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.

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?


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… 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… 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?


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 »

More Alive Than Ever

Wounded, but more alive than we have ever been.

That's what I felt when visiting our brothers and sisters in Israel the last few days.

At the Sheba Medical Center, I listened to the stories of dozens of injured soldiers. Some were wounded on October 7th. Others were wounded in Gaza. Others witnessed their friends murdered in front of their eyes. Others were forced to kill terrorists. And, others could not describe the atrocities they saw.

But, what I learned in my quick visit is that all of them were burning with a sense of pride, purpose and spirit that is simply indescribable. Despite their wounds they were eager to heal so they could help their country again.

I have never seen Israel so absolutely united. Wherever I went we were all… Read More »

See Something, Do Something

I am fielding lots of calls these days. Some are from people seeking to support us and to support the people in Israel. Others are seeking reassurance and support themselves.

And, others are asking me for advice on how to solve the problems in the Middle East and prevent the like of October 7.

To be honest, these are my least favorite questions. First of all, I don’t have all the answers. Second of all – let’s take a peak at this week’s Parsha.


When 99-year-old Avraham is recovering from circumcision he sees three men passing by. The Torah states, “And he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them.”

Why does the Torah state twice that… Read More »

The Iconoclast

Ever wonder where the term Ivrit comes from. Ivrit, the word for modern Hebrew, is taken from the word Ivri.

So, what does Ivri mean and where does it come from?

We are introduced to the word Ivri in this week’s parsha of Lech lecha.

It was, in fact, the title of the first Jew. Avraham is referred to in the Torah as Avraham Ha’Ivri, Abraham the Hebrew.  In fact, if you look more closely at the words, you will notice that Hebrew is simply a transliteration of the original Ivri.

The problem is that there was no Hebrew nation at the time. So, what does the word Ivri mean?

Rashi points out that Ivri (עברי) stems from the word Ever (עבר), which means the other side. Avraham received this nickname because he was on the… Read More »

A Nation of Noahs

I heard a remark from someone recently that Israel needs a Zelensky. When Ukraine was being attacked by a huge army and missiles poured down on Kyiv, President Zelensky stood proudly in the streets in his green shirt. That act of courage galvanized the support and willpower of the Ukrainian people. If only Israel had such a leader…

The more I thought about this comment, the more I realized how wrong it is.

Israel doesn’t need a courageous and charismatic leader to propel it forward.

Israel is a nation of thousands and millions of ‘Zelenskys.’

The stories pouring out of Israel, of common folk saving dozens of lives, of reservists rushing back to Israel from overseas voluntarily, of Jews across the world… Read More »

No Words

I don’t have words to write today.

Every Jew’s heart has been aching. More than we knew we could handle.

As this difficult week comes to a close, I remember that we are reading Parshat Bereishit this week. The first parsha. The story of Genesis – beginning. The act of Creation.

We have completed the Torah and we are starting anew.

The exact path of the current situation that our brothers and sisters in the Holy land are experiencing, is unclear.

But, this parsha gives me a boost of faith and hope in a time of unjust cruelty, atrocities, and suffering. It reminds me that there is a new beginning ahead. I cannot understand the how and when, but I sense that we, the eternal people, will recover and prevail.

I recount… Read More »

Dancing Legs

Yesterday, my wife Esther gave birth to a baby girl. Our daughter arrived a bit early, but we are grateful for the gift whenever it comes. Thank G-d, mother and baby are well.

I was holding my precious daughter and thinking about the infinite gift of life that Esther and I are privileged to have received. The word precious isn’t really enough to describe the emotions of holding a new baby – even if you’ve done this eleven times before.

As I pondered this, my thoughts wandered to the upcoming celebration of Simchat Torah this Saturday night, when we will dance with the most precious object in Judaism – the holy Torah Scroll. Embracing a baby and embracing the Torah certainly share many similarities. Perhaps the… Read More »

All Jews!

In lieu of a personal message, please enjoy this piece by my colleague and former yeshiva-mate, By Rabbi Eli Friedman (Chabad of Calabasas).

The Talmud in Tractate Sukkah makes the following statement: "All Jews are worthy of sitting in the same Sukkah."


All Jews!


And some will ask, "What about those Jews who don't keep the holiday of Sukkot?"


All Jews.


And some will ask, "What about those Jews who want to change Israel's judicial system?"


All Jews.


And some will ask, "What about those Jews who voted for so-and-so?"

All Jews.


And some will ask, "What about those Jews who protest against the Israeli government at the… Read More »


It’s easy to make declarations.

With a Facebook account or a tweet, you can declare your positions, what you ate for breakfast, or any type of provocative statements. Some will garner a reaction, and others will be ignored.

I assume that people that make declarations – be they in person or virtually – are looking to elicit a response, whether verbal or not. Without any response, my efforts seem not to matter.

In this week’s parsha Haazinu, we are taught to “Proclaim the Name of G-d.” The Sages teach, based on this verse, that whenever the explicit Name of G-d was pronounced in the Temple, whoever heard it responded with the phrase, “May the Name of the glory of His kingdom be blessed forever and… Read More »

Our Birthday

Judaism teaches us that birthdays are special.

There are many important customs that we observe on birthdays, such as beginning to recite a new chapter of Tehillim (Psalms) corresponding to our age.

Birthdays are not a time to merely revel in the gifts and fun of parties.

Rather, a birthday is a celebratory, yet introspective time. It’s a time to celebrate me. Because I matter. G-d does not many any junk. If I exist, I am irreplaceable and I am critical to the world order. My birthday is G-d’s vote of confidence in me. Now, that’s worthy of a L’Chaim.

But, it’s also a time to reflect. If I am so valuable to the Almighty, how am I performing? Am I living up to my expectations. Am I living up to His… Read More »

A Letter in the Scroll

In 2015 someone developed a robot that held a quill and wrote out the words of the entire Torah on parchment. While it sounds cool, it was not a kosher Torah scroll. It might look and feel like a Torah scroll, but it was completely invalid.



In this week’s double parsha, Nitzavim-Vayelech, the instruction is given to write a Torah scroll. This is the final of 613 commandments in the Torah.

As Rabbah states in the Talmud: Even though our ancestors have left us a scroll of the Torah, it is our duty to write one for ourselves, as it is said: “Now therefore write this song, and teach it to the people of Israel; put it in their mouths.”

Why, however, is the Torah referred to as a song?


Although we have advanced… Read More »

It’s the Torah, Stupid

At a meeting this week, a law enforcement officer inquired how to define someone as being Jewish. There are many responses to this question. In fact, there are many facets to the question itself. For law enforcement, whose role is to serve and protect, it might mean one thing – and subsequently require a fitting response.

But, what does it mean to us Jews ourselves?

There are the obvious technical responses – one born to a Jewish mother or one who has undergone a halachic conversion to Judaism.

Yet, historians, scholars, and anthropologists still cannot agree on Jewish peoplehood and identity.

For some Jews, our common history is most prominent. For others, it is the shared homeland, Israel. Jewish culture and cuisine might… Read More »


A couple weeks ago I received a phone call from a community member. Their son had tragically passed away suddenly in Germany. They were at a loss – both emotionally and logistically. They quickly bought a ticket and boarded a plane, but had no idea how to organize on the ground. Where would they bury their son? How would they navigate the labyrinth bureaucracy in Germany without even speaking the language? The sudden death meant that he police were involved. They were simply overwhelmed. Their other son was also en-route to Germany.

As they traveled, we kept in touch. I immediately called my colleague, Rabbi Yudi Tiechtel in Berlin. But, I could not get through. I sent an email and did not get an immediate response.

Hours later, he… Read More »

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