Parshah Columnists

Guest Columnists
Torah Is for Imperfect People
Life Lessons From the Parshah - Yitro
Don't Be a Building in the Desert
Moses wasn’t telling Yitro anything he didn’t know. Rather, he was trying to see if his father-in-law really possessed the mettle to join G‑d’s people.
What Jethro and the Happy Fisherman Both Knew
"How do we break 'out of the box' and not end up like Mr. Smith, suggesting dumb ideas to the fisherman? Jethro, our parshah’s titular character, knew the answer"
Pharaoh and the Squeegee Men
G‑d’s compassion was not based on our “deserving” it. And that is the deep reality of compassion: It is not earned; rather, it is given.
Jethro: Father-in-Law of Moses
As Described in the Bible, Midrash and Talmud
Jethro (or Yitro or Yisro) was a Midianite priest and the father-in-law of Moses. He is mentioned three times in the Pentateuch, once in the Prophets and in numerous places in rabbinic literature. Let us learn what we can about this fascinating figure.
The Smallest of All Mountains
Absolute humility is dangerous
Jethro and Me
On my first trip to Israel in 1978, my traveling companion wanted to climb Mt. Sinai . . .
The Spark of All Truths
“And [Moses] was there [on Mount Sinai] with G‑d forty days and forty nights; bread he did not eat and water he did not drink” (Exodus 34:28). Very interesting. Have you ever tried it?
Is G-d Religious?
If G-d transcends all limitation and definition, and religion is a set of laws and rituals and a list of things that one must or must not do, why would the way to relate to G-d be to impose further restriction and definition on our already finite and constricted lives?
They entered me like tiny pieces of a puzzle that found the space, or impression, that was carved exactly to fit their dimensions. Then they would snap together, forming sentences and paragraphs and concepts...
The First Good Kabbalah Class
Kabbalah was bursting colorfully in the air like a fireworks display...
Reality and Its Shadow
One might reasonably suppose that since oxen and pits are facts of life, the Torah must implement laws to govern their many possible interactions. In fact, the situation is just the reverse . . .
On An Eagle's Wings
Why did the Almighty choose the imagery of an eagle to describe His love for and providence over us? One question - five explanations
When All Excuses Fail...
Ultimately, no one can change our lives but we. Just as alcohol can not solve one’s emotional challenges, inspiration can not take the place of effort.
Making Judaism Relevant
If G‑d was trying to give His best credentials to His newly acquired nation, why would He choose to mention the exodus? Isn't the creation of the heavens and earth a far greater feat?
Serving the Community
Personal well-being enhances public service. How does one strike that balance?
Is There Anything Wrong with Arguing?
We are a nation that argues. A lot.
How to Have a Healthy Relationship
Finding the balance betwee the love and fear of G‑d.
The Sanctity of Time
Parshat Yitro
Imagine the accomplishment of being present wherever you are, giving one hundred percent to your loved ones, your prayer, your study, your work, and your colleagues.
Find Glamour in the Grind
Do you ever fantasize about making a bold change in your life, perhaps starting a new career or moving to another city?
The Secret of Harmonious Relations with the In-Laws
Yitro was a leader, scholar and a mystic; Moses was a fugitive on the run, and had not yet had a G-dly revelation. Yitro was an idolater, Moses a monotheist. How did the two get along?
Egyptian at Sinai
Any successful speaker will tell you that you need to speak your audience's language. "When in Finland," the saying goes, "start with Finish." But why does G-d start the Ten Commandments in Egyptian?
Wedding Speeches for Yitro
The Great Sinai Debate
Two sages of the Talmud debate whether the Jews actually saw heavenly thunder at the giving of the Torah.
Learning to Delegate
When you delegate thoughtfully, you turn delegates into partners, not just employees.
A Sabbath Unto God
Rabbinic enactments take us beyond the strict letter of the law, reflecting the deep, innate Jewish desire to cleave to God's ways.
Moses the Egalitarian
An Essay on Parshat Yitro
On the plane of the soul there can be no criterion by which to determine who is higher and who is lower. As a result, it can truly be said that “all the people in the community are holy.”
Why Was Moses Reluctant to Delegate?
For generations, the commentators have struggled with this story. : Why would Moses not have come to this realization on his own?
Maximizing Inspiration
Inspiration is the first phase that’s meant to evoke a second phase of continuous effort.
Torah Insights
Seeing the Sounds
Sinai was a spiritual revelation that changed the way the Jews perceived the meaning of existence.
