptable.   What about doing as it......

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  • Sensitivity and Today’s Media

    Wax on, wax off. Practice makes perfect.   Each year as we study the weekly Torah portion, we inevitably chance upon small or big nuggets that jump out and provide a transformative life lesson.   It’s also amazing how they seem to always present themselves right at the time that we as a society or as an individual need to hear that lesson.   Look at today’s headlines. Any headlines, any website, any news service. I challenge you to find a website that doesn’t have a list of insults and......

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  • A False World

    In this week’s Torah portion we read of the passing of Aaron the High Priest – Kohen Gadol. It says that all the People mourned him for 30 days. The reason for this our Sages say is that Aaron was lover of peace and a pursuer of peace.   The Kabbalah tells us that the world is a “false world”. What you see is almost never what you get. There is always something else beneath the surface.     This reality of our world makes the ideal of truth a hard one to......

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  • I choose

    I recently attended a funeral of a dear friend and young man. A real tragedy and sad day. One of the speakers, a good friend of the deceased shared his memories but he presented his comments in a unique fashion.   He framed all of his memories by saying “I choose to remember”. I choose to remember the deceased for this particular quality and proceeded to share an anecdote. He did this over and over again and it suddenly it hit me. He was not only saying these words but......

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  • Of Spies and Souls

    When we think of a spy we may think hero or villain – depending if your team is the one spying or being spied on. In this week’s Torah portion we read of the 12 spies going to spy on behalf of the Jewish People in and on the Land of Israel.   These spies (10 of them at least) who left as hero’s (Heads of the Children of Israel the Torah calls them) became villains, meeting their death in the desert.   A spy integrates him or herself into......

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  • Mazal Tov and Let them Rise Up

    Sarah Chana Radcliffe, a respected family therapist writes the following: Older kids as well as teens need more space to do things their own way. Parents, on the other hand, want to help their kids do things the best way, the safest way, the rightest way – THEIR way. They often suffer tremendous anxiety in letting go of the reigns. If you feel a strong need to give your older child lots of instructions, remember this: he learned everything you had to offer in his first decade. You did a......

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  • Indulgence or Abstention?

    In this week’s Torah portion we read about the Nazarite. This is an individual who has taken a vow of abstention. He is prohibited from cutting his hair, drinking wine and coming in contact with the dead.   Once his period of abstention comes to an end or if he mistakenly comes in contact with the dead, he must bring a “sin” offering.   Our Sages tell us that the reason for the sin offering is on account of his self imposed abstention from wine.   It would seem like......

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  • The Art of Gifting

    With the school year coming to a close, there is much ado about gifts: gifts for the teachers, gifts for the graduates and let’s hope at least a pat on the back for yourself as the parent.   I got my child safely through another nine months of schooling. Healthy lunches, clean clothes, homework and science projects. All done. For now. Yay me (times eight).   In the early years of the Intown Jewish Preschool, which I founded, the parents would ask me about arranging different end-of-year gifts for the......

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  • Lessons on Management

    Most of us are in management. For starters we manage ourselves – or should be managing ourselves. Then, we manage our children. We manage around our spouses :-). Then perhaps there are those who manage others at work. Even if you are not at the top of the management chain but manage someone immediately at the next tier, you are still managing.   This week we read two Torah portions, Behar and Bechukosai. Behar means The Mountain. The Mountain we speak of here is the famous mountain of Sinai fame.......

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  • Forbes Richest to Enriched

    I chanced upon the ‘Forbes Richest Under 40’ wondering for a moment why I wasn’t gifted with ideas for Facebook, Uber, SnapChat, etc. and then realized I’m not under 40! Born a few years early.(What would I do with all those billions?)   A few hours later I listened to Shahar Azani speak about not pursuing a tech career path with the other tech Israeli’s and choosing to be a representative of the State of Israel “until the day I die”. He spoke about his passion to share with the......

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  • Free to Pray

    Good prayer has three ingredients; time, place and person.   Time – there is a time for certain prayers and there is a time to not pray certain prayers. For example, when the Jewish People stood at the sea, they were instructed not to pray but to move forward. Or, would it make sense to pray for rain in the summer season?   Place – the environment should be conducive to prayer. Clean, holy, and prayer is often times more powerful in locations that have a more direct channel eg;......

