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The Rabbi's Desk

09/13/2019 04:19:55 PM


My Derasha Topic this Shabbat
in the Straus Main Sanctuary

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

Inside: (see below)
•  Shiur on Sefer Yonah This Shabbat
•  Last Shabbat's Derasha
•  NEW FEATURE: The Rebbetzin's Bookshelf
•  Shoshana's Upcoming Classes
•  Download my Machzor Workshop Class
•  Download my Parsha Class / Facebook Live
•  Last Shabbat's Derasha
•  Teshuva by Addition


Navi Shiur on Sefer Yonah
​​​​​​​This Shabbat with Rabbi Poupko

5:30pm, in the Isaac Perry Beth Midrash


Derasha from Last Shabbat
The Pursuit of Righteousness


NEW FEATURE: The Rebbetzin's Bookshelf

A new regular feature in which Dr. Shoshana Poupko will discuss one of the many books she has read and recommends.

אני לדודי ודודי לי - Part Two

Image result for mans guide to women,


I was only a sophomore in high school when John Gray’s book Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus was first published, but I remember the Shabbat table conversations that ensued almost weekly as a result. It seemed that everybody bought into the notion suggested by Gray that men and women are so different, it is akin to them having come from different planets. Contemporary research on relationships has shown that the reality is far more complex. In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Gottman points out that “The determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship. For men, the determining factor is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship. So men and women come from the same planet after all.”

The truth is that gender differences in many areas are relatively small, and there is much more variation between individual people than there is between genders. Therefore, focusing primarily on gender differences when dealing with our partner tends to oversimplify things, leading to less, not more, understanding of one another.

It is with this preamble that I highly recommend one of Gottman’s (co-authored with two women) other books The Man’s Guide to Women. I was initially surprised to see Gottman put out a book which does not focus on mutual understanding, but instead focuses specifically on men better understanding women. But as I read through the book, I came to appreciate its importance and credibility. Gottman highlights two proven realities: most men are loath to ask for directions (when driving, as well as when navigating relationships!), and, most relationship books are written for women. Equally true is that every husband “want desperately to understand how to love his wife, make her happy, and ensure that she will desire and want him forever. He wants to fight less, play more, know how his wife’s brain works, what makes her heart beat faster, and how to be the kind of man she needs him to be.”

I suggest that husbands and wives read this book together. Allow it to guide you as partners to discover where your unique (or not so unique) relational differences lie. This book is written in an easy-to-read style with humor, visuals, and cartoons.


In the first chapter of Genesis, God creates man - אָדָם – and directs male and female to procreate - זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בָּרָא אֹתָם...פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ וּמִלְאוּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ. In the second chapter of Genesis, God creates woman אִשָּׁ֑ה, and it is in this chapter that God leaves the utilitarian directive of chapter one and focuses instead on the relational aspects of the couple. It is in this chapter that God highlights the individual needs for friendship, support, companionship, and unconditional love - לֹא-טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ; אֶעֱשֶׂה-לּוֹ עֵזֶר, כְּנֶגְדּוֹ. Gottman’s research supports that which God told us long ago - men AND women need friendship in their relationship in order for it to thrive.


Shoshana's Upcoming Classes


Download my Machzor Workshop Class
from this past Monday

Audio File

Source Sheets

Next one Monday, September 16


Download my Parsha Class / Facebook Live

I broadcasted my Tuesday morning Parsha class on Facebook Live for the first time and look forward to doing so on an ongoing basis (Tuesday's at 11:00am, check your local listings). Follow me or the shul's Facebook page to get notifications.

You can watch this past week's class here

or listen to the audio here


Sign-up for our shul-wide project
Teshuva by Addition

Join our shul-wide project - Teshuva by Addition - to prepare for the Days of Awe by adding a new mitzvah. Sign up here to learn, pray, give, and grow this Elul together with hundreds of our friends. By signing up, your name will be added to our Elul Honor Roll so we can elevate ourselves and each other! Click the video below for a message about the program.



