Three Aspects of Judgment

The story is told of a person who came to shul on Yom Kippur, and when it came time for vidui, the confession, the rabbi noticed that he was banging with both his fists on his chest, like Tarzan. (Unlike the custom we have to bang with one fist on the heart, as if to… Continue reading Three Aspects of Judgment

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Partners in Crime

The Midrash says that there were two reshayim who were partners in crime their entire lives. One of them died and went to Gehenom. He was suffering there for many months, and then he saw his former partner’s neshama being escorted into Gan Eden. So he calls over the malach appointed over Gehenom and says… Continue reading Partners in Crime

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Two Paths to HaShem

The Midrash teaches that HaShem used the Torah as the blueprint for creating the world; meaning that whatever exists in the world exists in the way it does only because it first of all exists in the Torah. By the same token, whatever is found in the Torah has its concrete expression in the physical… Continue reading Two Paths to HaShem

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Appreciating Life

Two questions: Why is it that these parshiyos, which are almost entirely concerned with tsora’as, begin with the parsha of laidah, of giving birth? Secondly, the opening phrase, isha ki tazriah v’yalda zachar, makes it sound as if conception is followed immediately by birth. Why doesn’t the Torah mention the nine months of pregnancy in… Continue reading Appreciating Life

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The Seder: A Pattern of Identity

In the Haggadah, Rabbi Yehudah divides the The Ten Plagues into three groups. Each one of these groups represents a different component of Egyptian nationhood destroyed by the Yad HaShem. The first three, represented by the acronym DaTzaCh (dam, tsefardaya, kinim), concern the affliction of the Nile and the land of Egypt, which formed the… Continue reading The Seder: A Pattern of Identity

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Two Kinds of Mishkan

The Gemora says that HaShem told Moshe to make the Mishkan, and afterwards the keilim; but when Moshe transmitted the instructions to Betzalel, he reversed the order, putting the keilim first, and then the Mishkan. Betzalel objected, that that’s not the way of the world; first a person builds a house, then puts in the… Continue reading Two Kinds of Mishkan

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Everybody A Ba’al Teshuvah

There is a famous story about the student from Ohr Somayach who went to the tish of the old Gerer Rebbe. He introduced himself to the Rebbe, saying, “I’m learning at Ohr Somayach—but I’m not a ba’al teshuvah.” The Rebbe looked him straight in the eye and said, “Why not?” His point, of course, was… Continue reading Everybody A Ba’al Teshuvah

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Mourning

Mourning has two purposes, two things which are engendered by the ritual and emotional expression of mourning. The first one is the statement: Something is not right. I’m missing something that is so serious that I can’t continue my regular routine and I can’t be involved in the usual niceties of ordinary life. My loss… Continue reading Mourning

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