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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.

You Are What You Wear?

I once received a phone call from a family I did not know. The father was deathly ill and they wanted a rabbi to visit him in the hospital. I rushed over, recited a prayer for recovery and the final prayers.  I offered my support, wished them well and told them to call me any time of day or night if there was a need or if the situation worsened.

The next day I was informed that their father had passed.  I inquired whether arrangements had been made. “Yes,” I was told. We have a funeral home taking care of it.  I asked about a Jewish burial. There was none planned. “Rabbi, we are so grateful for your support in our time of need.  Please tell us how we can give our father and husband the proper Jewish ri… Read More »

G-d’s Housing Crisis

Homelessness is rampant in America’s major cities.  We can debate the core cause of homelessness, but all would agree that not having a home causes further instability.

The fortunately housed amongst us also spend time outside the home. Whether we travel for business or pleasure, we sometimes need to stay in temporary housing. It may be five-star or one-star, but it’s not home. It may be fun, different, or pampered – but it lacks the comfort and familiarity of our own dwelling.

What if you had a home wherever you went? What if you had multiple homes or places to stay whenever you wanted? Would you still have that benefit and secure feeling of ‘home’?

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In the parsha of Terumah that we read this week, G… Read More »

The Greatest Audience

Seven million dollars.

That’s the average cost for a 30-second advertising spot for the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Despite recent concerns that an ad may tank a company, there is no shortage of advertisers.

(Do people still watch the game, or do they just skip to the commercials?)

Contrast this astronomical price tag to an infomercial on a local TV station at 3:00 am.  It’s virtually free.

The clear lesson is that the value of (advertising) time clearly depends on the audience.  At 3:00 am nobody can justify spending millions on a commercial.  But the chance to promote your merchandise or company to what may be the most watched televised event in history is a different story altogether.  Production costs asid… Read More »

The Oral Tradition

As Rebbetzin Esther enjoys a well-deserved week in New York at the annual International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries, I am privileged to up my game on the home front.

As I filled in for my children’s best Morah (Mommy!), my daughter reminded me, “That’s not the way Mommy does it.” From morning prayers to preparing lunch, I have very big shoes to fill. More importantly, doing it Mommy’s way is sacred!

(And, of course it reminds me how lucky I am. Amongst Shluchim, this week has been nicknamed Shluchos Appreciation Week).

What is it about the motherly touch that is so meaningful to children? Why is a mother-father dynamic so important to the family unit?

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In this week’s parsha Yitro the J… Read More »

A Peek Under the Hood

We had some trouble with our furnace this week. It’s not pleasant when you need to figure out why your heat isn’t working in middle of the winter.

We are fortunate to have a friend who is an HVAC expert and he came out to have a look and troubleshoot the issue. He checked out all types of gadgets and parts inside the furnace and made some tweaks. Hopefully, all is well now.

It reminded me about this week’s parsha Beshalach. We read about the famous story of the Splitting of the Sea. After the Jews departed the horrible prison of Egypt, they found themselves stuck between the sea and Pharaohs advancing army. G-d gave them instructions, “Move forward.” Indeed, they marched forward and, miraculously, the sea spl… Read More »

Come on in!

In 1951 on the tenth of Shevat (which is marked tomorrow) the Lubavitcher Rebbe accepted the leadership of the Chabad Lubavitch movement. He had actually been leading the Chassidim ever since his father-in-law’s passing in 1950. But, he did not formally accept the role of Rebbe until Yud Shevat a year later.

During his inaugural address the Rebbe expounded upon a verse in Shir Hashirim (Son of Songs), which states: “I have come to my garden, my sister, my bride.” Quoting the Midrash, the Rebbe explained that Almighty G-d is stating that He wishes to return to His garden, which is this world.

The beginning of Creation saw G-d comfortably “at home” in His garden, the Garden of Eden. However, subsequent human fa… Read More »

Once Upon a Time

The most famous stories all seem to begin with Once Upon a Time. And they all appear impossible to occur today.

The very words, “Once upon a time,” conjure the image of something legendary and perhaps beyond repetition.

But what if we could relive the ages long bygone? Would that be good or bad?

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In this week’s parsha of Va’eirah the Jewish people begin the process that will lead to their liberation from Egyptian bondage. The first seven of the ten plagues befall Egypt, but the wicked Pharaoh is still reluctant to let the Jewish people go.

Eventually – after ten plagues – he urges them to leave.

This is a story so essential to Judaism that most of our Festivals revolve around it, most notably Pesac… Read More »

Supernatural Resolutions?

“Rabbi, which resolution should I take on this year?”

“Rabbi, for some reason I’m never able to keep my resolutions. What should I do?”

These are the types of questions I receive at this time of year.

Of course, I have a whole laundry list of suggestions, starting with Advice for Life.

But, as far as a general approach to resolutions, this parsha might offer some insight. In the opening eponymous parsha of Shemot, we are introduced to the great Jewish leader Moshe.

