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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Nameless Enemies

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, Yaakov “was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until the break of dawn.”  Eventually, Yaakov is injured but prevails. According to the Midrash this ‘fellow’ is an angel, representing Yaakov’s brother Eisav.

At the conclusion of this encounter the man wishes to leave, but Yaakov asks for a blessing. The angel responds, "Why is it that you ask for my name?" And he blessed him there.

What is the meaning of this curious exchange about names?

The Midrash adds that the reason the angel did not provide a name is because, they do not have permanent names. Their names constantly change.

Yet, still, we are left wondering. What is the meaning of this … Read More »

Refugees or Exiles?

In the aftermath of the tragic and horrific attacks in Paris last weekend, we are left numb, saddened and perhaps terrified. Sadly, this is exactly what the terrorists wish to accomplish.

Thousands of miles away, in the United States, a great debate has ensued about refugees.  With the potential for terrorists to infiltrate the ranks of refugees – who deserve our compassion – we are uncertain about the risk of a terrorist arriving on American shores disguised as a refugee. Should we ban all refugees from that part of the world? Is collective punishment warranted due to the security concerns? Is it moral to deny true refugees a haven? Is it possible to screen them properly? Will American culture and ideals be compromised if… Read More »

Tolerance Levels

Everyone’s tolerance levels are different. Some of us can tolerate more fat in our diet. Others need to watch every ounce. Some of us can tolerate more insults. Others lose sleep over every slight. Some of us tolerate lots of sunlight. Others need layers and layers of sunblock just to go outside.

In this week’s parsha, Toldot, we learn of Yitzchak’s very low tolerance level.

The Torah tells that Yitzchak’s eyes were too dim to see. How did he lose his eyesight? Perhaps it was simply because he was old. Yet, Rashi rejects that option. Instead Rashi attributes his blindness to the smoke of the wives of Esav who would burn incense to idols.

The book of Proverbs declares, “Like vinegar to the teeth and like smok… Read More »

Life After Life

Sarah’s life is not really discussed in this week’s parsha, Chayei Sarah, literally translated as the Life of Sarah. Yet, it’s precisely the life of a tsaddik, whose primary focus on earth is spiritual, that outlives the body in a far greater way than the rest of us. Being such a righteous woman, Sarah’s life continued long after she had passed.

As I spend a weekend in New York, along with thousands of my colleagues, at the annual Shluchim conference, I am reminded about the life of a tsaddik.

I spent an hour today waiting in line at the Rebbe’s Ohel together with a student from Cherry Gulch boarding school in Emmett, Idaho. He turned to me and said, “Rabbi, why are so many people here today visiting th… Read More »

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