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Rabbi's Blog

Rabbi's Blog

Rabbi Mendel's Blog

Rabbi Mendel's blog features his Dvar Torah (Torah lesson) column from the weekly E-TORAH, ocassional musings and other articles that he authors from time to time.
Your comments are welcome.


I know a principal of a high school who told me that he always waits at least one full day before administering serious punishment to misbehaving students.  That way, he explained, I know I am not acting out of angry impulse, but from measured discipline.

When I read this week’s Torah portion, Noach, and remembered that G-d asked Noach to build the ark to prepare for the flood, I learned a great lesson in patience.

G-d was angry with the behavior of mankind. He wished to destroy the world. He decided that He would spare Noach and his family, but the rest would perish.

Yet G-d does not mete out His plan for another 120 years! Yes, G-d waits one hundred twenty years before the flood actually begins.  Certainly, G-d need… Read More »

It’s All About the Shofar

This coming year we are privileged to a triple-header.  Two days of Rosh Hashanah, followed immediately by Shabbat.  In Judaism, the number three represents a “chazaka.” This means that only when something is done three times, does it have the element of surety, permanence -- one can trust its stability.

Thus, when we have three days in a row of holiness – not an average occurrence – it demonstrates an added infusion of holiness.

Talk about starting the year on the right foot!

So, how do we take advantage of this extra Divine blessing?

By, starting the year on the right foot!

If we show Almighty G-d that we appreciate His blessings, His way of life, we can hope and pray that those blessing will… Read More »


Imagine, you are on trial. In your heart of hearts, you know you are guilty of the charges.

The judge knows you have an imperfect past.

The prosecution will present condemning evidence, produce many eye-witnesses, display video surveillance and scrutinize your own past admissions.  The proof of your guilt is incontrovertible.

Your attorney has advised you to take a plea deal.  She tells you that the sentencing will be harsh no matter what. Better to show remorse and beg for mercy.

You really don’t have much wiggle room at all.

The big day of judgment arrives.

When you enter the courtroom, how is your stride? Are you well dressed? Is your head held high proclaiming innocence, or hung low with guilt. Do you have an… Read More »

The Eye of the Hurricane

It’s difficult to write, even to think, as so many people are suffering and countless others are in harm’s way.

Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, Earthquake in Mexico and Hurricane Jose are some of the devastating natural disasters that we are dealing with.

Our key focus is – and should be – to pray for, support and help those in need. I am humbled by the outpouring of support to so many that have been affected. In Houston, Chabad has been at the forefront. In St. Martin, my colleague, Rabbi Moshe Chanowitz, reports that his family barely survived by camping out in the unfinished mikvah.  The island suffered almost complete destruction.

In Florida, the warnings of storm surge, life-threatening winds… Read More »

What, Not Why?

The devastation and loss of life in Texas leads many of us to ask, “Why?” How can this happen? So many homeless. So many helpless. So many facing uncertainty.

Our hearts go out to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey and their families.

I received an email today from my colleague Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar, director of Chabad in Cary, North Carolina, a native Houstonian.

He wrote:

My cousin, Dayna Skolkin, had her wedding scheduled for this Sunday.

Pinny Bard-Widgor moved to Houston from New York just last week with his wife and children.

Jim McIngvale, (known in Houston as Mattress Mac) made sure to build all of his furniture stores in a way that would survive bad flooding.

Tomer Ben Shushan had years of experience with the… Read More »

Eclipsing the Eclipse

Since Boise is only a short drive away from the path of the total solar eclipse, huge crowds were expected in town. Even greater hordes were projected to arrive in the towns directly within the path of totality.

Billed as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I woke my family before dawn in order to head out to see the eclipse.  We drove to a favorite recreational site of ours, just north of Horseshoe Bend.  Having read and heard all the dire predictions about traffic and gridlock, we gave ourselves 5 hours of travel time, instead of the 45 minutes it normally takes. We also arrived with enough food and supplies for two days, though we were only planning on staying a few hours.  The trip up took about 45 minutes, as it usually… Read More »

Good Omen or Bad Omen?

It hasn’t happened in nearly 100 years. There’s already traffic on the streets.  State and federal agencies are bracing for the influx of visitors.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Idaho is smack in middle of the action.

On Monday, August 21, the USA will experience a total solar eclipse.  It’s an amazing phenomenon that doesn’t happen too often. And, it’s extremely rare for it to pass over the entire USA, albeit totality will only be in a 70-mile-wide band.

But, should we say a blessing when we see the eclipse? We Jews have a blessing for everything. For the food we eat, for the clothes we wear, for weddings and death, for holidays and burning the chametz, for circumcision… Read More »

Locked and Loaded

President Trump unleashed a media uproar with his comments this week regarding North Korea, the reclusive and menacing Asian country. No doubt, Kim Jong Un, the young and ruthless dictator, needs to be kept in check.  How to accomplish that, however, is a matter of great debate.