Life's Passages
Parshah Parenting
The Third Month Family
“My children are constantly fighting with each other,” laments Susan, a mother of three. “Will there ever be peace in my home?”
Parshah Messages
The Ten Commandments: The Inside Story
The Ten Commandments lay the foundation for our relationship with G‑d and our fellow man. Here’s how . . .
Wanted: Childish People
To the child, "yesterday" is code word for "completely irrelevant past," and "tomorrow" is code word for "utterly irrelevant future."
Conversation Tips from Sinai
In our nation's 3,300 year history, G‑d has directly addressed us exactly once. In doing so, G‑d also left us a perfect prototype to follow on those occasions when we really want our words to be taken seriously...
Reflections on the Parshah
The Ten Commandments -- All of Them!
Do we accept the Ten Commandments as G-d's message and an absolute moral code? Maybe we should read them again...
Shabbat's Dual Nature
The different nuances in the Torah's repletion of the Ten Commandments bespeak Shabbat's dual purpose
A Thought for the Week
Torah Business Inc.
Even while he sits at the supper table, a careful look at the businessman’s expression, at the thoughtfulness in his eyes, reveals that the affairs of his business are very much on his mind . . .
Action First
Weekly Sermonette
But Does It Speak to You?
The Ten Commandments must be relevant enough to make a difference in our lives; otherwise, whom did G‑d say them to and whatever for?
Keep Your Balance
The right-hand tablet contained 146 words. The left-hand tablet had only 26 words. Yet tradition has it that both tablets were filled with writing. How did 26 words equal the space of 146 words?
The Most Difficult Commandment
It's one thing not to steal the stuff; but not even to desire it? Really now, isn’t G-d being somewhat unreasonable with this one?
“Be Prepared!”
We learn from the Giving of the Torah at Sinai that every spiritual or special occasion requires preparation.
Parshah Moment
The Bargain and the Jew
"Ya Habibi!" cried a stubbly-cheeked vendor with a checkered headdress, "but first let us have tea..."
For Friday Night
Kingdom of Priests
G-d tells us that the effect of our special relationship with Him is that we will become a "Kingdom of Priests." What does this phrase mean?
The Purpose of the Commandments
the Midrash makes a surprising statement: it says that the first word of the Ten Commandments is in the Egyptian language!
Revolution and Evolution
More than 3,300 years ago, the Torah was given on Mount Sinai. This was a truly intense experience, a revolution in human consciousness! At the same time there is also a developmental aspect to the Giving of the Torah...
Living through the Parshah
How to Handle Unsolicited Advice (Even When You’re Moses)
Did Moses have trouble delegating responsibility? Was he afraid to let others help him?
Understanding Torah from the Inside Out
The Feminine Role in Torah’s Transmission
In the battle of the sexes, religion is under fire. Many have accused Judaism of being partial to men, and making them the main transmitters of the Torah. Is this in fact the case?
Inner Stream
Cold Feet
I felt it on the day before my wedding, when I became a father, before I accepted my first pulpit position and before my first public lecture... I've come to view my apprehension as an assurance that the endeavor upon which I am about to embark is worthwhile
What does it Mean to "Remember"?
Many view comparisons between the holocaust and other tragedies as trivializing the holocaust. Is this indeed the case?
Torah for Now
Unity Alone
What would be the point of going to Mount Sinai if not to receive the Torah? What other point is there in being there? After all, at this particular mountain there is neither food, nor water, nor skiing . . .
What the Rebbe Taught Me
Accessible Judaism
The History of a Longstanding Tradition
Access seems like an innocent enough word, and an uninspiring enough concept. After all, it suggests that the giver of access created nothing of his or her own, and merely distributed the products of someone else’s genius. But, in fact, an increase in accessibility has been behind some of the world’s greatest transformations and revolutions.
How Moses Celebrated His Achievements
How is one meant to be both successful and humble, when ego seems like the inseparable companion of success? A lesson from Moses, the only person the Torah refers to as "humble."
Beneath a Mountain of Love
A lesson for relationships from the marriage between G‑d and Israel.
Weekly Torah
One and One
The first two Commandments discuss the belief in One G-d and having no other gods. The Unity of G-d, however, is realized in the material world through the unity of the Jewish people
Getting Personal
G-d spoke to the entire Jewish people on Mount Sinai, yet the Ten Commandments are exressed in the singular -- as if G-d is speaking to a single person
Thought Control
The Tenth Commandment is somewhat difficult: most other commandments involve control or regulation of actual physical acts -- this one encroaches on our very thoughts
The Story of a Ramp
Our Parshah ends with a curious commandment: not to embarrass stones
Parshah Musings
Am I Shy?
