Archive –SHEMOS/EXODUS

SEFER SHEMOS — BOOK OF EXODUS 

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13 – SHEMOS (Exodus, 1:1-6:1) 

“My Grandson’s Bris – 2” (2010) 

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“My Grandson the Priest” (2009) 

… Jethro recognized that Moses was an Israelite; he proposed a match with one of his daughters.

But there was a catch…Jethro would only agree to allow Moses to marry his daughter on the condition that the oldest son would be raised to be a priest of idol worship.

Pretty amazing, no?  Want to hear something even more amazing?  Moses agreed!! …

Read More .

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“Mrs. Moses: Certified Mohelet??!” (2008) 

Several years ago I was driving in the car listening to a discussion on the radio about circumcision.  Being a Mohel myself, I was, of course, very interested in the conversation.  I listened with curiosity and apprehension.

I get very uncomfortable when religious Jews call radio shows.  It is very difficult to explain a profound religious concept in a cogent and articulate manner when the host has his own ideas and can cut you off in mid-sentence.  Yet, the calls were coming in, and the host maintained that circumcision is done for health reasons.

Then an Italian lady called and said that she had her boys circumcised for health reasons, and was glad she did.  He said, “Thank you, dear,” and hung up.  Then he asked, “Hey, I wonder if a lady is allowed to be a Mohel.”

I braced myself for the responses.  A short time later, the host said, “Our next caller, from RocklandCounty, is Moysheh.  Hello, Moysheh.”

“Hello, Mr. Grant.  This is Moishe-the-Moyel from Monsey!”…

Read More.

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“Mrs. Moses Goes Home to Father” (2007)

… Moses was about to get a promotion.  He was about to become the Shepherd of Israel.   G-d assigned Moses the crucial task of leading his People out of Egypt.  There was, however, a problem.  There was the matter of his pre-nuptial agreement…

At one point, Zipporah decided to pack up the boys and go home.  There are various reasons given by the Commentaries.  The Chasam Sofer suggests that all was not well in the ben-Amram family…

Moses’ wife …went home.  … She would not accompany him to Egypt…

So what changed her mind? …

Read More.

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“The Secret Password” (2006)

What are the credentials of a savior of Israel? Imagine the scene:

The Sages of Israel have been summoned to a meeting. They have been enduring unspeakable horrors due to the agonizing slavery that his been placed upon them by their Egyptian taskmasters.  The meeting has been called by a fugitive, a wanted man.  Moses, the twelve-year-old son of Amram the Levite had absconded from Egypt to escape a murder conviction.  Now, as an eighty year-old man, he has returned to Egypt with an announcement…

Do we listen to Moses? Is he for real?  Is he on the level?  We haven’t seen this fellow in sixty-eight years! Suddenly he shows up with a Messianic proclamation, and he expects us to risk our skins by going to the Pharaoh with such an outrageous request!?

They bought it…

Read More.

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 “Pain in the Ukraine” (2004)

… A Mohel went to the Ukraine to usher Jewish men into the Covenant of Abraham.  As a fifteen-year-old Yeshiva student lay on the table, the Mohel read his medical chart.  The boy, as it turned out, was allergic to the anesthesia that the Mohel had brought from the U.S…  The Bris would have to be delayed… No, insisted the boy.  He wanted to have his Bris!  He would not get off the table.  He was adamant.  He was already fifteen years late; he would wait no longer!…The Mohel set out to do his holy work.  There was skin tissue to cut, and wounds to suture and cauterize.  The young man just lay there and endured it all.

He tried to be stoic and motionless.  Throughout the excruciating pain, he was silent.  But finally, he could be silent no more. It was just too painful.  He let out a blood-curdling scream…

Read More.

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“Watch Your Step!” (2004)

… I walked into my Bible class at one of the facilities where I am a chaplain, and presented them with a provocative question.  “How do we know,” I asked, “that G-d gave the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai?”

I wasn’t quite prepared for the response.  A little lady with a kerchief on her head — I’ll call her “Mrs. Cohen” — who almost always sat quietly through my various classes, called out, in a very German accent, “Because it says so in the Tow-raw!” (For those unfamiliar with the German pronunciation: Tow-raw — “Tow,” rhyming with “now”, and “raw,” rhyming with “saw.”)

I was frustrated.  She broke my momentum.  Sure, I thought, SHE believes that, but what about every one else?

“Yes, of course,” I continued, “it says so in the Torah.  But how do we know that the Torah’s description is actually what happened?”

“Because it says so in the Tow-raw!”

I gave up…

Read More.

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“A Tale of Two Kings” (2002) 

[TORAH TALK IN THE JEWISH PRESS:  This message from 2002, updated for the 2007 political season, appeared as an Op-Ed in the Jewish Press.]

…The Egyptians were concerned about the growth of the Jewish population. The Israelites were increasing by leaps and bounds. … The Egyptian people demanded that their king address their “Jewish Problem.”

The king, who at first had demonstrated a bit of integrity, refused. He couldn’t bring himself to take action against Joseph’s people. Joseph had been so good to Egypt. The masses wouldn’t take no for an answer. They ousted the king.

Spending three months as an ex-king was more than he could bear. Thus, “a new king arose over Egypt, who didn’t know Joseph.” The “new” king with a new attitude conveniently “didn’t know,” or, at least ACTED as if he didn’t know Joseph. The persecution began…

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“Mother Goose Lied to Us!” (2002)

Moses was pained over the status of his nation.  They were persecuted and afflicted.  The Israelites weren’t just slaves who were forced to work; they were treated like animals.  Moses couldn’t understand why the Children of Israel were suffering so greatly.  He couldn’t understand why G-d had not yet taken His People out of Egypt.  Was He angry with them?…

 Read More.

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“A Helping Hand” (2001)

…Bisya adopted the child and raised him in the palace.  She named him Moshe, “because I drew him (“MISHISIYHU” in Hebrew) from the water.”  (Exodus, 2:10) … the name “Moshe” seems to be grammatically incorrect.    A more accurate name would be “Mashui,” which would mean “one who is drawn.” …

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14 – VA’ERA (Exodus, 6:2-9:35)  

“Abracadabra = MC2” (2010)

“Show me a sign!” challenged the Pharaoh … Moses was prepared. He took his staff and threw it to the floor. The staff miraculously turned into a snake. Surely, this man was for real.

The Pharaoh laughed in his face. “Do you think you can impress me with simple magic? Anything you can do, my magicians can do better!”

Sure enough, the Egyptian sorcerers made their own sticks into snakes. “Are you trying to sell straw in Ofarayim?!” (The Egyptian equivalent of bringing coal to Newcastle or rabbis to Monsey. 🙂 ) This was Egypt, the magic capital of the world! …

Do we believe in magic?!…

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THIS is your Life!” (2009)

Slaves aren’t real people.  They are chattel; they are property.  They can be bought and sold and bartered like animals…

Pharaoh felt the same way about his Israelites.  They were his possessions, to be utilized in the efficient production of bricks for his ambitious building projects.  He was free to do with them as he wanted. He could even kill their children and use their blood for medicinal purposes.  No one was going to take away his Jews…

Well, almost no one.  Two Levites by the names of Moses and Aaron were making trouble.  The G-d of Israel, they explained, wanted Pharaoh to release the slaves.  Pharaoh had no interest in complying.

