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Parasha Insights


I always talk to myself; it is the only way to ensure intelligent conversation.—A man

There is something intriguing you will notice in any Torah scroll—and Chumash—in the opening word of the third book of the Torah, Vayikra, Leviticus.

The opening words of the book are: “Vayikra El Moshe,” "He called to Moses." The Aleph of the word for, "He called/Vayikra,” the first word in the Book of Leviticus, is written smaller than usual. The Aleph is written in miniature.

This is how it has been since the first Torah Scroll written by Moses 3300 years ago. But why? What is the significance of this?

Contrast this with one more place in the Tanach where the Aleph is written in a large… Read More »


Things Mom Would Never Say:

“I skipped school a lot, too.”

“Leave all the lights on... it makes the house look cheerier.”

“Let me smell that shirt—yeah, it's good for another week.” “I don't have tissues... just use your sleeve.”

“Don't bother with a coat; the wind-chill has got to improve.”

Things Dad Would Never Say:

“Well, how 'bout that? I'm lost! Looks like we'll have to stop and ask for directions.”

“Here are a credit card and my new-car keys: GO CRAZY!”

“Mom and I are going away for the weekend... you might want to consider throwing a party.”

“Why do you want to get a job? I make plenty of money for you to… Read More »

World's Worst Skier

An Englishman, a Frenchman and a Russian were discussing happiness. "Happiness," said the Englishman, "Is when you return home tired after work and find your slippers warming by the fire."  "You English have no romance," said the Frenchman. "Happiness is having dinner with your beautiful wife at a fine restaurant."

 "You are both wrong," said the Russian. "True happiness is when you are at home in bed and at 4 am you hear a loud banging at the door and there stand two KGB police agents, who say to you, 'Ivan Ivanovitch, you are under arrest,' and you say, 'Sorry, Ivan Ivanovitch lives next door.'"

In this weeks portion, Ki Tisa speaks about one of our… Read More »

Regards From Jerusalem

I write to you this week as I sit in the Old City of Jerusalem. Just a few minutes ago, I met with some of “our kids” from Great Neck who have taken a year after high school to study in our country. What innocence, what exuberance, what a positive passion and excitement they have for the land of Israel, Torat Yisrael, and Am Yisrael. My meeting with them brought me to a new height of happiness for I saw before me that our future is strong - our children have the right values and will not settle for anything less than the real truth.

I can’t help but compare this with an earlier scene this morning. After praying at the Western Wall, I noticed in the back square a commotion of sorts. A group of young Israelis are… Read More »


"We are worth what we are willing to share with others."

Recently, the world's second wealthiest man, Warren Buffet, announced he will donate the bulk of his 42-billion-dollar fortune to charity. Buffet's oldest daughter, Susie, immediately changed her name to Charity…

In an effort to better understand his Jewish constituents, a mayor contacted a popular rabbi.

The rabbi invited the mayor to spend Shabbat at his home, and the mayor accepted.

On Friday night, the rabbi made Kiddush on a full cup of wine. Then he made a l’chaim (a toast to life) after the fish on some fine Scotch. The main course was accompanied by an Israeli wine. They said grace after the meal with another cup of… Read More »


In the 1970's, a Russian school inspector was questioning students. He pointed to a boy and asked, "Who is your father?"

The boy replied, "The Soviet Union."

He then asked, "Who is your mother?"

"The Communist Party," came the reply.

"And what do you want to be when you grow up?"

"A worker for the glory of the state and the party."

The inspector then pointed to a girl and asked, "Who is your father?"

The girl answered, "The Soviet Union."

"Who is your mother?"

"The Communist Party."

"And what do you want to be when you grow up?"

"A heroine of the Soviet Union raising lots of children for the state and… Read More »

No Pain, No Gain

In 1896, Nathan was the ninth of 12 children born to Louis and Dorothy Birnbaum in New York City. In 1903, Louis had a chance to earn some real money, but contracted the flu and died. Nathan, or Nattie, as he was known to his family, started working after his father's death, shining shoes, running errands and selling newspapers.

Nathan—later to become known as George Burns, arguably the greatest man of 20th-century American comedy—was seven at the time. He and three buddies on the Lower East Side formed a singing group called the Pee Wee Quartet.

At the time, a big department store in New York called Siegel & Cooper sponsored an annual picnic. The highlight was a talent contest with all the churches in New York City being… Read More »


I do not care how much you know until I know how much you care!

A couple had two little boys, ages 8 and 10, who were excessively mischievous. They were always getting into trouble and their parents knew that, if any mischief occurred in their town, their sons were probably involved.

