Sichot al Ahava v’pachad

‘Conversations on Love and Fear’ by Sharon Shalom. (Yediot Acharonot, 2018) Imagine a book, written by a wise, insightful and emotionally intelligent Jewish philosopher with a flair for poetic language,…

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Faith and freedom Haggadah

FAITH AND FREEDOM PASSOVER HAGGADAH with commentary from the writings of Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits, compiled and edited by Reuven Mohl. (Urim Publications, 2019) A few weeks ago I received a…

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A Theology of Holiness

‘A Theology of Holiness’ by Alec Goldstein, Kodesh Press 2018 The Jewish people are called upon to be a holy people and to perform holy acts, including specific rituals on…

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Minchat Asher: Klalei Hamitzvot

MINCHAT ASHER: KLALEI HAMITZVOT by Rabbi Asher Weiss Machon Minchat Asher, Ellul 5778 The study of the Talmud is a magnetizing process that draws a learner into debates of the…

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Was Yosef on the spectrum?

WAS YOSEF ON THE SPECTRUM? Understanding Joseph through Torah, Midrash and Classical Jewish Sources by Samuel J. Levine (Urim 2019). In general, I am not drawn to Torah commentaries that…

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#8days8teachers

DAY 1/8 – RABBI BARRY KATZ – #8days8teachers The best teachers aren’t those who wish to dazzle their students with their own bright light. Instead, they are those who help…

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Kol Nidrei Drasha: The Gates of Repentance (Hebrew & English)

דרשה לכל נדרי – שערי תשובה שלום וכתיבה וחתימה טובה לכולכם, המשנה בסוף מסכת יומא מתארת ​​את יום כיפור כמקווה, והלילה אנחנו מתחילים את הטבילה הארוכה שלנו לעשרים וחמש שעות…

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Airport Lights

By Yaacov David Shulman CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017 126 pages (nb. This review was featured in Jewish Action Fall 2018 and can be read here). Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook…

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A message to my teacher friends

Over the past week thousands of young men and women have been arriving in Israel to begin their year or years of study in Yeshiva or Seminary, and upon collecting…

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Insights to the Rosh Hashana Tefilot

Below is a collection of insights for the Kriat HaTorah and Musaf prayers on Rosh Hashanah which I delivered at Machon Ma’ayan on Rosh Hashanah 5777. While the insights originate…

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40 quotes for 40 days

Over the years I have collected hundreds of inspirational quotes from a variety of Jewish and general sources. Here are 40 of those quotes which I hope you find both…

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When does the mitzvah of Chinuch end?

1. INTRODUCTION We are taught that a parent is required to educate their child to observe the mitzvot asseh (positive commandments) and refrain from transgressing the mitzvot lo ta’aseh (negative…

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Tu B’shvat

Tonight, Jews throughout the world are celebrating Tu Bishvat, often referred to as the ‘birthday for trees’. The source for Tu Bishvat is the Mishna Rosh Hashanah 1:1 in which…

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Why don’t we confess on Rosh Hashanah?

“Mirror, signal, manouvre”. These three words, which are the mantra of all driving instructors, succinctly express the idea that before travelling forward in a vehicle you need to look back…

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Redefining Simcha (Adar)

Life can be stressful. While there are moments in life when things go well, there are also situations that we encounter when things do not go to plan; as Shlomo…

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Sefer Nishmat habayit

I. Introduction Over many years I have developed a great passion towards the study of contemporary halakhah – and specifically – towards contemporary She’elot U’Teshuvot (responsa literature). This is due…

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Sh’ut Yishrei lev

SH’UT YISHREI LEV by HaRav Yonatan (Yoni) Rosensweig Introduction Responsa – or in hebrew, She’elot U’Teshuvot – are unique texts whose questions, no less than their answers, shine a light…

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Nusach Achid & Am Echad

Today, I would like to tell you a story about Jewish unity – or at least, the attempt to create a sense of unity – by one of the most…

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Faith without fear

FAITH WITHOUT FEAR: UNRESOLVED ISSUES IN MODERN ORTHODOXY by Michael J. Harris (Vallentine Mitchell, 2016) Rabbi Dr Michael Harris, whom I have the privilege of knowing, is a Modern Orthodox…