 “Who is G-d that I should listen to His voice to release Israel?  I don’t know G-d, nor will I let Israel go!”  (Exodus, 5:1-2)

How could chattel have a G-d??  These sub-human life forms known as Hebrews couldn’t have a G-d!  Why should the great Pharaoh follow the dictates of someone who represents the fictional G-d of a primitive cult?

Pharaoh obviously needed some convincing…

Read more.

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“Let the Pharaoh GO!” (2008)

…Pharaoh took this god thing pretty seriously.  He even went to great efforts to convince his subjects that he was super-human.  Yes, they fed him the finest foods.  He had the most comfortable royal furniture.  This man who would be a god was a very material fellow.  Every creature comfort known to man was, no doubt, available in the palace.  With one exception…

Can you picture the scene?

“Good morning, Your Majesty!”

“Oh, Moses!  Is that you again?  What are you doing here?”

“I need to speak with you, your Majesty.  Right away.”

“Not now, Moses.  Come see me at the palace later.”

“No, Your Majesty.  I really need to speak with you now…”

“Uhm, not right now, Moses.  I’m kinda busy at the moment…”

“Oh I’ll be quick, Your Majesty.  I just have to speak with you for a couple of minutes…”

“FOR A COUPLE OF MINUTES??!! I DON’T HAVE A COUPLE OF MINUTES!!!  PLEASE MOSES, GO AWAY!  NOW!  PLEASE!  …

Read more.

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“Answering the Call of Puti” (2007)

In listing the family lines of Moses and Aaron, the Torah tells us:

Elazar, the son of Aaron, took one of the daughters of Putiel as a wife, and she bore to him Pinchas…  (Exodus, 6:25)

Who was this Putiel?  It’s not at all clear.  Some commentaries say he was a well-known person in his day.  It seems from other commentaries that he didn’t exist at all; that he was a “composite.”

The Talmud (Sotah 43a) indicates that the name “Putiel” is a reference to Joseph…As well, it is a reference to Moses’ father-in-law Jethro…

What’s with the nicknames?  Why doesn’t the Torah simply tell us the man’s name?!!…

Read more.

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“Frog Beaters” (2006)

Sometimes smart people do things that aren’t so smart.

…  Our Sages tell us that the Plague of Frogs was a compound miracle.  The swarms of frogs started out with one big frog.  The Egyptians tried to kill it.  Every time they hit a frog, it produced more frogs.  Soon the entire country was inundated with frogs.

Now let me ask you a simple question.  If a big frog walked into your house, you might try to kill it.  That I understand.  But tell me, if every time you hit it, it produced more frogs, what would you immediately stop doing?

If the Egyptians saw that their efforts to get rid of the frogs were backfiring, why did they keep hitting the frogs?!…

Yes, sometimes smart people do things that aren’t so smart…

Read more.

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“Sorry, PETA, Pig’s Feet Aren’t Kosher!” (2005)

… Moses knew where Pharaoh was coming from.  He was an Egyptian king with Egyptian values.   He despised everything Moses stood for.  The very thought of an Israelite slaughtering a lamb in service of G-d was an anathema to everything he stood for.  But he was willing to compromise.  For now.  If keeping his slaves from leaving Egypt meant tolerating Jews eating lamb chops, he was willing to make the tradeoff.  For now.

Sounds a little like PETA…

Read more.

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“Life Begins … Today!” (2004)

… In the middle of a discussion of Moses’ “marching orders,” the Torah makes a statement that seems a bit incongruous:

Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron was eighty-three years old, when they spoke with the Pharaoh.  (Exodus, 7:7)

…  These men were in their eighties.  They were old!  What were they doing running around back and forth to the palace?  Couldn’t G-d find some younger men to take on this demanding task? …

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“I Opened the Door…Where’s Eliyahu??” (2002)

He comes to visit every year.  We pour a cup of wine in his honor, and then welcome his arrival through our open door.

I refer, of course, to Eliyahu HaNavi, Elijah the Prophet, our annual Seder guest… Actually, at the risk of bursting a very popular balloon … Elijah does NOT join us at each Seder…

Read more.

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“Not So Loud, the Bread Can Hear You!” (2001)

…Imagine the scene.  The Shabbos table is set.  Everyone is hungry, and waiting to say Kiddush and begin the meal.  Dad lifts the cup to say Kiddush… then he sees it…the Challah cover is missing. Dad gets annoyed: “Of all the…what’s the matter with you?!!” he bellows.  “Can’t you remember a simple thing like a Challah cover?!!!!!”…

Read more.

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15 – BO (Exodus, 10:1-13:16) 

“Time Off for Bad Behavior” (2010) 

The numbers don’t add up.

The habitation of the Israelites during which they dwelled in Egypt was four hundred thirty years.  It was at the end of four hundred thirty years, on that very day, the legions of G-d left the land of Egypt.  (Exodus, 12:40-41)

There’s a problem with the math.

…  Obviously, our stay in Egypt must have been considerably shorter.  In fact, says Rashi, we were only there for 210 years.

… what happened to the other 190 that G-d said we would have? 

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/bo-%e2%80%9ctime-off-for-bad-behavior%e2%80%9d/

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“Just Desserts” (2009)

…The lamb was sacred to the ancient Egyptians.  …  For four days before Passover, the Egyptians helplessly looked on as their god was prepared for slaughter.

The Egyptians had forced their slaves watch them eat meat that was off-limits to the Israelites.  Now the Egyptians would suffer the anguish of seeing their god made into a schwarma sandwich…

This is difficult to understand.  Our People were enslaved.  We were beaten.  Jewish children were murdered so the Pharaoh could bathe in their blood.  In the major scheme of things, not getting the beef seems to be an almost insignificant addition of insult to injury.  G-d brought ten plagues against the Egyptians.  He devastated their country.  He shattered their economy.  The god-roasting of the Passover Lamb seems to be an inconsequential supplementary slap at an already chastised sinner…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2009/01/27/bo-%e2%80%9cjust-desserts%e2%80%9d/

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“Double Dating” (2007)

A few weeks ago we opened up our new calendars and re-taught ourselves how to write checks.   The day after dating our checks 12/31/06, we switched over to 1/1/07.

This shortcut in check writing actually presents us with a religious problem…

This month will be for you the head of the months. It will be the first month of the year.” (Exodus, 12:2) …

Some Commentaries see this statement of, “This month will be … to you… the first month of the year” as obligatory… 

There are authorities who rule, based upon the above explanation, that one is not permitted to abbreviate the secular months of January, February, etc., as 1, 2, etc.  To refer to January as the first month would appear to violate the Mitzvah of considering Nissan to be the first.  Other authorities (such as the Chasam Sofer) argue against the use of the secular months entirely!…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2007/01/24/b-%e2%80%9cdouble-dating%e2%80%9d/

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“Pharaoh’s Brother” (2006)

One of the unsung heroes of the Exodus from Egypt is the Pharaoh’s older brother.  He was the one who finally brought the Pharaoh to his senses.

