Born in 1860, Theodor Herzl grew up secular and spoke of Judaism with mocking cynicism. As a late 19th century westernized Jewish intellectual, he believed that complete assimilation was both desirable and inevitable.
Of all the gripping tales of the Tanach (Bible), the story of Esther, intricate and elaborate, stands out as one that could have been written for the stage. The omniscient narrator describes the location, setting, wardrobe, and mood for each episode. The narrative contains all the elements of a great story: intrigues, power plays, religion, a ruthless villain, a wise man, a captured princess, and a love triangle.
“And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horse[emphasis added], his chariots, and his horsemen” (Exodus 14:23).
The medieval commentator Rashi asks, “Was there only one horse?” Obviously not. He explains the deeper message of this word choice: That no one horse had more value than any other.
What does the Torah have to say about a person making concrete plans for the eventuality of her death? Is it appropriate to sign a health care proxy or to make out a will?
There is no better example than our patriarch, Jacob. When this week’s parsha (Torah potion), Vayechi, opens, Jacob is getting older and sees that his death is not far off. So, what does he do? He plans for it. He calls Joseph to his bedside, refers explicitly to his impending death (“I will lie down with my fathers”), and makes arrangements for his burial.
One of the most insidious messages Hollywood has foisted on mankind is that only the bad have fun. In popular culture, people of dubious character always seem to do the interesting things, drive fast cars, and get all the really good lines. Good guys (and girls) are boring, simple, and one-dimensional.
Yom Kippur is a day of Divine forgiveness. If we have done the work we need to do, the Torah tells us, “On this day he will atone for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins, before the Lord you will be cleansed” (Leviticus 16:30). But what is that work that we must do?
I don’t want you to think I smile at everyone and have endless patience for even the biggest of fools. Far from it! But I do want to tell you why you will be happier when you love more and hate less.
Both this week’s parsha (Torah portion) and the Book of Genesis end on a bittersweet note. The brothers worry that Joseph still holds a grudge against them; and, despite claims to the contrary, that he will take revenge on them for selling him into slavery. This is why they concoct a story for Joseph that their father, Jacob, gave them clear instructions on his deathbed to tell Joseph to forgive his brothers.
“Through me, kings rule,” wrote King Solomon in Proverbs (8:15). He was not talking about money here, not power, and not family. He was talking about wisdom.
Through wisdom, kings rule.
Who is the first person in the Torah to say “please”?
“Please say you are my sister” (Genesis 12:13).
A child’s first breath is as much a miracle for us as it is for the baby. After nine months, oxygen, which previously flowed through the fetus’s veins from the mother’s own blood, now has to be processed by an untested lung — an organ needing such precision and systems coordination that it would put the skills of a NASA technician to shame.
- Yom Kippur: Can You Feel It?
- Choosing Life
- Why Do Jewish Holidays Begin at Nightfall?
- The Real Meaning of the Akedah
- Before You Act, Think!
- Not By Bread Alone
- Tisha B’Av: Machloket Matters
- Torah World Tidbit: Rabbi Brander to Lead Ohr Torah Stone
- The Uncertainty Principle
- Being Careful With Our Words