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The dangers of deconstruction (Bemidbar)

Parshat Bemidbar contains a detailed census of Bnei Yisrael, as well as instructions about how the Mishkan (Tabernacle) should be transported as Bnei Yisrael journey through the desert. However, even…

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Cherishing the moments of Seder night

Tonight we will be sitting round a Seder table and reading through the Haggadah with family and/or friends. However, while it is certainly praiseworthy to read the Haggadah and to…

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Errors in Emunah (Tazria)

While Parshat Tazria begins with the laws of childbirth, the major focus of this and the following parsha are the laws of Tzora’at. But while many commentaries highlight the association…

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Educating awe of God (Shemini)

For the past two months, the weekly Torah reading has almost entirely discussed details about the Mishkan. However, it is only in Parshat Shemini when the Mishkan completes its transformation…

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Living in His shadow (Vayakhel)

In Parshat Vayakhel, we read how the construction of the Mishkan was overseen by its chief architect Betzalel, and according to numerous sources, it was this role as architect of…

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Make your shul a true Mishkan (Terumah)

Parshat Terumah begins with the instruction to construct a Mishkan (a tabernacle), and then proceeds to record the detailed measurements and necessary materials in order to do so. Among the…

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FALSE FACTS AND TRUE RUMORS

FALSE FACTS AND TRUE RUMORS: LASHON HARA IN CONTEMPORARY CULTURE by Rabbi Daniel Z. Feldman Maggid Books/Michael Scharf Publication Trust of Yeshiva University Press, 2015  Very rarely is a book…

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Live your life uniquely (Vayechi)

This Shabbat we read how Yaakov blesses each of his children before he dies, and what is particularly fascinating about these verses is that they highlight what Yaakov considered to…

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The fast of Tevet

8TH, 9TH & 10TH OF TEVET This week is the fast of the Tenth of Tevet. However, while we only fast on the 10th of Tevet, this fast was established to commemorate…

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Pharoh and Al HaNissim (Miketz)

Parshat Mikeitz begins with a description of Pharoh’s two dreams, the first of which describes how seven lean cows ate seven fat cows, while the second describes how seven thin…

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We must constantly dig (Toldot)

In this week’s parsha we read how Yitzchak redug the wells of water which his father, Avraham, had previously dug and that the Philistines had spitefully filled up with dirt.…

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All for the good (Chayei Sarah)

Our Parsha begins by informing us that Sarah died at the age of 127, and in response to the fact that the opening verse repeats that these were ‘the years…

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Speak up! (Noach)

Parshat Noach begins by telling us that “Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations” (Bereishit 6:9), and though many take these words on face value, Rav Yochanan understands…

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The sin of Adam (Bereishit)

Two of the most famous episodes in Parshat Bereishit are the sin of Adam & Chava (Bereishit Ch. 3) and the murder of Hevel by Kayin (Bereishit 4), and inspired by…

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Sukkot and Affluenza (Ha’azinu)

Then Yeshurun became fat and kicked (Devarim 32:15). This verse in Parshat Ha’azinu is the first occasion in Tanach where we encounter the name Yeshurun, and as is evident, its initial…

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What children teach us (Vayelech)

Parshat Vayelech teaches us about the mitzvah of Hakhel, which requires all men, women and children to gather and hear the king read from the Torah once every seven years…

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Showing and Sharing Torah (Ki Tavo)

The last of the curses listed in Parshat Ki Tavo is “Cursed is he who does not uphold and keep this entire Torah” (Devarim 27:26), thereby emphasizing the general message…

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Aggadah: Sages, stories & secrets

AGGADAH: SAGES, STORIES & SECRETS There are very few books that I wish to re-read the moment I finish them, but Rabbi Immanuel Bernstein’s ‘Aggadah: Sages, Stories & Secrets’, published…

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Give what they need (Re’eh)

Among the many laws found in Parshat Re’eh is the instruction to provide the poor with whatever they need (see Devarim 15:7). Understood literally, it means that we must ensure that…

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Israel as a standard setter (Ekev)

As the Jewish people prepare to enter Eretz Yisrael, Moshe reminds them of the unique beauty and bounty of the land, telling them “your God is bringing you to a good land……