What’s that?  You’ve never heard of the Pharaoh’s older brother?  Well, I did tell you he was an UNSUNG hero!

Plague after plague, devastation after devastation, the king of Egypt watched his empire crumble before his very eyes.  Warning after warning went unheeded.  The king just didn’t seem to care.

He did, at various times, offer a few compromises.  He suggested that:

1)                                   Moses and the Israelites serve G-d in Egypt;

2)                                   Only the men leave,

3)                                   The entire nation could go, leaving their livestock in Egypt.

These options were all unacceptable to Moses.  The entire nation, lock, stock, and barrel, were going to leave Egypt, and serve G-d in the desert.  Not only that, said Moses, the Israelites were anticipating GIFTS of livestock from the Egyptians.

Pharaoh lost it.

Get outta here!” he screamed.  And don’t ever come back!  If you dare come to see me again, you’re a dead man!”  (Loose translation of Exodus, 10:27)…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2006/02/01/bo-%e2%80%9cpharaoh%e2%80%99s-brother%e2%80%9d/

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“Lox, Cream Cheese, and … UNLEAVENED BAGELS??!!!” (2005)

You don’t have to be religious to feel Jewish…

Pharaoh no longer refused to let the Israelites leave.  Not only did he permit them to leave, he INSISTED that they leave.  Immediately!

We had to leave so quickly … On a simple level, it seems that reason that they couldn’t delay was due to Egyptian pressure to leave.  However, many commentaries explain that there was another reason.  We had already learned too much corruption from the Egyptians … Had we sunk any further … it would have been too late.  We would have been beyond hope.  We would have been unredeemable.

… we have been in exile for close to two thousand years  … How is it that our ancestors would not have been able to withstand a moment more than 190 years of exile, while we continue to exist into our third millennium?

… there is a very big difference between our generation and that generation…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2005/01/13/bo-%e2%80%9clox-cream-cheese-and-%e2%80%a6-unleavened-bagels%e2%80%9d/

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“The Dog Days of Egypt” (2004)

… G-d wanted to show how He discriminates between His “friends” and His “enemies.”

G-d now wanted to demonstrate that He would not even allow a dog to let out a natural bark when an Israelite walked by.  Every Egyptian would be subject to the snarls and growls of Egypt’s canine population.  In the face of the Hebrews, however, the meanest junkyard dog was transformed into a whimpering puppy. …  Dogs act upon instinct.  They don’t know the difference between right and wrong.  (Sorry, Lassie lovers.)

… He’s doing it again… That obnoxious know-it-all at the office who always manages to grate on your nerves.  He “knows” who’s going to win the primaries and who’s going to win the Super Bowl.  He’s got an opinion about everything, and he’s consistently full of baloney.

You really want to put him in his place.  You’d love to tell him, just this once, exactly what you think of him and his crazy notions.  Still better, you’d just love to punch him in the nose! …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2004/01/30/bo-%e2%80%9cthe-dog-days-of-egypt/

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“If I Could Only Be Like ___” (2003)

… G-d said to Moses, …”Go to Pharaoh, because I have made his heart stubborn …

Was this fair?  It looks like a set-up!  It looks like G-d is forcing Pharaoh to stubbornly refuse to release the Israelites, and then He plans to punish Pharaoh for being stubborn!

Why should Pharaoh be punished?  He should plead “Not Guilty, by reason of Divine Coercion!”  …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2003/01/08/bo-if-i-could-only-be-like-___%e2%80%9d/

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 “Nissan Maximum” (2002)

… How can we celebrate the first of Tishrei in the fall as the New Year, when the Torah tells us very clearly that year really begins on the first of Nissan in the spring? …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2002/01/16/bo-%e2%80%9cnissan-maximum%e2%80%9d/

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“Don’t Confuse Me with the Facts…I’ve Already Made Up My Mind!”  (2001)

… Egypt is in shambles. The king’s own advisors have begged him to wake up and smell the coffee and realize that he is destroying his own country by continuing to disregard G-d’s demands.

Now it’s time to take off the kid gloves and get tough! …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2001/02/01/bo-dont-confuse-me-with-the-facts-ive-already-made-up-my-mind/

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16 – B’SHALACH (Exodus, 13:17-17:16) 

“Get Rich THIS TUESDAY!!!!” (2010)

… In all due respect to the great Rabbi Mendel, I am troubled by this concept.  Is it possible that a once-a-year reading of ninety-nine verses (33×2 in Hebrew +33 in Aramaic) is all we need to do to make a living??

It almost appears to be a “quick fix;” a short formula that guarantees results without too much work. (A “spiritual Amway!” :-))  Read the magical verses and the money will flow in!  No pain, big gain! …

Read more.

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“Because Your Father Said So!!” (2008)

…  The Torah says to rest on the Sabbath.  What’s more restful and relaxing than going fishing and then driving out to the ball park to watch the Red Sox?  (Forgive the personal bias! 🙂 )  And who feels like walking to synagogue in the rain or scorching heat?  The Torah says to rest on the Sabbath.  Why can’t I rest MY way?!

Read more.

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 “Don’t Leave Home Without It!” (2007)

… Men and women just don’t see things the same way.  Men are practical.  Women are emotional.  Women pack for a trip to Mars as if they are going all the way to Venus.  Men sometimes get exasperated over their wives’ lack of practicality.

… the Pharaoh has just done a political flip-flop.  He is now DEMANDING that the Israelites leave.   NOW!

You’re packing your bags.  You can’t take much.  You don’t even have time to let your bread rise.  You grab your money, some weapons, all your credit cards… You’re going with barely more than the clothes on your back.  Wait a second… “Honey!  Where are you going with THOSE?!!”

Your wife has just packed her drum set into the back of the station wagon.

“Oh, I need these!” she responds…

Read more.

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 “Sticks and Stones” (2006)

… Moses lifted his “magic wand” … This was obviously one very powerful stick.  Moses had pulled it out of the ground in his future father-in-law’s garden, a feat that no one else was able to accomplish.  As a result, Jethro understood that Moses was destined to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.  (The origin, perhaps, of the legend of King Arthur and Excalibur???)

…  This was the staff that turned into a snake.  This was the staff that turned the Nile to blood and wreaked havoc and destruction upon the Egyptians.  This stick had punished the Egyptians at the Red Sea… the Israelites didn’t particularly care for Moses’ walking stick.  It was destructive.  It caused suffering in Egypt, and at the Red Sea.  It was a killer stick.  It seemed only good for punishment.  Was it capable of doing anything POSITIVE??

Read more.

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 “Some People Just Don’t Get It!” (2005)

 Ah, they don’t make kings the way they used to!  Or do they?

