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Showing posts from May, 2019

Dwelling Securely - Parashat Behar 5779, May 24, 2019

Our seventh and eighth grade students returned this past week from the ten-day Junior High Israel Experience program. Mrs. Anat Kampf, Chazzan Ricky Kampf and I were honored to chaperone this inaugural program, and, on behalf of the students, we are very thankful to the parents, to the community and Lemsky Fund for their support of this endeavor.
Our students soaked up the land, the people and the Torah of Eretz Yisrael. At school, we learn Torah. In Israel, we experienced the Torah. At school we learn about the impact and significance of the State of Israel. In Israel, we experienced the geography, history and people of the State of Israel. In school, we learn Ivrit. In Israel, we spoke Ivrit.
Our students experienced the breadth and depth of the land. They had both an urban experience – sleeping in Yerushalayim for six days – and a more pastoral experience – sleeping in Kibbutz Lavi. They visited sites of destruction and death that now have renewed vitality and significance – the Ko…

Surrounded by Mitzvot - Parashat Emor 5779 - May 17, 2019

I am writing from Eretz Yisrael and I am so fortunate to be here guiding our seventh and eighth grade students, together with Chazzan Ricky Kampf and Mrs. Anat Kampf, on our inaugural Junior High Israel Experience program. The more that we see of the country and land of Israel, the more we want to learn and to see. The students are having a magnificent experience! We are so appreciative of the support of the students’ parents, of the community and of the Lemsky Foundation for making this program possible.
One of the themes that we have discussed repeatedly this week on the program is that in Eretz Yisrael, mitzvot are, so to speak, all around us. The key is to recognize and to look for them. For example, upon leaving the Dead Sea we were trying to make a mincha minyan before driving back to Yerushalayim. We struck up a conversation with a gentleman and it turned out that he needed a minyan so that he could say kaddish for his mother who had recently passed away. We made the minyan and …

Motivating Growth - Parashat Kedoshim 5779 - May 10th, 2019

This week’s parasha, Parashat Kedoshim, presents many mitzvot (both positive and negative). These mitzvot deal with a number of subjects, including justice, exclusive belief in Hashem and the prohibition of immorality.

After detailing a number of these mitzvot, the Torah concludes, “and you will observe (shmira) all of My statutes (chukim) and all of My ordinances (mishpatim) and you will do (asiah) them; I am Hashem.” The Italian commentator, Rabbi Ovadiah Seforno, is perplexed by the difference between observing and doing – shmira and asiah. Observing and doing seem to be very similar!
To further consider this question, let us look at the well-known commitment made by b'nei yisrael at Mount Sinai – na’aseh ve’nishma – we will do and we will listen. When we consider this pronouncement more closely, we understand that “listening” cannot refer to learning about the mitzvot – how could b'nei yisrael keep the

Cultivating Sensitivity - Parashat Achare Mot 5779 - May 4, 2019

In this week’s parasha, Achare Mot, the Torah says, “And any man of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among them, that takes in hunting any beast or fowl that may be eaten; he will pour out the blood of it, and cover it with dust.” These pesukim present the mitzvah of kisui hadam - covering the blood of chayyot/wild animals (such as deer) and ofot/birds. Domesticated animals do not require kisui hadam. Interestingly, the commentator Ohr HaChayyim interprets from the verse that the Torah is carving out an exception to a general prohibition – Jews are permitted to hunt wild animals that may be eaten because they are kosher, but no other species may be hunted.

The author of the Sefer HaChinuch lists the mitzvah of kisui hadam as one of the mitzvot taught in this week’s parasha. He explains that the mitzvah aims to help limit cruelty and callousness. To eat the animal in front of the spilled blood would be to act cruelly and callously. Covering the blood of such an …

The First Step - Parashat Metzorah 5779 - April 12, 2019

In last week’s article, we discussed tzara’at – the Divine Punishment of an “eruption” – a nega – on the home, clothing and/or skin. Tzara'at is not a naturally occurring disease in the sense that its cause is not exposure to disease. Tzara’at is not communicable. Rather, tzara'at is a Divine Punishment brought on by sin. Rashi explains that this punishment is prominently associated with two sins - lashon hara – sins of speech – and gasot haruach – arrogance. Sins like lashon hara and gasot haruach are members of a unique class of sins - sins that stem from a character flaw in the person.

In this week’s parasha, Rashi teaches that the process of atonement for the one who has tzara’at – the metzora – is designed to enlighten him or her as to how to improve him or herself. When the metzora identifies what seems to be tzara’at, he or she approaches the kohen for a determination. Using Rashi’s understanding that tzara’at and the process of dealing with tzara’at is a remedy for a c…