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EMOR 582

05/13/2022 01:01:57 PM


If you follow my weekly column, today's essay might seem familiar, as it is based on a midrash that I brought down last year. Besides the fact that it is one of my favourite midrashim, it seems most contemporary, in light of the carnage being orchestrated in Ukraine by the ruler of Russia.

By way of introduction: last week's parasha was replete with inspiring practical mitzvot....Read more...


05/06/2022 11:27:04 AM


I. Thoughts on Independence.

How do we relate to the establishment of the modern State of Israel?

Many years ago, the year after I had graduated from high school in Boston, I studied in Erets Yisrael. My Talmud teacher that year, Rabbi Zeev Gotthold, suggested that I purchase the Hebrew volume Ha-Mo`adim be-halakha by Rabbi Shlomo Y. Zevin, one...Read more...


04/29/2022 01:55:49 PM


First of all, in the name of Chevra Shaas, we send our condolences to Ron Mashaal on the loss of his father; and to Rev. Hazzan Benlolo, on the loss of his sister.  May their memories be for a blessing. min ha-shamayim tenuhamu!


This past Thursday, 27 Nisan according to the Jewish calendar, was Yom Ha-Shoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day....Read more...


04/21/2022 03:15:09 PM


Every day of pesah we recite hallel, which consists of psalms chapters 113_118.

We are all familiar with the line "meqimi me'afar dal, me'ashpot yarim 'evyon," which describes that HaShem (a) raises the poor person from the dust; and (b) raises the poor person from the garbage heap.

You might ask, why does the poet repeat the idea of part (a)...Read more...


04/14/2022 03:39:43 PM


Several years ago, I had a knee operation shortly after Pesach. To keep me occupied during my recuperation period, my friend (and gabbai!) Michael Rubin gave me a book about the Seder, entitled The Night that Unites. I said about it ‘ilu natan lanu sha`ar, velo natan dappim, dayyenu, i.e., if that book had only a title page, and didn’t have any content, dayyenu. How much more so that it had both title page and content!



04/08/2022 05:24:59 PM


One of the reasons why this Shabbat is called hagadol is that it is connected to the word hagada. That is, many have the custom of reading parts of the hagada on this Shabbat: So, here is a thought on the hagada:


We all remember the story, related shortly after the mah nishtanah, as told of the Rabbis who were sitting in Bnai Brak, and...Read more...


04/01/2022 11:04:19 AM


This week we read from 3 Torah scrolls: the regular parasha Tazria, the portion for the new Month of Nisan, and “parashat ha-hodesh” from Shemot, chapter 12.

The reading from the 2nd and 3rd Torahs is a wakeup call to all of us: Pesach is fast approaching. In the selection we read from the 3rd sefer (Shemot/Exodus chapter 12), Moshe is telling the people to prepare themselves...Read more...

TSAV 5782

03/18/2022 02:15:25 PM


The Mesha stele dates from the 9th century BCE. Written in the ancient Moabite language, it describes the exploits of the Moabite king Mesha. I always remember, when we were studying it during my student days as a grad student at Brandeis, one of my fellow students blurted out, "the Moabites were Nazis," for the way they treated the Israelites.

Around the same time, the...


03/11/2022 01:25:29 PM


Since we are approaching Purim, and since we need something light to offset the terrible news we keep hearing on the media, let’s do something different.  Here is my favourite all time joke.  I like it because, besides being “clean,” it deals with language skills.

I first heard this story many years ago, when I was living in NY, on the now defunct WEVD, the Jewish...Read more...


03/04/2022 12:32:42 PM


So… Putin has a net worth of billions of dollars, but he has done a masterful job of hiding his assets. [among many reports, an article this week in CNN Business News states the Russian leader's wealth to hover around $200 billion in assets, which would make him among the wealthiest people on the planet!

“One theory of Putin's wealth suggests that he has strong armed Russia's...Read more...


02/25/2022 12:00:57 PM


This past week, there has been quite a bit of news to reflect (and worry?) upon: did the PM respond too harshly with the Emergency Act, or is he guilty of having responded too slowly; what will happen in Ukraine; is the impending removal of masking in schools a good idea, or will it lead to increased infections?

