Printed fromJewishIdaho.com
ב"ה

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.

Undamaged Goods

I spent last Shabbat in Santa Fe, New Mexico at a regional conference for Shluchim in the Western USA. It was a pleasure to join dozens of my fellow colleagues for a weekend of learning, sharing, and training.

Although we serve very different communities, we all share a common goal. It’s refreshing and invigorating to hear the stories, challenges, and successes of these fellow rabbis. We truly feel like family.

The boost that we get from collaborating with others puts an extra bounce in our step. We feel like we are part of one whole – one army on a mission inspired by the Rebbe to make this world a holy dwelling place for Hashem.

Every morning before we pray, we recite the following: I hereby take upon myself to fulfill the …Read More »

Foreign Soil

A father came to me in tears.

His child studies at an American university and has started to doubt aligning with Jews after October 7. It’s not because of fear. It’s because the ideology he is exposed to on campus, which has spread like wildfire.

*

The unrest on college campuses across America – and beyond – is alarming. 

Antisemitism is nothing new, but Jews in America have come to appreciate the calm and relative peacefulness that has prevailed for the last half-century.

Knowing that there are enemies that wish our destruction is not new – nor do I expect it to change until Moshiach comes and the world fulfills its purpose of existence.

However, the bigger concern for us as Jews is the fact that th… Read More »

After-Death

I visited an elderly member of Boise’s Jewish community today in the hospital. We chatted a bit and then we said the Shema. The doctors indicated that his health was deteriorating, but he was in good spirits.

An hour after I left I received word from his family that he had passed. Although he was in poor health, it still seemed sudden.

I was thankful that I was able to say some prayers with him and offer him and his family support in his final moments.

*

This week’s Torah portions is called Acharei Mot, or “after the death,” based on the opening verse, “And G-d spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron's two sons, when they drew near before the L-rd, and they died.”

Why do we name a Torah portion in su… Read More »

Looking Forward!

It’s easy to bemoan the state of the Jewish people. If we choose to look at the glass as half-empty, there is plenty to consider.  From rampant intermarriage and assimilation on the spiritual front to horrific terrorism in Israel and the alarming protests on campuses across America.

At this time of year, many of us reflect upon these realities and remark, with a sigh, “G-d saved us from Egypt and He will save us from these threats as well.”  Pesach is a time that reminds us of the miraculous resilience of the Jewish people.  The Egyptians, Greeks and Babylonians are no longer here, but we Jews continue to survive.

It’s reassuring to view the past as a beacon of hope for the future. In short: we never… Read More »

The Fifth Son

The Midrash tells how, one day, a lamb ran away from the flock under Moshe’s care. Moshe chased after it, until it came to a spring and began to drink. When Moses reached the lamb, he cried: "Oh, I did not know that you were thirsty!" He cradled the runaway lamb in his arms and carried it to the flock. Said the Almighty: "You are merciful in tending a lost sheep - you will tend My flock, the people of Israel."

This was indeed the defining mark of leadership. Although Moses was a great prophet and the conveyor of Torah to the Jewish people, his greatest moment may have been his refusal to abandon the Jewish people after the sin of the Golden Calf.  Most leaders would have been disgusted with such a severe act … Read More »

Digital Damage

A Texas family is suing a school district after it failed to act in response to their son being bullied. The school denies that the activity rose to the definition of bullying.

Here’s what happened: Their son, a player on the high school football team, is severely allergic to peanuts. He carries an EpiPen with him wherever he goes. Some students intentionally placed peanuts in his locker and on his uniform. Luckily, he was uninjured from the incident.

So, which is worse: taunting words, derogatory tweets, or harmful acts?

*

In this week’s Torah portion, Tazria, we read about the consequences of Lashon Harah (evil talk, gossip and slander).

The Midrash explains that Lashon Harah is terrible because, “What is spoken in … Read More »

What to Say

Do you sometimes wonder what to say to someone when hearing that they suffered a tragedy or are facing a challenge? Are you at a loss for words because you cannot imagine what they are going through? Do you want to say something but aren’t sure if it will help or harm?

*

In this week’s parsha, Shemini, we learn of Aharon’s response to the heartbreaking news that two of his sons had perished. The Torah states simply, “And Aharon was silent.”

Because of his silence, explains the Midrash, Aharon merited that the Almighty spoke directly and exclusively to him.

A private audience with G-d is a pretty spectacular reward. What was so special about Aharon’s behavior that earned him this great honor?

*

The T… Read More »

A Night of Day

Our day starts at night.

Just look at the first chapter of the Torah.

It’s often a hassle to explain to those unfamiliar with the Jewish faith. All days on the Jewish calendar begin at nightfall.  Shabbat begins on Friday night.  Passover this year will begin on April 22 at sundown. It is, after all, a more accurate calendar that follows the universe in which we dwell.