The boys' mother heard that a Rabbi in town had been successful in disciplining children, so she asked if he would speak with her boys. The Rabbi agreed but asked to see them individually. So the mother sent her 8-year-old first, in the morning, with the older boy to see the grand rabbi in the afternoon.

The great rabbi, a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, "Where is G-d?”

The boy's mouth dropped open… Read More »


The opening of this week’s Torah portion, Bo, reads: "And G-d said to Moses: 'Come to Pharaoh, because I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his servants in order that I might show My signs in their midst….'”

Two obvious questions come to mind:

1) Why does G-d tell Moses to “come to Pharaoh”? Would it not have been more appropriate to say, “Go to Pharaoh”?

2) The sentence “Come to Pharaoh, because I have hardened his heart” is strange. How does the fact that his heart was hardened constitute the reason to “come to Pharaoh”? The Torah should have stated, “Come to Pharaoh and warn him.”

The Zohar, the fundamental text of Kabbalah… Read More »


An American Jew visits Russia and is asked about life in America. “Thank G-d,” he says, “life's good. How's life in the Soviet Union?” 

“Here,” replies the Russian, “it is also good, but here we don’t say thank G-d. Here we say, 'Thank Putin.'” 

“What will you say when Putin dies?” the American inquiries. 

“Then we will say 'Thank G-d,'” replies the Russian. 

In this week’s Torah portion, Vaeira, G-d tells Moses: "I, too, have heard the moans of the children of Israel, from the slavery that the Egyptians are enslaving them, and I remembered My covenant.” 

What is the meaning of the words, “And… Read More »


A man wanted a boat more than anything. His wife kept refusing, but he bought one anyway. “In the spirit of compromise,” he told her, “why don't you name the boat?"  Being a good sport, she accepted.

When her husband went to the dock for his maiden voyage, he saw the name painted on the side:  “For Sale.”

In this week’s Torah portion, Shemot, the Torah discusses how the Jews came down to Egypt and the long exile began.

We are in the middle of a major snowstorm in New York. Many are asking, how do we deal with vulnerabilities in life?

The Talmud says: The Rabbis taught: A person should always be pliant as the reed and let him never be hard as the cedar.

The Talmud is… Read More »


Ian from my bank left a message for me. When I called back, the bank operator asked for his last name, and I explained he hadn’t left it. When she asked for his department, I said I didn’t know.


“There are 1,500 employees in this building, sir,” she advised me rather curtly. “You must tell me the last name.”


After a few more brusque comments, I asked her for her name.


“Danielle,” she said. “And your last name?” I asked.


“Sorry,” she replied, “we don’t give out last names.”


This week's Torah portion, Vayechi, relates how Jacob sent for his son, Joseph, Prime Minister of Egypt. His end was near, and he… Read More »


The story of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers after decades of bitter separation is one of the most dramatic in the Torah. 22 years earlier, when Joseph was 17 years old, his brothers kidnapped him, threw him into a pit, and then sold him as a slave to Egyptian merchants. In Egypt, he spent 12 years in prison, from where he rose to become viceroy of the country. Now, more than two decades later, the moment was finally ripe for reconciliation.

This week's Torah portion, Vayigash, relates how Joseph could not hold in his emotions. He dismissed all of his Egyptian assistants, "and he began to weep with such loud sobs that the Egyptians outside could hear him. And Joseph said to his brothers: 'I am Joseph! Is my father still… Read More »


In 1970 Chaim immigrated to Jerusalem. He applied for a phone in his apartment, but weeks went by without one. Exasperated, he visited the phone company headquarters in the main Post Office in Jerusalem and asked the clerk when his phone would finally be installed.

"Sir," responded the clerk, "Israel has a major shortage of phone lines. There are government ministers, army generals, and hospitals ahead of you who are also waiting for phones to become available."

“So you are telling me that I have no hope for a phone?"

"Heaven forbid!” said the clerk. As a Jew, I am forbidden to tell you that there is no hope. There is always hope.”

Excited, Chaim repeated, "There is hope, there is… Read More »


A zoo-keeper noticed the orangutan was reading two books: The Bible, and Darwin's Origin of Species. Surprised, he asked the ape, "Why are you reading both those books?"

"Well," said the orangutan, "I just wanted to know if I was my brother's keeper or my keeper's brother."

In two consecutive Torah portions, Vayishlach (last week) and Vayeshev (this week), the term "Eesh," meaning "man," is used. Yet Rashi's commentary, based on the tradition of our sages, varies from one extreme to the other on this word.

Last week, in Vayishlach, we read, "And Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn." Rashi explains that this “man” was… Read More »
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