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.
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Stones of Heart

I just returned from the Holy Land.

Walking through the streets of Jerusalem, each step is measured and meaningful. Who walked on these stones before me? What is the story that they tell? Thousand of years of Jewish life. Dozens of rulers and civilizations. Countless lives uplifted and shattered. Dejection, jubilation, and hope.

It’s amazing how these stones, inanimate and hard, are actually warm and soft. Their ridges and toughness is inviting and rejuvenating. They may be stones, but they are uniquely alive. They tell a story. And, they tell it with heart.


The Book of Vayikra/Leviticus, which we begin reading this week, is replete with laws pertaining to the Temple service.  In fact, many refer to it as Torat Kohanim… Read More »

Building for Eternity

Spending time in the Holy Land of Israel is always special. Spending it with members of our community is extra special. And, spending it with over 700 fellow Jews from sister Chabad centers is simply amazing.

As we walk the streets of Jerusalem I am struck at the history that these stones speak. Every step is laden with meaning. Generations have come and gone and each of them have left a message. That message is expressed in the structures, the burial places, and the trees.

Eight-hundred-year-old olive trees tell the tales of communities that invested in the earth to feed themselves and many generations to come.  Structures from medieval times tell of the constant conquest of Jerusalem, trading hands again and again. The burial… Read More »

Artificial Love

Implanting chips in animals is one of the hotly debated moral questions of the day.

Could humans be next? Will AI take over all of our decisions soon?

Is this message being written by ChatGPT?

So, should we kiss our own brains goodbye?  Are we soon to be dominated by computer overlords?

I am reminded of the excitement when virtual pets became… reality.  If you are allergic to cats, no problem. Just sign up for a digital cat and you can enjoy all the responsibilities and companionship of a real-life pet.

But can a virtual pet replace a real one? Can a computer replace a human mind?


A great Chassidic Rebbe once commented that people do not love money -- because money does not love people, as we see that it can… Read More »

The Missing G-d

The story is told of a CEO who was running late to a very important meeting. This was going to be the biggest business deal of his life, worth millions.  He pulls up at the office building in his car, looking frantically for a parking spot.  None are available. Though not much of the religious type, he calls out to G-d:  “If you find me a parking spot in the next two minutes, I’ll give $10,000 to charity.”  He desperately circles around the parking lot for another minute and calls out: “G-d, I’ll give $100,000 to charity if you find me a place to park in the next 90 seconds!”  Ten seconds later a car pulls out of a spot directly in front of the building. As he zooms in, he shouts… Read More »

The Pottery Barn Rule

Going shopping with young children can be challenging.  I often find myself telling them – incessantly – about the Pottery Barn Rule, “You break it, you own it.”

But recently I had the tables turned on me.  When my daughter’s toy broke and she could not find a way to fix it, she came to me with the desperate plea to repair it.  I attempted but could not succeed. At that point she cleverly turned to me and said, “I’m giving it to you. Now it’s yours and it’s broken. You need to fix it.”


In this week’s parsha Terumah, G-d instructs the Jewish people to donate thirteen items for the construction of the Mishkan, the mobile Sanctuary.  From gold and… Read More »

First Things First

My wife returned from New York this week, after attending the Chabad-Lubavitch International Shluchos Conference – and I was home tending to five lovely children.

I have always appreciated the opportunity to spend more time with my kids when Esther is away for her annual recharge.  And I am also learning to appreciate the sheer challenge of spending more time with my children in the absence of their mother.

Many of my colleagues contend that this time of year is Chabad Rabbis’ annual “Wife Appreciation Week” – and I’m certainly an enthusiastic member of the chorus.

Due to my single-parent mode, I inevitably get less Rabbinic work done this week than others.  I’ve been told it’s… Read More »

Learning on the Job

Some people argue that part of my rabbinic credentials lie in my reliable tardiness.  That still would not be sufficient excuse for the inability to find the time to transcribe some thoughts on this week’s Torah portion, Yitro.

I do, however, have a decent defense this time.

You see, once a year, during the weekend commemorating the passing of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneersohn obm, Chabad-Lubavitch Shluchos (Rebbetzins) from around the world gather in New York for an annual conference. These great women spend much-deserved time together studying, sharing, schmoozing and maybe just breathing a breath of fresh (and freezing) air.  It’s a weekend of inspiration, guidance and camaraderie that is unparalleled.  In… Read More »

True Thanks

Wednesday was a special day this week. Aside from it being the 73rd anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s leadership, it was a defining moment for our community.

As our community grows, and our communal home expands, we took the opportunity to thank our donors for making this happen. To be sure, it’s a work in progress. But, the progress is indeed outstanding.

We are grateful and indebted to the devoted donors, volunteers and community members that continue to make our Jewish community flourish!