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  • If I Were a Rich Man

    Although there is a disproportionate number of wealthy people vs. those in poverty, the world overall and the Jewish People in particular are in a better material state then we were a century or two ago.   Various religions have varying opinions on the virtue of wealth.   It seems at first glance from the Mishna in Pirkey Avos – Ethics of our Fathers, which we study these weeks between Passover and Shavous (1 chapter per week) that perhaps wealth is not such a virtuous pursuit. The Mishna 2:7 first......

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  • Now what?!

    There are of course varying levels of Passover observance. If you observe even some basics such as two Passover Seders and not eating bread or leaven for eight days you may be breathing a sigh of relief at this time.   Like everything in life however, the sigh of relief carries a loss with it. There is something nice about the discipline of not eating bread and the commitment to a specific behavior or action for the eight days. So with the loss of that specific discipline you may be......

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  • The Messiah is Coming, Sunday!

    You have heard the statement Think Globally Act Locally. The cynic in me says yeah right. I’ve been thinking globally and acting locally since I was a child but have I changed the world? I like to believe that I am contributing to some level of positive change in the world, but will I ever really change the global picture? And even if my efforts will change the world in three generations time, do I want to be dedicating my life to changing the world for my grandchildren? And finally,......

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  • Are you free yet?

    Each year the Passover Seder brings new insights and inspiration. (One of the perks of leading a communal or group Seder :-)).   This year I heard a beautiful insight that really resonated with me.   At the point in the Seder when we make the blessing on the Matzah we hold the top of the three Matzahs and the broken middle Matzah. The Matzah we eat at this point in the Seder is the Matzah of liberation; for there wasn’t enough time for the dough to rise when our......

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  • P.R.I.D.E.

    Passover has taken the world by storm. Every retailer is getting into the business. Costco and others now sell Shmura Matzah (the handmade round matzah guarded from the time of harvesting from possible moisture – in short the best most kosher Matzah)!   Jews now observe Passover more than any other holiday on the Jewish calendar.   But it wasn’t always that way. The comfort threshold for this Jewish observance has been moved or possibly re-moved. But it isn’t that way necessarily with other Mitzvos and observances. And for good......

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  • Stressed Out?

    Are you stressed out? Do you work too hard? You might be using your brain too much!   In this week’s Torah portion, the Torah tells us “six days work shall be done”. Passively.   King David tells us that work should be the toil of our hands (palms to be exact) not the toil of our heads. Our heads ought to be focused on life’s purpose. When we are overly invested in our work we use up vital brain energy and it stresses us out and exhausts us.  ......

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  • Golden Calf – Golden Opportunity

    One of the great mystery’s of Jewish history is the sin of the Golden Calf. How is it possible for a People who just experienced the greatest Divine revelation of all time were able to deny the existence of the very G-d who revealed Himself to them by creating and worshiping another G-d?   This question has been discussed by the commentators who explain the events from a different perspective and we have addressed in this column in the past.   I’d like to focus on a different question that......

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  • Empowerment

    Do you feel empowered? Do you feel like you can do anything, achieve any goal, have the rights and ability to climb the highest heights?   Not everybody is so fortunate to feel that kind of empowerment and the history of the world has shown that society often doesn’t lend itself to that kind of empowerment.   3329 years ago, Moses empowered the Jewish people for all time. He empowered them through the instruction to build the Mishkan (the portable Temple) and in doing so to make a home for......

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  • Tzedakah from the Soul

    People have so many layers. Our physical layers are complex enough. For example our skin alone has three layers, epidermis, dermis and hypodermis (I cheated, I googled that). From there we navigate all the other layers until we hit the bone and beyond.   When we get into the psychological makeup it becomes even more complex. It’s so complex they have a book dedicated to it. It’s called the DSM and has 297 entries!   Once we venture into the spiritual realm and Jewish spiritual personal development we enter into......

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  • Laws for healthy living

    Dieting, exercising, meditation, yoga and other forms of care for the body are all the rage these days. Imagine if you were independently wealthy and spent your entire life every waking moment engaged in these activities. Is that a life?   Of course not!   These activities while very important for the health of ones body are good when they create a healthy environment within which one can live a life of purpose. A life of purpose is being a good spouse, parenting and raising wonderful children and engaging each......

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  • Honor Thy Parents

    In a discussion last week with some Young Adults regarding the critical components to a happy marriage we identified honor, love and admiration.   How does one honor another? For this we have the commandment from this week’s Torah portion; Honor they father and mother.   The Talmud asks what is honor? To clothe, bathe and feed. Actions!   Love, while it is important and the spice of any relationship, since however it is an emotion, it is not always present and is not a constant. Honor on the other......