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Tu B’Av

This week we celebrate Tu B’Av (literally, the 15th day of the hebrew month of Av). According to the Mishna (Ta’anit 4:8), both Tu B’Av and Yom Kippur were days…

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Conversion, intermarriage and Jewish identity

In March 2012, seventy-seven leading scholars gathered to discuss the topic of “Conversion, Intermarriage, and Jewish Identity”, and earlier this year, fifteen of the papers delivered at that conference were…

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Tisha B’Av and the Individual

This Motzei Shabbat/Sunday is Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish year. On Tisha B’Av we mourn the destruction of both Temples along with many other tragedies that have…

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Changing the immutable

CHANGING THE IMMUTABLE: HOW ORTHODOX JUDAISM REWRITES ITS HISTORY by Marc B. Shapiro In this long-awaiting book, Marc Shapiro offers hundreds of examples where students, family members or printers have…

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Earning our inheritance (Pinchas)

Parshat Pinchas contains a number of stories which seemingly have little in common. We read about Pinchas who killed Zimri & Kozbi, we are told of the census of the…

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Mesilot bilvavam

MESILOT BILVAVAM BY RABBI NAHUM RABINOVITCH Earlier this year Rabbi Nahum Eliezer Rabinovitch, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Birkat Moshe, published ‘Mesilot Bilvavam’ (literally, ‘pathways [to God] in their hearts’), whose…

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What values do we value? (Balak)

At the beginning of Parshat Balak we read how Balak sent messengers to Bilam to ask him to ‘put a curse upon this people’. However, having received an instruction from God that he…

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Rabbinic authority vol. 2

RABBINIC AUTHORITY: THE VISION AND THE REALITY – Beit Din Decisions in English (Vol. 2) by Rabbi A. Yehuda (Ronnie) Warburg (Urim Publications, 2016) The process of interpreting Jewish legal…

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Take your soul to work

TAKE YOUR SOUL TO WORK: 365 MEDITATIONS ON EVERY DAY LEADERSHIP by Erica Brown (Simon & Schuster, 2015) According to Dr. Erica Brown, ‘when you lead from the inside out,…

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Seeking his presence

SEEKING HIS PRESENCE: CONVERSATIONS WITH RABBI AHARON LICHTENSTEIN by Haim Sabato Yedioth Ahronoth/Chemed Books, 2016 In August 2011, Yedioth Ahronoth/Chemed Books published Mevakshei Paneicha (literally, ‘Seeking Your Presence’) which, despite…

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Being there (Balak)

This Shabbat in Israel we read Parshat Balak which tells the story of Bilam the prophet who went OTD (Off the Derech). Bilam was a man of considerable spiritual gifts,…

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Two kings & One crown (Pinchas)

This Shabbat in Israel we read Parshat Pinchas which describes the process by which Yehoshua was appointed successor to Moshe. Once Moshe was informed by G-d that Yehoshua was going…

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Becoming a soulful educator

BECOMING A SOULFUL EDUCATOR: How to Bring Jewish Learning from Our Minds, to Our Hearts, to Our Soul – and into Our Lives by Aryeh Ben David (Jewish Lights, 2016)…

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Acts of mercy, gifts of food (Ki Tavo)

This Shabbat we read Parshat Ki Tavo which describes the ritual of bringing the Bikkurim to the Kohanim in the Beit Hamikdash, and this Motzei Shabbat Ashkenazim begin reciting Selichot…

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Teshuvah

TESHUVAH: A Guide for the Mind and Heart during Elul, Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur by Rabbi Immanuel Bernstein (Mosaica Press, 2016) If you walk into a superstore that serves…

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Moadei Harav

MOADEI HARAV: Public Lectures on the Festivals by Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik by Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pick (Urim Publications, 2016) Over the past decade there has been an explosion of…

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The song of Torah (Vayelech)

This Shabbat we read Parshat Vayelech which contains the instruction to “write for yourselves this song and teach it to the children of Israel” (Devarim 31:19). From this verse our…

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Halichot Hashulchan Aruch Hachamishi

HALICHOT HASHULCHAN ARUCH HACHAMISHI by Rabbi Ari Avraham Samge, 2016 While the Shulchan Aruch is only divided into four sections, there is an oft-quoted concept that there is an additional…

