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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.

There’s a Knaidel in my Spelling Bee!

The winner of this year’s spelling bee was the legendary “knaidel” (a.k.a. matzah ball). Thirteen-year-old Arvind Mahankali correctly spelled the Yiddish word for the small mass of dough to win the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Arvind was a finalist in the last two national spelling bees. In both 2011 and 2012, however, he was tripped up by German-derived words. This time, he conquered the German-derived-Yiddish knaidel.

When an Indian-American forms the word knaidel to win an English language contest, it’s a coming of age of sorts for the Yiddish language. We are all familiar with the entry of words like chutzpah into the American lexicon, but knaidel must have had a real upstream swim to make it. To… Read More »

More Energy than the Atomic Bomb

Our hearts mourn the loss of those killed by the terrible tornado in Moore, Oklahoma this week. Our prayers and thoughts are with the injured and the affected families.

Amazingly, meteorologists conclude that the tornado packed more energy than an atomic bomb – by far. Many estimates claim that there was 600 times more energy devastating Moore than the energy dumped on Hiroshima.

The cold air and warm air that meet in the formation of a tornado cause intense spiraling and winds that concentrate into the most dangerous of phenomena.

Tornadoes form over land, while their cousin hurricanes form at sea. Nonetheless, we know surprisingly little about tornadoes. We can forecast tropical storms and hurricanes with relative accuracy, but… Read More »

The Holy Thief

Everyone called him Yossel the Ganef (Thief). He was a true professional at his craft and every home in the shtetl merited a visit at some time or another.

One day, Yossel and some cohorts decided it was time to go for bigger game. They designed a scheme to rob the treasures of the local church in middle of the night. Yossel was chosen to climb through a window while his buddies served as watchmen outside.

Just then a guard passed by and noticed something amiss. Terrified, Yossel’s friends disappeared into the dark night, leaving Yossel alone. The guard notified others and soon Yossel was trapped inside. He was caught red-handed.

The crime was deemed a most serious one and Yossel was swiftly sentenced to death.

The day… Read More »

Treadmill Torah

I am always amazed at how much energy my children have. They can ride their bicycles for seemingly boundless hours. Or play legos to no end.

Then I think of myself and the contrast simply grows. If I am doing the same thing for so long, I usually wind up feeling like I’m on a treadmill – moving, but getting nowhere.

***

In this week’s parsha, Bamidbar, we learn about the locale of the most amazing event in history. G-d’s revelation to mankind – en masse – occurred only once, 3325 years ago. We relive this event each year on Shavuot. This year we will read the Ten Commandments as part of our Shavuot celebration on Wednesday.

This parsha is also the beginning of a new book (volume) of the Torah. It is… Read More »

Net Worth

A vastly rich man was once asked about his net worth. After replying with a figure lower than his assumed wealth, he was questioned, “Have you not understated your assets?”

“No,” he replied, “I’ve stated my true assets, the charity that I have given.”

***

In the second of this week’s two Torah portions, Behar and Bechukosai, we read of the pledges to the Temple. The Torah tells us that a standard amount was collected from someone who pledged to give the value of a specific person to the Temple. Regardless of the person’s occupation, piety, or talent – it was the same amount.

We can appreciate the Torah’s insistence that a donation be given, even though a human… Read More »

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