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.

The Egyptian Spring

The final chapter has yet to be written on the Arab Spring. Events unfolding in Egypt indicate that the situation is still quite volatile.

But the first Egyptian Spring occurred over 3000 years ago, when a people – three million strong – simply walked out of a dictator’s grasp. Ten plagues and a sea split in two probably was better cover than a NATO no-fly zone.

Unlike masses in Syria and Libya, the Jews did not wage war against the ruling class.  In contrast to the despots chased from their own countries, they did not attempt to overthrow Pharaoh and his regime. They simply left. A major difference between the original Exodus from Egypt in (the spring of 2448 in the Jewish calendar) and the mode… Read More »

The Ignored Miracle?

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 w… Read More »


As Chanukah creeps closer and closer, I begin getting the annual phone calls about how difficult it is to be a Jew during this time of year. At schools, businesses and public places the non-Jewish holiday displays are ubiquitous. Coupled with songs and parties – it’s simply everywhere.

How do Jews remain proud at this time of year, especially in places like Idaho? How can we compete against such great odds? Indeed, we cherish the religious freedom that our great country affords us.  But we are, after all, a minority.


Many have argued about the prominence Chanukah receives in modern Jewish society. Some claim that it’s not a major Jewish holiday and its virtue is largely exaggerated, only due… Read More »

Family Reunion

George Burns once quipped that happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family – in another city.

In this week’s parsha of Vayishlach, we read of a unique family reunion between Yaakov (Jacob) and Eisav (Esau). The last time the two were in the same town, Eisav threatened to kill Yaakov, who promptly fled the country. Since then, they had been incommunicado for over 34 years.

Nonetheless, Yaakov made the great effort for reconciliation – even though severe risks were at play. In fact, Eisav was charging toward him and his young family with 400 armed men. Most of us would have turned to plan B at that point. But Yaakov continued forward (with a three-pronged strategy of sending gifts, prayer and prepar… Read More »

Planes, Trains and Ladders

As I flew home this week from New York, I contemplated the relatively quick shift from the Big Apple to Boise. Spending a long weekend with colleagues and family immersed in Torah, Chassidic inspiration and simply surrounded by Jewish culture was a special treat. 

Thanks to the invention and advances of the airplane, several hours later I was transported back to Boise. As the Yiddish saying goes, “It’s good to travel, but it’s better to come home.”

This radical shift between one place and another reminded me of the story of Jacob’s dream in this week’s parsha Vayetze. Yaakov dreams of a ladder rooted on the ground but reaching heavenward. Angels are ascending and descending the ladder. Pa… Read More »

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