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  • Upside Down World

    Have you ever gone scuba diving or snorkeling? More on this in a minute. But first…   Times are tense and people are having intense polarizing reactions to politics and sports.   For starters we need to bring some breathing into the world. So, stop now and breathe. It makes it all better, whether you are upset at the politics or excited about it, upset at the winner/loser of the Superbowl or excited about it. Whichever side of the aisle you are on your strong reactions are having an effect......

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  • Enlightenment

    To be en-light-ened is to have light in your life where others have darkness.   In this week’s Torah portion the Jews were enlightened during the plague of darkness. The verse states “and to all the Children of Israel there was light in their abodes”.   King David tells us that there are those that have eyes but don’t see, ears that don’t hear, etc. We may think the world is filled with light but in reality there are those that live in darkness.   The distinction between living in......

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  • Lost in a Cemetery

    A clearly protective mechanism for the discomfort of loss is black humor. So when leaving a funeral this week and finding myself lost a number of thoughts came to mind.   Why did I just hit three dead ends?! You really don’t want to get lost in a cemetery until you are really lost for good. The only way out of here is up.   Anyway, it’s been a busy week and I haven’t found anything that resonated with me from this week’s portion or this weeks escapades until I......

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  • Moving Forward

    Recently I had a run in with a friend. I suggested that we sit down and talk it out. His response was, “nah, let it sit for some time and it will blow over for both of us”. Turns out he was correct. It did blow over.   But it doesn’t always. Sometimes, issues from the past linger and the can become consuming, eating us up from within, until it gets resolved.   How does one resolve the issues from the past? There are two approaches: A. face the demons......

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  • Apology Therapy

    Not sure if such a thing exists, but we find an amazing example of apology and sensitivity in this week’s Torah portion.   Jacob is on his death bed. He asks his son Joseph for a kindness. The kindness is that when he passes, he wants Joseph to bury him in Israel in Hebron in the Cave of Machpelah.   He says to him, (I’m paraphrasing), although I didn’t do this for your mother, I’m still asking you to do this. The commentators explain that Jacob was saying, “I know......

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  • Happily Ever After

    We stand under a Chuppah to indicate that the marriage takes place under the Heavenly Eye of G-d.   We place a ring on the finger to demonstrate the Infinite One’s involvement in our union.   We circle the groom 7 times to establish a Divine Protective Wall around the couple.   Why all this G-d Involvement in what should be a simple ceremony to demonstrate the committment of two lovers to each other?   Marriage is the union between two finite people. By definition the finiteness of the two......

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  • Marthe Cohn Behind Enemy Lines

    The True Story of a Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany

    Ninety-six-year-old Holocaust survivor Marthe Cohn became a member of the intelligence service of the French First Army and was able to retrieve inside information about Nazi troop movements by slipping behind enemy lines.   Before Marthe Cohn became a spy, she was a devoutly religious 19-year-old French Jewish girl. Her life took an extraordinary turn when the Nazis invaded France in 1939.   While the rest of her family fled south, Marthe decided to fight back. After graduating from nursing school she joined the French resistance and, on account of......

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  • Avoid the Guilt and Give the Gelt

    Chanukah is just around the corner, and it is the most wonderful time of the year.   I intentionally borrowed that phrase because I do know how difficult it is to manage both our Jewish festivities and the ubiquitous twinkly lights, trees, tinsel and glitziness of the season. It is so inviting, and our kids want a piece of it.   There was recently a first in my family in which my 5-year-old twin daughters asked us if we could “pleeeease” put up decorations outside our house. They were very......

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  • Chanukah: Who Needs to Justify its Utter Delight?

    Chanukah is utter delight. Why, then, examine the origin of the delight? Why tempt joy with analysis, especially when the analysis may cause some folks to bristle by philosophizing about the nature of miracles and faith. Regardless, let me take a chance of looking more analytically at Chanukah’ delight in light of spiritual integrity and the Torah’s truth eternal truth.   Some years ago there was an article presented locally that mocked the childish belief of educated adults in the possibility of miracles?   It asserted that faith ought not......

