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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.

Yiddishkeit

Most American Jews today may not know what the word “lekach” means. Or “keriah.” Or “holishkes.”

Surprisingly, several outstanding contestants at the Scripps National Spelling Bee knew how to spell these words.

In fact, the first word presented at this year’s bee was, “Yiddishkeit,” correctly spelled by Rishik Gandhasri.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary translates Yiddishkeit as: Jewish character or quality or Jewish way of life or Jewishness.

So, is Yiddishkeit summed up by eating lekach (honey cake) and holishkes (stuffed cabbage)? Or by observing keriah (the ritual of tearing the mourner’s clothes at a funeral)?

I am a Yiddish speaker. I’m not a linguistic expert. I… Read More »

Do All Questions Deserve Answers?

The famous joke goes:

Why do Jews ask so many questions?

Why not?!

***

The most famous night of questions is Pesach. On Passover we encourage our children to ask questions. The format of the Seder is questions and answers.

It’s obvious that in order to enrich one’s knowledge we need to ask questions. As the Talmud states, “The bashful do not learn.”

The only bad question is the unasked question!

However, do we really condone any and all questions? Is it valid to question G-d? How do we cherish questions without saddling Judaism with an unnecessary burden? Other faiths often eschew questions. While we Jews have no such qualms about querying our own faith – we encourage it! – does that mean all… Read More »

Concentrated Time

 Jewish people often bless each other with “arichut yamim,” meaning longevity. Translated literally, this blessing means length of days. Instead of saying, ‘Have a long life!’ we say, ‘Have lengthy days!’

What is the meaning of this odd wording?

At the Shavuot meal in 1940 the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn) explained what success in time means. It means that every day is long – because the moments of each day are regarded as precious and are utilized to their fullest.

So, when we bless each other with ‘lengthy days’ we mean it literally. Not only should you live a long life, but every day should be long – full of meaning, purpose and… Read More »

They deserve It!

“Look thirty years younger!” the ad exclaims. Anti-aging creams, hair-dyes, diets and better climates are all promoted to encourage us to prevent the inevitable aging of our bodies. As a society we seem to abhor old age.

“Many years impart wisdom,” we are taught in the book of Iyov (Job).  Yet this advice seems hard to come by in today’s society. More and more, the elderly are nudged out of the way to make room for the younger, more ‘vibrant’ segment of society.

Whether it’s in the workforce, in communal affairs, or family life – those with the longest of years often get the short end of the stick.

In this week’s parsha of Kedoshim we read that… Read More »

Life After Death

Life for Jews in America has changed drastically. The tragedies in Pittsburgh and Poway have demonstrated that America today is not as different as we had imagined from the rest of Jewish history. Suddenly, we find ourselves asking about security in our synagogues, the rise of hate speech and what Jewish life will look like for our children.

We mourn the loss of Lori Gilbert-Kaye at Chabad of Poway last week. We pray for the injured and their families. We enhance our security at our shuls and Jewish centers.

Eventually, we assume, life will go somewhat back to normal. But, what should normal look like after Pittsburgh and Poway?

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Though a clearly imperfect parallel, our generation has an easy reference point. The Holocaust… Read More »

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