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Parasha Insights

CHANGE YOUR MINDSET CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Years ago, at a crowded Chassidic gathering, I saw a ninety-year-old man agilely climb over a bench and push people aside to make room for himself. Someone called out: Old fellow, how do you move so agilely? He replied, “I am not an old man of ninety. I am three young men of thirty!”  I want to focus on two words that have the power to change our lives. I’ll begin with a story.

A rabbinic colleague of mine met a talented young man. It 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 soon the Rabbi realized that… Read More »

WHAT IS YOUR ONE WISH?

Chaim Bialik, one of Israel’s great poets, once found himself walking through the very religious neighborhood of Meah Shearim, in Jerusalem, looking for a synagogue. Coming across a young child in the street, Bialik asked him, “Where’s the synagogue?”

The child replied, “The synagogue is only for Jews, not for non-Jews.”  To which Bialik retorted, “ Why do you think I  m not Jewish?  The child answered, “ Because you are not wearing a kippah. ”  Bialik, looking up to the heavens, said, all of heaven is my kippah. The boy, looking up at him, said, “That’s far too big a kippah for such a small… Read More »

DO YOU KNOW WHAT DEFINES YOU?

A couple is in the midst of a tremendous fight, as a gunman breaks into their home. Pointing his rifle at the woman of the home, he asks her for her name. The terrified woman mutters, “Elizabeth.”

“This is your lucky night,” the gunman responds. “I just can’t get myself to kill somebody who carries my mother’s name, may her soul rest in peace. My mother was a special woman. I won’t shoot you.”

He then points the riffle at her husband’s head. “What is your name?” thunders the gunman. The poor man is terror-struck. He knows that his answer will equal life or death, and pauses to think.

“If you don’t want your brains blown out, tell me your name right… Read More »

CAN YOU FORGIVE YOUR CHILD FOR NOT BEING PERFECT?

In a military class, the professor asked the students, "What is the difference between an engagement and a battle?" 

No one in the group offered any answer. The professor was frustrated. “Didn’t anyone read the material in the book?” he thundered.

Finally, one guy said that he knew the answer.

"An engagement is a thing that came before marriage," he said, "while the battle is what followed it."

In this week’s Torah portion Ki Tezeh, we read of a story about a really monstrous teenager, who gives his parents such trouble, that they actually take him to the High Court not to be locked up, but to be executed by the court so that he leave this world innocent.

How are we to… Read More »

HOW MANY FAVORS CAN YOU DO?

Mark Ginsberg never pays his bills, especially not during this time of recession. Recently his friend saw him bargaining with a supplier.

"Hey, Ginsberg," Goldberg asks him, why are you knocking that man's prices down? You're never going to pay him anyway.

Listen, answers Ginsberg, he is a nice chap. I just want to keep down his losses!

The weekly portion Re'eh states what has become one of the cornerstones of Jewish life:

“If there will be among you a needy person, from one of your brothers in one of your cities… Rather, you shall open your hand to him and give generously. Then because of this the Lord your G-d will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. The Rabbis… Read More »

IS LIFE DIFFICULT?

A little boy was afraid of the dark. One night his mother told him to go out to the back porch and bring her the broom.

The little boy turned to his mother and said, "Mama, I don't want to go out there. It's dark."

The mother smiled reassuringly at her son. "You don't have to be afraid of the dark," she explained. "G-d is out there. He'll look after you and protect you."

The little boy looked at his mother real hard and asked, "Are you sure he's out there?"

"Yes, I'm sure. He is everywhere, and he is always ready to help you when you need him," she said.

The little boy thought about that for a minute and then went to the back door and cracked it a little. Peering out into the darkness… Read More »

THE VACCINE FROM THE TALMUD

Rachel and her husband Max are in their local kosher restaurant. Even though Rachel always seems to find something to moan about in this deli restaurant, they still regularly go there because the food is good and it's frequented by many of their fellow seniors.

As usual, within minutes of taking their seats, Rachel starts to bother their waiter. "Waiter," she says, "please turn up the air conditioning. You know I can't stand a hot atmosphere."

But then, five minutes later, she asks the waiter to turn down the air conditioning because she is too cold. Soon after, she wants it turned up again because she's getting too hot. But then their food arrives on the table and Rachel is at last silent as she eats her… Read More »

WILL YOU PLAY YOUR PART?

A Taxi was ordered by a Rabbi for Yom Kippur night to take his wife and him to the hospital for a new baby.

The rabbi requested that they send a driver who is not Jewish in his mind the Rabbi did not want another Jew to drive him on Yom Kippur.

They enter the cab and hear over radio the dispatcher saying to the driver: “Did you pick up those anti-Semites already?”

