Parshah Columnists - Va'eira

Guest Columnists
What to Tell Yourself When Things Go Wrong
In the meantime, it’s dark, confusing, and difficult. That’s only because the process of getting to a deeper place can give space for negative consequences. But just around the bend is a time, a space that is even deeper and greater, that it will make this period worthwhile.
The Four Stages of Personal Growth
If you are having real difficulty in realizing your goals, then you may need to get to the root of the hidden beliefs and fears that are blocking you.
Solutions With a Soul
Parshat Shemot
Every human being has incalculable worth; differences in ability are superimposed upon our innate humanity.
Did G-d Really Need to Punish the Egyptians?
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?
Is G‑d Vengeful?
So this is the famous Torah portion where we read about the beginning of the end of the Egyptians. Why all the violence?
All of creation may be divided into three categories: the good, the bad and the frogs
My Exodus, Your Exodus
Why is change so difficult? Maybe because, often, we don't really want to change. Ancient Jewish texts describe this problem as a "Pharaoh Syndrome"...
Fire and Ice
The ten plagues were not sent just to dismantle Egypt's infrastructure. They were powerful forces that provided the Jews with strategies for spiritual rehabilitation...
Turning Up the Heat
The very concept of Egypt denotes limitation, a sense of entrapment, blockage and slavery. And we have a directive to escape this reality every day. We don’t need to physically live in the land of Egypt under Pharaoh’s rule to feel enslaved . . .
Parenting Advice From a Survivor
Parshat Va’eira
By the time she was four, Lily had survived and lived more lives than a person of a hundred and twenty.
What Was the Point of the Plagues?
He could have just zapped them, and yet He sends them....frogs?!
How Warm Is Your Blood?
At the core of idolatry lurks a reptilian coldness to life. (“Parsha Perks” with Dr Michael Chighel | Va’era)
Pharaoh's Repentance
An Essay on Parshat Va'eira
It can be a great accomplishment for a person to admit, “I have sinned this time.” But there is a higher level, where a person’s soul searching moves him to such a degree that he declares, “G-d is righteous, and I and my people are wicked.”
The Real Reason for the Ten Plagues
The ultimate purpose was that the departing Israelites would learn an eternal message that would resound for generations.
Staff, Serpent and Scattered Sparks
What’s the significance of the staff turning into a serpent, then back to a staff, and swallowing all the others in the process?
How Much Is G-d Involved in Our Lives?
Our journey has value—not merely as a means to a greater end, but in and of itself.
Torah Insights
Who Created These?
When you look at a masterful painting, do you only see the art, or does the art lead you to think about the artist? When you enjoy a beautifully prepared feast, do you focus on the food exclusively, or does the taste and aroma lead you to think about the chef?
Parshah Insights
Ten Ways to Destroy Your Life
Destructive confidence, cold intimacy, unhealthy submission, wild ambition, sly compassion, brutal rejection, frozen love, perverted intelligence, a locked mind, and the death of identity—the Ten Sefirot, corrupted as the Ten Plagues, to be rectified as the Ten Commandments . . .
Weekly Sermonette
Of Mortals and Superheroes
To have believed that Moses was a celestial being would not have been implausible.
Never Lose the Spirit
I have often quoted a wise proverb heard in the name of the legendary Chasid, Reb Mendel Futerfas. "If you lose your money, you’ve lost nothing. Money comes and money goes. If you lose your health, you’ve lost half. You are not the person you were before. But if you lose your resolve, you’ve lost it all"
Prisoners of Patience
Everyone agrees that tolerance is a very important trait. But sometimes we can get too tolerant for our own good...
Throw Small Stones
“Why does he hate me so much?” I remember hearing my own grandfather say of someone. “I never did him any favors!”
Reflections on the Parshah
Pharaoh's Contrition
What lesson can we take from Pharaoh's promises to redeem the Jews and his subsequent reversals?
An Environment Issue
Why did Moses insist on the Jews serving G-d in the desert?
Parshah Moment
Two Rabbis One Shul
Sound like double trouble? Over-employment? The latest synagogue sitcom? Probably; but Jewish history is never probable.
Inner Stream
Do You Volunteer?
When something new or unexpected is added to our plate, the first thing we slash is our volunteering.
The Prophetic Experience
We're both working on the same puzzle. But my daughter's knowledge flows from the picture to the fragment while my knowledge flows from the fragment to the picture....
Pharaoh and the Frog
If not for the frog, says the Midrash, how would the Almighty take retribution against Pharaoh? Why does the Midrash single out the frog when there were nine additional plagues?
When Faith Breeds Confidence
I stand in awe of my grandparents' generation, who fought two world wars and overcame a depression in the span of three short decades. But they had a solid work ethic and an unshakable confidence...
The Daily Escape
Over the course of history, our people experienced many miracles, but the only miracle we deliberately recall every day is the Exodus from Egypt. Why is this one different?
The Mighty Hand
Were the Egyptians somehow too powerful for G‑d to approach?
Parshah Messages
Why Didn't Pharaoh Release the Israelites?
Why didn’t Pharaoh release the Israelites?
How was Pharaoh punished for refusing to free the Israelites, if G‑d hardened his heart, making him immune to the plagues?
The Greatest Miracle of All
Sticks transforming into serpents, water turning into blood, hail pellets with a core of fire . . . Why doesn’t this stuff happen today?
A Thought for the Week
The Lowly Tasks
G-d is concerned not only with lofty generalities, with the world as a whole or an entire species as a whole, but also with “lowly matters” and with the smallest details.
