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Parshah Columnists

Guest Columnists
A Mirror Relationship: As Man Acts, G-d Reacts
Our life experiences are not random but significant—too important to be regulated by mere chance.
Can We Ever Really Change?
How can we change outward actions into penetrating, moving actions that transform our attitude?
Are Mysteries Supposed to Stay Mysteries?
Is it OK to sneak a peek behind the veil that shrouds the commandments and attempt to unravel their mysteries?
Know Your Place ... and Step Into It
Without humility, it’s impossible to look in the mirror and assess yourself realistically. Either your flaws will be invisible so that you can’t work on them, or in your overly critical mind, the only thing you can see are your weaknesses, and you will be mired in dysfunctional despair.
Are you hero or victim? The hero who never cries nor feels the fear, the panic, the regrets that are part and parcel of his condition? The victim who never encounters his bravery nor feels the transcendent power of rising above death, if only for a moment? Neither have bitachon...
Punishments or Gifts?
For years I perceived G‑d as an onlooker on my life
So, we answer the soul’s call. We learn about our roots, about the heritage bequeathed to us by our ancestors, and we make the transition to the Jewish way of life. Yet something is amiss . . .
A Leader with Humility?
Being a Jew requires forcefulness and a commanding nature—qualities seemingly incompatible with humility . . .
Trust Your Partner
We can talk at great length about our faith in G‑d and our trust in His absolute wisdom, goodness and beneficence. But do we put our money where our mouths are?
But He Doesn't Even Know
We have a responsibility not only to help others and protect their dignity, but also to ensure that we refine and develop a sensitive, compassionate and respectful identity for ourselves.
Count Down to Charity
The wealthy fellow politely explained how he would love to give but can’t, because he already gave his share of charity for the year . . .
Effort That Really Counts
Unlike other sciences, Torah study is not about accumulating knowledge. Unlike other self-help books and religious manuals, the Torah is not only about learning “how” to observe . . .
The Humble Mountain Paradox
If G‑d wanted to teach us a lesson in humility, why give the Torah on a mountain in the first place? Wouldn’t a valley be a better representation of humility?
Uncomfortable or Inspiring Truth? Depends How You Look at It
Why is it that two people can witness the same event but have opposite accounts of what transpired?
So Where Do I Get an Interest-Free Loan?
Our entire existence is on loan from G-d. The question is, can we make the divine loan into a divine investment?
Can You Get G-d?
In order to get some intimation of the Infinite One Who is beyond all conception, the mind naturally fills in what is inconceivable with ideas that are logical and comprehensible. A still deeper appreciation of Infinity thus requires a certain hollowing out of the mind.
Wedding Speeches for Behar
Are You Missing the Entire Point?
An Essay on Parshat Bechukotai
It is only natural for a person to automatically justify the practices to which he has grown accustomed.
Weekly Sermonette
Capitalist or Communist?
What is Judaism’s economic system? Is there one? In promoting free enterprise, the Torah is clearly capitalistic. But it is a conditional capitalism, and certainly a compassionate capitalism.
When the Torah reader came to the part of the curses, he lowered his voice and read in a softer tone. Suddenly, the Klausenburger Rebbe shouted: “Hecher! Louder!” The reader was confused. He was simply following the tradition of generations . . .
How Are We to View Jews by Choice?
Are converts looked down upon in Judaism?
Beyond Rebuke
A child knows intuitively that his mother loves him and wants only the best for him. Even if there seems to be a momentary lapse, he knows it will be short-lived
Life's Passages
Just Hold on a Little Longer
Metaphorically, the seven-year shemittah cycle corresponds to the seven millennia of history.
Growing Your Love
Every relationship needs an infusion of tender effort, thought and concern.
Are People Inherently Good or Evil?
It’s a fundamental question that has been debated endlessly.
What Is Your Mission Statement?
Do we work merely to acquire more, consume more, vacation more—and then once again begin the cycle anew? Or is there a more meaningful, underlying goal to our lives?
For Friday Night
The Concept of Freedom
Our Parshah gives us a insight into the nature of freedom. Perhaps it challenges some of our assumptions
How to Enjoy Judaism
There is an art in enjoyment. If you want to enjoy exotic food, delicate wine, music, mountains, paintings, poetry - there is a way to go about it...
Meaning and Chaos
In a few brush strokes, our Parshah outlines two pictures: one of "Redemption" -- national and individual wholeness; the other of Galut -- fragmentation and conflict
The Power to Reveal
We are presented with an image of harmony and peace which is the inner reality and destiny of the Jewish people. Yet that beautiful inner reality is often hidden by horrific events and dark periods of history.
Inner Realities
We tend to start out with rosy ideals or images of how good everything is going to be. Then, at some point, for many of us, we are challenged by situations which seem almost unbearable...
