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Showing posts from December, 2016

Retirement - Parashat VaYeshev - December 23, 2016

Our forefather Ya'akov's life was difficult. He suffered the threat of his brother Esav, his exile from home, the constant harassment of Lavan, the assault of his daughter and the early death of his beloved wife.

In the first pasuk of this week’s parasha, the Torah states, vayeshev Ya'akov be'eretz megurei aviv, be'eretz kena'an – and Ya'akov settled (vayeshev) in the land of the dwelling (megurei) of his father, in the Land of Cana'an. This verse seems to conclude the end of an era for Ya'akov and the beginning of a period of tranquility. Ya'akov is retiring, so to speak. However, the Torah continues in the next verse – et dibatam ra l'avihem – and Yosef would bring evil reports about them (his brothers) to their father. The episode of the brothers is beginning to unfold. A new chapter in Ya'akov's life of struggle is just beginning.

There are two interesting peculiarities in these verses.

First, in the first pasuk, there are t…

Ya'akov and Yisrael - Parashat VaYishlach - December 16, 2016

The Jewish people are called b’nei Yisrael – the children of Israel. The name Yisrael has its roots in our parasha.

Upon leaving the company of Lavan, Yaakov embarks on his return to Cana’an. Yaakov, preparing for a potential confrontation, sends angels to Esav who dwelt in Edom – far south of where Yaakov was at Ma’avar Yabok in the north. The angels return to Yaakov to tell him that Esav is already on the road – headed to meet with him. Yaakov, anticipating a fight, becomes fearful.

On the evening prior to his fateful meeting with Esav, Yaakov encounters a man – understood by our Rabbis to be the guardian angel of Esav. The angel struggles with Yaakov and they end in a draw. Yaakov’s thigh is damaged. The angel declares, “What is your name?” Yaakov responds, “Yaakov!” The angel continues, “Your name will no longer be Yaakov, but Yisrael (Israel), because you have struggled with the Lord and with men – and you have been able (to overcome).” It is through this incident that Jaco…

Rabbi Owen's Top Twenty MHA-FYOS from the Year So Far...

As we reach Chanukah and our Winter Break, I want to take some time to reflect and share my favorite events, programs, and accomplishments at MHA-FYOS for the 2016-2017 school year.  

What a year!   I'm so proud of our staff, students, volunteers and families for all of the effort that each of us have put into making MHA great. Thank you!

Do you have favorites from this year so far?  Please share your favorites in the comments!! 

Check out my Top Ten for 2017 to see what I'm looking forward to in the new year and - as always - LIKE and FOLLOW US on Facebook to see photos, videos, stories and more all about our wonderful school!


1) School Renovations Our school - including the gym, kitchen, new administrative offices, and GMSG Student Lounge - saw massive building improvements this year. The renovations have improved morale and enhanced our programming.  The community has enjoyed coming to the gym for basketball games and our kids and staff love the new floor, hoops, …

Fire and Flame - Parashat Vayetze 5777 - December 9, 2016

Chanukah is approaching.

The halacha regarding the Chanukah lights is that a candle is required – a candle with a single flame. The use of a medura – a fire - does not fulfill the mitzvah. What is the difference between fire and flame such that a flame meets the requirements of ner Chanukah but a fire does not?

To address this quote, let us consider a lesson from this week’s parasha. Yaakov leaves the house of his father, Yitzchak, to flee from Esav – his brother – and takes residence with his first cousin Lavan. Lavan’s devious personality is well - understood by Yaakov, yet Yaakov stays with Lavan for 14 years – enough time to have married Leah and Rachel and have 12 children – 11 boys and one girl. Immediately upon Yosef’s birth to Rachel, Yaakov declares his intention to leave his residence with Lavan and take up a new residence in Canaan.

The Torah says, “and it was when Rachel gave birth to Yosef – and Yaakov said to Lavan, ‘send me and I will go to my place and to my land’.…

Actions Influence Ideas - Parashat Toldot 5777 - December 2, 2016

This week’s parasha, Toldot, presents the early years of Ya’akov and Esav – the twin sons of Yitzchak and Rivkah. A watershed moment occurred between them early in their respective lives.

Seemingly out of nowhere, the Torah tells us that Yaakov was cooking a lentil porridge and that Esav was coming inside from the field and that he was tired. Esav requests lentil porridge from Yaakov and Yaakov offers to give him some in exchange for Esav’s firstborn rights. Esav takes an oath and sells the birthright to Yaakov. Yaakov gives porridge to Esav who ate, drank, got up and left and “disgraced” the birthright.

Rashi seems to be bothered by the context of this story. In one of his comments, Rashi cites a Midrash that says that Yaakov and Esav lived similar childhoods, but went their separate ways at age thirteen. In another comment, Rashi cites a Midrash that addresses the reason why Yaakov was preparing lentils. The Midrash says that lentils are customarily eaten by a mourner because …