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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.

Dayenu!

This Shabbat we read the Haggadah in preparation for Pesach. It’s called Shabbat HaGadol.

Next Wednesday night Jews will gather together in their homes – likely without guests – to celebrate Pesach and observe the Seder. It will be like the original Seder in Egypt. No one left their homes then either.

But, it won’t be like a Seder is meant to be. Toward the beginning of the Seder we announce, “Whoever is hungry, let him come and eat; whoever is in need, let him come and conduct the Seder of Passover.”

As much as we would like to invite guests, we cannot do so this year.

Some Jews are forced to prepare a Seder for the first time. Others are forced to endure a Seder completely alone. (See this… Read More »

Social Nearness

Social Nearness

“It’s strange,” someone told me this week. “I’m staying home and practicing social distancing. Yet, in a sense, I feel closer to people than I have before. Suddenly, I find myself genuinely concerned about others, inquiring about their well-being like I actually mean it and venturing out of my home not for my own pleasure, but simply to help others. When I call people on the phone, I feel like I really am listening to them.”

We are living through unique and testing times. Each one of us is making sacrifices. Some sacrifices are forced upon us. Others we choose to make.

I may not choose it, but my employer reduced my hours. I may not choose it, but I am unable to attend school or… Read More »

The Sanctuary of Shabbat

For generations, Jews were arrested and murdered because they kept Shabbat. Yet, they still kept Shabbat.

Ironically, today, in an era of freedom, it’s the opposite. For perhaps the first time in history, there is barely a synagogue open on Shabbat. Jews are praying privately at home. Not because of anti-Semitism. Because of a pandemic.

COVID-19 has forced people out of the workplace and schools. It has brought billions of people to shelter at home.

So, what message does the Torah have in dealing with these unprecedented times?

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The parsha this week is a double-header. In Vayakhel and Pekudei we read (again) about the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). G-d demanded of the Jewish people to create a home for Him… Read More »

Soulful Infection

As COVID-19 takes over our daily routines, decision-making and social life, we are faced with lots of stress. To be certain, much of the stress-inducing realities are warranted. At the end of the day, we should be following sound medical advice. I’m not a medical professional and will urge you to adhere to doctors’ orders.

Once we figure out what that medical advice is, the new question, then, is not how to behave. Rather, the question is how to feel. I may indeed need to wash my hands triple the amount of times I have until now. But, how should I feel about it? Frustrated? Anxious? Worried? Angry?

What should my attitude be to missed lifecycle events, to canceled plans, to social distancing, to more careful… Read More »

Community Spread

This week, I went to 5 stores and called another 3 before giving up on finding hand sanitizer locally.

Thank G-d, my wife called me from a supermarket today, insisting that I come immediately because they had hand sanitizer. She was able to purchase some, but they were rationing. In order for us to purchase enough for our large family and for the Chabad Jewish Center, I quickly drove over to get a few more bottles.

Coronavirus has hopefully not arrived in Boise at this point. But, coronavirus fever sure has.

In fact, our community trip to Israel, which was planned for next week, has been indefinitely postponed due to Israel’s strict enforcement of COVID-19 precautions.

The concern facing us in our communities is no longer the… Read More »

Treatment or Vaccine?

As the coronavirus spreads around the world, researchers, doctors and policymakers are scrambling to contain the disease. Preventing contagion seems to be a tall order at this point, with the novel virus spreading to more countries. The World Health Organization is now concerned that a global pandemic is possible. Even Wall Street has taken a hit.

In order to address this health concern, researchers are rushing in two different directions. Some are frantically trying to develop a treatment that can halt the disease in infected patients. Others are working on developing a vaccine to prevent infection.

Obviously, both medical interventions are critical. But, which will happen first?

Normally, treatments are much easier and quicker to… Read More »

Bit by Bit

Sadly, many people who achieve greatness don’t know what to do with it. How many celebrities’ lives have spiraled into self-destruction after becoming famous? How many unknowns have hit the political spotlight, only to fade into oblivion, unable to handle the heat?

The truth is that we all face the same problem. We may not have the magnified burdens of rock stars or the headline-making news of politicians, but we still face the challenge of living up to the changes that occur in our lives. In fact, often these changes are good, productive strides ahead. And, nonetheless, we may struggle with our newly accomplished goals. For one person it may be the new “me” that I discover after a rigorous weight-loss… Read More »

Privacy

There are some gifts that you wish to share with everyone. Maybe, it’s a new car or a cool gadget. Maybe it’s a membership in a club or a vacation spot.

But, then there are gifts that must remain private. Not because you are stingy or antisocial. They are private simply because it would not be beneficial to any of the parties to share the gift.

For example, an intimate moment with family would be meaningless to strangers, and may be harmful to your beloved if shared.

