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.

Wandering Sheep

One of my assignments as a rabbinic intern in South Africa was to visit businesspeople on Friday afternoons. In typical Chabad fashion, I went with a colleague searching for Jews. We developed a “route” – a standard contingent of businesses that we would visit each week, reaching out to fellow Jews with Shabbat wishes, Torah materials and an opportunity to do a mitzvah. For some it meant a schmooze about Yiddishkeit, for others a reminder to light the Shabbat candles.

The opportunity to lay tefillin was a key offering. One fellow was particularly angry at us for even asking. He immediately showed me the door and stated, “I know why you guys are here. And I want nothing of it. I may be Jewish but I don’t do rel… Read More »

Passion Fruit

Surrender of self or self-assertion?

Which of these are the proper pathway? Does G-d want me to completely submit to His authority? Or does He wish that I express myself and allow my talents and personality to shine?

Powerful arguments can be made for both positions.  One the one hand, if I don’t abnegate my own ego and leave my spiritual journey to what feels best and most aptly expresses myself, I may not be serving my Creator. I may be serving my own ego.

Conversely, if I fail to find my personal calling – my unique contribution – I may flounder.  Lacking a personal identity, my commitment might be shallow and unenthused. Is that really what G-d wants?


When commanding us not to destroy fruit trees in … Read More »

When Vision Fails

Instead of providing signs to determine which birds are kosher, the Torah offers a list of nonkosher birds. All others are kosher. (In practice, Jews only eat birds that we are certain, by tradition, to be kosher.) In this listing, which appears in this week’s parsha of Re’eh, the Torah includes the “Raah, Dayah and Ayah.” According to the Talmud, these three names are referring to one bird. The Torah calls it by all its names in order not to give an opponent any opportunity to disagree, so that the one who wishes to permit it will say, “This one is named Dayah, not Ra’ah.”

I couldn’t help but notice that the name of this bird, Ra’ah (רָאָה) shares the root with the name of the parsha, … Read More »

You or You?

I often marvel at how the most ancient of languages is so simple, yet so complex.  Our English language does not distinguish between the singular and plural of “you.” But in Hebrew, as in other languages, the distinction lies large. In fact, one of the greatest challenges facing English speakers who are trying to learn Hebrew is adjusting to the male/female and singular/plural aspects.

Addressing “you” versus “all of you,” can mean a world of difference. One such instance is in this week’s parsha, Eikev.  Last week’s parsha Va’eschanan contained the first paragraph of the Shema and the second paragraph of Shema appears in this week’s parsha.

Interestingly, the first par… Read More »

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