The Rabbi's Desk

09/06/2019 06:22:34 PM


My Derasha Topic this Shabbat to be delivered
in the Perry Beth Midrash and the Katz Auxiliary Sanctuary

The Pursuit of Righteousness

Inside: (see below)
•  Teshuva by Addition
•  NEW FEATURE: The Rebbetzin's Bookshelf
•  Upcoming Classes
•  The RCA Prenup
•  Important Statement on Technology and Our Children


Sign-up for our shul-wide project
Teshuva by Addition

Join our shul-wide project - Teshuva by Addition - to prepare for the Days of Awe by adding a new mitzvah. Sign up here to learn, pray, give, and grow this Elul together with hundreds of our friends. By signing up, your name will be added to our Elul Honor Roll so we can elevate ourselves and each other! Click the video below for a message about the program.


NEW FEATURE: The Rebbetzin's Bookshelf

A new regular feature in which Dr. Shoshana Poupko will discuss one of the many books she has read and recommends.

אני לדודי ודודי לי - Part 1:
At a sheva b’rachot last week, one of the relatives scattered on the tables small cards which read: One Piece of Advice for the Newlywed Couple _______. It was left to the attendees to fill in their best marriage advice! As someone passed a filled-out card my way, I couldn’t help but notice the advice written: Never go to bed angry; kiss and makeup. While the advice is truly well-intentioned and incredibly sweet, I chuckled as I remembered my husband and I receiving the opposite advice as newlyweds. We were taught: It’s o.k. to go to bed angry periodically; in fact sometimes it’s the best thing you can do for your relationship. And it is this latter perspective that has guided us through some of our toughest moments.

We received our advice from John Gottman’s book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, which was given to us in pre-marriage counseling (which I believe should standard for all couples! As a minimum, I give every bride with whom I learn the halakhot of taharat hamishpacha, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work).

For the past four decades Gottman has been studying marriages in his love lab, and he has narrowed down endless pieces of data into seven core principles. In addition to guiding couples in what they need to do right, Gottman normalizes many areas of marriage that leave us feeling erroneously, that we are doing things wrong. One such area is going to bed angry.

For some couples, the fear of ending the day upset with their spouse is grounded in morbid superstition, while for others conflict lends itself to having a harder time getting a good night of sleep. But for many if not most of us, working through an argument before bed often exacerbates the conflict, as two tired individuals become more and more entrenched in their own position and sometimes even lose sight of what they were arguing about to begin with. Sleep, like taking a walk, is a means of self-soothing, which often leads to feeling refreshed, calm, and more able to lean into another’s perspective. 

          Another area that Gottman normalizes is arguing. Gottman writes “Even happily married couples can have screaming matches; loud arguments don’t necessarily harm a marriage.” (Gottman is referring here to a couple arguing alone – arguing in front of the children is a conversation for another time). What successful couples have as a secret weapon is “a repair attempt – any statement or action-silly or otherwise-that prevents negativity from escalating out of control. Repair attempts are the secret weapons of emotionally intelligent couples-even though many of these couples aren’t aware that they are doing something so powerful. When a couple have a strong friendship, they naturally become experts at sending each other repair attempts and at correctly reading those sent their way. But when couples are in negative override, even a repair statement as blunt as “Hey, I’m sorry” will have a low success rate. The success or failure of a couple’s repair attempts is one of the primary factors in whether their marriage flourishes or flounders. And again, what determines the success of their repair attempts is the strength of their marital friendship.”


          Every month of the Hebrew calendar has its own unique source of inspiration. The Rabbi’s describe the month of אלול with the פםוק in שיר השירים - אני לדודי ודודי לי - I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me. While most explain this metaphorically referring to the relationship between an individual and God, there is no escaping the very human context - in which we learn how to live this symbiosis. Only through working on our human relationships will we prepare ourselves adequately to enter a relationship with the Divine - for Whom human relationships are of the utmost importance.



