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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.

Just Getting Started

Wherever I go, I see signs that say, “WE’RE HIRING!” Today I was in a store that advertised a finder’s fee of $500 immediate cash for anyone that found an employee.

My friends in retail, services and professional fields all tell me the same thing. We are short-staffed and cannot find anyone to hire. Bonuses and benefits don’t seem to be doing the trick.

In fact, at the Chabad Jewish Center, we are also looking to hire secretarial help. Good luck to us…

Nobody seems to know the root cause of this dearth of employees. Is it still due to the pandemic? Is it due to the government support and handouts? Is it simply a changing psyche within American culture? Is it due to people retiring at a younger… Read More »

Unstoppable

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was once blessed by Mr. David Chase that he be able to continue his wonderful work for many years.

Without hesitation, the Rebbe responded, “I am not satisfied with only continuing. It must increase.”

After this dear supporter insisted that he would be satisfied if the Rebbe simply continued the status quo, the Rebbe added that not only must he (the Rebbe) increase, but he also expects Mr. Chase to increase. A living being, the Rebbe explained, must always grow.

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In this week’s parsha, Lech Lecha, we are introduced to the first Jew, Avraham. G-d’s opening words to Avraham – as recorded in the Torah – are, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your… Read More »

Absent?

Idaho’s number one and number two executives have been in the national headlines again this week. Idaho’s Governor and Lt. Governor have been dueling, with the Lt. Governor issuing Executive Orders while the Governor is traveling out of state. This time, before the Governor even returned to Idaho, he issued an Executive Order reversing the Lt. Governor’s Executive Order.

All of this leads to a debate about the authority of the Lt. Governor to assume the role of Acting Governor and issue Executive Orders when the Governor is absent from the state. And, that is exactly the issue that the Attorney General’s office was asked to weigh in on.

What does it mean to be absent?

The Lt. Governor claims that when the… Read More »

Copycats 101

Some people loathe copycats.

Others adore the emulation.

In the opening parsha of the Torah, Bereishit, studied this week as the weekly Torah portion, we learn about how the world came to be. The act of creation is an act that no one has been able to copy.

In fact, a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed G-d. So, they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.

The scientist walked up to G-d and said, "G-d, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost."

G-d listened very patiently and kindly to the man. After the scientist was done… Read More »

Reality Check

Which Festival in the Torah is considered the most joyous?

According to the Torah, it is Sukkot (joy is mentioned three times regarding Sukkot, the most of any Biblical holiday).

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Why is Sukkot the most joyous holiday? Wouldn’t Passover, the liberation and birth of our nation, qualify as more joyous than remembering dwelling in huts and G-d’s Clouds of Glory? Or, wouldn’t the moment G-d revealed Himself to humanity and gave us the most precious gift, the Torah, qualify better than Sukkot?

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Which Book in the Torah is considered the saddest?

Most would respond that it is the Book of Kohelet / Ecclesiastes.

Interestingly, it is this Book that is associated with Sukkot (some have a custom to read the entire Book of… Read More »

Siamese Twins

Siamese twins can think independently, but often need to learn how to cooperate, as they may share some limbs or bodily functions.  At a minimum, they share the space they occupy. They cannot be in separate places at the same time.

For those of us that are not Siamese twins, what would it feel like to be connected to someone at the hip?

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In this week’s parsha, Haazinu, G-d describes His relationship with the Jewish people: ”Because the L-rd's portion is His people Jacob, the lot of His inheritance.”  In Hebrew, it literally reads: “Because the Lord's portion is His people Jacob, the rope of His inheritance.”

Why are the Jewish people compared to a rope? And, how is this relevant to being… Read More »

E Unum Pluribus

One of the great virtues of America dates back to its founding. Thirteen colonies joined together to form the union that is the United States of America.  Thus declares the Latin motto on our currency: E pluribus unum, translated as “Out of many, one.”

Throughout the years this oneness has grown to include many others. 183 years later the 50th state, Hawaii, joined the union. Thousands upon thousands arrived on America’s shores from other countries, embracing America’s values and seeking its opportunities.  And, no doubt, many more will come.

The beauty of America is the joining together of so many different individuals toward a common goal.

What happens, I wonder, when an American leaves America for… Read More »

The Company You Keep

It turns out that the (digital) company you keep can have a profound influence on your financial life.  Some lenders and credit card companies investigate your tweets and Facebook friends to learn more about your spending habits. Apparently, they are also judging you by your friends’ activities.  If your online acquaintances are delinquent or have accumulated too many DUIs – you may be denied a loan.