The king of Egypt was, to say the least, a very stubborn man.  He never did seem to get it. His country was absolutely destroyed over his obstinate refusal to release his Hebrew slaves.  Repeatedly, Moses told him to let the Israelites leave.  Repeatedly, he refused.  Repeatedly, he responded to G-d’s punishment with a contrite promise to comply.  Repeatedly, he changed his mind… Sort of reminds us of most of today’s world leaders.  No matter what Israel does, it’s no good.  No matter what the Arab terrorists do, they are “freedom fighters,” peaceful people who have been driven from their homeland by vicious Zionist marauder.  The U.N. and the European Union don’t seem to recognize the truth when it stares them in the face.  They just don’t get it… Why can’t the world’s leaders be more like the king of Nineveh? …

Read more.

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“Singing the Red Sea Blues” (2003)

… It was a sacred symphony; a song of praise totally unprecedented in world history. It was such an exalted event that the angels themselves could not be silent.  They too, wanted to join in and sing to G-d.  (After all, that’s what angels DO.  They sing praises to G-d!)

 G-d silenced them…

Read more.

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“Is Democracy a Torah Concept?” (2002)

… Four-fifths of the Nation of Israel preferred not to leave Egypt.  Why not? Medrash Rabbah (13,3) says that they had “Patronin” (translation: patronage?) from the Egyptians and they didn’t want to give up their wealth and honor by leaving Egypt.

This is truly mind-boggling.  80% of the Israelites preferred to remain, at best, as second-class citizens in Egypt, rather than to follow Moses to freedom. Obviously, Moses was far from universal popularity.  He was not the heroic freedom fighter leading a grass-roots rebellion against the Pharaoh.  If anything, he was probably considered a troublemaker, a rabble-rouser.

What would have happened if there had been a New York Times/Gallop Poll in Egypt?  Can you see the headlines? “Eighty Per Cent Choose Status Quo…Moses Said to be Preparing Concession Speech.”…

Read more.

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“Restoring ‘G__’s Thr__’”  (2001)

… when the nations of the world saw what G-d had done for us, they were united in their fear of the Israelites.  They didn’t love us, but at least they respected us.

Only Amalek had the Chutzpah to attack… What G-d is telling Moses is that “Neither My Name nor My Throne will be complete as long as Amalek is around!”

Why would G-d’s name be incomplete with Amalek around?  Is it possible that Amalek has the power to affect G-d??!  How could that be?…

Read more.

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17 – YISRO (Exodus, 18:1-20:23)

“American Idol Worship – Does G-d Care Who Wins the Super Bowl?” (2013)

Is it appropriate for players like Tim Tebow to make grand gestures of prayer to a Master of the World Who has His Hands full dealing with things that are much more important, like whether people who are out of work will find a way to make their mortgage payments?…

Read more.

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“Ouch!” (2010)

Jethro, the high priest of Midian, was impressed.  His son-in-law, Moses,… had led his People out of Egypt.  He had led them triumphantly through the Red Sea, and presided over the defeat of the Amalekites who had attacked them.

Jethro heard about it all, and wanted to join Moses in celebrating G-d’s salvation …  Jethro brought offerings and sacrifices to G-d.

The miracles of the Exodus changed Jethro’s life.  He had already given up his life of idol worship, but had not yet found “the true religion.”  He now embraced Judaism…

But, something was amiss.  Jethro was ill at ease…

Read more.

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“Modern-Day Prophecy” (2009)

… our people experienced more than a one-time prophecy at Mount Sinai.  The legacy that we possess as a result of that miraculous day is more than just the Torah itself.  The entire prophecy of the Revelation is permanently installed on our spiritual “hard drive.”  You and I stood at Mount Sinai, and to this day, that inspiration enables us to reject anything that is less than genuine Torah.   … If that prophecy works so well, why is there so much assimilation?  Why are we not all sustained in our religious devotion by the prophecy of seeing Moses communicate with G-d 3500 years ago?  …

Read more.

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“But Rabbi, How Come YOU Can Come to Work on Shabbos?!”  (2007)

…I work for a large corporation with many employees.  Ironically, I am the only Jew in the company who’s allowed to “work” on Shabbos.

Yes, every Saturday, bright and early, I walk to work.  I go into the kitchen to make sure our food service staff is maintaining our kosher standards.  I go into our synagogue and oversee the Sabbath Services.   I make sure the appropriate prayers are recited, and I deliver a sermon.  (Sh-sh-sh!  Don’t tell anyone – sometimes my sermons are recycled Torah Talks! :-)) What am I doing at work?!…

Read more.

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“Honor thy … Self!” (2005)

…  It has been pointed out that the Commandments on the first Tablet deal with man’s relationship with G-d, while the second Tablet addresses his relationship his fellow man.

… the explanation of “G-d-Mitzvahs” on Tablet #1 and “Humanity-Mitzvahs” on Tablet #2 is at least 90% accurate.  Where we run into trouble is at Commandment #5 — Honor your father and your mother.  The last time I checked, parents are human beings (although some teenagers might tend to disagree!)  What are parents doing on G-d’s Tablet?!  …

Read more.

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“The Sword and the Stone” (2003)

…This prohibition goes further than banning the cutting of stone for the Altar.  It forbids any contact at all with iron.  The Altar was plastered twice a year; the plaster had to be applied with a nonmetallic applicator.  If a piece of iron so much as TOUCHED the Altar, it invalidated the Altar, and the stone needed to be replaced.

Isn’t this a bit much?  If you want to establish a symbolic link between a chisel cutting a stone and a sword cutting a person, that is understandable.  But a piece of iron TOUCHING the Altar?!  If a carpenter was doing repairs in the Temple, and his hammer accidentally brushed against the side of the Altar, why should the stones need to be replaced?…

Read more.

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“Divine Patience and Human Acceptance” (2002)

…Sometimes G-d’s patience with Evil is difficult to understand.

A famous Jewish author has sold millions of books, claiming to explain why bad things happen to good people.  His basic theory is that G-d can’t help it. (R”L) This author describes G-d as an impotent, grandfatherly figure who is powerless to save people from disease and other tragedy.  The G-d, (or should I say, “god”) of this man’s theology is there as a shoulder to cry on; someone to turn to for inspiration; little more.

I call this approach “religious atheism.”  You don’t have to be angry at G-d and you don’t have to deny His existence. You can believe in Him; just pretend that He is confronted by powers that even He can’t overcome, and you can still be a “believer.”

It is very comforting.  The only problem is that it isn’t Judaism…

Read more.

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“Hey, What About the Other 603?” (2001)

…There was a time when the Ten Commandments were recited as part of the morning service…the rabbis of the Talmud removed it from the liturgy and banned public readings of the Ten Commandments…

Read more.

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18 – MISHPATIM (Exodus, 21:1-24:18)

“Voting ‘Against’ G-d, or, “Whose Torah IS This Anyway?!” (2010)

… The Talmud records a fascinating dispute between Rabbi Eliezer and his colleagues…

Rabbi Eliezer presented logical argument after logical argument to support his view, but to no avail.  The Rabbis disagreed.  Rabbi Eliezer, a holy man, decided to miraculously defy nature in order to bring home his point.  “If I am right,” he declared, “let the carob tree prove it!”