Upcoming Elul Classes

Shabbat, September 14, 21, & October 12 - Sefer Yonah and Kohelet Shiurim, Rabbi Poupko. Time and location will be announced

Shabbat, September 28, 5:00pm. Pre-Yamim Nora'im shiur with Dr. Shoshana Poupko. "Din (Justice) vs. Rachamim (Compassion): Mutually Exclusive? A Fresh Look at Empathy and Self-Compassion”

Ongoing Classes & Programs (Sept 9 - 12, 2019)
Machzor Workshop, Rabbi Poupko, The Lenger Library, 7:45pm
The Eve Flechner Parsha Shiur, Rabbi Poupko, The Isaac Perry Beth Midrash, 11:00am
Nach Yomi Iyun Shiur, Rabbi Goldberg, The Lenger Library, 7:45pm
Men’s In-Depth Halacha Shiur, Rabbi Kuessous, Benatar Library/Naggar Beit Midrash, 8:30pm
Advanced Talmud, Rabbi Rosensweig, Lower Level Conference Room, 7:45pm

*New* Nach Yomi via email or WhatsApp, with Rabbi Goldberg. Please email the Rabbi at to sign up


The RCA Prenup
I am proud to have my name listed among those members of the RCA who support the RCA Prenup. The RCA Prenup is the only tool, proven to be effective in actual cases, to prevent Agunot.


Bergen County Heads of School Joint Statement on Device Usage

Kol haKavod to our Day School Principals for this critically important statement and video. We as a community are incredibly blessed to have such a talented and thoughtful group of Day School Leadership. I encourage everyone to check out both resources.



The Rabbi's Desk

08/09/2019 04:09:32 PM


My Derasha Topic this Shabbat to be delivered
in the Perry Beth Midrash, the Katz Auxiliary Sanctuary,
and the Straus Main Sanctuary

Shabbat Chazon: Reflections on Hostility, Intolerance, and Violence

Inside: (see below)
•  Guidelines and Schedule for Tisha b'Av
•  Derasha from Last Shabbat
•  Free 3 Weeks Download from Maggid Books
•  Some Journal News
•  Excellent Podcast for Tisha b'Av


Guidelines and Schedule for Tisha b'Av (pdf)


Derasha from Last Shabbat

The National Institute of Sinas Chinam


Free '3 Weeks' Download from Maggid Books (pdf)


Some Journal News

The Beth Din of America, established by the Rabbinical Council of America, recently began publishing a blog entitled "Jewishprudence: Thoughts on Jewish Law and Beth Din Jurisprudence". The most recent posting is - How Does a Beit Din Acquire Jurisdiction to Hear a Case?

Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought has been published by the Rabbinical Council of America since the 50's. They recently hired a new editor and unveiled a new website and design. Our shul is proud to be counted among the Tradition Fellows who support the efforts of this journal.


Tisha b'Av Podcast

Check out this excellent podcast about Tisha b'Av from Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University. I highly recommend the entire podcast series.

Sacred Time Ep 12: Tisha b'Av - The Miracle of Jewish Memory: Today, the Jewish state is restored and Jerusalem is in our hands. Why do we still mourn ancient Jerusalem's destruction when we have so much to celebrate?


The Rabbi's Desk

07/19/2019 03:28:08 PM


This Shabbat I will be Speaking
in the Benaroya Sephardic Center*. My Derasha Topic is

The First Words We Say in Shul

* Rabbi Kuessous will be speaking in the Straus Main Sanctuary

Inside: (see below)
•  Special Classes on SUNDAY, fast of 17 Tammuz
•  Free '3 Weeks' Download from Maggid Books
•  From the “As If My Job Wasn’t Hard Enough” Department
•  25 Years Since the AMIA Bombing in Argentina
•  Recent Archeology News

•  From the Department of Interfaith Relations (Warning: Nepotism)
•  For this, Hashem did NOT make the internet…

Special Classes on SUNDAY, fast of 17 Tammuz

(Click to Enlarge)

Free '3 Weeks' Download from Maggid Books (pdf)

From the “As If My Job Wasn’t Hard Enough” Department

New Poll Shows Growing View
That Clergy are Irrelevant

As a religious leader, this article naturally caught my attention. It discusses a study which contains both concerning data about how the society we live in views religious leaders as well as some important lessons. Though there are some parts of this article that do not apply our community, I'm still curious to hear your feedback after reading it.

25 Years Since AMIA Terrorist Bombing in Argentina

The AMIA bombing was an attack on the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA; Argentine Israelite Mutual Association) building in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 18 July 1994, killing 85 people and injuring hundreds. Argentina is home to a Jewish community of 230,000, the largest in Latin America and sixth in the world outside Israel (from Wikipedia). This attack was carried out by Hezbollah, supported by Iran. Nevertheless, no one has ever been brought to justice.