A Mixture of Wild Beasts
During the first three plagues the Jews were also affected. During the fourth the Jews were not affected. What was the difference?
What the Rebbe Taught Me
Fight Evil or Do Good?
What of someone who awakens to the realization that he's allowed his evil inclination to assume control, and now wishes to reclaim the love for his G‑dly soul? How does one shake off a well-entrenched enemy?
A Frog's Sermon
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
Living through the Parshah
The Warming of Egypt
You could take the Jew out of Egypt, but could you take Egypt out of the Jew? It was Moses’ job to facilitate this transition. One therapeutic technique that he used at G‑d’s behest was orchestrating the ten plagues . . .
What Do You Think?
What Happened to the Faith?
What happened to “once a believer, always a believer”? Two hundred years the Jewish people held on to their faith, and suddenly, just because things got a bit worse, all is gone?
A Mini Profile of Pharaoh of the Exodus
What do we know of Pharaoh, the evil king of Egypt who played a key role in our formation as a nation, from the enslavement to the Exodus?
For Friday Night
Mind and Heart
Moses' attempt to gain freedom for the Jewish people has resulted only in an increased level of oppression. Last week's Sedra ends with him asking a question to G‑d: Why has only bad resulted from his obedience to G‑d's command?
Freedom in Five Dimensions
Rabbi Eliezer says that each Plague actually consisted of four Plagues. Rabbi Akiva says not four, but five. Sitting at the Seder table, reciting from the wine-stained Haggadah, we hurry on towards the Matza, the bitter herbs and the meal. But what are these two Sages telling us today?
Perception and Power
What was the purpose of the plagues?
Parshah Musings
Did the Egyptians Have a Choice?
If our gaolers were just pawns in some cosmic master plan, how can we demand and celebrate their punishment?
Your Attention Please
G-d went to the trouble of punishing the Egyptians so that the Jews would learn a lesson?
Pharaoh as a Role Model
You have to admire that guy. One plague, two plagues, they just kept coming... But he stayed the course
Is Punctuality Next to G‑dliness?
It's rude to be constantly late to meetings, apologizing, yet again, for my tardy arrival. No matter how well intentioned I am, some distraction or emergency situation always pops up...
Do the Bullied Become Bullies?
Can one truly break away from the evil that others did, and resolve to act with generosity and understanding to others?
The words have stopped because there's nothing left to be said. There is not yet forgiveness or acceptance for what has been said and done, nor, perhaps, will there ever be. But there is something else -- something that you have never felt before, at least not quite this way
Four Cups
What is the difference between being "taken out", "delivered", "redeemed", and being made truly, eternally, inherently and intrinsically free?
It's Only Natural
A myth debunked
Are thing supposed to be the way things are, or are things supposed to be the way things are supposed to be?
Whacking the River
Our source of sustenance is neither regular nor predictable. It does not well up from a channel grooved in the earth, nor is it treaded up from a hole in the ground. Our eyes are forever trained upward, in hope and expectation, and in faith . . .
Suspended Hailstones
You're walking down the street when, suddenly, a hard object with sharp edges hits you smack in the middle of the forehead...
Parshah Recovery
Selfless Prayer
The ego employs a more innocuous method of thwarting our connection to G‑d. It allows us to seek spirituality, but inserts the condition, “Only do not go far off—pray for me!”
Covenant & Conversation
The G-d Who Acts in History
To think of history as an arena of change is terrifying. It means that what happened once may never happen again, that we are embarked on a journey with no assurance that we will ever return to where we began.
Spirits in a Material World
Money speaks to our Adam needs, but meaning speaks to our Abraham needs.
Freedom and Truth
Of Lice and Men
Overcoming Setbacks
At first, Moses' mission seemed to be successful. But then, things start to go wrong and continue to go wrong.
Freedom of Choice
The question is ancient. If G-d hardened Pharaoh’s heart, then it was G-d who made Pharaoh refuse to let the Israelites go, not Pharaoh himself. How can this be just? How could it be right to punish Pharaoh and his people for a decision – a series of decisions – that were not made freely by Pharaoh himself?
Beyond Speech
First Blood, Then Frogs
The purpose of the plagues was not only to punish the Egyptians, but to break their egos and false notions on G-d.
Why We Need to Suffer
Great revelation comes through great suffering. The greater the toil, the greater the accomplishment.
Different Is Redemptive
As the Rebbe’s emissary in Temecula, Calif., I found that people were always happy and respected that I was observant.
On the Hafatarh: Action Is the Main Thing
For the haftarah of Va'era, From the Teachings of the Rebbe
Three Matzot & Four Cups of Wine
Our sages established that we drink four cups of wine at the Seder, recalling the four expressions of redemption
Life's Passages
5 Steps to Breaking a Negative Habit
“That’s it! I’ve had enough!” Do you hear yourself saying those words as you resolve to work on breaking a bad habit that has gotten a stronghold on your life?
The Freeman Files
Showing Miracles
There are miracles so great, we cannot perceive them. They are happening in your life, now.
Greater Miracles
The smaller the miracle, the greater the wonder.
Unnatural Response
The philosopher, when he sees a miracle, looks for a natural explanation. The Jew, when he sees nature, looks for the miracle.
The Boundless Leaf
What is a leaf? Infinity compressed within a finite creation.
Pocket Protection
Our lives sit nestled in a pocket of natural events, sewn with the thread of outrageous miracles.
Existence is greater than any miracle. There is no reason that there should be anything at all.
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