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Parasha Insights


The local Hebrew School decided to observe Chanukah with a special ecumenical celebration and invited everyone in the neighborhood, or whatever background, to participate in any way they thought appropriate, or to just come and observe, and have some home-baked cookies washed down with grape juice or heavy super-sweet wine.

There were speeches, dramatizations, and miscellaneous musical performances. At one point Mrs. Goldberg, in the third row, wiped away a tear as her little Miriam scratched out a hesitant rendition of "Havanu Sholom Aleichem" on a shiny new violin. Mrs. Goldberg noticed that a man seated next to her also had tears running down his face.

"Isn't it wonderful", she said to him, "to know that our… Read More »


A father once told me that his young son came to him and said, “Pa, I have a date Saturday night.” “Good,” says the father. “Who’s going to stand in the way? A young man has a date, he has a date.”

“But I have problems,” says the son. “I ran out of my allowance. Maybe you could kind of, you know, advance me a little bit of next week’s allowance?”

“How much?”

“Well Pa, today you take out a girl, you need $200.”

Anyway, the father advances the son on his allowance. But it’s not enough. “Pa,” says the son, “today you can’t take a girl on the bus or the subway, and you can’t walk on the street... so can I… Read More »


A Hasidic man, with a long beard, payes (ear locks), a long black coat, and shtreiml (the traditional fur hat worn by Chassidic Jews), walks into a bar with a multi-colored parrot on his shoulder.

The bartender says: "Where'd you get that?"

The parrot replies: "Brooklyn.  There are thousands of them."

This week’s Parshat Chayei Sarah tells the story of how Abraham has sent his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Isaac.

He goes to the city of Charan where Abraham's family remained while he went on to the land of Canaan. Arriving at the town's well, he proposes a test: the woman who comes to draw water, offers some to the traveler, and in addition gives water to his camels will be the one chosen… Read More »


A husband and wife had an argument. Wife called up her mom and said, "He fought with me again, I am coming to live with you."  Mom said, "No darling, he must pay for his mistake. I am coming to live with you!"

An older man had serious hearing problems for many years. He went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the man to hear 100%.

The old man went back in a month to the doctor and the doctor said, “Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again.”

The man replied, “Oh, I haven’t told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to their conversations. I’ve changed my will three… Read More »


A fellow was making a fancy banquet for a very happy occasion. He invited 150 guests. As he showed up to the shul where the event was taking place, he sees 400 people, many uninvited guests who came for the food and the fun.

So he gets up and says: Whoever is here from the side of the bride, please rise.

100 people rise.

Now, whoever is here from the side of the groom, please rise.

And 150 people stand up.

So he says: Okay all of you guys can leave now. As this event is actually a bar mitzvah!...

The Nachmanides raises a fascinating question about the opening of this week’s portion, Lech Lecha. In one word the question is: What happened to the bio?

The Torah constantly introduces us to new characters assuming different roles… Read More »


Husband and wife had an argument. Wife called up her mom and said, "He fought with me again, I am coming to live with you."

Mom said, "No darling, he must pay for his mistake. I am coming to live with you."

The Sages teach us that Noach built the ark—that would contain he, his family, and all animals and birds over the year of the flood—over 120 years.

This seems very strange. Noach lived some years before the Industrial Revolution. The ark was pretty big. 600 ft. long—twice the size of a football field—100 ft. width, and sixty ft. height. (Even the Titanic was 883 ft. in length). But 120 years?! It took DA Vinci 4 years to paint the Sistine Chapel. Vespasian built the Roman Colosseum in… Read More »


Bob Smith was sick of his job and was determined to find work elsewhere. He was a truthful man, never uttered a lie, but he had one vice: he never showed up on time to his job.

So no matter how hard he tried, his reputation as someone who was not dedicated to the job, followed him around. One day the phone rang at his office. Although Bob did not usually pick up the phone, he picked it up and said hello. “Hi” said the man on the line, “I have an unusual question to ask you, I’m looking into a fellow Bob Smith for a position in my company. Do you know this fellow?”

“Sure I know him”, responded Bob with a smile.

“Tell me,” asked the man. “Is he consistent with his work? Does he… Read More »


An architect, a surgeon, and a politician are arguing who of them holds the most prominent position.  The surgeon said, 'Look, we're the most important. The very first thing G-d did was surgery: to extract Eve from Adam's rib.'