*

When the Jewish people received the Torah, which we learn about in this week’s parsha Yitro, G-d “introduced” Himself in the opening of the Ten Commandments.

G-d declares, “I am the L‑rd your G‑d, who has brought you out of the… Read More »

Running into a Wall

 

Do you ever feel like you are headed into a brick wall? Sometimes it’s a relationship that stubbornly refuses to improve. At other times it’s a project that doesn’t seem to be going the way you want it to go. Or, it’s the disaster that life in general seems to be presenting.

Confronting these circumstances, we often wonder what is the appropriate approach. What does the Torah suggest I do in these situations? Should I believe firmly that G-d knows what’s best for me and therefore just roll with the punches? Should I pray fervently for Divine intervention to intercede and alter the course of events?

Essentially, these seem like contradictory paths. And, if I believe in G-d, then I should not pray. He… Read More »

Winter’s Bloom

Wednesday will mark 70 years since Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory took over the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Known affectionately as The Rebbe, he at first refused to accept the mantle of leadership, preferring a life of privacy.

When he finally acceded, he set forth a groundbreaking and revolutionary philosophy. In a world shattered by the Holocaust, displacement and assimilation – the Rebbe begged to differ from the norm. He declared that the world was Hashem’s beautiful garden. All we needed to do was reveal the inherent good. The inherent good in every person. The inherent good in the universe. The inherent good in our destiny.

At the time it seemed absurd.

Fast forward seventy years and the Rebbe’s… Read More »

Get it Done!

“Mike Will Get It Done!” promises the Bloomberg Campaign. “Promises Made, Promises Kept!” declares the Trump Campaign. It’s political season and we are inundated with bold statements.

These are marketing slogans, but they are meant to present a message of trust in a candidate’s ability to deliver.

But, is delivering always a good thing? I’d assume that if you don’t like Mike Bloomberg’s policies you won’t want him to “get it done.” And, if you are not supportive of President Trump, you will pray that he does not keep his promises. (To be clear, I do not endorse any political candidates. This is merely to illustrate a point).

What if you support a specific idea… Read More »

Chapter One

“This is such a sad book,” my daughter recently commented when we began reading.

“Well,” I countered, “It might be a sad chapter, but we are still on Chapter One. Perhaps the ending will be happy. Maybe in the end it’s a happy book.”

*

This week we begin reading the Book of Shemot (Exodus). The first parsha is also called Shemot.

Unfortunately, the position of the Jewish people takes a drastic nosedive. Gone are the good old days when one of their own ruled the country. Gone are the days of comfort and riches. Gone are the peace and tranquility of sitting at the feet of their wise Patriarch Yaakov.

Servitude. Infanticide. Torture. This is the new reality. It’s depressing.

On the… Read More »

Be Within, Stay Above

My three-year-old daughter has been toilet trained for a while. However, she often wants one of her parents to accompany her for this ritual. Recently, my wife and I have been trying to get her to fulfill her bodily duties on her own. 

My wife devised a plan. Every time our daughter needs to use the bathroom, my wife and I give her an imaginary rope to hold onto. We promise that we are holding the rope the entire time and she is never alone.

Now, instead of asking for one of us to accompany her, she simply asks for a ‘rope.’ We extend our hands and hand off the ‘rope.’

By holding this ‘rope’ she knows that she is not alone.

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Just before his passing, recorded in this week’s parsha… Read More »

Made in the USA

As recent events indicate a sharp rise in anti-Semitic attacks in our beloved United States, we wonder what the future looks like.

As the conflict between the United States and Israel with terror-sponsoring Iran deepens, we wonder what the future looks like.

As we enter the 2020s, when a majority of Jews in America are already second or third generation Americans, we wonder what the future looks like.

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In this week’s parsha Vayigash, we learn of an emotional reunion. Yaakov, the father of the Twelve Tribes, comes down to Egypt and is reunited with his son Yoseph. He had long believed his son was dead. Having been recently informed that Yoseph was alive and was indeed the ruler of Egypt, Yaakov was infused with renewed… Read More »

Double Miracle?

My children know good and well that when I repeat instructions to them, it is – in all likelihood – not because I have gone senile (G-d Forbid), but because I am emphasizing something. It is important and sometimes it is urgent.

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This week’s parsha Miketz tells of two dreams that Par’oh, the king of Egypt, had. After Yodef (Joseph) successfully interprets the dreams he is promoted to viceroy, eventually leading to the reunion with his family.

Why did Hashem make Pharaoh have two virtually identical dreams? Wouldn’t one dream be sufficient?

Yosef explained to Phar’oh that the repetition is emphasizing that this matter is imminent and critical. It requires concentrated attention and forceful action.

Read More »

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