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Parasha Insights

ARE YOU PERSONALLY INVOLVED?

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 »

MOSHE DIES AND WE DANCE?

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 »

HAPPINESS IS NOT A DESTINATION- IT IS A DIRECTION

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 »

THE SOCIAL OR DIVINE MIRROR?

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 NEW YEAR FULL OF NEW ENERGY

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 »

IT’S TIME TO SEND BLESSINGS

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 »

DID AMALEK HAVE JEWISH GRANDCHILDREN?

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 »

CAN YOU MOVE YOUR BOUNDARIES?

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 »

NOT IN THE MOOD

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 »

YOU ARE NOT ALONE

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 »

HOW TO SEARCH SO YOU CAN FIND?

Natan Sharansky was a mathematician and chess prodigy who gave up a privileged position in Russia to become a Jewish activist in 1973 when he became a refusenik. In 1977, he was arrested and served 9 years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement. As a result of international pressure, he was finally released in 1986. He moved to Israel, where, for a period of time, he was a politician.

He was asked to characterize the difference between himself and other Israeli politicians. He answered, “Unlike many Israeli political leaders, I went to jail before serving as a politician.”

This week’s Torah portion, Vaetchanan, relates Moses’ impassioned speech to his people about their history and destiny. The… Read More »

WHEN ONE DOOR CLOSES, ANOTHER OPENS

          A contractor requested quotes to build two apartments.

The Irish builder quoted him $500,000: “$200,000 for labor, and $300,000 for materials.”

The Scottish builder quoted him, “$600,000. $300,000 for labor and $300,000 for materials.”

The Jewish builder quoted $1 million.

The contractor asked, "How did arrive at that figure?"

"Easy," came the reply. “$250,000 for you, $250,000 for me, and we will get the Irishman to do the job."

On the ninth day of the month of Av (Tisha B'Av) in the year 70 CE, the Roman legions in Jerusalem smashed through the fortress tower of Antonia into the Holy Temple and set it afire. In the blackened remains of the… Read More »

THE POWER OF ONE MAN

A man and woman were recently celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

While cutting the cake, the wife was moved after seeing her husband’s eyes fill with tears. She took his arm and looked at him affectionately.

“I never knew you were so sentimental,” she whispered.

“No... No...” he said, choking back his tears. “That’s not it at all. Remember when your father found us in the barn and told me to either marry you or spend the next 50 years in jail?”

“Yes,” the wife replied. “I remember it like yesterday.”

“Well,” said the husband, “Today I would have been a free man.”

This week's double Parsha is the concluding portion of the Book… Read More »

DOES G-D GET LONELY?

A woman told her husband, “You really brought religion into my life.”

“How so?” he asked. “I am an atheist!”

“Until I married you I didn’t believe in hell.”

This week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, relays how Moses confronts his own mortality and asks G-d to appoint a successor. His words are moving:

“May the Lord, God of the spirits of all flesh, choose a man over the congregation… they should not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

G-d tells Moses to appoint Joshua as his successor; he will be the nation’s next leader.

Then there is a strange juxtaposition. Moses is pleading for a new leader; he fears his flock will be left without a shepherd. G-d… Read More »

ARE YOU A LION?

In the jungle, a marriage procession of lions was moving forward, when a mouse joined them and started dancing. The lions were amazed and said to the mouse, "You are not one of us. Why have you joined us?"

The mouse replied, "I was a lion too before my marriage. This is me now…."

This week’s Torah portion, Balak, relates the fascinating story of how the prophet and sorcerer Balaam, an archenemy of the people of Israel, was summoned by King Balak of Moab to curse the Israelites. But when Balaam opened his mouth to curse, blessings came out instead. He tried three times, each with the same result. He ended with a prophecy describing the triumph of Israel in the "end of days." The verses… Read More »

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