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  • The Tire of Perspective

    Imagine yourself driving down the highway. Suddenly a tractor trailer starts veering into your lane. So you do the natural thing and begin to move over to the next lane, but lo and behold there is a car right there. What do you do? You stop imagining! Seriously, this happened to me last night. I instinctively reacted by slowing down thinking that the truck and car will pass me and I’ll be fine. Just when I thought I was safe, the truck that just passed me kicked up a tire......

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  • Brute Force

    Spousal Manipulation.  Sounds like a bad idea if you want to have a happy marriage.  Yet we see in this weeks Parsha that Rivka seems to be doing just that in dressing Jacob up in Esau’s clothing, preparing animals from the back yard and pretending that they were hunted and teaching her son Jacob to deceive his father.   It opens up an uncomfortable question of, do the ends justify the means? Often times in Judaism and in the Torah, the answer is yes.  But then it begs the question......

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  • A Jewish Thanksgiving

    Thanksgiving is not a Jewish holiday but it is quite the Jewish holiday.  In fact gratitude and thanks is fundamental to Jewish thought.  Additionally, Jews have always had an obligation to give thanks and appreciation to our host country.  This is true in particular for this country, the USA which has been a country of kindness to our People.   Gratitude and thanks has many faces and many dimensions.  It starts with a recognition of those that have done kindness to you. This includes of course G-d and then all......

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  • You Can Help Our Country!

    It pains me to see the discord that has evolved in this country throughout the election process and in many ways more visceral this past week since the election.   Republicans blame the Democrats, the Democrats blame the Republicans and the bottom line is friendships are broken, vulgarity is spewed and society as a whole is breaking down. Everybody blames the other one for being immoral or not caring about the values and principles that this country was built on.   Why can’t we be more like Israel?! People argue......

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  • I Predicted It!

    I predicted it!   No, I didn’t predict who would be voted as our new president! I did predict that we would all wake up Wednesday morning and the world would go on. And I was right.   You want to know how I was able to predict this with such certainty?   The answer is in this weeks Torah portion. G-d blesses Abraham and tells him that his children will be as the stars in the sky. Practically speaking, we are far from the number of the stars in......

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  • The Grind

    And just like that, real life started…   The month of Tishrei comes to a close and with it the High Holidays and the joyous festival of Sukkos and Simchas Torah seem like a distant memory. We’re quickly thrown into the month of Cheshvan – a month without any holidays. So much so that the month has earned a prefix – Mar = Bitter, because of its holiday deficiency.   At the same time the Portion of the first week of Cheshvan is Noach which is quite the dreary story.......

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  • Living the Marathon

    The Marathon is over. 48 hours of Rosh Hashanah solemness, 25 hours of Yom Kippur praying and fasting, 7 Days of Sukkos joy and unity and the grand finale 48 hours of Simchas Torah dancing and L’chaim!   I’ve never run a marathon, but I suspect that when the body cools down after that run it’s a little too quiet. Kind of begs for some action. Maybe you need to go for a small run?!   With the high of the high holidays cooling down maybe it’s time for a......

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  • Dance The Night Away!

    48 hours of Rosh Hashanah = 48 hours of Simchas Torah (and Shmini Atzeres)!   Love and Awe (or fear) of G-d are fundamentals of Jewish faith and observance. They are called wings through which all of our good deeds soar heavenward.   Love and Awe (or fear) of G-d are fundamentals of Jewish faith and observance. They are called wings through which all of our good deeds soar heavenward.   On Rosh Hashanah, “days of Awe”, the energy while critical is one of distance. On Simchas Torah the energy......

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  • The Way I Think #52

    How was the sermon? Was it passionate? Was it on the money? Did it make its mark?   How inspired were you these past few weeks? What kind of good resolutions did you make?   Now that the HH days have passed and we are up to the fun stuff Sukkos and Simchas Torah, what happens to those sermons or the inspiration of the services?   Hence, The Way I Think #52   #52 is the number of weeks until the next Rosh Hashanah. So my question for you and......

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  • The Angel at Starbucks

    Do you ever stop and wonder about the tens if not hundreds of people you bump into or interact with on a given day? The bagger at the supermarket, the mailman, a customer service representative, the email spammer and the many more human beings we interact with consciously or subconsciously every day.   According to the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov, each of these interactions are divinely orchestrated. There is a reason and purpose for each of these interactions. No we are not always fortunate to see or know......

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  • Don’t Judge Me!