In an interview, Trump suggested that America would respond with “fire and fury” if provoked by North Korea. He also tweeted that America’s military solutions are “locked and loaded” should Kim Jong Un act unwisely.

While those are loaded terms (pun intended), what they mean is that North Korea’s suspected nuclear capacity is no match for America’s military might.  America‘s strength is not simply bluster.… Read More »

A Mind Wrapped in Emotion

A few weeks ago the Roving Rabbis, Schneur Druk and Mendel Hertz, met a Jew in Idaho Falls.  A retired nuclear scientist, he had not participated in much of anything Jewish for decades. He was elderly and ill and wasn’t particularly interested in religion, to say the least. Science was his religion.

When the rabbis knocked on his door, he greeted them suspiciously, but welcomed them in nonetheless. After a long conversation, he warmed up and decided to take up the rabbis on their offer to perform the mitzvah of tefillin, which is discussed in this week’s parsha Va’etchanan.  He claimed that if he didn’t understand the ritual there was no use doing it. But, he liked the rabbis so he decided to do it… Read More »

Expelled from Sinai

There is a saying in Yiddish, “Az gut iz gut, iz beser nisht beser?!” This translates to, “If good is good, is better not better?”

Put simply, this is a reminder to always strive for better, never to suffice with what we have accomplished.  The Rebbe taught that in material matters we should always be satisfied with our lot. But when it comes to our spiritual journey, being satisfied is a shortcoming. It’s a fault to be strictly avoided.

In the twenty-first century it might be tempting to fall into a state of complacency. Relative to historic terms, we Jews are safe and successful. We have an identity and are accepted by Western society. We are comfortable and aren’t worrying about our… Read More »

To Vow or Not to Vow?

“I promise not to eat any more ice cream this month.”

“I promise not to go on vacation this year.”

“I promise not to attend the social this week.”

Do you think these are good vows to undertake? Or do you feel they are ill-advised?


At the beginning of this week’s double Parshiyot of Matot and Masei, we are taught the rules of oaths.

In Pirkei Avot / Ethics of the Fathers, vows are considered a safeguard of restraint. By prohibiting yourself (through vows) from indulging in even that which the Torah permits, you can effectively fulfill the Torah’s command to “sanctify yourself [even] with that which is permitted to you.”

As the Talmud states, “Asceticism leads to… Read More »

Daily Highlights

 Have you ever gone on an exhilarating hike or thrilling adventure and felt a sense of true euphoria? Have you ever eaten the prefect diet for a day and felt totally connected to your body? Have you ever spent a sacred moment with a loved one and felt completely one with each other?

During those "highs" your entire being sensed a type of perfection and ease with the core of your being. We strive for these highs and sometimes abhor the "lows" of the daily grind.

But, let's ask ourselves: Can our body survive on "highs" alone? Are the highs sufficient to keep us going until the next one?

We may be tempted to answer yes, but that would only be fooling ourselves.  Without constant human… Read More »

Against All Odds

 In 1924 Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn gathered nine of his followers for an urgent, confidential meeting in his Leningrad home.

The Soviet Union was crushing Jewish practice. Rabbis were fleeing Soviet Russia en masse.  Jewish schools, mikvahs, synagogues and butchers were all being forcibly shut down.  The largest Jewish population in the world was slowly being repressed into abandonment of their faith and tradition.  Rabbis, teachers and mohalim were sent off to Siberia, never to be heard from again. The future of Judaism looked desperate and devastating. On pain of death, Jews were simply giving up on their traditions.

With millions of Jews disconnected from their roots, the sixth Rebbe of Chabad asked for a… Read More »

Flowing Water

A famous story is told of the detested town miser who was spitefully given an inconspicuous burial. However, shortly thereafter, everybody realized that the poor people were going hungry. Upon investigation it was discovered that he was secretly paying all their bills.

Similarly, only after her passing was Miriam’s true value recognized.  All too often the real playmakers are unsung heroes during their lifetime. After they are gone, we realize how indispensable they were.

In Parshat Chukat we learn the well-known story of Moshe hitting the rock instead of speaking to it. What is lesser known is why the Jewish people were desperate for water. This sudden dearth of hydration was due to the fact that Miriam had just passed away.… Read More »

Inside and Out

In 1959 an activist in Israel offered the Lubavitcher Rebbe an offer he felt the Rebbe could not refuse. He established a new organization with the agenda of building synagogues throughout the Holy Land. He was offering the Rebbe the title “Honorary President.” The Rebbe, he insisted, would not have to do any actual work. Rather, the Rebbe would just lend his name and this would further the holy cause.

In a letter, the Rebbe declined the offer for two reasons.

Firstly, the Rebbe said that he does not accept offers where there is no actual work. Here is a translated excerpt:

After thanking you for your good intentions, I am compelled to refuse this honor, in keeping with the custom of the Chabad-Lubavitch Rebbes, who as a… Read More »

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