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A Mitzvah To Remember

Every year on the Shabbos before Purim we read Parshas Zachor. The Torah commands us never to forget the evils of Amaleik and the atrocities it attempted to inflict upon the Jews as they departed from Egypt. It does seem a bit unusual to be commanded to remember an event. Isn't this event noteworthy in our story as a people that it wouldn't be forgotten, irrespective if there is a mitzvah to remember? One of the blessings of Jewish life for the last few decades particularly here in the United States has been the relative peace that we have been privileged to enjoy. As with many privileges and blessings in life, there is one glaring downside. That is the feeling of complacency that has crept into our lives. With complacency comes a tendency to forget some of the difficult memories of the past. We have been rudely reminded of that in recent times with the Polish Government outlawing any mention of Polish involvement in the Holocaust. It has been disturbing to watch some of the in…
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A Pure Foundation

The first Jewish fundraising campaign is found in this weeks parsha. The Israelites are told to bring forward raw materials for the construction of the Mishkan/Tabernacle. With a Super Walmart or Home Depot that was not around the corner, where did they procure all the materials for the building of the Mishkan? The precious metals such as gold, silver, and copper were part of the spoils that came with them from Egypt. They were quite resourceful in securing all the rest of the materials that included the fine fabrics. There was one notable exception to this. The Atzei Shittim/Acacia Wood came from Israel. Rashi elaborates with the details. A couple of centuries prior to this event when Yaakov was relocating to Egypt from Israel, he made it his business for this wood to be transported to Egypt for the eventual construction of the Mishkan. It seems to be quite a lesson in advanced planning. Why was it necessary for Yaakov to shlep all this wood down to Egypt for an event two hundred yea…

Who's Contributing The Other Half ?

As we are on the cusp of the month of Adar, we once again read the parsha of Shekalim this Shabbos. This was the directive that G-d communicated to Moshe that Israelites contribute a half shekel for this national campaign. This campaign had a dual purpose. Firstly, the donated silver was ultimately melted and used for the construction of the mishkan/tabernacle. It  was also done for the purpose of the first national census. Instead of counting heads, we were told to contribute a half shekel coin. However many coins were counted was the amount of people that were accounted for in the census.
I have often wondered, why couldn’t everyone just contribute a shekel ? Was there any reason for the frugality here ? After all the proceeds went to the construction of the mishkan/tabernacle  and the more funds collected would just make this fundraising campaign that more successful ?
Upon reflection, the half shekel contribution does teach us a great lesson. It reflects the notion that although eac…

The Most Important Top Ten List

For some reason, the term “ Top 10” has become a defining way to communicate the most valuable moments. From Top Ten plays of the Super Bowl to Top Ten sports bloopers of all time, we frequently evaluate important events that way. In fact, the first “Top Ten” is recorded in this week's parsha of curse with the Ten Commandments. This is arguably the most important event in the history of mankind. This is the moment when G-d communicates His message of what it means to be a chosen people for a unique and chosen mission. This was not just delivered to one individual, prophet or rabbi. Rather this was a national experience that every man, woman and child heard on that fateful day at Mount Sinai. It all started with the deafening words “  I am the Lord your G-d who took you out of Egypt”. Many have wondered about the latter part of the verse which references the Exodus of Egypt. After all, is that isolated incident, the greatest accomplishment that G-d could come up with ? What about s…

Second Chance

Just when you might have thought we were done with Jewish holidays for a while, Pesach Sheini, or the Second Passover, comes along.   Before your blood pressure goes through the roof and you have heart palpitations with the thought of cleaning your kitchen thoroughly for a couple of days followed by a marathon Seder lasting into the early dawn hours, please take a deep breath. This is a largely symbolic day that we actually celebrated this week.  Historically, in ancient times of the Temple in Jerusalem, anyone who would be unable to participate in the Passover offering due to either being a great distance away or in a state of ritual impurity was able to have a makeup date one month later. Hence the holiday, Pesach Sheini. Yet, before we dismiss this day as a relic of the past which has no practical relevance, it may be worth it to internalize the greater message of this day.  It seems to be a minor Jewish holiday with a major universal message. Many times we do not experience success…

Moving Forward

In the aftermath of a divisive and brutal election season, everyone and their cousin is offering a post mortem as to why election turned out this way. I am not here to offer my political analysis as to why the election had this outcome. I will leave that to the political pundits that are located across the country from newsrooms to the banter at daily minyan. There is a certain element that I would like to address that has many of us left with scar tissue from the 2016 election. Over the course of the long and heated campaign there were many relationships that took a hit due to the passionate exchanges of views. From spouses, siblings, coworkers and even fellow congregants at shul, there were many instances of tempers flaring and displaying outright disdain for someone else’s views.  I have heard of some people that are dreading or even avoiding the upcoming Thanksgiving dinners with family members that voted for the “wrong person”. So how do we pick up the pieces now that the electio…

Is Winning All the Time a Great Thing ?

“Winning isn't everything. It’s the only thing.” So declared  Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay  Packers. That attitude has been adopted as sacred gospel by our society. At the conclusion of the most recent Super Bowl, Cam Newton the quarterback that led his team to great heights only to succumb in America’s favorite game, really was taken to task for not going all the way. This perspective manifests itself in many ways outside the football field. From the classroom to the playground, we have become all about winning. We are increasingly unforgiving about any setbacks and defeats. Indeed there is a major presidential candidate that has anchored his campaign on the notion of constant winning and that he can deliver uninterrupted winning.

Putting aside the reality for a moment that this is even remotely possible, I would even further ask, Is winning all the time even desirable ? Is there something to learn from losing occasionally ? Are there any teachable moments …