How Humble Is Too Humble? Parshat Shemot

When we open the Book of Exodus this week and turn to Parshat Shemot, we find that the Israelites are suffering under the tyranny of ego. Pharaoh, a despot who believes himself to be more powerful than God — indeed, he believes that he is a god himself — has enslaved the Israelites in order… Read More

The Yoke’s On Us Parshat Vayechi

We all have received blessings at one time or another. We have certainly received compliments. Over the course of time, we learn that sometimes the compliments are clearly flattering. But occasionally, ambiguous statements are made to us, leaving us confused and unable to determine with certainty whether we are being complimented or insulted. There are… Read More

The Importance of a United Front Parshat Vayigash

It’s not always easy to get along with your brothers and sisters, especially if they are younger than you.  They disturb you when you’re trying to do your homework. They interrupt you when you’re trying to have a conversation with your friends. They tease you about all sorts of things. They mess with your belongings…. Read More

The Distance Between Heaven and Earth Parshat Miketz

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The festival of Chanukah celebrates the military victory of the Judeans over the Hellenist  Syrians in the second century B.C.E., as recorded in the Al Hanissim thanksgiving prayer added to our daily prayers and Grace after Meals for the eight days of the holiday. The festival also celebrates the ideological victory of Judaism over Greek… Read More

Practice Positive Pessimism and Partner with God Parshat Vayeishev

Most of us have grown up with the power of positive thinking. We’ve been warned about negative outlooks and what popular psychologists call “catastrophizing.” To have a successful outcome when facing a problem, we’re told that we need to avoid the bad and focus on the good. But there is another point of view. The… Read More

Jacob’s Strategy: A Model for Jewish Leadership? Parshat Vayishlach

Regular readers of this column on the weekly Torah portion are familiar with my style. They know that I usually focus upon some early personal memory and connect it to the parshah. Within each parshah, I select a less-known incident or relatively minor personality for reflection and elaboration. I rarely deal with the major issues… Read More

Climbing the Ladder of Responsibility Parshat Vayetzei

This Shabbat, we read a haftarah from the Book of Hosea. The prophet Hosea lived during the eighth century B.C.E. under King Jeroboam II’s rule, when Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the Northern consisting of 10 tribes and the Southern consisting of two tribes. In the haftarah, Jacob is compared to the Northern Kingdom… Read More

What Would You Hold Onto — At Any Price? Parshat Vayetzei

The show “Pawn Stars” is a runaway hit on the History Channel. It tells the story of three generations of the Harrison family and their Las Vegas pawnshop. There’s Richard, the patriarch (affectionately known as the “old man”); Rick, the son (who really runs the business); and Rick’s adult son, Corey (who wants to become… Read More

Better the Servant than the Student Parshat Chayei Sarah

“You can’t find decent help these days!” This is a common complaint heard in middle-class homes, particularly in Jewish kitchens during the season of preparations for Passover. Happily, my wife and I have been blessed, over the years, with some excellent domestic help. Usually, they were African-American women who were not only honest, efficient and… Read More

Staying Connected Parshat Vayera

Judaism values a personal connection to the Torah. It values concentration and mental discipline. Perhaps most of all, Judaism values memory. By that, I do not mean learning by rote. I mean memory in a much larger context. Judaism values memories. Judaism grooms our ability to remember and connect to the past; to use our… Read More