Spring Renewal

The Exodus and the Awakening of Nature

:שָׁמוֹר אֶת חֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב וְעָשִׂיתָ פֶּסַח לַה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ כִּי בְּחֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב הוֹצִיאֲךָ ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ מִמִּצְרַיִם לָיְלָה :וְזָבַחְתָּ פֶּסַח לַה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ צֹאן וּבָקָר בַּמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר ה’ לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמוֹ שָׁם (דברים טז, א-ב) Keep the month of spring, and make the Passover offering to the Lord, your God; for in the month of spring, the Lord, […]

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Passover Seder Plate

The Role of Karpas at the Pesach Seder

What is the reason behind the “Karpas” at the Pesach Seder, and what is the significance of its name? A number of Rishonim (see Rashbam), based upon the Gemara (Pesachim 114), imply that the karpas is meant to stimulate the children to ask questions. It is not clear, however, whether that is the entire reason, […]

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Lust and Other Emotions

Parshat Tzav: Thoughts of Sin

This week’s Torah portion opens with a description of a sacrificial offering called olah, which is entirely consumed by fire. The Sages have a tradition which explains the purpose of this offering: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai taught: The olah is brought for hirhur halev, “contemplation of the heart.” (Vayikra Rabbah 7:3) This idea is further […]

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Body and Soul in Balance

Parshat Vayikra: The Animal Within Us

People are often offended when they are compared to animals. Practically speaking, however, even one who does not believe we evolved from monkeys, recognizes that we are not different from animals in every regard. In each of us there resides an animal side. Sifra D’tzinuta – one of the oldest and most important sections of […]

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Woman Lighting Shabbat Candles

Parshat Vayakhel: Shabbat Here and Now

Six days shall you do your work and the seventh day shall be holy unto you, a Sabbath of resting to God. (Shmot 35:2) Sleeping and Waking Up If the goal of the spiritual journey is to awaken the self, then it would seem that, spiritually speaking, many people go through life “asleep.” We live […]

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Silhouettes of People Waving the Flag of Israel

Parshat Vayakhel: Connecting Jews to Judaism

I’m sure you’ve suffered it many times before: you’re at a Shabbat meal, enjoying the company of others, and then, it comes to a “pause” when someone announces: “Let’s hear a D’var Torah” / “Time for a speech” and so forth. I can’t think of anything more annoying, let alone out of place, then hearing […]

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Questions and answer

Parshat Ki Tisa: Questions About God

The Zohar (Bereshit 1b) teaches that belief in God in its essence contains unanswerable questions, and God’s very name “Elohim” hints at this. The word “Elohim” (אלוהים) is made up of the words “mi” (מי – who) and “eleh” (אלה – this). These two words express two different facets of our relationship to God: The […]

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Purim Sameach

Taanit Esther and the Message of Purim

Unlike the other “minor” fasts that are enumerated and discussed by the Talmud (Taanit 29a), Taanit Esther is not mentioned anywhere in the Mishna or Talmud. In fact, the earliest reference to Taanit Esther appears in the eighth-century geonic work Sheiltot DeRav Aḥai (Parashat Vayak’hel 67), authored by Rabbi Aḥai Gaon. Nevertheless, the fast is […]

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The Power of Words

Parshat Tetzaveh: The Good Words

Clothes Make the Man As Mark Twain says, “clothes make the man.” Clothes can indicate social status or community affiliation, and can even have an impact on our own self awareness. Parshat Tetzaveh describes the special outfits that Kohanim wore while carrying out their service in the Mishkan. According to the Midrash, the clothes of […]

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