Without further ado, the carob tree was uprooted and flew through the air with the greatest of ease.  The Sages were unimpressed.  A river flowing upstream and the trembling walls of the study house did nothing to change their view.  Finally, Rabbi Eliezer pulled his “Heaven Card.”  “If I am right, let the Heavens prove it!”

A heavenly voice boomed in reprimand of the Sages: “Why are you arguing with Rabbi Eliezer, when the Law, in fact, is always in accordance with his opinion?!”

Well, that should have ended the argument.  After all, the Master of the World, the Author of the Torah, the Originator of all Jewish Law, has just declared that Rabbi Eliezer is the man!  Would the Sages finally acquiesce to Rabbi Eliezer’s opinion?

They wouldn’t budge.  Rabbi Joshua stood up and quoted from Deuteronomy (30:12) “It (the Torah) is not in Heaven!”… Pretty gutsy, no?  …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/mishpatim-%e2%80%9cvoting-%e2%80%98against%e2%80%99-g-d-or-whose-torah-is-this-anyway%e2%80%9d/

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“We Wish You a Merry Shabbos???” (2009)

…Rabbi Sorotzkin dealt with this concept in his own community.  Synagogue attendance was on the decline due to the fact that a number of people in the community began to open their stores on Shabbos.  One Shabbos, he walked into shul and found it to be packed.   It was explained to him that the reason for the overflow of attendance was due to the fact that it was a non-Jewish holiday.  Since stores were legally required to be closed, the otherwise-Sabbath violators took advantage of the opportunity to come to shul, along with their children.

Rabbi Sorotzkin was not one to “preach to the choir.”  He took advantage of the presence of the Sabbath workers to tell them what they needed to hear.

“No doubt,” said the rabbi, “your children must have asked you, ‘Why is this Shabbos different from all the other Shabboses of the year?’

“And you must have answered, ‘This Shabbos is greater than every other Sabbath because today is the birthday of the founder of another religion…’”

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2008/01/30/mishpatim-%e2%80%9cwe-wish-you-a-merry-shabbos%e2%80%9d/

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“Let’s Make a Deal” (2007)

Okay, I admit it!  I am a criminal.  I am a lawbreaker.  I have confessed in open court.  I have thrown myself on the mercy of the court and pled guilty to violating the law…

I got to watch some criminal proceedings too. The prosecutor, lawyers, and judge all played their parts professionally.  As each one recited his scripted line, the others nodded and scribbled little notes on their legal pads in their legal folders. One young man was accused of breaking and entering.  The prosecutor offered to reduce the charge to a less severe one.  Scribble, scribble.  The judge agreed.  Scribble, scribble.  Then the judge said, “According to the statutes, you have to give a valid reason for this type of reduction.” Scribble, scribble.

The prosecutor’s response?

“In the interest of Justice.”  Scribble, scribble.

Oh….

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2007/02/14/mishpatim-%e2%80%9clet%e2%80%99s-make-a-deal%e2%80%9d/

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“A Capital Idea” (2005)

Regardless of your position on capital punishment, it seems possible to find support from the Torah.

This week’s Torah Portion is replete with prohibitions for which the death penalty applies …

On the other hand, we find in the Talmud that the Sages went to great pains to avoid carrying out the death penalty … Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of Blessed Memory… wrote in 1982 to “Sar Hamedina” — “The Prince of the Country.”  (I assume that refers to President Reagan).  Rabbi Feinstein was responding to a question as to the Torah’s view on capital punishment.

Rabbi Feinstein writes:

“Firstly, let me offer my feelings of love and reverence to the Prince of the Country in the matter that he wants to know the view of the Torah that was given by G-d, may He be blessed, through our teacher Moses, explained through the Oral Torah, that was handed down from the Sages of each generation to the Sages of the next generation, until it was transcribed in the Talmud and the Poskim (Deciders of Law), Maimonides and the Shulchan Aruch and elsewhere, which is the True Knowledge; and also that the Prince of the Country  has faith in me that I am able to respond accurately and properly…”

(What an opening!  We could skip the rest of the letter and learn so much about how a Torah Sage addresses a non-Jewish political leader. )…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2005/02/02/mishpatim-a-capital-idea/

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“Oh Say, Can you Sue?!”  (2004)

…Jack and Jill lived up the hill.

Each of these two neighbors owned an ox.  Jill’s ox was out in the field one day, calmly grazing on grass.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, Jack’s ox charged, ramming his horns into his unsuspecting neighbor.  To Jill’s utter shock, her ox lay there in the field, and bled to death…

Jill hired Johnnie Cochran, who told the jury how Jill’s life had been shattered by the loss of her livelihood.  By the time the trial was over, Jack was required to sell his house in order to stay out of bankruptcy.  The court awarded Jill damages for the loss of the animal, plus two million dollars for the mental anguish of seeing her ox shishkabobbed.  Jack was ruined, and Jill bought a condo in Boca.

Now, let’s change the scenario a bit.

Jack and Jill are now Yaakov and Yocheved.  Instead of going to court, Yocheved, a religious woman, went to … a rabbinic tribunal for justice…  She was dismayed by the response…

Yesterday, Yocheved owned $1000 worth of ox.  Today she has $450 cash and $100 worth of dead ox.  So much for the condo in Boca. …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2004/02/19/mishpatim-oh-say-can-you-sue/

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“Double Trouble” (2003)

What is the best way to discourage theft?  … The Torah has a very unique way of punishing someone for stealing. … the Torah makes sure that his efforts will backfire…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2003/01/28/mishpatim-double-trouble/

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“Your Ivory Tower Is Blocking My Driveway!” (2002)

…There is… a down side to purely theoretical study.  When we overly involve ourselves in the sublime, we run the risk of ignoring the mundane.  The Torah does not want us to become ivory tower elitists who ignore the “little people.”…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2002/02/07/mishpatin-your-ivory-tower-is-blocking-my-driveway/

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“Human Rights: Body Piercing and Slavery” (2001)

Jews have always been known for their spirit of social consciousness.  We have always been at the forefront in calling out for fairness to all people.  We marched with Martin Luther King in Selma.  We tend to speak out on behalf of the persecuted and the downtrodden.  After all we’ve been through, we know what it’s like to be deprived of civil liberties.  We would never want to see anyone subjugated or oppressed in any way.

This is what makes the law of the Hebrew slave so difficult to understand.  … Where is the outrage?!  Where is the J.C.L.U. (Jewish Civil Liberties Union)?  Where is the hue and cry from the AFL/CIO, protesting the cruel and unusual treatment of a worker?  Is this why G-d took us out of Egypt, so we could be subjected to harsh working conditions and forced body piercing?!!…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2001/02/20/mishpatim-human-rights-body-piercing-and-slavery/

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19 –TERUMAH (Exodus, 25:1-27:19)

“Go for the Gold!” (2010)

…When I perform a Bris, I usually don’t stay for the celebratory meal.  I give the mother instructions on care of the baby, check him to make sure everything is stable, wish them Mazel Tov, and go on my way.  This week, I made an exception…

 

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/terumah-%e2%80%9cgo-for-the-gold%e2%80%9d/

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 “Better than Nothing?” (2006)

… Afikoman is actually an unfortunate surrogate for an important Mitzvah.   We eat this piece of Matzah to commemorate the Passover Offering, a roasted lamb that was eaten in Temple times…  Today, the Temple lies in ruins, and we are prevented from fulfilling this Commandment.  Nowadays, we eat the Afikoman in memory of that lamb.