    No one likes to be judged! In fact the Mishna says, don’t judge another because there is only one True judge. So why the New Year’s celebration?! Indeed it is a day of awe but when the service is over we are instructed to go eat and feast and celebrate.   Let’s break it down. Why don’t we like to be judged? Here are a couple of reasons: 1. We don’t think the other person has our best interests at heart 2. We don’t think the other person really understands......

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  • Groundhog Day

    Imagine you woke up each morning and the world was brand new. No baggage. Everything was fresh. Imagine if each day was your wedding day. Imagine if each day was your first day at your new dream job.   (Ever notice how kids wake up in the morning? For them each day is exactly like that. They don’t carry yesterday’s burdens, it’s all new and fresh.)   We crave novelty and newness. What a gift that each year we are given the opportunity to renew ourselves as G-d renews the......

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  • The Fallen Dollar

    Ever lose a dollar or five or a twenty? You realize it must have fallen out of your pocket at the grocery store when you pulled out your wallet or when you needed to show your license.  It’s frustrating but manageable (as long as it is not $100 or maybe more). Wouldn’t it be nice to know that the five or twenty was picked up by someone who really needed the money and it helped them buy a loaf of bread that they might have otherwise not been able to......

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  • Too blessed to be stressed

    Last week some workers in our house had some music playing. The lyrics caught my ear. Too blessed to be stressed. I now know that this is a pretty popular line and meme out there. The specific lyrics of this particular group were a little too funky and hipster for me to fully comprehend but the punch line – too blessed to be stressed got me thinking.   In this month of Elul we focus on our relationship with G-d. As in any relationship it is a two way street. There is what we do......

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  • The Love of My Life

    It seems like love is in the air.  Someone posted on facebook just today, “Did I really count 37 engagements this month?”.   Not surprising considering that we are entering into the month of Elul – the final month of the Jewish calendar, whose Hebrew name is an acronym for the word Ani Lidodi Vidodi Li – I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me.   Our relationship with G-d is like our human love relationships and vice versa and we can learn from each relationship to......

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  • Don’t procrastinate

    Are you the kind of person that waits until crunch time to get the job done? Do you work best under pressure? Most of the time it is arguably alright to wait until the last minute, provided that you are actually good at getting the job done even with so little time.   Sometime though waiting until the end (even if you get the job done) is detrimental to the very essence of the job. Let me explain. This Shabbos blesses the month of Elul. Elul is a month of......

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  • The Comforting Father

    Do you ever want something from someone else? Something only they can give you? You have two choices when it comes to this request. A. You can rationalize why they should grant your request or B. beg or plead. I don’t really mean beg, more like calling on some inner part of your relationship with them that would evoke a response to respond to your request.   Which approach makes more sense? Well if you were Moses and had been nominated for a job you didn’t ask for or want......

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  • Google’s Temple

    It’s well known that Google is data driven. When the brains at Google sit down to discuss new products they have rules of engagement. Essentially, there are no opinions only facts supported by data. If you can bring proof from data you can move forward with your product development, if not then it’s out. There are no heated passionate discussions of personal opinions because it’s all about the facts.   A breath of fresh air. No politics. No defensiveness.   Wouldn’t it be nice if the facts spoke for themselves?......

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  • How much do you sacrifice?

    Where do you draw the line? Logic says that we are to sacrifice for the things that are important to us in life. To provide a living for our families we work hard, giving up on potentially enjoyable vacations. We study late into the night to achieve our intellectual goals. We put aside our personal needs for our children. For in the sacrifice we uncover potentials we never knew we had. But, how much sacrifice is enough?   In this weeks portion G-d tells Moses to avenge Him through battling......

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  • Zealous rhymes with Honest?

    Ok, this is an article a bit out of my character.  It is not that I am not straightforward always, it’s more that I generally try to package my comments in a more subtle manner.  But, something happened this week that just struck a chord.  So, here it is.   I was reading this book called “The Portable Jewish Mother; a hearty serving of OY VEY!”, a cute little book that talks about all the stereotypical stuff your read about the Jewish mother.  But there is other stuff about the......

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  • Where do you want to go?

    A basic tenet of Chabad philosophy is that G-d is ever present and it is the Divine concealment (Tzimtzum) that causes our inability to see Him at work that prevents us from experience G-dliness in a revealed fashion.   This is a necessity because it allows us to experience free choice which is the ultimate purpose of our existence on this earth – to make good choices, to choose good over evil and to make the world a more G-dly place.   One of the side effects of this reality......