All of that, and be careful of walking outside on the ice!

Nevertheless, I was bothered by an article I happened to read today, written by a former president of the National Council of Young Israel. It seems that in January, there was a program at the Boca Raton Synagogue. This is an orthodox shul, led by an extremely hard working and talented rabbi. The synagogue has become one of the largest in North America.Read more...


02/18/2022 09:23:51 AM


Avi Abelow grew up in New York, and went on aliya many years ago. He is a writer and commentator on current events in Israel and the Jewish world. His video presentations called “Israel Unwired,” representing what we would call a “right wing” point of view, are sent to my email.

I do not know him personally, yet I have great admiration for someone like him who went on...Read more...


02/11/2022 12:50:38 PM


The Ba`al HaTurim points out that this is the only parasha in the Torah, beginning with parashat Shemot, which told of the birth of Moses, through the end of Sefer BaMidbar, where the name of Moses does not appear.

Now, the Ba`al HaTurim lived in the 13th and 14th centuries. None of the great classical commentaries that preceded him, such as Rashi, Rashbam, Nahmanides, or ibn...Read more...


02/04/2022 01:00:15 PM


Our parashah talks of donations of materials that people were asked to bring to the tabernacle. [Actually, in modern Hebrew, a donation to a charity is called terumah.] For example, from the gold that will be brought, the menorah will be constructed.  It must be from pure gold.

Rabbi Yitzchak Zilberstein is recognized as a leading halachik authority in Israel. Many intriguing...Read more...


01/28/2022 10:50:47 AM


At the end of last week, my Aunt Betty Shapiro, sister of my late mother, passed away in Boston, at the age of 105 and 1/2. Since I have the “podium” here, I would like to devote this column to her memory.

[I had hoped to be able to travel to Boston for the funeral this past Monday, and, indeed, it had always been assumed that when the time, came, I would conduct it....Read more...

YITRO 5782

01/21/2022 09:35:03 AM


Rabbi Menahem White

This parasha includes the 10 commandments, one of which is honouring parents.  Since this Shabbat, 20 Shevat, is the yahrzeit of my mother a”h, Chana bat Tsvi Hirsch ve-Chaya, I dedicate these remarks to her memory. She would sign her name in English as Anne Shapiro White, Shapiro being her maiden name. The Shapiro side of the family had a tradition that we were descended from the Spanish exiles of...Read more...


01/14/2022 12:37:19 PM


My first full time job was many years ago, before I had moved to Montreal, when I was teaching at the State University of New York. In my first year, a student came into my office with a complaint about her mark for the first semester. She felt it was too low!!

I tried to explain how I marked fairly, and I had given the mark she deserved.  She was furious with me, and said she...Read more...

BO' 5782

01/07/2022 02:35:21 PM


Last week, we wrote about the propriety of wishing a “happy New Year.” Here is an elaboration:

There is a story that I saw about 20 years ago in the lovely Hebrew book by Simcha Raz, 70 faces of Torah, volume IV. He based his account on the story told by the late scholar Samuel Dresner.  Here is my abridgement and translation:

One late...

VA-'EIRA' 5782

12/31/2021 02:10:47 PM


Our parasha begins with the 5 verbs of redemption, describing how HaShem will bring the people into the Land of Israel. Actually, I had been hoping to write these lines from a house in Jerusalem, as my son and I had plans to be spending this week in the holy city. Indeed, doesn’t it say in Psalm 87:2, that Hashem loves the gates of Zion (‘ohev HaShem sha`arei tsion) more than any other place where the Jews might...Read more...


12/17/2021 10:42:07 AM


This past Sunday, there was a a program in the Spanish in memory of my dear colleague Rabbi Howard Joseph z”l. The Spanish Portuguese of Montreal, Shearith Israel, was indeed privileged to have had such a distinguished leader for so many years.

Meaningful speeches were delivered by our President and former President, by Dr. Norma Joseph, and by their children Ami and Rabbi Josh.The speakers discussed the Rabbi’s kindness,...Read more...


