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Parasha Insights

DOES THE TORAH SUPPORT A HOLISTIC APPROACH?

A man walking in the city was accosted by a particularly dirty and shabby-looking derelict who asked him for a couple of dollars for dinner.

The man took out his wallet, extracted $2, and asked, "If I give you this money, will you take it and buy whiskey?"

"No, I stopped drinking years ago," the man said.

"Will you use it to gamble?"

"I don't gamble. I need everything I can get just to stay alive."

"Will you spend the money on greens fees at a golf course?"

"Are you NUTS! I haven't played golf in 20 years!"

“Will you use the money to buy cigarettes?”

“No way. $2 can’t get me a pack of cigarettes. I had to quit smoking years ago when the price of… Read More »

WHAT WILL YOU DO FOR LIFE?

Rabbi Lau once shared his memories when the Americans have arrived and Buchenwald was liberated.

 "I remember the looks of horror on the faces of the American soldiers when they came in and stared around them. 

I was afraid when I saw them. I crept behind a pile of dead bodies and hid there, watching them warily.

"Rabbi Herschel Schachter was the Jewish chaplain of the division. I saw him get out of a jeep and stand there, staring at the corpses.

 He has often told this story, how he thought he saw a pair of living eyes looking out from among the dead. It made his hair stand on end, 

but slowly and cautiously he made his way around the pile, and then, he clearly remembers coming face-to-face with me, an… Read More »

WHAT DO YOU SEARCH FOR IN LIFE?

I recently read this piece entitled “A Grandparents Answering Machine.”

This is how it works.

Good morning . . . At present we are not at home but, please leave your message after you hear the beep. Beeeppp...

1. If you are one of our children, dial 1 and then select the option from 1 to 5 in order of "arrival" so we know who it is.

2. If you need us to stay with the children, press 2.

3. If you want to borrow the car, press 3.

4. If you want us to wash your clothes and do the ironing, press 4.

5. If you want the grandchildren to sleep here tonight, press 5.

6. If you want us to pick up the kids at school, press 6.

7. If you want us to prepare a meal for Sunday or to have it delivered to your home, press… Read More »

HAVE YOU HEARD OF MOSES SOLE?

In 1995, the former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Jonathan Sacks, flew with then-Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair to attend the funeral of Yitzchak Rabin. On the way, Blair read The Daily Mirror. When he finished, he looked up, noticed the Rabbi engrossed in a book, and asked, “What are you reading?”

“Why, the weekly Parsha, the weekly Torah portion,” Sacks replied.

“Tell me what it says,” Blair said, and for the next few hours they talked Parsha. Blair loved it. For years to come, every time Rabbi Sacks visited 10 Downing Street, Tony Blair would begin the conversation by asking, “Nu, what’s going on in this week’s Torah portion?”

At a public dinner… Read More »

WHO WAS THE BEST TEACHER IN HISTORY?

Two elderly ladies had been friends since their 30s. Now in their 90s, they still got together a couple of times a week to play cards. One day they were playing gin rummy and one of them said, "You know, we’ve been friends for many years and, please don't get mad, but for the life of me, I can't remember your name. Please tell me what it is."

Her friend glared at her. She continued to glare and stare at her for at least three minutes. Finally, she said, "How soon do you need to know?"

As we begin this Passover season, I’d like you to consider this simple question. Every day we are bombarded by millions of pieces of information, all clamoring for our attention. So why do we remember some things and forget… Read More »

HOW TO SEE THE GREATNESS IN PEOPLE?

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 »

DO YOU HONOR YOUR PARENTS EVEN WHEN THEY DON'T DESERVE IT?

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 »

WHAT ARE YOU WORTH?

"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 »

AN EYE FOR AN EYE?

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 »

HOW MUCH DO YOU CARE?

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 »

SHAKE IT OFF & TAKE A STEP UP

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 »

NO PAIN, NO GAIN

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 »

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