The bombing came two years after the March 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires which killed 29 and wounded 242. The day after the AMIA attack, a suicide bombing on a Panamanian commuter plane killed all 21 passengers, 12 of whom were Jews. Investigators determined that the bombing was perpetrated by a "Lya Jamal" – thought to be "an Arab traveling under an alias, using fraudulently obtained Colombian documents."

Eight days after the AMIA attack, the Israeli embassy in London was car-bombed, and thirteen hours later a similar car bomb exploded outside a Jewish community centre in London. No one was killed but 22 were injured and "millions of pounds of damage" was done. Five Palestinians were later arrested in London and two convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison in connection with the bombings.

These attacks are one of many reasons why it is very difficult to distinguish between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. 

To read more about the AMIA Bombing, see the Wikipedia article where much of the above info was copied from, as well as this article from the Times of Israel.

The following are two helpful videos on YouTube about the bombing:
Chilling Account of the AMIA Terror Attack

TV Coverage of Yesterday's Commemoration in Argentina

Woodrow Wilson Institute Symposium on the Attacks

CUNY Queensborough Program - An Unsolved Case: The AMIA Bombing

Recent Archeology News

First evidence of Crusader siege from July 15, 1099, uncovered at Old City walls

A project to excavate the Vilna Great Synagogue and Shulhoyf has recently made some fascinating discoveries:
Facebook Post from the organization performing the excavations

TOI Article: Discovery sheds light on Jewish life in Lithuania before Holocaust

From the Department of Interfaith Relations (Warning: Nepotism)

On Jews and Israel, White Evangelicals Aren't One-dimensional Messianic Caricatures is an article co-written by father, Rabbi Yehiel Poupko, that adds  nuance to our understanding of Evangelical support for Israel

For this, Hashem did NOT make the internet…

A very important read from the Jewish Link that challenges us to give more thought to the threat posed to our children by the Internet.

Internet Overexposure: An Open Letter to My Student’s Parents

The Rabbi's Desk

07/12/2019 03:18:54 PM


This Shabbat I will be Davening and Speaking
in the Katz Auxiliary Sanctuary. My Derasha Topic is

Just Do It:
If God Had a Marketing Firm

Inside: (see below)
•  Navi Shiur this Shabbat
•  BBQ & Shiur at my home this Monday
•  Yahrtzeit this past week of Yoni Netanyahu
    and anniversary of the Raid on Entebbe
•  Rupture and Reconstruction: 25 Years Later


Navi Shiur this Shabbat



This past week on 6 Tamuz was the Yahrtzeit of Yoni Netanyahu, who fell in the daring 'Raid on Entebbe Mission' in the summer of 1976.

Interactive media presentation designed for older children to learn about this historic event that gave hope to Jews all over the world

Remembering History’s Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission: Entebbe, July 4, 1976

10 Things You Probably Never Knew About Israel’s Rescue at Entebbe

Yoni Netanyahu (brother of PM Bibi Netanyahu) was the heroic IDF Commander of the elite unit that led the raid and was the only IDF casualty of the operation. In 1980, many of Netanyahu's personal letters were published. Author Herman Wouk described them as a "remarkable work of literature, possibly one of the great documents of our time." You can buy the book here and read some excerpts here. The NYTimes book review when it was first published can be read here.


Rupture and Reconstruction: 25 Years Later

Twenty five years ago, Rabbi Dr. Haym Soloveitchik wrote a seminal article on the development of Orthodoxy in 20th century America entitled, "Rupture and Reconstruction". Recently, an article by Rabbi David Brofsky was published in the Summer Issue of Jewish Action evaluating the thesis of Dr. Soloveitchik's article in light of the past 25 years.

Rabbi Yitzchak Blau described Dr. Soloveitchik's article as exploring "Orthodoxy’s move towards greater chumrot in halakhic observance and the shift from a mimetic tradition in which people imbibe halakhic practice in the home and the community to a book tradition in which traditional literature becomes the guide to communal norms. How does the acculturation of Orthodox Jewry in the twentieth century Western world account for these changes? What is the difference between a traditional society and an orthodox society?"