Reflections on the Parshah
The Weekly Sabbatical
Faith is measured by actions, as is demonstrated by the Shemittah year—and the weekly Shabbat.
The Tremulous Heart
Anti-Semitism -- our fear of this scourge is deeply ingrained in our psyche. But how real is the threat?
Parshah Moment
The Last Line
A courtroom. A judge reads off the charges. The defendant took his victim, drugged him, called in several of his assistants and methodically, with forethought cut the man's stomach open, removed organs, put in foreign substances...
A Thought for the Week
The Productive Human
The Engraved Letters
One’s study of Torah should be as letters that are hewn out of stone, not as letters of ink that are written on paper. What does this mean?
Parshah Blog
The Sabbatical Promise
In my humble opinion—and apparently, Joel, you concur—this is the most difficult of G‑d’s promises to swallow and act upon. But He really means it, and that’s why He is so disturbed by the lack of trust.
Living through the Parshah
Be Like a (Little) Mountain
A deeper examination of the nature of humility and self-assertion reveals that not only are they not mutually exclusive qualities, but that indeed one cannot operate without the other.
Disguised Blessings
When G-d communicates with us from a place closer to His essence, we don’t understand Him clearly. Was that a hug? ’Cause it felt like a slap in the face . . .
Is Obedience Obsolete?
Demanding obedience is a card parents often pull as leverage in a power struggle. But have the children learned anything meaningful?
Parshah Messages
It IS His Business
What is the greater wonder—G‑d’s ability to perform miracles, or our ability to trust in them?
Heavenly Service, Earthly Rewards?
Can you find a competent electrician willing to do a job for, say, three candies an hour? How about a spiritual person willing to serve G‑d for material reward?
Did He Sell Us Out?
G‑d is omnipotent. He can simultaneously be within and yet remain aloof. But we, His children... how can we be expected to suffer through exile while retaining our exalted status as G‑d's children?
Parshah Musings
A Culture of Dependency
Why does the Torah forbid lending money with interest? The "Culture of Dependency" created by many welfare states can provide some insight in this area...
The Resilience of a Generation of Holocaust Survivors
How did that pitiful remnant manage to recover, remarry and redeem Judaism for a new generation? How did they have the bravery to bring new children into a world that they knew could be so evil?
Buried Alive
It is a little known lowlight of history that the Nazis were avid Judaica collectors. Rather than destroy the artifacts and objets d'art they had captured, they preserved them and actively added to the collection...
Never Retire
Advances in public health mean that people are living longer, and it is no longer economically viable to put people out to pasture for decades.
Suffering Actuaries
Two of the seemingly least-related concepts in the Bible are found side by side in this week’s Torah reading.
What Do You Think?
10 Jubilee Facts to Know
The Yovel (Jubilee) year took place every 50 years. The fields were left fallow, slaves were freed, and land was returned.
Where Are You Heading?
Higher and higher we scale; to come closer to G-d is our goal. Sometimes we find ourselves going downhill, slipping and sliding on the slopes of morals, tradition and ethics. We get drunk, we ditch our calling. It is unfortunate, and we must change course.
What Are You Worth?
Is a person who built a beautiful marriage, raised healthy children and did his best to pay the bills, but whose bank account is in the four digits (or overdrawn by four digits), worthless?
Inner Stream
Alone in the World: 43 Years Since Entebbe
On the fifth day of the crisis, when all but the Jewish hostages were released, the Israeli government realized that Jews were once again alone in the world. History was repeating itself.
The Sabbatical Year: Six Reasons
Six reasons for the Sabbatical year: The soil, a macro-Shabbat, making up for six years of Shabbats, a lesson in faith and humility, unity, and liberation.
Saving for Shabbat
The recipe to Bring Shabbat into the entire week
The Power of What
We are forever asking: What is the reason? What is the meaning? We ask this question of all commandments and all occurrences, even those we supposedly understand . . .
Promises and Consequences
The celestial benefits are the greatest motivators. Is it not curious that the Torah employs promises that are trivial by comparison as motivation for the performance of the statutes?
Effort That Has Value
Torah study is the only instance where labor without achievement is rewarded.
Weekly Torah
Don't Sit Back and Enjoy the Ride!
Peace on Earth
Often we find ourselves in this position: Two sides, each trying to prove they are right, even using the Torah to back up their claims.
The Freeman Files
Does G-d really need to Punish the Wicked?
Obviously, the Egyptians did some really bad things, and something had to be done to free the children of Israel. But couldn’t G-d have found a more humane way to deal with the situation?
Because It Is There
Granted, Mount Sinai was no Everest. But G-d was coming down all the way from the heavens—couldn’t He have descended another few thousand feet, instead of making an octogenarian sage climb a mountainside?
Does G-d Give Us Candies?
a) It's a phase we’re going through; b) It’s an empowerment thing; c) It’s the (spiritual) nature of things; d) Life is what you make it; e) Truth is in the externalities; f) It works.