If you can’t do something perfectly, you do the best you can.  No Passover Offering?  O.K., maybe next year.  Meanwhile, do something else in memory of that Mitzvah.  It’s better than nothing…

Shortly before the First Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, the Ark, containing the Ten Commandments, was hidden away in a secret cavern beneath the Temple.  It has never (yet) been located.

One wonders why there was no Ark in the Second Temple.  The Torah describes how it was to be made.  There was certainly plenty of wood and gold available to the builders of the Second Temple.  Couldn’t they just build a new Ark?…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2006/03/01/terumah-better-than-nothing/

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“Budget Busters” (2005) 

…  I find it hard to understand how anyone can spend many tens of thousands of dollars more than necessary for a luxury vehicle.  The purpose of a car is to get you safely and comfortably from Point A to Point B.  For that, you need four good tires, a well-tuned engine, a working heater/air conditioner, and a few accessories to hold it all together.  Of course, one doesn’t want to drive around in a rusty old clunker with a bumper hanging down and a muffler that doesn’t muffle.  But does it make sense to buy a car whose sticker price rivals the gross domestic product of a Third World nation?  …

We need to learn to spend our money in moderation. There is nothing wrong with living comfortably.  But it is essential that we learn the difference between comfort and waste.

Everything I said above gets thrown out the window when you read this week’s Torah Portion…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2005/02/10/terumah-%e2%80%9cbudget-busters/

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 “Getting Along With Your In-Laws” (2004)

… It was a fairy-tale marriage.  She was his Cinderella and he was her Prince Charming.  He loved her with all his heart, and the feeling was mutual.

“Prince Charming” was a welcome addition to the family.  Cinderella’s father loved him like a son.  They went fishing together.  His father-in-law took him into the family business.  He rapidly advanced through the ranks of the company, soon becoming a vice-president.  All was right with the world.

Then he met “her.”  Prince Charming found another Cinderella.  She was, he felt, more “his type.”  She was younger and prettier…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2004/02/26/terumah-%e2%80%9cgetting-along-with-your-in-laws%e2%80%9d/

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 “Broken Promises, Broken Tablets, and Broken Hearts” (2003)

…a Torah scholar who forgets his learning should still be respected.  Stones that once contained G-d’s Commandments retain their sanctity even after their destruction.  A person who dedicated his life to acquiring wisdom of G-d’s Law retains his dignity even after that wisdom has left him.

The same can be said of any human being.  A human is, when all is said and done, a mammal comprising several dollars worth of minerals.  However, a human is, of course, so much more …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2003/02/06/terumah-broken-promises-broken-tablets-and-broken-hearts/

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 “Heavy Metal” (2002)

…This gold-coated “wooden” Ark was actually a system of three successively smaller boxes.  The inner and outer boxes were made of gold, while the middle one was wooden.  The three boxes fit inside each other like little Russian dolls.

The end result was a box that was golden on the inside and outside.  The Talmud (Yoma 72b) compares this movable “Torah container” to another “moving Torah container” — a Torah scholar.  Just as the Ark was golden on the inside and outside, so too must a scholar (and everyone else!) be impeccably honest; what you see on the outside is what you get on the inside.

Why, then, is the Ark made of wood?  If the Ark should be the same, inside and out, why not make the ENTIRE container out of gold, solid through and through?…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2002/02/14/terumah-heavy-metal/

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 “Welcoming G-D” (2001)

…The first in a long and distinguished line of rabbinic fund-raisers, Moses put the word out that he would be accepting donations.  He requested “gold, silver, copper, sky-blue wool, dark red wool, wool died with crimson worm, linen, goat’s wool, reddened ram’s skins, blue-processed skins, acacia wood, oil for the lamp, spices for the anointing oil, and sardonyxes and other precious stones…They will make for Me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in them.” Exodus, 25:3-8)

“I will dwell IN THEM.”  It would seem more logical to write, “They will make for me a sanctuary, and I will dwell IN IT”.  In fact, we are told that G-d “limited” His presence, and somehow made the Mishkan, and later, the Temple, and today, the Temple Mount as a special place where the Shechina, G-d’s Divine Presence, rests.

However, perhaps of greater significance, is the fact that by making a building for G-d, we are inviting Him to dwell IN US…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2001/03/01/terumah-welcoming-g-d/

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20 – TETZAVEH (Exodus, 27:20-30:10)

“Hide and Seek”  (2010)

… when a righteous man like Moses says something, G-d listens.  Moses “cursed” himself, albeit conditionally … Even that request could not go totally unanswered …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2010/02/24/tetzaveh-hide-and-seek/

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“Heartburn — Full Time!” (2008)

…Torah study is a full-time job:

This Book of the Torah is not to leave your mouth.  You shall contemplate it day and night, in order to observe, to do, all that is written in it.  (Joshua, 1:8)

… Rabbi Yochanan … said that if one recites the Shema every morning and every evening, he has fulfilled the requirement of “This Book of the Torah is not to leave your mouth.  You shall contemplate it day and night.” 

Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Rothenberg, the first Rebbe of Ger, was bothered by a question.  G-d told Joshua that the Torah is NEVER to leave one’s mouth.   Our in-depth involvement in Torah is supposed to be “…day and night.”   How, asks Rabbi Rothenberg, do we define a few moments of prayer in the morning and then again in the evening as a fulfillment of that verse?  A quick 2-minute Shema twice a day, spending the rest of the day engaged in trivial pursuits, and we call that “contemplating it day and night”?  Who are we trying to fool? …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2008/02/12/tetzaveh-%e2%80%9cheartburn-full-time%e2%80%9d/

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“Clothes FAKE the Man” (2007)

…How does such an event take place?  How do children of Holocaust survivors participate in a conference whose purpose was to deny the obvious truth?  How could they stand arm-in-arm with people who want to see them dead?

There are only two possibilities.  They are either wicked, evil, despicable people, or they are out of their minds.  I prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they’re nuts.

In any event, they have caused an uproar:  “Rabbi Seplowitz, what do you think of Rabbi ______?”

“Who’s Rabbi ______?” I ask.

“You know, he’s that rabbi who went to Iran!”

“Rabbi?!” I responded.  “Who says he’s a rabbi?”

“Well, he looks like one!”

Oh…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2007/03/01/tetzaveh-%e2%80%9cclothes-fake-the-man%e2%80%9d/

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 “Light up your Life!” (2006)

…The Menorah, which remained lit 24/7/365, could only be fueled with oil that was “crushed for lighting.”  Olives were crushed by hand in a mortar until a single drop, totally clear of sediment, came out.  This “custom-made” clear olive oil, crushed for lighting, was the only oil that was acceptable for the Menorah.  (Obviously, they went through a lot of olives!)