We all have different personas that we don for public viewing; different from the way we think of ourselves when at home alone.
The Perfect Son-In-Law
It’s a mitzvah to honor and respect your parents, but Moses knew that a real mensch is equally solicitous of his in-laws.
“Who took you out of Egypt”? Talk about sweating the small details! What about “who created heaven and earth”? Surely stage-managing the Exodus doesn’t even approach His role as designer and creator of the universe!
But Is He Good to His Mother?
I remember hearing a comedian describe his feelings on finally having children: "I was less willing to put up with fools. I was like, 'I don't need this, I can make my own people now...'"
Just as a guarantor for a loan knows that he can be called on at any time to make good his pledge, so too we've got to educate children to appreciate and live up to their responsibilities...
Echo! Echo!
The awesome sounds of G‑d resonated throughout the universe... but there was no echo. The greatest sound and light show in history was a strictly one-time production with no residuals or encore.
Get Down!
G‑d started off perfect and hasn't changed since; we're the ones who need to shape up. We're the people who should be setting off on the great journey that starts on earth and ends at Sinai. Why should we expect G‑d to come down to us?
Full of Sound and Fury
The pages of history are full of examples of artists and composers with genuine talent who were disregarded during their lifetimes.
A Need for Speed
If He wanted us to live up to—and be inspired by—a full set of ten expressions, why did He deliver them in shorthand?
The Freeman Files
The Sinai Files
A SciFi/Fantasy version of the classic story of Moses' battle with the angels to receive the Torah.
The classic case, Ministering Angels v. Moses, reported in the Talmud, has been public knowledge for millennia. Only recently, however, has the complete story come to light. Here is the entire dialogue as reconstructed from some of the declassified transcripts.
How Do We Know that We Heard G-d at Sinai?
The greatest conspiracy theory of all time is materialism. The second greatest conspiracy theory is that the Jews invented the Torah...
How and When Was the Torah Written?
To explain that, I would need a long conversation with you about what is G-d and how G-d talks to people and why....
Ladies First
Commonly perceived as a concession to the weaker gender by the stronger, the rule is actually founded upon a very different rationale
Sounds of Sinai
It's been said that if you talk to G-d, you're a religious person; if G-d talks to you, you're crazy. I guess that means I'm crazy. G-d talks to me. Not as frequently as He should, but fairly often
The Lady, the Tiger and Freedom of Choice
The princess up in the grandstand catches your eye and is about to indicate the door leading to life and bliss. But at that moment Mr. Philosopher appears at her elbow...
How to Have
How do you measure the things you own? By the degree of your investment in them? By the intensity of your desire for them? By how possible it is to get rid of them?
The Ten Commandments Series
Billions of people have heard of the Ten Commandments. Less common, however, is the knowledge that this 10-point encapsulation of G-d's message to man reads in two directions: from top to bottom, and from side to side
Parshah Recovery
Now I Know
The alcoholic in recovery can easily understand that there is a special quality of wisdom that comes about only after all else has failed.
Covenant & Conversation
Mount Sinai and the Birth of Freedom
Only in Judaism was G‑d’s self-disclosure not to an individual (a prophet) or a group (the elders) but to an entire nation, young and old, men, women and children, the righteous and not-yet-righteous alike.
Justice or Peace?
To Thank Before We Think
The Ten Commandments are the most famous religious-and-moral code in history. It is worth remembering, of course, that the “ten commandments” are not Ten Commandments.
To Lead
We examine two episodes that seem to be a study in contrasts.
The Structure of the Good Society
Honoring parents acknowledges our human createdness. It tells us that not everything that matters is the result of our choice, chief of which is the fact that we exist at all. Other people’s choices matter, not just our own.
Beyond Speech
Women at Sinai
Why the difference between women and men when it comes to teaching the Torah?
On the Haftarah: How Special We Are!
For the haftarah of Yitro, From the Teachings of the Rebbe
“In the place where a person’s will is, that is where he is.”
Above and Below, United
One shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that the Torah and the world are separate domains
Bringing G-d Into Our Daily Lives
In our relationships, it is not enough to follow the letter of the law, doing just what is expected. You need to have a heart and be a mentch. You need to love your spouse in every way.
What Do You Think?
I Didn't Know My Father Had Died, But I Knew I Loved Him
It’s a lovely Wednesday summer afternoon in South Africa and I’m sitting at my desk thinking about what to write for my upcoming column…
The Freeman Files
Women First
Secrets First
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