Parshah Columnists

Guest Columnists
Being Vulnerable Is Being Strong
Our job is to learn from the experiences of others and not wait for total self-annihilation before asking for help.
The Harlot Who Discovered a Higher Satisfaction
What was a budding Torah scholar doing engaging in this kind of pleasure?
Moses vs. the Gaslighter
The people in the desert were being gaslit, and big time.
Defeating the Inner Defeatist
Who hasn’t been faced with a task and then spent needless amounts of time coming up with creative reasons why it’s going to be too hard?
How Did the Mission of the Twelve Spies Go So Wrong?
Moses felt that the Israelites had no reason to fear the inhabitants, as they had all seen the great miracles wrought against the much more powerful Egyptians.
Ma'apilim: The Little-Known Warriors Who Disregarded Moses
Moses warned that their campaign would be unsuccessful, but they were determined to enter the land.
Five Ways to Criticize More Effectively
We often mix compliments with criticisms and wonder why the listener is offended.
The 12 Spies (Meraglim) in the Bible
Numbers 13-14
The spies were tasked with going to the Promised Land and bringing back fruit and a report, which they did. Weren’t they just being honest, sharing their findings in good faith?
Spying on the Hippies
In the spring and summer of 1968, an influx of hippies descended on Boston’s most famous public park, the Common, setting up mini-farms and tent colonies throughout the 50-acre park.
The Secret of Challah
Separating challah is one of the three commandments that are particularly related to women. Kabbalistically, this commandment teaches us how this relates to a woman's innate understanding and might.
The Kabbalah of the Tallit
The garment surrounds our body; the fringes hang off it. They represent the two aspects of G-d’s being: His true self that is totally beyond our grasp, and the tiny fraction of His being we can experience.
My Father's Tzitzit
After all, what could he teach a girl who got straight A’s in school and wanted to go to an Ivy League college? And yet, today, what I remember from college seems like a blur of intellectual trivia compared to the simple lessons of my father . . .
Be Tough, but Don’t Rush
The Torah teaches that if someone is sentenced to death, the exact location of the execution must be outside the city boundaries, very far from the courthouse. Why?
New and Improved
Ad campaigns tout redesigned, leaner and meaner corporate models. Many advertise their revamp by boldly adding the word "new" to their familiar name. What does the Torah say about renaming products: Is it remarkable or just marketing?
What the Three Definitions of Challah Taught Me
When we do good, lots of good, we may be lured into a sense of entitlement. I gave 20% to charity; I can now buy whatever I want with the rest, without regard for social responsibility. I volunteered at the school for two hours; I am now entitled to laze around for the rest of the week . . .
Upon a Timeless Tel
I’ll leave you room to err, says G‑d, because you will rebuild—grander, stronger and more beautiful edifices.
Got Dough?
The mystical dimension of challah
What could possibly be so important about separating a piece of dough that the Midrash states that it is the purpose of creation?
Wedding Speeches for Shelach
How Do You Deal With Change?
Feeling Like a Grasshopper
Torah Insights
A Leader's Faith
Virtually all the commentators ask the same question: How is it possible that the spies had a complete loss of faith after experiencing all the miracles of the Exodus firsthand?
Scouting a New Path
The sending of the spies represented the critically important ability of the Jewish people to decide that they wanted to enter the land, not because of a commandment alone, but because their own will and desire directed them to do so.
Weekly Sermonette
When Leaders Mess Up
If men chosen by Moses could have gone off the deep end, why should we be surprised when others do the same?
Draw Your Own Conclusion?
The facts are there for all of us to see. The question is how to interpret them.
Minority Truths
The question I’d like to pose is: why did the people not follow the two good spies, Joshua and Caleb, instead of the others? The obvious answer: they were outvoted and outnumbered. Ten vs. two. Majority rules.
Heads Up!
Where you look determines what you find
Life's Passages
Why Are Children Better at Technology Than Adults?
We often get stuck with the familiar, afraid to make necessary changes outside our comfort zone.
What the Men of Distinction Couldn’t Fathom
What were the calculations of ten of the spies that caused them to err so profoundly? And what did the women of Israel intuitively understand that these great “men of distinction” failed to comprehend?
Parshah Musings
I Am Not a Criminal. Am I?
I might not be legally liable for another person’s crimes, yet I should feel morally culpable that he was allowed to fall so low.
The Holy Tourist
We weren’t “tourists” or “sightseers”; we were backpackers. Or so we believed.
The Grasshopper Complex
The true tragedy may be that the whole sorry spy saga might have been averted with just one counseling session by a good management consultant or psychologist...
My First Halachic Question
I was ready! This was what I’d entered the rabbinate for.
For Friday Night
Think Possible
Focused on this World
The Power of the Beginning
The portion of challah that is separated is not just a reminder of our past, but even more importantly, a lesson for the present and the future
We often do not recognize the world around us for what it really is; we allow ourselves to be deceived. Then, sometimes, we suddenly recognize the truth. Immediately everything looks different.
Entering the Land
We live in an age of action. Even so, obviously, there are times when we have to stop and think. Action has more meaning and power when it is preceded by preparation - although sometimes in this process itself mistakes can be made...