The King, the Peasant and the Nightingale
The king commanded his coachman to halt at the peasant's door. "How are you enjoying my gift?" he inquired of his beloved subject
When Bad Things Happen
Bad things happen. They happen to good people. Contrary to common perception, bad things also happen to bad people. The difference is not so much in what happens, but in what happens to the person
Good Thinking
For several years now, positive thinking has been in vogue. But the New York Times reports on a group of psychologists who are “worried that we’re not making space for people to feel bad” and advocate a return to the psychologist’s original role of “focusing on mental illness and human failing . . .”
Parshah Recovery
From Powerlessness to Power
There are those critics of the Twelve Steps who say that personal humility along with submission to a Higher Power degrades alcoholics and makes them feel spiritually bankrupt...
Talk it Out Before Throwing it Out
Some people question the use of an alcoholic taking personal inventory and admitting to his wrongs early in sobriety. What's the point of trying to clean house when you still have the same character defects?
More Parshah Articles
Beyond Paradise
Word resounded throughout the supernal worlds: "Because Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov has forced the hand of heaven to overturn the laws of nature, he has forfeited his portion in the World to Come"
Can a person be as grateful for his troubles as he is for his joys?
The Seventh Year
It was in 1950, after we had completed our army service. At first we lived in tents, in the middle of a barren wilderness. At that time, there were not yet water pipes reaching our moshav. We had to content ourselves with what could be grown in dry, rugged fields.
Covenant & Conversation
The Chronological Imagination
The Torah did not abolish slavery, but it set in motion a process that would lead people to come of their own accord to the conclusion that it was wrong. How it did so is one of the wonders of history.
The Economics of Liberty
What makes Judaism distinctive is its commitment to both freedom and equality, while at the same time recognizing the tension between them.
The Limits of the Free Market
Leviticus 25 sets out a number of laws whose aim is to correct the tendency toward radical and ever-increasing inequality that result from the unfettered play of free market economics.
We Are What We Do Not Own
Think of what you posses not as something you own but as something you hold in trust for the benefit, not only of you and your family, but also of others.
Evolution or Revolution?
Family Feeling
Jews are not just citizens of the same nation or adherents of the same faith. We are members of the same extended family.
"We the People"
Among the most searing curses ever to have been uttered, the sages found a fleck of pure gold.
Beyond Speech
When We Give Until There Is Nothing Left to Give
For me, ALS has not been so draining because I really can’t do much . . .
Are You Interested in G-d?
G-d treats us as we treat others.
Who Am I to Be Great?
On the Haftarah: Strength, Trust, Hope and Healing
For the haftarah of Parshat (Behar) Bechukotai, From the Teachings of the Rebbe
Toiling in Torah
When there are multiple meanings of a Hebrew word, they must be connected in some way.
What Happens When We Go Beyond the Natural
How does Rashi know that the blessing in Eikev is within nature and the blessing in Bechukotai is above nature?
Torah Insights
The Engine and the Steering Wheel
The mind and the heart have trouble communicating simply because they don’t speak the same language, and they don’t respond to the same stimuli.
Ten Women, One Oven
The Torah that we study must become part of us. It must not remain a distinct intellectual entity just sitting in our minds. The teachings must become part of our bloodstream, part of our character.
Self-Made Holiness
The Torah discusses two categories of holy animals which must be offered in the Temple.
Finding the Hidden Sweetness
Under the tragic circumstance of the exile, we realize that we are guarantors for each other because we are part of one whole.
Parshah Blog
The Sabbatical Promise
In my humble opinion—and apparently, Joel, you concur—this is the most difficult of G‑d’s promises to swallow and act upon. But He really means it, and that’s why He is so disturbed by the lack of trust.
What the Rebbe Taught Me
The Real Answer to the Question, “Who Moved My Cheese?”
Cheese is a metaphor for what you want, whether it is a good job, a loving relationship, money, health or peace of mind.
The Creator of MySpace
Where I come from, the powerful try to control the powerless, and the mighty retain their strength. So if I were G‑d, I’d have kept creation for myself. The Creator of creators, however, is clearly more trusting, and created our world not for power, but in order to empower . . .
Parshah Stories
Beyond Paradise
Word resounded throughout the supernal worlds: "Because Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov has forced the hand of heaven to overturn the laws of nature, he has forfeited his portion in the World to Come"
Can a person be as grateful for his troubles as he is for his joys?
The Prodigy Under The Bed
From his hiding place, Rabbi Hillel heard the rebbe enter the room. But before he could make a move, he heard Rabbi Schneur Zalman exclaim: “If a young man has a question regarding ‘Appraisals,’ he had best first evaluate himself!”
The Mud Hole
Two lost souls, a wealthy businessman and his coachman, arrived in a city one Friday afternoon...
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