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  • The Rebbe

    During the last farbrengen of Pesach, 5726/1965, in between the Rebbe’s talks, as the Chasidim engaged in song, the Rebbe pointed towards a small 11 year old boy sitting at the end of a table at the other end of the hall. The Rebbe gestured towards him with four fingers, as if to ask if he had drunk four cups of wine. At first, no one understood who the Rebbe was gesturing towards until they realized that he meant this particular boy. The next talk, then continued.   During the......

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  • The Shadow

    Ever feel overwhelmed by a situation, feeling powerless to overcome it? What gives power to anything to negatively or positively affect another?   In this weeks Torah portion the leaders of the Tribes spy out the Land of Israel and bring back a negative report saying that it will be too difficult to conquer the land. Caleb silences the Jewish People and ensures them with G-d’s help they will succeed. He says; “they are our bread, remove the shadow from upon them and G-d is with us, do not be......

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  • The Cloud

    It’s been said “everybody backs up sooner or later”. And today the responsible thing to do is to back up to the Cloud.   Is all your stuff backed up to the Cloud? And is backing up to the Cloud really all that new?   Advantages of backing up to the Cloud:   You always have your files in case your computer’s hard drive or external hard drive crashes and burns You can access the files from wherever you are You don’t have to worry about saving your files in......

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  • Run to the hills!

    I suspect many a young lovers couple dreamed the same dream, fantasized the same fantasy – to run to the hills and live in nature, away from the distractions of the world, lost in drunk love.   Alas, for most of us, neither finances nor practicality would allow that for any extended period of time, so we have to suffice with a honeymoon or honeymoon period.   When the world gets crazy like it did Sunday in Orlando, when the world seems to be declining and all semblance of normalcy......

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  • Tiny giant

    – Hayom Yom   In just a few days we’ll celebrate, commemorate and reenact the Revelation at Sinai and the giving of the Torah. This was a once in history event that carried with it eternal power.   It was a powerful event that demonstrated how great G-d is and in turn how small man is. But it also empowered us to realize that G-d in His greatness created space for us to serve Him.   Visiting a Dr. the other day and asking him to explain a particular medicine he......

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  • Man thinks and G-d laughs

    This old Yiddish saying (it’s translated from Mentsch Tracht uhn Gut Lacht) is a safe comeback from a rough day, perhaps a cynical escape of a small and faithless mind or a light’ish statement on a fundamental of Jewish faith.   How often do we plan out the outcome of a business endeavor, a human interaction or even the very realities of day to day life; good health, raising fine children or something as simple as your daily schedule, only to have things turn out completely different then we expected?......

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  • How to make a day shine

    One day you wake up and the sun is shining in a way that it has never shined before!   You see the world not just somewhat differently than before, but entirely different.  You always thought of the world in one particular way and now it is illuminated in a way that shows you that the world  you were always living in was a dark world.  The lights have come on!  You are humbled!   What you do with the inspiration will determine whether the inspiration is real or yet......

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  • Celebrating Death

    Next Thursday we will celebrate the passing of a great man, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Why is it that a People who celebrate life and value it so greatly would celebrate the passing of this individual.   What is even more profound is that RASHBI (Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai) was the author of the Zohar, the Bible of the mystical teachings of the Torah. Furthermore, the instruction to celebrate his passing was his very own instruction delivered on his death bed.   The answer reveals to us the real purpose......

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  • Priorities

    Love thy neighbor as thyself. This Biblical commandment comes from this weeks Torah portion. Perhaps the hardest of all the commandments, hence Hillel’s statement, “this is the entire Torah and the rest is commentary”.   But how indeed does one achieve this very difficult Mitzvah?   Like all other Mitzvos and like life itself it’s a journey with the journey itself the purpose not necessarily the destination.   Loving another can only happen when one appreciates the essential and eternal dimensions of the other person. The external things that generally......

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  • My Matzah Hangover

    You’ve got to feel bad for the Matzah. After all it’s the only food we eat that is actually a Biblical Mitzvah we can fulfill today and yet we kvetch and complain about it starting about a month before Purim and it last for about as long as the Matzah Hangover lasts.   Which brings me to my current situation – my Matzah Hangover. I actually think I gained back my entire loss of 15 post Israel – pre-Pesach pounds and I believe about all of it came from Matzah.......

