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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.

Yichus

A wise man once told me that good pedigree, or yichus, is worth a bunch of zeros.

When I looked at him quizzically, he explained, “If you put a “1” before them, they are worth something. If not, they are worthless.”

*

All jokes about lineage aside, let’s ask an honest question. Does Judaism discount pedigree out of hand? It certainly appears not to be the case. In our prayers, we implore G-d to remember the righteous deeds of our ancestors. We incessantly mention the sacrifice of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs. We give ritual honors and gifts (and responsibilities) to the Kohanim (priests) who have done nothing to earn them other than being born into the ‘right’ family.

It seems pretty… Read More »

When Dirt Cleans

The Lubavitcher Rebbe once encouraged a rabbi to take a position in a community whose standards of Jewish observance were not on par with the rabbi’s.

The rabbi was resistant to this idea, worrying that his family would be adversely influenced by the community’s values. But, the Rebbe insisted.

‘How can I raise my children in such a community?’ he countered. ‘What will protect them from negative influences?’

The Rebbe pointed to this week’s parsha, Chukat, for a persuasive lesson.  One of the strangest laws of the Torah is the mitzvah of ritual purity. According to the Torah, a person may become ritually unclean by, for example, coming in contact with a dead body. In order to become… Read More »

A Shiny World

I’m in New York. I have been helping an elderly woman settle into a new phase of her life, moving from Idaho to New York. Although it has involved lots of challenges, it’s been a great privilege and honor.

This Shabbat, I will turn my attention to something else. I will join tens of thousands of Jews paying homage to the 24th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. 24 years later and the crowd each year doesn’t get any smaller – it only gets bigger.

What is it about Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson that draws so many people together and – in contrast to expected gradual decline in attention – only intensifies with the passage of time?

***

In this week’s eponymous parsha Korach, a cousin of… Read More »

The Real Exodus

In Idaho, I often am asked what my Jewish uniform means. Some have seen a yarmulke before, so I don’t get as many questions about that. But, my tzitzit are a more common source of curiosity. ‘What are those strings hanging out of your pants?!’

The response is actually at the end of this week’s parsha, Shelach. It is also the third paragraph of the Shema.

In talking about the tzitzit, the Torah states, “When you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the L-rd to perform them, and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray. So that you shall remember and perform all My commandments and you shall be holy to your G-d. I am the… Read More »

The Art of Gratitude

Snakes are depressed creatures.

At least that’s what the Sages teach us.

We know that the snake was cursed by Hashem, “You shall walk on your belly, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.”

I can understand that the original snake was offended at the demotion. Still, ultimately, the snake of today actually has it pretty good. If it walks on its belly and it eats from the dust of the earth – its food is readily available! Why should it be sad?

According to the Zohar, the snake is sad because it’s worried. Even though it’s food is right in front of its face, it worries that eventually it will run out of sustenance... when it consumes all the food on earth!

Similarly, says the Zohar… Read More »

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