Having great partners has shown us true humility in appreciation.


And, it’s an important time to reflect on gratitude. This week’s parsha, Beshalach contains a landmark declaration of gratitude – after a… Read More »

A Real Hero?

Who is George Santos?

Most of us cannot properly answer that question. In a fact-is-stranger-than-fiction Capitol-Hill-reality-show, we keep learning more about how little we knew about the Congressman from New York’s third district. Many of his claims have been debunked – including that his Jewish grandparents fled Nazi Europe.

While people seek answers, it jolts us into thinking about the people we idolize, admire or “follow.” Are they, in their real lives, the heroes (or cowards) that we truly wish to emulate (or despise)? Do they exist in the way we believe or have we simply molded them into something that fits our perception, hopes and dreams?


In this week’s Parsha of Bo the Torah testifies that… Read More »

Houdini’s Magic

My son once bought a magic trick set. He was so proud of the few tricks that he had mastered. He was longing for the opportunity to show off these tricks (after subjecting the family to incessant renditions). He had ample chance to do so and enjoyed his new hobby.  Until he met his match.  When he went to a ‘real’ magic show, his heart sunk. “I can never do those types of tricks.”

It’s one thing to impress family and friends. But to impress the pros is a different league altogether.


When Moshe and Aharon brought forth the first few miracles and plagues in Egypt, Par’oh was not impressed.

The Midrash recounts that Pharaoh began to mock them and crow at them like a cock, saying to them… Read More »

Who Owes Whom?

It’s a new secular year and it may be time to start thinking about our tax bill. In the United States, taxes are generally owed in arrears (though employers may take it off employees’ paychecks).

The question often arises: Who owes whom? Some citizens owe the government money and others are due a refund. There are so many factors involved that even accountants can get confused. And, the laws keep changing.

In essence, however, the debate rages on. Individual cases vary, but the financial and philosophical query applies to all. Are citizens indebted to their government, or is the state indebted to its citizens?


In this week’s parsha Shemot we read about Hashem choosing Moshe to deliver the Jewish people from… Read More »


As we move on from Chanukah, I’m reminded of the annual discussion about gifts. Aside from the debate on how many gifts to give our children, where does this tradition stem from, and gifts vs. gelt – there is another dilemma to deal with. That is the challenge of giving presents to all of our children without causing too much sibling rivalry or jealousy. Lately, we’ve been trying to focus more on shared gifts to eliminate such concerns.

Perhaps we can take a cue from this week’s Parsha of Vayechi, in which Jacob blesses Joseph’s two sons Menashe and Ephraim.  Jacob gives a greater blessing to Ephraim, the younger son.  Over Joseph’s protests, Jacob switches his hands in order to place his… Read More »

Year’s End or Beginning?

As we wind down the secular/fiscal year, we look back at what transpired. What worked and what didn’t work.

For some people, checking the gains and losses in the stock market or personal businesses is the primary focus. For others, it’s school grades.

Luckily, as time elapses, it also moves forward – with next year to look forward to.

There is one investment, however, that is guaranteed to succeed.

The investment of time we have given to others is an eternal gift – to them and to ourselves.

During the recent blizzard in Buffalo we have heard heroic and tragic stories. The efforts invested to help others will never go to waste.

And, this helps us understand a point in this week’s parsha.


In Vayigash… Read More »

The Ignored Miracle?

Chanukah, one of the most observed Jewish holidays – commemorates two miracles. The first, the victory of the Maccabees’ small, amateur army over the mighty Greek-Syrians, is the lesser-known of the two. The latter, the oil of the menorah lasting eight days instead of one, is relived every year when we kindle the menorah.

In effect, the rededication and kindling of the menorah in the Holy Temple would not have been possible without the military victory. Yet, why is there no overt celebration of this aspect of the Chanukah story? Isn’t the celebration of our religious freedom greater than the remarkable feat of the magical oil?

On Chanukah we were fighting for the soul of Judaism. The Greek-Syrians were happy to accept… Read More »

Thank G-d!

As Chanukah approaches, we get excited about the spirit of the holiday. After all, Chanukah is a fun holiday. We don’t need to sit in Shul fasting all day. Nor do we need to go on a strict diet and stuff our face with matzah in record time. Who could complain about latkes, donuts and Chanukah gelt? Beautiful Candles and decorations bring the festive spirit to life.

There are two miraculous events that we are marking on Chanukah.

The miracle of Chanukah is the miracle of oil. The menorah burned for eight days instead of one. It’s also the miracle of the few versus the many. The tiny Maccabee militia defeated the huge Greek-Syrian army.

But more importantly, it’s a miracle of faith and spirit. After all, what were the… Read More »

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