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VAYEIRA 5782

10/21/2021 07:58:54 PM

Oct21

--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...

LEKH LEKHA 5782

10/15/2021 11:34:12 AM

Oct15

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...

BEREISHIS 5782

10/01/2021 01:37:03 PM

Oct1

"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...

SUKKOT 5782

09/24/2021 01:54:04 PM

Sep24

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

Sep10

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

Sep3

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.

Read more...

KI TAVO 5781

08/27/2021 01:56:54 PM

Aug27

This motsa'ei shabbat, Saturday night at 11:00 pm, we have our traditional first night of selichot.

I can't forget this parasha. You see, when I was in grade 1, growing up in Boston, my class celebrated our having completed the knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet. We all came on stage, every child holding a large cardboard letter.  My letter was "tet," or "tes" as we pronounced...Read more...

SHOFETIM 5781

08/13/2021 02:49:24 PM

Aug13

Most of us by now are doubly vaccinated. Yet many of the doubly vaccinated still take wise precautions, for they know that it is still possible to be infected.

And that brings to mind the following: several years ago, when I was visiting my son and family, they gave me an interesting present, a sefer, by Rabbi Zilbershtein of Israel called ve-ha`arev na’. The author goes...Read more...

RE'EH 5781

08/06/2021 09:22:48 AM

Aug6

We are all familiar with the midrashim that appear in Rashi's commentary. Yet, I personally have always been fascinated by Rashi's knowledge of the Hebrew language. A wonderful example appears at the beginning of this week's parasha. The word `aharei is followed by the word derech (in the 5th verse of the parashah, verse 11:30) Rashi shows that the Torah reader must pause between the 2 words, since the...Read more...

EIQEV

07/30/2021 12:12:31 PM

Jul30

I've told this story before in Chevra Shaas. As it is a meaningful and memorable incident for me, I felt that I should use this opportunity to write it down. 

Many years ago, I had the privilege of spending a year sabbatical in Jerusalem, with my wife a"h and children. We departed from Mirabel [remember that airport?!], non-stop on El Al. In the airport, I met my friend, who...Read more...

VA'ETHANAN 5781

07/23/2021 09:21:32 AM

Jul23

After 3 weeks of rebuke in the haftarah from Jeremiah and Isaiah, we now begin 7 weeks of haftarot of consolation, starting with Isaiah chapter 40.

The words of Isaiah that we read last week were particularly harsh. Yet, the prophet's harsh message must be tempered by words of hope.

When Hashem first spoke to Jeremiah, describing the task of the...Read more...

Devarim 5781

07/16/2021 10:54:43 AM

Jul16

Congratulazioni agli italiani per aver vinto la Coppa del Mondo.

​Well, I'm not really a soccer fan. But I was intrigued: how many of these players for Italy have Jewish blood?

You see, I was reminded that when I was in high school, I was given the book The Jews of Ancient Rome, by Prof. Harry Leon.   He described how there had been, since ancient times, a significant Jewish community in Rome, whose numbers were...Read more...

PINCHAS 5781

07/02/2021 12:09:39 PM

Jul2

In the period of the 3 weeks, which began last Sunday, we read special haftarot. This week, the first of the 3 special haftarot, is from the beginning of the Book of Jeremiah. HaShem appoints Jeremiah to be a prophet, telling him that he is predestined for this task.

Yet, Jeremiah hesitates. He feels he is not worthy of the task. According to a midrash, in the back of Jeremiah’s...Read more...

BALAQ

06/25/2021 02:39:55 PM

Jun25

I have said over this personal story several times in Chevra Shaas, but to the best of my recollection, I have never written it down. And I do believe that it deserves to be printed.

You see, many years ago, Balaq was my Bar Mitsvah parasha. We belonged to a large synagogue in Boston. Bar mitsvah boys were not allowed to read the Torah, as that was the exclusive job of the...Read more...

HUQQAT 5781

06/18/2021 01:59:58 PM

Jun18

As I am sure you know, in the last several years, schools have been very sensitive to bullying. For example, teachers are given seminars on how to detect bullying, and how to be careful not to be guilty of bullying their students.

Today’s haftara, taken from the Book Shoftim (Judges) tells the story of Jephthah (Yiftah in Hebrew.).  He was a “gibbor hayyil,” (an “able...Read more...

QORAH 5781

06/10/2021 05:16:45 PM

Jun10

This week’s parasha refers to the terrible argument and rebellion of Qorah.

I remember many years ago, in my last year as a student in the rabbinical program at YU, I had a part time job reading the Torah in a Long Island synagogue. They had a wonderful rabbi, and many very nice members, but some people found some things that they didn’t like about shul practices.

Before you knew it, they had broken off and formed another...Read more...

SHELAH 5781

06/04/2021 01:19:52 PM

Jun4

Why did HaShem have to command Moshe to send out spies, if HaShem had promised the people that they were going into a good land.?

Rabbenu Bahya ben Asher was an important early Sephardi Biblical exegete. His commentary on the weekly parasha always begins with a quote from Mishlei (Book of Proverbs.)

For this week’s parasha Shelach, he selected a verse from chapter 21 of...Read more...

BEHA'ALOTEKHA 5781

05/28/2021 10:36:55 AM

May28

The title of this parasha refers to the lighting of the menorah.

