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Showing posts from November, 2016

Responding to the Challenge of Technology - Operational Dinner Speech 2016

The columnist, David Brooks, recently published an editorial entitled, “Intimacy for the Avoidant”. In the piece, the author discusses friendship and deep social connection in this generation of pervasive social media and compares our generation to the previous one in this regard. One of the studies that he cites compares relative numbers of high-quality friendships.

Let me start by asking you. How many confidants – people with whom you can share everything – do you have? Do you want to guess how many confidants most Americans told pollsters in 1985 that they had? The answer is three. Today, the majority of people say they have about two. Furthermore, in 1985, 10 percent of Americans said they had no one to fully confide in, but by the start of this century 25 percent of Americans said that.

Mr. Brooks reports that according to the best evidence, the existence of social media is not necessarily the cause of the phenomenon – instead, research shows that social media is creating…

Justice and the Perception of Justice - Parashat Vayera 5777 - November 18, 2016

This week’s parasha, Vayera, presents the destruction of Sedom and its sister cities. Prior to the destruction, Hashem declares to Avraham that He wants him to understand His decision to destroy Sedom. After all, Avraham’s offspring will be the guardians of the path of righteousness – they should properly understand the message of the event.

After Hashem tells Avraham that he plans to destroy Sodom and Amora and after Hashem sends His two messengers to Sedom to save Lot and his family, Avraham remains in Hashem’s presence to pray. Avraham asks the Almighty, “Is it appropriate for Hashem’s anger - אף - to destroy the tzadik with the rasha?” Avraham argues that G-d’s Providence should protect the righteous and the city along with them. Avraham says, “chalila lecha – it would be a disgrace to You to do such a thing, to bring death upon the righteous along with the wicked; so the righteous will be like the wicked.” Avraham further questions the appropriateness of Hashem – the Judge of…

Blessings Require Preparation - Parashat Lech Lecha 5777 - November 11, 2016

In this week’s parasha, Lech Lecha, the Torah recounts the Avram’s return from an improbable victory in a war against the four kings. On the way, he encounters MalkiTzedek, the King of Shalem.

The Torah describes the meeting: “MalkiTzedek, king of Shalem, brought out bread and wine; he was a priest of G-d, the Most High. He (MalkiTzedek) blessed him saying, “Blessed is Avram of G-d, the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be G-d, the Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”

The Malbim, Rabbi Meir Leibush, asks why MalkiTzedek blessed Avram before blessing G-d. Although the Midrash, in fact, criticizes MalkiTzedek for prioritizing the blessings in this way, Malbim explains that MalkiTzedek’s decision to bless Avram before G-d is to MalkiTzedek’s credit.

To understand what justifies MalkiTzedek’s prioritization, we first need to ask another question – how can a human being bless G-d? To say that a human being is blessed is understandable – MalkiTzedek saw in…

A Community Supports the Perfection of the Individual - Parashat Noach 5777 - November 4, 2016

In this week’s parasha, the Torah presents the story of the dor haflaga – the Generation of the Division – what is known colloquially as the story of the Tower of Bavel.

Approximately 400 years after the flood, families began to settle in one locale. These families shared a common language, culture and outlook and decided to become more industrially advanced. The Torah tells us, “they then decided to build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and to make for themselves a name lest they become dispersed across the whole earth.” The Torah continues and tells us that Hashem descended to see the city and the tower. Upon seeing that they had one culture and had decided to construct this tower, Hashem confuses their language and causes them to become spread across the whole earth.

Apparently, Hashem punished this generation. At first glance, however, it is unclear what the people did wrong. On the contrary, this generation seems to have acted quite rationally. Upon settling in a n…