Many of us might consider it unfair for banks to withhold funds due to my neighbor’s unpaid bills.  Why should I suffer if my coworker’s birthday party was at Seven Eleven instead of the Hilton hotel?

Yet, some financial institutions argue that the information gleaned from your social media interactions… Read More »

Knee-Jerk Praise

Sometimes, when attending or viewing a ballgame it’s difficult to assess exactly what’s happening on the field.  Nonetheless, it’s pretty clear when something favorable occurs to the team I support.  The field might be too crowded to decipher exactly what happened, but I’m certain that my team has control of the ball. Turns out it was a fumble recovery in our favor.  My excitement and cheering began before I even knew what had transpired.

In fact, I might need to wait for the announcer, the instant replay or a friend’s explanation to figure out what really occurred.  No matter. I’m cheering because I sense something went right for my team.

I may not know why I’m on board, but… Read More »

Mission Accomplished?

When President George W. Bush stood on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003 under the banner stating “Mission Accomplished,” it turned out to be a bit premature. The success of the war in Iraq is still hotly debated today.

And, now, the United States is in the final stages of pulling out its last troops – while the Taliban reestablishes its control over Afghanistan.

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Nearly twenty years after September 11, 2001 we are left to reflect on the horrors of that tragic day.  The lives lost, the families broken and the collective pain of our nation.  Add to that the constant inconveniences, reminders and concerns that continue to affect us in airport security lines, job applications and our… Read More »

Should We Do Away with Monarchy?

We’ve never had a king in America. But, for most of history, monarchs have ruled the earth. Even today, kings or queens are in power in numerous lands.

This reminds us of a mitzvah in this week’s Torah portion. We are commanded, “You shall set a king over you.”  In our own nation’s storied history this concept of a monarch has caused great concern, admiration and discord.  Of course, that was all a long time ago. Now, a democratic government controls the Holy Land.

In light of the great progress we have made, how should we view the Torah’s eternal command to “set a king” over ourselves? Isn’t the notion of a monarch archaic and regressive?

Certainly, Judaism rejects the… Read More »

A Merger, Not a Partnership

Two drunks were once overheard debating their friendship.

“I love you,” shouted one to the other.

“No, you don’t!” responded his fellow drunkard.

“Yes, I do! I love you with all my heart! Why don’t you believe me?” retorted the first drunk.

The thundering response was, “Because, if you truly love me, why don’t you know what’s hurting me?”

It so happened that the great Chassidic Rebbe Levi Yirtzchok of Berditchev was the one who overheard this dialogue. He later declared, “I learned the true meaning of love from a couple drunkards.”

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In this week’s parsha Re’eh, we are reminded to observe G-d’s commandments. The Torah states: You… Read More »

Thanks... But No Thanks!

Many scholars have observed that the pandemic has taught many a person the true values of life. We no longer take our health, social interaction, or retirement nest egg for granted.  We listen a little more to the sorrows and challenges of others.  Certainly, there is a silver lining to the… Read More »

Have Your Cake and Eat it Too!

As we prepare for another awesome session of Camp Gan Israel of Boise, I’m reminded of a trip to Wahooz Family Fun Center. Amongst the many activities and attractions are various arcade games, which seem to be a highlight for children (and adults) of all ages.  The most popular games provide tickets – redeemable for prizes – in return of a good score.

The first time my son was old enough to grasp what these games were, he had a great complaint against the machines.  “Why is it,” he questioned, “that sometimes the machine gives a lot of tickets and sometimes just a few, or none at all?!”

I explained that the machines produce tickets based on performance.  If you do well… Read More »

Just Get Over It?

The story is told that Napoleon Bonaparte was once walking by a synagogue and heard terrible wailing. He peered inside to see that the Jews were sitting on the ground and weeping, while reading from books. Upon inquiring what misfortune had befallen these people, he was informed that they were mourning the loss of their Holy Temple. Jews all over fast and pray on this sad day, when their sacred Temple was destroyed – twice.

“How long ago was this Temple destroyed?” the legendary Frenchman asked. When he was told that they were crying over an event that happened over 1700 years before, he declared, “A nation that cries and fasts for a Temple that they lost almost two millennia prior, will certainly merit to see it… Read More »

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