It is a strange Talmudic statement:

This Shabbat is not only called the portion of Devarim but it is called Shabbat Chazon as the Haftarah begins with the words Chazon Yeshayahu and Rav Levi Yitzchak of Barditchev explains that this Shabbat G-d shows us the third Holy Temple that will be built In Jerusalem soon.  The Sages… Read More »

CAN YOU CROSS YOUR OWN BOUNDARIES?

Taking his seat in his chambers, the judge faced the opposing lawyers. “So,” he said, “I have been presented, by both of you, with a bribe.” Both lawyers squirmed uncomfortably. “You, attorney Leon, gave me $15,000. And you, attorney Campos, gave me $10,000.”

The judge reached into his pocket and pulled out a check. He handed it to Leon … “Now then, I’m returning $5,000, and we’re going to decide this case solely on its merits.”

It is an intriguing story described in this week Torah  portion Matot-Massei how the Israelites were en route to the land of Canaan when they were attacked by the armies of Sichon and Og, whose domain lay on the eastern bank of the… Read More »

HAVE I EARNED THE GIFT OF EXISTENCE?

A government official was arrested for accepting a bribe from a contractor. A friend who went to visit him in prison asked, "How are you going to get out of this mess?"

The official replied calmly, "I got into trouble for accepting a bribe; I will get out of it by giving it."

Not much is known about the lives of these five sisters, daughters of Tzelafchad, and no sons that profoundly influenced the Jews’ approach to the world as recorded in this week's portion of Pinchas.

The five daughters approached Moses with the petition, saying: Give us a portion along with our father's brothers.

Moses presented their request to G-d, who responded: "The daughters of Tzelafchad speak rightly. Give... their… Read More »

WHAT IS THE POWER OF A JEWISH WOMAN?

Teacher: "If I gave you 2 cats and another 2 cats and another 2, how many would you have?" Johnny: "Seven."

Teacher: "No, listen carefully... If I gave you two cats, and another two cats and another two, how many would you have?" Johnny: "Seven."

Teacher: "Let me put it to you differently. If I gave you two apples, and another two apples and another two, how many would you have?"

Johnny: "Six."

Teacher: "Good. Now if I gave you two cats, and another two cats and another two, how many would you have?"  Johnny: "Seven!"

Teacher: "Johnny, where do you get seven from?!"

Johnny: "Because I've already got a freaking cat!

In this week's… Read More »

WHAT CAN YOU LOOK LIKE?

March 15, 1958, and young politician in his 40's by the name of Jack Kennedy went to the spotlight. Kennedy's opening line became part of his legend. Previously, his father John had been lampooned in the press as trying to use his family's money and influence to buy the election. Reaching into his pocket he, pulled out a telegram he said he had just received from his dad. It said, "Dear Jack, Don't buy a single vote more than is necessary—“I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide."

The Korach rebellion, the most serious of the many challenges to Moses’ leadership, was fierce. It involved Korach himself, a first cousin of Moses, three members of the tribe of Reuven, and 250 community leaders. The… Read More »

WHAT IS THE FIRST KEY TO SUCCESS?

A rabbi stands before his congregation and reports to them that a massive hole has been found in the roof of the synagogue.

"Now I have good news and bad news for you," the Rabbi continues. "The good news is that we have the money to repair it; the bad news is that the money is in your Bank accounts."

This week's portion Shelach tells the story of twelve men who were dispatched by Moses from the desert to go and survey the Land of Israel and its inhabitants. The purpose of their journey was to prepare the Jewish people for the subsequent conquest and settlement of the Land.

The mission ended in disaster. The spies inculcated fear and despair among the Jews, resulting in national hysteria and refusal to continue the… Read More »

CAN YOU ACQUIRE A FRESH PERSPECTIVE?

The Jewish people have spent almost a full year at Sinai. It is time to move on and continue the journey into the Promised Land. All is going according to the plan. At this point, the Torah in this weeks portion Behaalotecha chooses to relate a fascinating exchange between Moshe and his father in law:

Jethro, Moses’ father in law, has arrived at the Israelite camp sometime before. He brought Moses’ wife and their two sons with him from Midian to the desert. He remained for around a year.  Now, it is time to go back home. Moses pleads with his father-in-law to stay. Jethro refuses.

But what is most astonishing is that Moses is virtually begging him to stay. “Please do not leave us… You will be our… Read More »

IS THERE A MANUAL FOR PARENTING?

A great Jerusalem Rabbi comes to a town. A Jewish couple comes to see him. "It has been many years since our marriage, and we are not yet blessed with any children. Please pray for us."

 

"I'm sorry to hear this," says the Rabbi. "Let me write down your names and mother's name on this piece of paper and when I return to Jerusalem, I will place it in the Kotel (Western Wall) for a special blessing."

"Thank you very much, rabbi," they say.

Five years later, the Rabbi returns to the same town. Walking in the street, he meets the woman. "So how are things?" He asks her. "Any good news?"

"Well rabbi, your prayers were answered. That note in the wall worked! We are now… Read More »

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