Drawing Closer to the Almighty

This week we begin the third book of the Torah, Vayikra, which means “God called.” This book of the Torah talks about how our ancestors praised God by sacrificing animals in the Temple. I believe that the Israelites brought sacrifices because they thought they needed to express thanks to God, thanks for everything that He… Read More

Appreciating the Journey

2013-axler-craig

“For over the Tabernacle a cloud of the Lord rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the House of Israel throughout all their journeys.” With these words, we conclude reading the Book of Exodus this Shabbat. A book of the Torah that begins in slavery, walled… Read More

‘Daniel From Texas’

I sat at my desk munching a sugar-coated doughnut. Mr. Heller, our sixth-grade math teacher, handed our class treats for the 100th Day of School celebration. As I neatly chewed mine, I could see the new kid’s mouth twisting left and right as some powder covered his freckled face and plaid shirt. My friends and… Read More

Finding Rest Amid Creation

010314_bergman_nitzan_rabbi

We rest on the Shabbos because G-d rested on Shabbos. What does this mean? When G-d created the world he created it ex nihilo, something out of nothing. Before creation there was absolutely nothing besides G-d. With each of the 10 statements of creation (“Let there be light,” etc.), G-d brought our world and everything… Read More

The Value of Faith and Hope

This week’s haftorah echoes some of the themes found in the parshah of Ki Tissa. Its setting is in Northern Israel at a time after the 12 Tribes had been split into two kingdoms. What intrigues me in the reading is when Elijah strongly opposes the beliefs of Ahab and Jezebel, the king and queen… Read More

Man Makes the Clothes

There are 54 portions in the Torah. It would stand to reason that if any topic were to dominate any of these parshahs, that topic would be of excessive interest and import to the Jewish people and the world at large. That’s why many are shocked when they realize that this week’s portion is dedicated… Read More

Finding The Meaning Behind Seemingly Mundane Laws

There is an almost humorous anecdote mentioned in the Talmud in Tractate Brachot. In describing the possible superficial reality of one’s faith in G-d, the Talmud creates the surreal scene of a thief about to secretly break and enter into his victim’s home, whereupon he utters a silent prayer for success in his forbidden activity:… Read More

Parshat Mishpatim Using Our Gifts From God Wisely

In studying my bar mitzvah parshah, I delved into the subject of slavery, comparing the Jewish concept of servitude with slavery as it existed in the pre-Civil War South. To find out more on this subject I studied with Rabbi Shmuel Silber, and we reviewed the relevant sections in Parshat Mishpatim, Sefer Hachinuch, Ramban and… Read More

‘Miriam The Robber’

“I can’t believe Miriam is in Mrs. Shepfield’s class with us,” I said to my best friend, as we jumped onto our swings at the park. “Yeah,” she answered. “Last year, the girls at her old school called her trouble.” “What do you mean?” I said, shaking my head. “Isn’t that gossip?” “No!” Sara exclaimed…. Read More

Leadership Requires Being Open to Critique

2013-axler-craig

There can be little doubt that the greatest historic leader of the Jewish people is Moses. The entire Torah becomes known as “The Five Books of Moses” or Torat Moshe; the last lines of Deuteronomy remind us: “Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses.” But what qualities made him a truly… Read More