After the first drop came out, the olives were ground in a mill.  The resultant oil, although unfit for the Menorah, was acceptable as an ingredient in meal offerings.  Rashi explains that the Menorah lighting oil could not have any sediment in it.  For the meal offerings, however, this was not a problem.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of Blessed Memory, explains why the Menorah was different from the meal offerings…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2006/03/09/tetzaveh-%e2%80%9clight-up-your-life%e2%80%9d/

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“Tea Leaves and Poison Ivy” (2005)

Yale University is one of the most prestigious centers of learning in the world.  There is a great deal of knowledge that can be acquired in that historic institution.

I once tried to read a Yale diploma.  There was a problem.  While I can speak, read, and understand, at various levels of proficiency, English, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Yiddish, I wasn’t prepared for the diploma from “Universitatis Yalensis.”  When it comes to reading or understanding Latin, as the saying goes, “It’s Greek to me!”

But wait! I noticed an old friend! Was that – yes! It was! – Hebrew! Perhaps I would be able to read something after all. The logo consisted of an open book with Hebrew letters…

Yale University!  That honored, venerable storehouse of knowledge!  How could people who are so intelligent act so goofy?! …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2005/02/17/tetzaveh-%e2%80%9cpoison-ivy-and-tea-leaves%e2%80%9d/

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“Galbanum in Spice, so Everything’s Nice!” (2004)

… The Priest was required to burn incense on a special Altar every morning and every afternoon.  The sweet smell of the incense serves to endear us to our Creator.  In fact, the Talmud tells us that while Moses was in Heaven receiving the Torah, the Angel of Death divulged to him that he could “assuage” G-d’s anger with incense.  (See Deuteronomy, 17:6-15, where Aaron ends a Divine plague by igniting incense.)

Why was the incense so special and powerful?…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2004/03/04/tetzaveh-%e2%80%9cgalbanum-in-spice-so-everything%e2%80%99s-nice%e2%80%9d-2/

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 “Dress to Impress” (2003)

… Why is the Torah putting so much emphasis on clothes?  Does it really matter how the Kohain is dressed?  Doesn’t that seem superficial?  Isn’t it what’s inside, what’s in his heart, that really counts? …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2003/02/13/tetzaveh-dress-to-impress/

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 “Bless Your Heart!”  (2002)

… Wouldn’t it be great to always know the correct answer to your question?

In the Temple, this was the case.  The High Priest wore a breastplate … embedded with stones that lit up to answer questions. … When the High Priest was asked a question, certain letters lit up.  The High Priest would then determine the answer by figuring out what the letters were spelling.

How did this lofty and holy work end up in the hands of the “Aaronites?”  What did Aaron do to deserve such honor? …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2002/02/21/tetzaveh-bless-your-heart/

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21- KI SISA (Exodus, 30:11-34:35) 

“Fool’s Gold” (2010)

“The statistics linking smoking to lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease, and burn marks on furniture are inconclusive.”

“Seat belts are too restrictive. Many people have died because they couldn’t get out of their cars quickly enough.”

“I’m only going to taste one tiny sliver of this Double-Decadent Chocolate Cream Pie…”

“Honest, Mom, It’s only a date… ”

“Marijuana is NOT addictive! It’s not as if it will lead to taking something dangerous …”

“I don’t need to hire a Mohel. I can do it myself. I’ve watched it being done dozens of times…”

Do we really believe the lies we tell ourselves? …

Read more.

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 “Who WAS That Masked Man?” (2009)

 It was to be the very first Yom Kippur.   Moses was returning from the summit of Mount Sinai. He was carrying in his hands two blocks of sapphire.

 This was his second such journey. Last time Moses came down the mountain carrying stone blocks he was dismayed by what he saw… He discovered his People dancing around a Golden Calf…Moses smashed the Tablets; his People weren’t ready for them.

Now Moses was bringing a new set of Tablets. G-d had accepted Moses’ prayers for forgiveness for His People. Every year we commemorate that day as Yom Kippur, a day when G-d is prepared to forgive his People for their shortcomings.

 Yes, Moses was back. He had returned to his nation… But something was different… it was… his face!…

 Read more.

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“Hot Cash” (2008)

 The Children of Israel sinned.  They sinned egregiously.  They melted their gold and formed it into a statue of a calf.  They danced around that statue, referring to it as their god who had taken them out of Egypt.  This was a terrible sin.  G-d almost wiped out the entire nation as a punishment.

 They needed to atone for their sin…

 Simply put, the Israelites sinned against G-d by melting their gold into an idol.  They atoned for this sin by melting their silver into a Temple for G-d.

 …This is what they must give …a half-shekel… 

 There were certain commandments that Moses didn’t fully understand.  The Half Shekel was one of them.  The Torah says …This is what they must give …a half shekel… The Talmud says that G-d showed Moses a fiery half-shekel coin, and said, “It should be like this.”

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin asked why Moses was so confused.  Why did he need to see what a half-shekel looked like?  Had he never seen such a coin before?  And why did G-d show him a half-shekel of fire?  Wouldn’t a regular silver coin have sufficed to clarify the requirement?

 … Moses knew quite well what a silver coin looked like; that wasn’t his question… 

Read more.

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“‘Los ANGELES’ (‘City of ANGELS’) or San Francisco?” (2004)

 .. It is very important to defer to the protocols of the community you visit. Even angels do it for humans, and humans do it for the angels:

 “… He (Abraham) stood by them (three angels who appeared to be men) under the tree, and they ate.” (Genesis, 18:8)

 “… He (Moses) was there (Mt. Sinai/Heaven) with G-d for forty days and forty nights. He ate no bread and drank no water.” (Exodus, 34:28)

 Based upon the above two verses, the Talmud (Bava Metzia, 86b) advises us to respect local custom. Humans require food for sustenance. Angels, who are spiritual beings, do not. Yet, the angels, out of respect for Abraham, honored him by accepting his offer of food, while Moses had to adhere to the angelic way of life by engaging in a forty-day fast…

 We just read that one should follow the customs that are acceptable in the locale in which he finds himself. Does this mean that we should have one set of values in Jerusalem, Monsey and Boro Park, and a different set of values in San Francisco, New Paltz, and Massachusetts?!…

Read more.

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“How Do I Count Thee? …” (2003)

 … How did we get caught up in worshiping the Golden Calf? How could we have strayed so far from the Second Commandment …

Read more.

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“Cut Two Tablets and Call Me in the Morning” (2002)

 G-d was angry… Moses said to the people, “… I will go back up to G-d and try to gain forgiveness for your crime.” …

Sounds pretty easy. Too easy. Is that all it takes to be forgiven for sinning? Did you worship idols and rebel against G-d today? Maybe a little murder and adultery while you’re at it? No Problem! Take two Tablets, say thirteen attributes and a few “Hail Moses-es” and call me in the morning! You’re all set! All is forgiven!… Is that what Judaism is all about?! Do whatever you want, and then say a few verses and then everything is okay?! Sounds like another religion!…

Read more.