I am fortunate to live in a very nice neighbourhood. There are many minyanim and Jewish schools within a 10-minute walk from my house.  Indeed, when a niece from Israel who was living then in New Hampshire came to visit several years ago, she commented correctly “Uncle Menachem, there are more synagogues in your neighborhood than in the entire State of New...Read more...

NASO 5781

05/20/2021 09:20:14 AM

May20

In last week’s edition of the Forward, a tech expert wrote that it would be possible now for a computer to write a sefer Torah. The computer could be programmed to write it perfectly. There would be no need for a sofer, a scribe, to toil for a year, putting in hundreds of hours.

Well, what do you think? Would this be a valuable time saving innovation?

Read more...

BAMIDBAR 5781

05/13/2021 04:02:49 PM

May13

Last night, I filled out the census form for Canada. And this week, the Book of BaMidbar begins by telling us how Moses and Aaron and the leaders of the tribes took a count of males 20 years and up.

Actually, it seems that the original name of BaMidbar was humash ha-pequdim, the “Humash of the enumerated.” (See, for example, the first Mishna in chapter 7 of Tractate...Read more...

BEHAR BEHOQOTAI 5781

05/06/2021 05:58:31 PM

May6

When I relate the following, there are tears in my eyes. A mixture of tears of happiness and tears of sorrow. You see, my wife, Sara Devora, daughter of Raizel, a"h, passed away shortly before Passover. And just before Lag ba`omer, a week ago Thursday, my granddaughter Rosy gave birth to a girl. And this past Shabbat, her husband Elchanan named the baby in his shul: Sarah Devorah, also daughter of Raizel. May they...Read more...

EMOR 5781

04/29/2021 03:53:26 PM

Apr29

One important purpose of midrash is to read between the lines of the Torah, and to unearth profound ideas.

This week's parasha gives us a great example of that approach.

By way of introduction: last week's parasha was replete with inspiring practical mitzvot. Yet it ended with a verse that seemed incongruous: a person who practices necromancy should be put to death.  This week's parasha opens with the words: "speak to the...Read more...

AHAREI MOT-QEDOSHIM

04/22/2021 04:35:34 PM

Apr22

As this week's double parasha is titled, in translation, "after the death: holy" it seems most appropriate to write a few words about my wife a"h, who passed away unexpectedly on the 2nd of iyyar.

Sorah Devorah (Sandra Sukey,) daughter of Yehoshua and Raizel Hirsch, was by all accounts, a remarkable personality. [Although her physical health had been precarious for the past...Read more...

04/22/2021 11:18:47 AM

Apr22

Update this content.

AHAREI MOT - QEDOSHIM

04/22/2021 11:17:50 AM

Apr22

​As this week's double parasha is titled, in translation, "after the death: holy" it seems most appropriate to write a few words about my wife a"h, who passed away unexpectedly on the 2nd of iyyar.

Sorah Devorah (Sandra Sukey,) daughter of Yehoshua and Raizel Hirsch, was by all accounts, a remarkable personality. [Although her physical health had been precarious for the past...Read more...

CONTINUATION OF MY COMMENTS FROM LAST WEEK

04/15/2021 04:35:45 PM

Apr15

We pointed out that there is an old rabbinic midrash that noticed  how certain holidays fall on the respective days of Passover. By pairing up the first 6 letters of the Hebrew alphabet with the last 6 letters (in reverse order) the midrash noticed that day 1 = this coming Tisha b'av; day 2 = shavuot; 3= Rosh haShanah; 4= Simchat Torah; 5 =  Yom Kippur; 6= the previous Purim.

Of course, something was missing from that...Read more...

Words from Rabbi White

04/08/2021 03:18:40 PM

Apr8

Here is one of my favourite divrei Torahs.

I have said it in the past in Chevra Shaas, and said it at the table in my daughter's house on the last day of Pesah:

There is an ancient midrash that tells us that we can determine the dates of the holidays according to the days of Pesah.

It is a system called "at bash," matching the letters in forward and reverse order, and goes like...Read more...

VAYAQHEL=PEQUDEI HA-HODESH 5781

03/11/2021 01:38:53 PM

Mar11

The word “va-yaqhel” is from the same root as the words “qahal” or “qehilla,” which mean "a community". Moshe called all of the people together. And we anticipate the time when in the near future, we should be able to come together in the synagogue, without the limitations that we must currently follow. At the same time, I am opposed to the efforts of some of our coreligionists to put pressure on the gov’t to ease the...Read more...

Ki Tissa' 5781

03/04/2021 03:28:10 PM

Mar4

Ki Tissa'  5781

A point of Hebrew grammar, leading to a nice idea:

Our parasha begins with the words “ki tissa’”. It is usually accepted that every Hebrew verb has 3 root letters. The root of “tissa’” is clearly the 3 letters “nun,” “sin”, “‘aleph.” But what happened to the “nun”? It has disappeared, and assimilated into the “sin”. [So, you see, letters can assimilate, just like people!]...Read more...

TETSAVEH/PURIM 5781

02/25/2021 06:00:44 AM

Feb25

TEIn honour of Purim, we’ll change the nature of our devar Torah.

Here are some Purim jokes:  scroll down for the answers:

What was Esther’s gown made of? (I know, a preposition is something you never end a sentence with!) Why do some people drink on Purim? The proper name for Yom Kippur is Yom Ha-Kippurim, which could be translated (well, not really) as “a day like Purim.” So, what do these 2 holidays have in...Read more...
Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782