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In preparation for Shavuot

This week we will celebrate the giving of the Torah, here are  two key insights: When a person is drowning in a swamp, he can’t get himself out by tugging at his own head. He needs external assistance to get out of the mud. We understand our world through our senses. The brain perceives our senses (hearing, sight, touch…) and processes ... Read More »

Exception to the Rule

There have been a number of prominent people in the history of Israel who lived as a nazir, an ascetic who refrains from drinking wine. The one whose laws are discussed in greatest detail is Samson, as appears in the Haftarah for this week: “The boy will be a nazir of G-d from the womb” [Judges 13:5]. Evidently the reason ... Read More »

“We have not Lost our Hope”

The complaint by Jeremiah the Prophet about the scourge of idol worship which was practiced by the Children of Israel takes on a special meaning in view of the spiritual revolution that took place during his lifetime. At the end of the era of the First Temple, those with the intuition of the Holy Spirit were able to sense that the ... Read More »

He has Faith in You!!

siddur_2

Greetings from the Land of Israel. When we wake up in the morning, the first thing we recite is the “Modeh Ani” prayer: “I give thanks to You, everlasting King, who has compassionately restored my soul within me; great is Your faith.” Just look at the amazing and surprising end of this sentence: “Great is Your faith.” What does the ... Read More »

Before the Great Day Comes

Elijah the Prophet offered Olah Sacrifices outside the Temple, seemingly performing a sin, in order to cause the children of Israel to repent their ways. And this indeed corresponds to the ruling of the halacha: A prophet can cancel a mitzva on a temporary basis (“hora’at sha’ah”), as is written, “It is time to act for G-d, they have violated ... Read More »

Purity of Awareness

  While the special Torah reading of Parshat Parah involves the purification of a single individual who is ritually impure, the Haftarah discusses the purification of the entire community (Ezekiel 36:16-38). Personal impurity is a halachic matter which has practical implications for a person’s life. However, general impurity leads to removal of the Shechina as a result of the effects ... Read More »

“These are What I Want”

In the last chapter of Moreh Nevuchim the Rambam lists various opinions about the purpose of life. As far as he is concerned, the first three are not sufficient to justify life, since they are not uniquely relevant for a human being because of his innate essence. These goals are: (1) possessions, (2) a healthy body, and (3) proper behavior. ... Read More »

The Essence of the Temple

The Haftarah of the portion of Pekudai can be divided into two sections. In the first section, which is read by Sephardim and Yemenites (Kings I 7:40-50), the making of the vessels in the Temple is described as the work of two people: Hiram and Solomon. Even though they evidently did not perform the physical operation of making the vessels ... Read More »

Why perform Maintenance in the Temple?

The maintenance in the Temple which was carried out by Jehoash, the King of Judah, in the twenty-third year of his reign (Kings II 12:7-16) took place in the year that Jehu, King of Yisrael, died (as is clear from verse 13:1). Evidently this was not a mere coincidence. The reign of Jehu was a time of renovation such as ... Read More »

Ideal Synthesis

  In this week’s Haftarah, the Prophet Ezekiel shows us the plan of the Temple which will be built in the future (43:10-27). The design differs in many details from that of the First and Second Temples. Even though the mitzvot of the Torah are inflexible, the Temple changes form as generations pass, because it is a reflection of the ... Read More »