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“Abs of Steel/Calves of Gold” (2001)

This week, it seems, is the “Week of the Cows.” …The Red Heifer is a Mitzvah that is, in all due respect, totally illogical…

Is there a link between the two colored cows in this week’s Torah Readings? Can we find a connection between the calf of gold and his crimson “mother?” … Is there any logical connection between the sin of bowing down to a calf-shaped molten image, and being sprinkled with a mix containing the ashes of a cow? …

 Read more.

22 – YAYAKHEIL (Exodus, 35:1-38:20) 

“Mirror, Mirror In The Sink…” (2010)

 … Moses had a dilemma.

Donations were coming in for the Tabernacle…The problem was that women had donated their polished copper mirrors.  They wanted to have their mirrors melted down and made into a copper sink.

Moses was repulsed.  How could he accept these mirrors?  The Tabernacle was to be a holy place filled with holy vessels! These mirrors represented vanity.  Women would sit in front of these mirrors for hours on end preening and painting and brushing themselves…What could be more secular and unG-dly than a woman trying to make herself beautiful? How could Moses permit such vanity in G-d’s house? …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/vayakheil-mirror-mirror-in-the-sink/

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“The Architect” (2008) 

The donations were pouring in.  Moses had put out the word that he was accepting contributions of precious items for the construction of the Tabernacle…

It was a massive project.  There were plenty of good-hearted people willing to help.  What was still needed was someone to pull it all together:

Moses said to the Children of Israel, “Observe that G-d has selected Bezalel…and has filled him with a divine spirit of wisdom… to perform every craft of design…”  (Exodus, 35:30-33)

Now the Tabernacle crew had a foreman.  Bezalel, the head architect and his assistant Oholiav, were given their mandate:  Coordinate the volunteers into a cohesive, organized work force, and build the House of G-d.

… the Torah uses a very unusual terminology:  “Observe that G-d has selected Bezalel…”

What did Moses mean by “Oberve…”?  What is there to observe?  Moses seems to be telling the people that it should be obvious that G-d had selected Bezalel as the architect.  How could they possibly know?  They weren’t prophets!

Rabbi Feinstein answered that Bezalel’s assignment should have been obvious…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2008/02/27/vayakheil-the-architect/

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 “The King’s Day Off” (2006) 

What’s wrong with driving on Saturday?  If G-d doesn’t want me to work, fine, I’ll take off from work.  I’ll spend a pleasant day with the family.  We’ll drive to the local orchard and pick apples.  Then go to the park and have a barbeque, maybe take in a movie.  Then we’ll go home and I’ll help my son build a tree house.  What could be more relaxing?

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2006/03/23/vayakheil-%e2%80%9cthe-kings-day-off%e2%80%9d/

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 “(Madison Square) Garden of Eden” (2005)

… Lublin, Poland.  Once a center of Jewish life, it was one of the first Polish cities that the Nazis succeeded in declaring Judenrein… The Nazis derived great pleasure in burning the library of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin in 1939.  There were so many books that the dastardly deed took twenty hours to complete.  But in their perverted sense of values, twenty hours were a small investment to pay for the dividend of destroying Rabbi Shapiro’s work and silencing the voice of Torah study.  Jewish Lublin was dead.  The Rabbi of Lublin’s dream was crushed and destroyed, never to rise again.

Or, perhaps not…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2005/03/04/vayakheil-madison-square-garden-of-eden/

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“Missing Yud = Missing YID!” (2003)

… the High Priest… wore an Ephod, a type of apron that had two jewels on the shoulder strap, and a breastplate that had twelve stones.  These 14 stones were donated by the Nesi’im, the Princes of each tribe.

… there was something lacking in their donation.  When Moses let the word out that he was accepting contributions for building the Tabernacle, the twelve Tribal Princes, men of great wealth, offered to underwrite the project.  They committed themselves to make up whatever shortfall there might be in communal donations.  There was no shortfall.  The Nation of Israel responded to the call, and in two days, Moses had more than he needed.  There was nothing left for the Princes to donate except for the 14 stones.

Why are the Nesi’im criticized?  Shouldn’t they be praised for taking the initiative to insure that everything would be provided? …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2003/02/28/vayakheil-%e2%80%9cmissing-yud-missing-yid%e2%80%9d/ 

23 – PEKUDEI (Exodus, 38:21‑40:38) 

 “Wasting Shekels and Wasting TALENTS” (2005)

Beware the Ides of April! With tax time little more than a month away, we must to remember to do it right.  Make sure you have receipts for all your donations and business expenses.  After all, what will happen if the IRS calls you in for an audit?

On the Jewish calendar, this week is tax time AND audit time…

Moses feared the appearance of impropriety.  First, he collects precious stones, metals and other materials for the Tabernacle.  Suddenly, he’s driving a Lexus!  Now, how does that look?  He ordered an audit in order to demonstrate that everything collected was used for the Tabernacle.  Nothing was “skimmed off the top.”…

Smithsonian Magazine tells us that in January, 2003 a steel processing plant in Springfield Massachusetts received the largest order in their 118-year history.  A contractor placed an order for ten million pounds of steel, to be cut into fifteen thousand rectangular bases…

“That’s it?!” I asked out loud in my passenger-less car.  THAT eyesore is what two intelligent people spent twenty-one million dollars of their own money on?! …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2005/03/10/pekudei-%e2%80%9cwasting-shekels-and-wasting-talents%e2%80%9d/

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 “I Saw the Face of G-d!” (2004)

  … “The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and G-d’s glory filled the Tabernacle.”  (Ibid. 40:34) G-d allowed the Shechina, His Divine Presence, to be apparent for all the world to see.  The Tabernacle, and later, the Temple in Jerusalem, was a place where miracles were a daily event.  One could not spend the day in this place and deny the existence of G-d.

Sadly, this Divine Presence is much harder to perceive than it used to be.  Even in the Second Temple, many of the blatantly obvious miracles no longer took place.  G-d is no longer so easy to find.

Or is He?…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2004/03/18/pekudei-i-saw-the-face-of-g-d/

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“You have to PRAY Attention!” (2003)

 … IF YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN WHILE THINKING ABOUT TREES FALLING IN THE FOREST WHERE NO ONE CAN HEAR THEM FALL, DID YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN???

… Every family has its own private jokes. One of ours is “Delicious Soup.”…

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2003/03/06/pekudei-you-have-to-pray-attention/

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“Sure, You’ve Got the Keys, But Who’s Really Driving?”  (2001)

 …The entire Nation of Israel worked together — weavers, embroiderers, silversmiths — craftsmen of many disciplines performed this labor of love to build a House of G-d… the people brought all the parts to Moses because they weren’t able to put it all together due to the weight of the beams.  Now Moses was expected to do it for them!

How, wondered Moses, would any human be able to put those massive timbers together?!  …

https://torahtalk.wordpress.com/2001/03/22/pekudei-sure-youve-got-the-keys-but-whos-really-driving/

 

Published on February 11, 2010 at 7:10 pm  Comments Off on Archive –SHEMOS/EXODUS  
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