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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A Dual Role

In this week’s parsha Vayechi, Yosef presents his two sons, Menashe and Ephraim to his father, Yaakov, so that their grandfather can bless them before he passes.  Yosef presented Menashe, the firstborn, to Yaakov’s right side.  Nonetheless, Yaakov switched his arms in order to give the loftier blessing to the younger son. When Yosef protests, Yaakov declares that both will have important progeny. But Ephraim’s descendants will accomplish more.

What was the real intent of Yaakov? Why slight Menashe in such an overt way? Even if Ephraim would be greater, is it necessary to “make a big tzimmes” about it?

The mystics, however, explain that Yaakov was setting forth the two important roles of the Jewish p… Read More »

On the Shoulders of Giants

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe, was once offered a blessing by his grandfather, the movement’s founder. Rabbi Schneur Zalman wished to bless his grandson with the gift of a deep understanding of Torah.

The young man declined the offer, saying that he preferred to achieve Torah knowledge through toil.  After all, he reasoned, the goal of Torah is not simply to acquire knowledge, but to foster our relationship with its Author. And for this, great effort is required.

The Tzemach Tzedek, as he was later known, came to regret that decision.  Whatever levels of Torah perception he could have received as a gift from his grandfather, there would always be loftier levels that he could accomplish thr… Read More »

A Light Difference

Chanukah is often referred to 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).

What is it about light that compelled G-d to create it first? Why couldn’t G-d have created a dark world and then illuminated it afterwards (He wrote the rulebook of scienc… Read More »

Thank G-d

As Chanukah approaches, we get excited about the spirit of the holiday. After all, Chanukah is a fun holiday. We don’t need to sit in Shul fasting all day. Nor do we need to go on a strict diet and stuff our face with matzah in record time. Who could complain about latkes, donuts and Chanukah gelt?

The miracle of Chanukah is the miracle of oil. The menorah burned for eight days instead of one. It’s also the miracle of the few versus the many. The tiny Maccabee militia defeated the huge Greek-Syrian army.

But more importantly, it’s a miracle of faith and spirit. After all, what were the Macabees fighting for? It wasn’t for the right to cook gefilte fish and chopped liver – they likely did not exist then. … Read More »

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