12/10/2021 12:56:42 PM


Wow! That story of Joseph and his brothers is a cliff-hanger! When we left the synagogue last week, we were wondering: what’s going to happen to Benjamin? Why did Joseph plant fake evidence in Benjamin’s bag? Is Benjamin going to be Joseph’s slave for ever?

As this week’s parasha begins, the brother Judah approaches Joseph very meekly: “Please my master, may I please say...Read more...


12/03/2021 01:56:12 PM


The Talmud in Tractate Shabbat asks: mai hanukkah, “what is Hanukkah?”

My daughter forwarded to me, from the internet, a picture which gives us a modern answer to that question:

The picture shows a pile of books:

On the bottom: “Ancient Egypt.” On top of that: “The Philistines.”



11/05/2021 11:42:39 AM


I spoke about the following last Shabbat in Chevra Shaas.  Since my readers of this blog were not there, and as it was a very meaningful experience for me, I repeat it here, with some modifications.

A week ago Thursday, I had a most meaningful and inspiring experience. At 12:00 noon, Mtl time (= 7:00 pm Israel time,) a nephew of mine, "Frankie" Trachtman, had a hashba`ah, a...Read more...


10/29/2021 09:55:26 AM


There is an old story about the CIA agent who was sent on a spy mission to Saudi Arabia.  Before leaving for his new post, he spent a year in intensive training. He learned to speak Arabic with a Saudi accent, and to dress in a way that would fit in exactly with the locals. After arriving at his destination, for the first several weeks, he was doing a great job in uncovering secret information.



10/21/2021 07:58:54 PM


--Do you really believe that fire and salt suddenly came down from the heavens and destroyed a city and the surrounding beautiful agricultural area?

-- Well, yes, and let me explain. An exploding meteor, when reaching the thick part of the atmosphere, will create a powerful explosion known as an airburst. Back in 1908, in a very sparsely inhabited area of eastern Siberia known as...Read more...


10/15/2021 11:34:12 AM


The great medieval exegete Rashi, writing back in the 11th century, in his first comment at the beginning of Genesis, forecasts one of the major issues confronting us today.  For Rashi understood that the time will come when we shall be confronted by people who will tell us: “you Jews are robbers. You stole land that belongs to other people.” Rashi tells us that we can look in the Torah, and see that HaShem...Read more...


10/01/2021 01:37:03 PM


"I got my job through the NY Times" This was a popular advertisement when I was living in NY.   Do you know anyone who actually did get their job through the times? C'est moi!!

You see, many years ago, when I was living in NY State, and teaching at the State University, I happened to purchase the Sunday NY Times one fateful Sunday, and saw an intriguing ad for "Herzliah...Read more...


09/24/2021 01:54:04 PM


The Torah tells us that on "the first day" we must take the etrog and lulav. According to peshat, that means the first day of Sukkot. But the rabbis of the ancient midrash suggested it could also mean the first day of a new beginning after Yom Kippur. In that vein, the late Rav Kossowsky z"l suggested that the midrash could be expanded to refer to the Jewish people, able to start afresh in the...Read more...

Vayelech - Shabbat Shuva

09/10/2021 12:48:56 PM


In honor of the special Shabbat this week:  Shabbat shuva.  Wow! ​This must be more than a coincidence!  Let me explain.

A strange phenomenon has come to my attention. A feeling of depression has overcome some senior Jewish citizens during the pandemic.

Although having lived a traditional Jewish lifestyle for the past many years, they remember the times when they were not observant of mitzvot, and they...Read more...

Nitzavim 5781

09/03/2021 02:27:26 PM


Afghanistan.  None of the major powers had predicted such a rapid takeover by the Taliban.  Too bad they hadn’t studied the Bible.

You see after the destruction of the first Temple, the Babylonian king had allowed a small number of Jews to remain in Israel under the leadership of a man named Gedalia.  The Jews under Gedalia were granted a certain autonomy.


Fri, May 20 2022 19 Iyyar 5782