Painting of Horse

Life as Art

Once there was a painter who decided the time had come to create his masterpiece. Shunning the accepted trend of his time, he decided that rather than paint a portrait of the king, as all great artists did, he would create something more interesting: A life-size portrait of the king’s horse. For many years he […]

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Traditional Jewish Matzo sheet on a Passover Seder table.

The Way to the Human Soul is Through the Stomach

On the Festival of Pesach we encounter a great emphasis on food. In fact the commandments of eating מצה and קרבן הפסח appear explicitly in the Torah. Not only are we commanded to eat מצה and קרבן הפסח on Pesach, but we are also clearly expected to eat with desire and passion, as highlighted by […]

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Whats Your Story Sticky Note

Stories That Awaken Us – Not Bedtime Stories

The day after the Pesach seder you’ll invariably hear kids vying with each other—bragging “until what time our seder lasted”, how long they “stayed awake”. You could say they are proud of how well they performed the mitzvah of “Telling the Story of the Exodus”. Maimonides’ sefer HaMitzvot explicitly says, “whoever adds in speech and […]

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Plato the philosopher statue, Athens Greece

Plato, the Haggada and The Art of Reading

Now that Jews all over the world will once again assemble around the Seder table and read the Haggada—the story of the exodus from Egypt—it may be worthwhile to put some thought into the art of reading. In The Phaedrus (275a-278a) and in his Seventh Letter (344c), Plato questioned—and in fact attacked—the written word as […]

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Chalkboard - Questions

Pesach – The Festival of Questioning

“Our rabbis taught: If his son is intelligent, he asks him (the father) while if the son in not intelligent his wife asks him; but if not (if he has no wife) he asks himself (the questions on Pesach night..) Even two scholars who know the laws of Passover ask one another the questions” (Pesahim […]

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Sphinx and pyramids in Giza

Stories Happen to People That Tell Stories

The author Paul Austor said, “stories happen to people who tell them.” Apparently stories happen to nations that tell them too. The fact that the Jewish people continue to tell that story of the Exodus throughout history has in turn given rise to new stories, as each generation reads the present in the light of […]

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Depressed Man in Field

Parshat Metzorah: From Biography to Biology

  Metzorah – Emitting Evil Miriam was struck with “tzara’at” as a punishment for speaking negatively about her brother, Moshe (Bamidbar 12:1- 16). From this the midrash learns that the bio-spiritual ailment “tzara’at” is a punishment for speaking slander (lashon harah). The midrash explains that the word metzorah (someone struck with tzara’at), comes from the […]

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Moon Lit Lake

Parshat Tazriah: The Priestess of Life

One of the most misunderstood aspects of Judaism is “tumat niddah.” According to Jewish law,  a couple refrains from physical intimacy from the onset of a women’s monthly period until seven days after her period when she immerses herself in a mikva (ritual bath). The ramifications of tumat niddah raise many questions and the very meaning […]

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Rav Yaakov Nagen

Parshat Shmini: The Return to Spirituality

In our days, there is a revival of Jewish spirituality. Kabbalah, Chassidut, and Jewish Mysticism, once the discipline of an elite have become popularized –and they are studied by men, women, religious and non-religious, even non-Jewish pop-stars. We are dealing with a process that is part of a broad cultural phenomenon that puts a great […]

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Handcuffed Woman

“Agunah Day” on Ta’anit Esther

The following is an explanation of the connection between Agunah Day and Ta’anit Esther, authored by Dr. Rachel Levmore, which accompanied proposed legislation to mark “Agunah Day” in the Israeli Knesset, presented by ICAR (International Coalition for Agunah Rights). Awareness of the woman known as the agunah has existed for thousands of years. She is […]

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Tabernacle

Vayikra – Why Is it Stuck in the Middle?

The book of Yayikra marks a departure from the narrative flow of the Torah through its first two books. The conclusion of the book of Shemot, describing the divine cloud hovering over the newly-constructed Sanctuary, looks forward towards the journey to the Land of Israel in Bemidbar: “And when the cloud went up from above […]

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