However, in this week’s parsha, Tzav, we find an exception to this otherwise ironclad system.  The fire on the altar in the Bait Hamikdash remained burning all night. Sacrifices that had not yet been completed during the day were offered at night. In this respect, the night followed the day.

Why the exception? And, what is the lesson for us?

Da… Read More »

Organically Alone

The Economist magazine’s cover this week had two words on it, “Israel Alone.” I did not read the article, but the premise it posits is simple. Israel needs international support for its legitimacy. And, that support is slipping away, leaving Israel isolated. Even Jewish American politicians have raised the alarm, with Senator Chuck Schumer recently saying that Israel’s “future could well be over” without US support.

Is Israel at risk of becoming a pariah state? Should Israel kowtow to worldwide pressure, or should Israel do what is just and proper regardless of what others think?

In 1972, during one of Yitzchak Rabin’s visits to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Rebbe discussed with him the concept of Je… Read More »

The Mainstay

It’s always a pleasure to travel to see your children. I’m looking forward to enjoying a wonderful Shabbat where I get to be a yeshiva bochur again. I have three sons studying in Chicago, and I’ll try my best to shake off the rust and keep up with them during my visit.

I feel immensely at home in yeshiva. I dream of these opportunities. It is an infusion to the spirit; a refreshing quench to a parched soul.

Yet, home is still with my family. Cooking dinner, fixing leaks, leading a community.

Do I celebrate more the opportunities for a “high” – be they vacations of the body or the soul – or the daily life I have?

*

In this week’s parsha Pekudei we wrap up learning about the Mishkan, the Ta… Read More »

The Perfect Congress

These days even the suggestion that Congress can get it right might seem ludicrous to many.  The squabbling over procedure and the seemingly endless delays suggest we are in need of a major overhaul. We wonder why the buck seems to always be passed.

I will leave it for the pundits to determine what the real goal is and whether our legislature can indeed get it right.

For Jews we have been looking to perfect congress for many centuries.

And in this week’s Torah portion of Vayakhel we are given the Divine recipe for getting it right. What we are searching for is not the legal code of Congress, but rather a congress (assembly) with our Creator.  We often struggle with the challenge of merging with an infinite G-d. How can we… Read More »

Broken, But Whole

If a survey was taken to rate Moshe’s greatest achievement in the Torah, what would it be?

I’d wager that the Ten Plagues would be high on the list, along with the Splitting of the Sea, and the Giving of the Torah.

The very final verse of the Torah extols Moshe’s virtues and lists his major achievements. According to Rashi, the crowning achievement is a rather strange one. It is the shattering of the Tablets, a story that appears in this week’s parsha of Ki Tisa. After the Jews sinned by worshipping the Golden Calf, Moshe arrives and breaks the Tablets that he was due to deliver from G-d to the Jewish people.

We can all understand that the Jewish people were not worthy of receiving the Luchot (Tablets) at that mom… Read More »

You Are What You Wear?

I once received a phone call from a family I did not know. The father was deathly ill and they wanted a rabbi to visit him in the hospital. I rushed over, recited a prayer for recovery and the final prayers.  I offered my support, wished them well and told them to call me any time of day or night if there was a need or if the situation worsened.

The next day I was informed that their father had passed.  I inquired whether arrangements had been made. “Yes,” I was told. We have a funeral home taking care of it.  I asked about a Jewish burial. There was none planned. “Rabbi, we are so grateful for your support in our time of need.  Please tell us how we can give our father and husband the proper Jewish ri… Read More »

G-d’s Housing Crisis

Homelessness is rampant in America’s major cities.  We can debate the core cause of homelessness, but all would agree that not having a home causes further instability.

The fortunately housed amongst us also spend time outside the home. Whether we travel for business or pleasure, we sometimes need to stay in temporary housing. It may be five-star or one-star, but it’s not home. It may be fun, different, or pampered – but it lacks the comfort and familiarity of our own dwelling.

What if you had a home wherever you went? What if you had multiple homes or places to stay whenever you wanted? Would you still have that benefit and secure feeling of ‘home’?

*

In the parsha of Terumah that we read this week, G… Read More »

The Greatest Audience

Seven million dollars.

That’s the average cost for a 30-second advertising spot for the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Despite recent concerns that an ad may tank a company, there is no shortage of advertisers.

(Do people still watch the game, or do they just skip to the commercials?)

Contrast this astronomical price tag to an infomercial on a local TV station at 3:00 am.  It’s virtually free.

The clear lesson is that the value of (advertising) time clearly depends on the audience.  At 3:00 am nobody can justify spending millions on a commercial.  But the chance to promote your merchandise or company to what may be the most watched televised event in history is a different story altogether.  Production costs asid… Read More »

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.