Through the Eyes of a Woman
Good Deeds During One's Spare Time
We all have free choice. We could either ignore these people, these opportunities, these events, or we could see everything in our life as a G-d-sent opportunity.
Parshah Messages
Mission Possible
The spies brought back an honest report. G-d was unhappy with its contents. Is it fair to punish someone for expressing an honest opinion?
Life Behind Bars
We make mistakes. And we pay for them, sometimes quite dearly. Does this mean that we should accept that we have, in effect, "lost" a portion of our life? What about someone serving a life sentence in prison?
Kind Punishments
Why did G-d want to "slaughter" the Jews in the desert? A better understanding of the meaning of "slaughter" will answer this question.
A Thought for the Week
Three Challenges
We too face the discouraging “reports” from our own internal “spies,” who try to induce fear, using three primary arguments. Here’s how to answer them . . .
Inner Stream
Boots on the Ground
You can live a higher spiritual lifestyle when you are living in serenity, away from temptation and social challenges, but how do you know how you might respond when challenged?
Loyal to Whom?
Is our loyalty to the company, society or marriage to which we have committed ourselves, or to our position within it?
Kosher for an Hour
The spies were “kosher for an hour.” This was taken into account when punishment was meted out.
What I Learned from a Tree
We humans like to plant trees. But as we tend and care for them, we ought to reflect on what we can learn from them as well.
The Struggle of Gradual Growth
Seismic shifts in perspective come in stages. When a radically new idea is proposed, we might embrace it on its merits, but we don’t immediately realize its full application.
What the Rebbe Taught Me
Belief in Yourself
They’d stumbled into a surreal and morbid nightmare, it seemed. A successful offensive, whether by land or sea, seemed fantastical—to everyone in the reconnaissance unit, that is, but Caleb and Joshua...
Fly Like a Jailbird
The Rebbe and the prisoner
Are we victims of chance or chosen by Providence?
Parshah Blog
The Incident of the Spies
What mortal sin did the spies commit, if they actually believed that the Land was unconquerable? And why was the nation punished for simply "listening" to an adverse report by their princes?
What Do You Think?
The Evil Elitists
Moses was worried that his group of leaders and “visionaries” would fall into the alluring trap of elitism. It wasn’t a prophecy—it was just a hunch. What he did know was that Joshua would succeed him as leader of the Jewish people...
Kvetching is the first step out of slavery and a way of ensuring that we don’t enter a soul-destroying slave mentality.
Weekly Torah
In the Eye of the Beholder
On recognizing our talents and how to perceive others.
The Whole Truth
Reflections on the Parshah
A Fitting Antidote
How do we take religion out of the once-a-week class? How does one acquire a feeling of (and for) religion? Where does one derive the strength to live by religious ideals, even in moments of weakness?
The Freeman Files
How Truth Got a Life
. . . and how a big truth got real
The other morning, I woke up to discover a little truth. At least, it seemed like a truth to me, but I wanted to make sure. I figured a good philosopher could help me with that . . .
Think back twenty, forty, sixty or eighty years, to the day that you learned how to walk. What you sensed but could not understand then, will tell you much about what you understand but cannot sense today
Sender-sendee relations are a complicated affair. How can we navigate them successfully?
If we stop and think about what we’re doing at any given point in our lives, we’ll discover that, as often as not, we’re doing something for someone else, or sending someone else to do something for ourselves.
Before baking her toil, talent and thaler into bread for herself and her family, she pinches off a choice bit . . .
Covenant & Conversation
Fear of Freedom
How could ten of the spies come back with a defeatist report?
Seeing What Isn't There
Moses sent twelve men to spy out the land. The men were leaders, princes of their tribes, people of distinction. Yet ten of them came back with a demoralising report.
Assembling Reminders
We sometimes fail to understand the connection between religion and morality.
Beyond the Fringe
Clothes disguise. They are like a mask. They hide the person beneath.
One of the fundamental tasks of any leader, from president to parent, is to give people a sense of confidence: in themselves, in the group of which they are a part, and in the mission itself.
Parshah Recovery
On Life's Terms
Like the scouts, we were tragically mistaken. G‑d desires that He be found in reality. Whether or not we are up to the task is irrelevant. It is not on our power that we rely, but on His...
More Parshah Articles
Challah: a Step-by-Step Guide
How to Separate "Challah"
In its more widely-known usage, challah refers to the two loaves of bread that form the core of the Shabbat meal. But in its more basic, biblical meaning, challah is the piece of dough that is separated and consecrated to G-d every time we bake bread
Tallit and Tzitzit
The Jewish Prayer Shawl
This is no fringe mitzvah! The tallit and tzitzit serves as constant reminders of our obligations to G-d and our fellows.
Beyond Speech
Humans vs. Fallen Angels
Unlike angels, we have a human neshamah, a G‑dly soul that is actually a part of Him.
Challah in Three Parts
This mitzvah is so holy that women use the time of separating challah to pour their tender hearts out to G‑d.
On the Haftarah: Change Your Garments and You’ll Change Who You Are
For the haftarah of Shelach, From the Teachings of the Rebbe
We Are G‑d’s Partners in Creation
What about a person like me, who is paralyzed and locked in a body that is unable to do mitzvot?
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