The architect said, 'No, wait a minute, G-d is an architect first and foremost. G-d made the world in six days out of chaos.'  The politician smiled, 'And who made the chaos?’

Comes Sukkot, and Jews the world over become expert botanists, suddenly gaining impeccable tastes in the growth, health, and beauty of a citron fruit, a palm branch, a myrtle and a willow. These are the four species which Jews around the world have spent exorbitant amounts of money to buy what they perceived to be… Read More »


Have you ever visited one of those funhouse mirror-rooms? You stand before the mirrors and they show you a bizarre and distorted caricature of your body. You laugh at the reflection because it is preposterous. It is both you and not you.

But what if you believed that the funhouse mirror showed the truth about the shape of the world and your place in it?  You’d be horrified. Yet, in many ways, this kind of distortion afflicts our self-image in today’s society. When we define ourselves by the negative opinions and perceptions of the people around us, our view of ourselves is like the reflection in the crazy mirror. We see things that aren’t there and miss the beauty of the things that are. That is why the view we have… Read More »


A distinguished rabbi once said, “The synagogue is like a swimming pool: All of the noise comes from the shallow end.” In our synagogue, everyone swims in the deep end, with deep wisdom. I want to take this opportunity to wish you, all of our deep-end swimmers, a Shana Tova: A happy and healthy sweet new year!

A rabbinic colleague of mine met a talented young man who seemed like he was blessed with everything. He was smart, charismatic, handsome, and came from a loving family. When the rabbi first met him, he thought that if anybody had a reason for happiness, it would be this man. He seemed to lack nothing. But the rabbi soon realized that the opposite was true. One day the young man confessed, “Rabbi, I have so many… Read More »


A couple had an argument. The wife called her mom and said, "He fought with me again, I am coming to live with you."

Her mom responded, "No darling, he must pay for his mistake. I am coming to live with you."

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin related the following personal story that happened on this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, in 1952.

I had never been to this particular synagogue, a renovated hospital turned shul two miles from where I grew up in Brooklyn. Nor had I ever prayed with Hassidim. But the Klausenberger Rebbe was known as a saintly Hassidic rebbe who had re-settled his Hassidim who had survived the Holocaust in and around the Beth Moses Hospital, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. And so, one… Read More »


A Russian army unit ran out of ammunition but was still under attack. “Take out your bayonets,” the corporal said, “and we will engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.”

“Please, sir,” said Private Finkelstein. “Show me, my man. Maybe he and I can reach some kind of agreement.”

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tetze, relates a difficult law:

Remember what the Amalekites did to you along the way when you came out of Egypt… You shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget.

How can we make sense of the fact that G-d commanded the Jews to “erase the memory of Amalek from under the heavens,” including each member of the Amalekite nation? How can we… Read More »


A Jewish American girl joined the UN and went to do humanitarian work in Africa. After a two-year stint, she returned home to Brooklyn.

When her mother opened the door, she was shocked to see her standing next to a boyfriend she had brought back from Africa... and not just any boyfriend! He was a big, burly Zulu warrior with a bald head, loincloth, beads around his neck, a spear and a shield. To top it off, he was carrying a bag of bones in his pouch.

Her mother stood there stunned and speechless.

Finally, she recovered somewhat and shouted at her daughter, " I told you to marry a rich doctor, not a witch doctor!"

This week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, deals with what is known in Torah law as "moving the boundary… Read More »


In a small town in Poland called Chelm, there lived some of the wisest fools this world has ever known. The people of Chelm adored the moon that shone down on them every night—well, almost every night. They often stood outside their doors, no matter how cold, no matter how much snow, to gaze at their moon. They stared, watching in wonder as their moon waxed and waned. Some nights the moon was merely a silvery sliver. Other nights it was fat and full, blazing down on them like heaven's spotlight.

But once a month there came a night when the moon disappeared altogether. On those nights, the people of Chelm stood outside searching the dark sky in vain.

One night, when the moon had vanished, a wise man named Shlomo finally lost his… Read More »


One day the zoo-keeper noticed that 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."

This week’s Torah portion, Eikev, has the Mitzvah popularly known today as the Grace After Meals, after eating a meal with bread. The Torah instructs: “And you will eat and be satisfied, and you shall bless the Lord, your G-d, for the good land He has given you.”

There are four major sections in the Grace After Meals: The opening blessing thanking G-d for food; the blessing for the Land; the blessing for… Read More »

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