Moshe’s first encounter with G-d is described in the Torah as follows:

An angel of the L-rd appeared to him in a flame of fire from within the thorn bush, and behold, the thorn bush was burning with fire, but the thorn bush was not being …Read More »

Un-conditioning

Emily Hand was orphaned from her mother at two years old. Learning to live without her mother would prove to be just a small part of Emily’s endurance.

On October 7 the Irish-Israeli eight-year-old was abducted by a terrorist and brought into Gaza as a hostage.

After nearly two months she was released and reunited with her father, Thomas. He is overjoyed at her safe reunion.

However, after a few weeks he noticed that she still speaks in whispers. The terrorists did not let them speak in normal tones. She had become so accustomed to whisper – on pain of death – that it has become the only thing she knows.

She is free from Hamas, but cannot rid herself of Hamas.

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In this week’s parsha Vayechi, the Jewish people … Read More »

Acts of G-d

Insurance companies usually worship the mighty dollar. But, for certain events, they become earnestly religious and consider G-d to be the responsible party.

Ever reviewed the fine print of your homeowner’s insurance policy? Likely, there is a clause in it addressing – and possibly excluding coverage for – “acts of G-d.”

Acts of G-d are usually defined as events outside of human control which cannot be prevented. Examples include tornadoes, hurricanes, lightning, volcanoes, severe hail, earthquakes and floods.

Do we believe in “acts of G-d”? Should certain occurrences be designated as different than others?

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When Yoseph finally reveals his identity to his dumbstruck brothers, he tells them, &l… Read More »

A Shining Transition

Chanukah is often referred to informally as the Festival of Lights. (Just for the record, it is not an official name of Chanukah and does not appear in any ancient Jewish literature).  It is a time when we celebrate light over darkness. We kindle the menorah, specifically at night and specifically toward the outside. These acts demonstrate that light shall prevail over darkness.

The significance of light is evident from the very opening verses of the Torah. Light was created on the first day of Creation (interestingly, the sun, moon and stars were created on day four).

The truth is that light was not the original, default state. If you look at the Torah’s account of Creation, there was darkness and chaos first. Additionally, th… Read More »

The Authentic Signature

After the Maccabees successfully drove the Greek-Syrians out and retook the Temple in Jerusalem, their first call of duty was reestablishing the rites of the Temple. They found lots of oil in the Temple, but only one jug that had the seal of the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) still intact. We are familiar with the miraculous ending of the story – the oil lasted not one day, but eight. Hence, the eight days of Chanukah.

But, if the Greeks were aiming to prevent the Jews from practicing the Temple rituals, why not steal all the oil altogether?

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A Rembrandt piece of art is auctioned for millions of dollars and original classic cars are sold for several hundred thousand dollars because of their unique quality and limited availability. But … Read More »

A Perpetual State of War?

Our hearts are split. We are joyous for the hostages that have been able to reunite with their families. And, we are heartbroken for those that are still in the hands of terrorists.

Alas, the war between Israel and barbaric Hamas continues.

How do we ensure that good prevails over evil?

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In this week’s parsha Vayishlach, Yaakov meets up with his brother Eisav for the first time in over three decades. Eisav had pledged to murder Yaakov, causing him to flee.  His pledge was not simply bombastic rhetoric. He backed it up with action, sending his son Eliphaz to pursue Yaakov.  Many years later – with no upgrade in the relationship – Yaakov was heading back to Israel.

The report was not encouraging: Eisav was he… Read More »

Gratitude for the Future

 As Americans are putting away their dishes from Thanksgiving dinner, Jews are getting ready to usher in Shabbat, a weekly time of thanksgiving.

At this moment, thankfulness is not an easy task for Jews.

Yet, today we received a small sliver of gratitude to Almighty G-d. Our hearts are bursting with joy for the hostages that have been released from terrorist captivity. We can only imagine the glee their families will experience as they are reunited.

But, the situation is still very complex. Thousand are mourning the loss of loved ones, all due to the barbaric acts of terrorists. It’s unclear what the future holds – for the rest of the hostages and for our brethren in the Holy Land. And, for Jews worldwide.

Let’s t… Read More »

Terror vs. Torah

The bodies were still fresh from a terrorist assault in Israel when the condemnation of Israel began from the usual suspects.  In Israel, a united country braces for what lies ahead.  The Jewish people do not seek war.  This was brought upon the people of Israel again and again and again.

As we pray and hope for peace in the Holy Land, many have suggested that Israel’s response to free the hostages and end the terror should be limited to diplomatic efforts and praying.

Is that the Jewish response?

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In this week’s Prasha of Toldot, we read about twin brothers Yaakov (Jacob) and Eisav (Esau).  Yaakov is the Torah scholar and Esau the hunter.  Their father, Yitzchak, was concerned about his demise and … Read More »

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