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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.

Keep Dreaming!

Dreams occupy a significant part of last week’s parsha and in this week’s parsha of Miketz, they are center stage. Yoseph dreams. Yoseph interprets dreams.

These dreams lead to tremendous success. They all depict – or lead the way toward – Yoseph becoming viceroy of Egypt.

However, in the bigger picture, the dreams that elevated Yoseph to near royalty, also led the Jews to eventually become enslaved in Egypt. What seemed like a personal victory for Yoseph became a yoke of oppression for his people.

In fact, Yoseph’s father Yaakov also dreamed. Yoseph dreamed of stars in the sky and Yaakov dreamed of a ladder. Yoseph dreams of bushels of wheat and Yaakov dreamed of angels.

What is the symbolism of the fact… Read More »

What's Your Loss Leader

I have always thought it somewhat amusing that Thanksgiving – a day of reflection and gratitude for the important things in life – is immediately followed by the shopping frenzy of Black Friday.  Isn’t it ironic that we Americans go from our humble feelings of thanksgiving to an all-out campaign of ‘give me more’?  True, many are searching for gifts to give others, but the atmosphere smacks of greed and encourages jealousy. 

Many in America are heading to shopping malls or online merchants in the wee hours of the morning to cash in on Black Friday sales.  In fact, we are witness to fierce price wars between major businesses – each trying to undercut the other’s prices. … Read More »

Family Reunion

Yesterday we welcomed our son Levi into the Covenant of Abraham.  It was wonderful to have so many friends and family present at the bris.

Most special was the tremendous effort by my nonagenarian grandparents to attend their great-grandson’s circumcision. Traveling from New York, their presence was the biggest present we could get.

In case you haven’t noticed, we value family quite a bit – lots of it!

This reminds me of the famous quip of George Burns. He jested that happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family – in another city.

If action speaks louder than words – we couldn’t disagree more heartily!

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In this week’s parsha of Vayishlach, we read of a unique family… Read More »

Journey Up a Ladder

My family had the great merit of welcoming a new baby boy into our family this week. It didn’t happen overnight. I marvel at Esther grace in enduring nine months of pregnancy. She makes it seem so effortless and casual.

But, as we all know it’s a process. It takes time. And, this is for the baby’s benefit. We don’t want shortcuts in the baby’s development.

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As I flew home last week from New York, I contemplated the relatively quick shift from the Big Apple to Boise.  Spending a long weekend with colleagues and family immersed in Torah, Chassidic inspiration and simply surrounded by Jewish culture was a special treat. 

Thanks to the invention and advances of the airplane, several hours later I… Read More »

Learning to Learn

The old saying goes, “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

Throughout the years living in the wonderful outdoors of Idaho, I have come to enjoy the art of fishing. I have also come to realize that it’s a much more complex sport than meets the eye.

Fortunately, I’ve had some good teachers – including my own children.

Unfortunately, I’m a better teacher of Torah than I am a student of fishing.

I have learned the basics. I can fend for myself and perhaps help an out-of-town novice.

But, the knack to know which waters are best, when the fish are biting and – most of all – the ability to apply the lessons learned to new situations, are… Read More »

Status Symbols

Whether it be through Facebook or home décor, we are often engaged in some degree of self-promotion. On Twitter we let everyone know what we are up to, at the ballgame we demonstrate our allegiances and at home we show our true colors.

We are, on balance, a very self-obsessed society.  Those of us that are fortunate to be parents are sometimes yanked out of that constant self-promotion with the cry of a baby or the text message of a teen.  We know our duty is primarily to others and we come second.

But how do we ensure that we don’t succumb to our egos the rest of the time? What can we do to faithfully serve our true purpose in life? After all, we can only sense our own hunger, our own angst and worry. When it… Read More »

Just Getting Started

Wherever I go, I see signs that say, “WE’RE HIRING!” Today I was in a store that advertised a finder’s fee of $500 immediate cash for anyone that found an employee.

My friends in retail, services and professional fields all tell me the same thing. We are short-staffed and cannot find anyone to hire. Bonuses and benefits don’t seem to be doing the trick.

In fact, at the Chabad Jewish Center, we are also looking to hire secretarial help. Good luck to us…

Nobody seems to know the root cause of this dearth of employees. Is it still due to the pandemic? Is it due to the government support and handouts? Is it simply a changing psyche within American culture? Is it due to people retiring at a younger… Read More »

Unstoppable

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was once blessed by Mr. David Chase that he be able to continue his wonderful work for many years.

Without hesitation, the Rebbe responded, “I am not satisfied with only continuing. It must increase.”