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  • Chabad’s obsession with Moshiach (Messiah)

    We want Moshiach now! May it be speedily in our days, amen!   If you’ve spent a few minutes with a Chabad’nik, listened to a class, sermon or lecture from a Chabad Rabbi or spent a few minutes in a Chabad home you surely encountered some expression associated with Moshiach. A prayer, a wish, a hope.   The final days of Pesach are upon us and this holiday has a particular association with Moshiach. The verse states, “as it was in the days that you left Egypt, I will show......

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  • Passover Safety Information Card

    In honor of Passover I produced this wonderful video on my very own website https://www.schusterman.org/passover2016.  Ok. Totally kidding, that’s not our Schusterman and we’re not even related, although maybe one day we will be (or at least they’ll support the Chabad efforts of this Atlanta Schusterman :-).  It’s a cute video though, and I did write this Safety card to accompany the video (although I wrote it a few years ago, it’s message is timeless or at least still relevant).   Enjoy! And Please read Dena and my blessings to you......

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  • Escape from Egypt

      It’s amazing what capitalism will produce! The newest franchise is called “Escape Games”. Each Escape Game is a real‑life escape room adventure for a small group. You solve puzzles, crack codes, find clues, and more in order to escape. You have one goal: escape the room.   The Baal Shem Tov taught us that everything that occurs around us is to serve as lesson in our service of Hashem. Surely, this novel idea has profound insight for us and in particular now prior to the holiday of Pesach which......

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  • Hasidic Exodus

    The Seder and Passover is around the corner.  So, here are some unleavened food for thought.   We all carry around packages of the past.  A rough childhood, a traumatic relationship, a chance negative encounter, an illness that took away a portion of our youth, or perhaps just a bad teacher who gave us a negative way to look at the world.   How does one relieve themselves of this burden? How does one prevent that event from tethering them to the past and hindering their real potential for future......

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  • Bring down the fire!

    The moment has arrived! Months of construction, the walls, the Ark, the Menorah, the garments of the Kohen have come and gone. The seven days of consecration have passed with Moses having served as High Priest. Aaron is waiting for the Divine Presence to descend on the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and nothing happens. He wonders whether the Divine Presence is not descending because of his part in sin of the Golden Calf .   So Moses joins Aaron in prayer; Vayehi Noam Hashem Elokeinu Alaynu – may it be pleasing before......

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  • Up is not up and down is not down

    Today is Purim! And that means that today everything is upside down. Haman’s desire to destroy the Jews was turned on its head and the Jews were victorious. The very gallows that Mordechai was to be hanged, became the hanging place of Haman. Mordechai who was to be shamed parading Haman through the streets became the the paraded. Esther became exalted and the people were all taxed but the Jews were not. And the Jews celebrated. The Megillah captures this with the words – Vnahapach Hu – and it was......

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  • The Hardest Word

    There is a cute book that often surfaces around the High Holiday season called the Hardest Word. It’s a kids book although it might as well be a book for adults as well and the hardest word is; Sorry.In this weeks Torah portion we open the third book of the Torah, the book of Leviticus, Vayikra. In it we read about the sacrifices that were offered in the Mishkan and later in the Bais Hamikdash (the Temple in Jerusalem).   Although, the Bais Hamikdash no longer stands, we still have......

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  • Stand up and be counted

    There are those that make things happen, there are those who watch things happen and there are those who ask – what happened!   In this weeks Torah portion – Pekuday, the Torah recounts the values of the materials used in the construction of the Mishkan. This despite the fact that we had discussed at length all the details of the construction of the vessels of the Mishkan and the garments of the Kohanim (the Priests). Why are the specific values or weights of the materials so important?   Have......

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  • How much is too much?

    Well with Purim around the corner you might think that question would simply be answered; “until one can’t tell the different between blessed is Mordechai and cursed is Haman”. But actually my question is; how much is too much?   The Megillah tells us the details of the great feast that the King Achashvairosh made to celebrate his kingdom; …the king made a seven-day feast in the courtyard of the king’s palace garden, for all the people in Shushan the capital, nobleman and commoner alike. There were hangings of white,......

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  • Moses on the line

    Three bonds are tied one to the other; Israel, Torah and The Holy One Blessed Be He. The Zohar In this weeks Torah portion we read of the Big sin – the making and the worshipping the Golden Calf. After having revealed Himself and having given the Torah only 40 days earlier at Mt. Sinai G-d chooses a drastic punishment for the Jewish People – Destruction! Moses steps forward and tells G-d, if You choose to forgive them great, if not take me out of the Book which You have written......

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