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Share your Torah (Ha’azinu)

We’ve almost reached the end of the Torah and in Ha’azinu we find Moshe’s swan song in which he communicates some of the most important lessons he has learnt throughout…

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Sh’ut Minchat Asher (vol. 3)

SH’UT MINCHAT ASHER (VOL. 3) by Rabbi Asher Weiss, 2016 Rabbi Asher Weiss is widely known Torah scholar and posek (halakhic decisor) whose depth of knowledge and clarity of presentation…

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The meaning of Reishit (Bereishit)

This Shabbat we restart our reading of the Torah with Parshat Bereishit, and as Rabbi Sacks has previously pointed out (Three Approaches to Halacha, 1987), the very first word of…

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Parenting in perspective

PARENTING IN PERSPECTIVE: TIMELESS WISDOM, MODERN APPLICATIONS by Barry Kislowicz Maggid Books, 2016 Jewish parents want their children to be happy, healthy, successful and committed to both the ethical and…

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Making the wrong choice (Noach)

Following the flood that destroyed almost human being on earth, we are told that Noach planted a vineyard, drank of the wine, became drunk, and then uncovered himself in his…

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From Sinai to Ethiopia

FROM SINAI TO ETHIOPIA: THE HALAKHIC AND CONCEPTUAL WORLD OF ETHIOPIAN JEWRY, INCLUDING SHULHAN HA-ORIT – A HALAKHIC GUIDE FOR THE BETA ISRAEL COMMUNITY by Rabbi Dr. Sharon Shalom (Gefen…

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The Kippah

THE KIPPAH: ALL ABOUT YARMULKES, JUDAISM & LIFE by Rabbi Moshe Becker Mosaica Press, 2016 Wearing a Kippah seems to be something that many Jewish men do without having a…

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Beautiful name, Ugly deeds (Toldot)

In Parshat Toldot we are introduced to Yaakov and Esav. Yaakov was an איש תם, literally ‘a simple man’, but as Rashi explains (on Bereishit 25:28), this term also refers…

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With might and strength

WITH MIGHT AND STRENGTH: THE RABBI SHLOMO GOREN AUTOBIOGRAPHY Edited by Avi Rath & translated by Miryam Blum (Maggid Books, 2016) I have long been fascinated by the personality and…

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Psakim u’teshuvot

PSAKIM U’TESHUVOT by Rabbi Aharon Arieh Katz Jerusalem, 5777 If you walk into any Beit Midrash you are likely to find a set of Piskei Teshuvot written by Rabbi Simcha…

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Not in God’s name (Miketz)

Parashat Miketz tells the dramatic story of Yosef’s sudden rise power and his harsh treatment of his brothers. Having accused his brothers of coming to Egypt with the intention of…

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The growth of Tu B’shvat

Tonight is Tu B’Shvat, and many Jews around the world will hold a Tu B’Shvat seder or eat some extra fruit. But what is the history of Tu B’Shvat and…

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Yemima Mizrachi speaks

YEMIMA MIZRACHI SPEAKS by Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi, adapted by Shiffy Friedman Artscroll Mesorah Publications, 2016 I have long admired Rabbanit Yemima Mizrachi. She teaches Torah with passion and she shares and…

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Maimonides: between philosophy and Halacha

MAIMONIDES: BETWEEN PHILOSOPHY AND HALAKHAH – RABBI JOSEPH B. SOLOVEITCHIK’S LECTURES ON THE ‘GUIDE OF THE PERPLEXED’ (Edited by Lawrence J. Kaplan) Ktav/Urim, 2016 ‘In 1950-1951, Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik,…

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Hearing with our eyes (Yitro)

Among the many unique aspects of Matan Torah we are told that “all the people saw the sounds, the flames, the blast of the ram’s horn and the mountain smoking”…

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Illuminations of the Maggid

lLLUMINATIONS OF THE MAGGID by Rabbi Paysach Krohn, Mesorah Publications, 2016 One of the first Jewish books that I ever received was Rabbi Paysach Krohn’s ‘The Maggid Speaks’ which was first…