After this dear supporter insisted that he would be satisfied if the Rebbe simply continued the status quo, the Rebbe added that not only must he (the Rebbe) increase, but he also expects Mr. Chase to increase. A living being, the Rebbe explained, must always grow.

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In this week’s parsha, Lech Lecha, we are introduced to the first Jew, Avraham. G-d’s opening words to Avraham – as recorded in the Torah – are, “Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your… Read More »

Absent?

Idaho’s number one and number two executives have been in the national headlines again this week. Idaho’s Governor and Lt. Governor have been dueling, with the Lt. Governor issuing Executive Orders while the Governor is traveling out of state. This time, before the Governor even returned to Idaho, he issued an Executive Order reversing the Lt. Governor’s Executive Order.

All of this leads to a debate about the authority of the Lt. Governor to assume the role of Acting Governor and issue Executive Orders when the Governor is absent from the state. And, that is exactly the issue that the Attorney General’s office was asked to weigh in on.

What does it mean to be absent?

The Lt. Governor claims that when the… Read More »

Copycats 101

Some people loathe copycats.

Others adore the emulation.

In the opening parsha of the Torah, Bereishit, studied this week as the weekly Torah portion, we learn about how the world came to be. The act of creation is an act that no one has been able to copy.

In fact, a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed G-d. So, they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.

The scientist walked up to G-d and said, "G-d, we've decided that we no longer need you. We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost."

G-d listened very patiently and kindly to the man. After the scientist was done… Read More »

Reality Check

Which Festival in the Torah is considered the most joyous?

According to the Torah, it is Sukkot (joy is mentioned three times regarding Sukkot, the most of any Biblical holiday).

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Why is Sukkot the most joyous holiday? Wouldn’t Passover, the liberation and birth of our nation, qualify as more joyous than remembering dwelling in huts and G-d’s Clouds of Glory? Or, wouldn’t the moment G-d revealed Himself to humanity and gave us the most precious gift, the Torah, qualify better than Sukkot?

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Which Book in the Torah is considered the saddest?

Most would respond that it is the Book of Kohelet / Ecclesiastes.

Interestingly, it is this Book that is associated with Sukkot (some have a custom to read the entire Book of… Read More »

Siamese Twins

Siamese twins can think independently, but often need to learn how to cooperate, as they may share some limbs or bodily functions.  At a minimum, they share the space they occupy. They cannot be in separate places at the same time.

For those of us that are not Siamese twins, what would it feel like to be connected to someone at the hip?

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In this week’s parsha, Haazinu, G-d describes His relationship with the Jewish people: ”Because the L-rd's portion is His people Jacob, the lot of His inheritance.”  In Hebrew, it literally reads: “Because the Lord's portion is His people Jacob, the rope of His inheritance.”

Why are the Jewish people compared to a rope? And, how is this relevant to being… Read More »

E Unum Pluribus

One of the great virtues of America dates back to its founding. Thirteen colonies joined together to form the union that is the United States of America.  Thus declares the Latin motto on our currency: E pluribus unum, translated as “Out of many, one.”

Throughout the years this oneness has grown to include many others. 183 years later the 50th state, Hawaii, joined the union. Thousands upon thousands arrived on America’s shores from other countries, embracing America’s values and seeking its opportunities.  And, no doubt, many more will come.

The beauty of America is the joining together of so many different individuals toward a common goal.

What happens, I wonder, when an American leaves America for… Read More »

The Company You Keep

It turns out that the (digital) company you keep can have a profound influence on your financial life.  Some lenders and credit card companies investigate your tweets and Facebook friends to learn more about your spending habits. Apparently, they are also judging you by your friends’ activities.  If your online acquaintances are delinquent or have accumulated too many DUIs – you may be denied a loan.

Many of us might consider it unfair for banks to withhold funds due to my neighbor’s unpaid bills.  Why should I suffer if my coworker’s birthday party was at Seven Eleven instead of the Hilton hotel?

Yet, some financial institutions argue that the information gleaned from your social media interactions… Read More »

Knee-Jerk Praise

Sometimes, when attending or viewing a ballgame it’s difficult to assess exactly what’s happening on the field.  Nonetheless, it’s pretty clear when something favorable occurs to the team I support.  The field might be too crowded to decipher exactly what happened, but I’m certain that my team has control of the ball. Turns out it was a fumble recovery in our favor.  My excitement and cheering began before I even knew what had transpired.

In fact, I might need to wait for the announcer, the instant replay or a friend’s explanation to figure out what really occurred.  No matter. I’m cheering because I sense something went right for my team.

I may not know why I’m on board, but… Read More »

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