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Responsa Hashem roi

RESPONSA HASHEM ROI by R’ Uriel Sfez (2nd edition). Kochav Yaakov, 5777 One of the many reasons I love living in Israel is the opportunity to find Jewish books from Israeli…

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Atonement through Chessed (Vayikra)

This Shabbat we begin our reading of Sefer Vayikra, and a major part of the book concerns itself with the laws of korbanot (sacrifices). As the Torah explains, the primary…

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Shehecheyanu on a bat/bar mitzvah

The Shehecheyanu bracha is a religious expression of joy & happiness, and it would be natural to presume that this bracha is recited at religious milestones such as Bat/Bar Mitzvah.…

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Starting your day right (Shmini)

Parshat Shmini begins on the eighth and final day of the inauguration of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), and it was meant to be a day of pure celebration. Having invested so…

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When words come to an end (Korach)

This Shabbat we read about two groups who challenged Moshe & Aharon in the wilderness. One was Korach and his followers who challenged the priestly prerogatives, and the second was…

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The day the music died (3 weeks)

It is the custom of many Jews to refrain from listening to instrumental music during the Three Weeks, and many people – myself included – often struggle to cope with…

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Hagedolim (The Gedolim)

THE GEDOLIM: LEADERS WHO SHAPED THE ISRAELI HAREDI JEWRY (ED. B. BROWN & N. LEON) [HEBREW] Magnes/Van Leer, 2017 There are many wonderful things about life in Israel, and one…

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Family is Family (Devarim)

Parshat Devarim is Moshe’s ‘Last Lecture’ where he reviews the journey of the Jewish people, highlights where they erred, and reviews the laws and values that they should follow upon…

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Forgotten giants

FORGOTTEN GIANTS: Sephardic Rabbis before and after the Expulsion from Spain by Rabbi Yosef Bitton Gefen Publishing, 2016 For a variety of reasons, some of the greatest rabbinic scholars of…

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Half-measures (VaEtchanan)

This Shabbat we read Parshat VaEtchanan in which Moshe reminds the people about the importance of maintaining their commitment to G-d and Torah especially once they enter the Land of…

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Techumin vol. 37

Tzomet Institute, 5777 Techumin – which is actually an acronym for Torah Hevrah uMedINa (literally, ‘Torah, Society and State’) – is a Hebrew-language annual journal of articles about Jewish law and…

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On death and rebirth (Ki Tavo)

Towards the end of Parshat Ki Tavo we encounter one of the most cryptic verses in the Torah, yet upon closer inspection, perhaps one of the most important. Having outlined…

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Shulchan Ha’ari

by Rabbi Ari Enkin (2017). The recently published Shulchan Ha’ari is the ninth volume in Rabbi Ari Enkin’s Dalet Amot Halacha series. In each of these volumes Rabbi Enkin offers…

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Arguing Together (Toldot)

This Shabbat we read Parshat Vayetze, and it is noteworthy that the opening pesukim of our parsha are the basis for some of the most creative and inspiring midrashim found…

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Real leaders cry (Vayigash)

There is no doubt that one of the most emotional moments throughout the Torah occurs in Parshat Vayigash when Yosef reveals himself to his brothers. Yet it is noteworthy that…

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Our outstretched Hands (Bo)

Parshat Bo tells the incredible story of how Bnei Yisrael transform from being a slave nation to a free nation. However, if we look a little closer in the Torah…

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Mishpatim

Parshat Mishpatim is the primary source of Jewish tort law and it is where we learn about the four Avot Nezikin (primary forms of damages). According to the Mishna (Bava…

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What will they say about you when you are gone?

by Rabbi Daniel Cohen (Health Communications Inc., 2016) Just over two years ago I watched an incredibly inspiring TED-like talk by Rabbi Daniel Cohen which I have since watched and shown on numerous occasions. Rabbi Cohen’s talk,…

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The Rabbinate in stormy days

The Life and Teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Halevi Herzog, The First Chief Rabbi of Israel by Shaul Mayzlish. Translation by Tanhum Yoreh Gefen, 2017 In 1991, Shaul Mayzlish published his brilliant biography of…

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Two volumes on the writings of Rav Moshe

Over the past year or so, two sefarim have been published that – in very different ways – offer further insights and perspectives on the halakhic rulings penned by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein…

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