"Beyond the thesis outlined above, the essay includes many fascinating sections: 1) The claim that modern Jews’ attitude to physicality differs from that of their predecessors (pages 80-81). 2) A discussion of the nature of history books produced by the charedi world (84-85). 3) An exploration of why yeshiva education has become more central to Jewish identity (87-93). 4) An examination of the shift in authority from community rabbis to Roshei Yeshiva and the reason why the doctrine of Daas Torah became popular (94-98). 5) The claim that contemporary Jewry (including charedim) have lost the palpable sense of the divine presence (98-103). 6) An analysis of the differences between the Mishnah Berurah and the Arukh Hashulkhan (footnotes 6 and 20)."

Here are links to the...


The Rabbi's Desk

07/05/2019 02:46:45 PM


Inside: (see below)
•  Navi Shiur this Shabbat and Next
•  My Derasha from Last Shabbat
•  25th Yahrtzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
•  (Post) 4th of July Reading with Some #EngleNachas
Recent News in Jewish Archeology


Navi Shiur this Shabbat and Next


My Derasha from Last Shabbat
Small Letter, Big Responsibility


25th Yahrtzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe is this Shabbat, 3 Tamuz. Some articles of interest from among the plethora that can be found online.

The Rebbe of the Jewish People - Yossi Klein Halevi

Of G‑d and Man: Some Thoughts on the Rebbe (Article written by my father, Rabbi Yehiel Poupko, in 1994 upon the Rebbe's first yahrtzeit)

YouTube video of Rabbi Sacks on the 25th yartzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


(Post) 4th of July Reading with Some #EngleNachas
Two postings from the 929 Tanach study website that were shared this week online in honor of the 4th of July from our own Rabbi Dr. Stu Halpern's latest book, Proclaim Liberty Throughout the Land: The Hebrew Bible in the United States, A Sourcebook. The book was released by the Zahava and Moshael J. Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University, dedicated by our dear friends, supporters, and community leaders, Zahava and Moshael Straus. #EngleNachas

To Bigotry No Sanction, To Persecution No Assistance: George Washington

Common Sense by Thomas Paine

The book has been reviewed and discussed in...
The Forward
The Wall Street Journal
Tablet Magazine
The Jewish Review of Books


Recent News in Jewish Archeology

Hebrew Inscription Discovered in Ancient Jewish Ritual Bath in Sicily (JPost)

I had the privilege to see the Pilgrimage Road excavation recently dedicated in Jerusalem when I participated in the Rabbinic Mission sponsored by our Jewish Federation of Northern NJ. See the following two articles about the discovery.

New Discovery in Jerusalem's City Of David: 2,000-Year-Old Pilgrimage Road (JPost)

Pilgrimage Road and Palestinian Memory (WSJ Opinion)





The Rabbi's Desk

06/21/2019 03:35:12 PM


Inside: (see below)
•  My Derasha from Last Weekend
•  Some Articles of Interest
•  For This, Hashem Made the Internet



My Derasha from Last Shabbat
The Sound of the Men
Working on the Chain Gang


Some Articles of Interest I Read this Week

The Math Behind Successful Relationships (WSJ)

Hebrew inscription discovered in ancient Jewish ritual bath in Sicily (Jerusalem Post)

Judaism’s Pro-Natalist Heritage (First Things)


For This, Hashem Made the Internet
Warning: This is a repost from my Facebook page!

This past Monday I got a note that my younger sister, Chaya (and Aaron) Segal of Modiin Israel, had just given birth to a healthy baby boy, Baruch Hashem. I was told that my older sister, Elisheva Schreiber (also of Modiin), was there in the hospital with her. So I made a WhatsApp VideoCall to my sister, Elisheva, and lo and behold she answers holding my new hour-old nephew. For this, Hashem made the Internet!

I took a screenshot of the call...





The Rabbi's Desk

06/14/2019 05:33:03 PM


Inside: (see below)
•  Derasha Topic this Shabbat
•  My Derashot from Last Weekend
•  Some Articles of Interest
•  Excellent Quote


The Topic for my Derasha this Shabbat
in the Straus Main Sanctuary prior to Musaf is

The Sound of the Men
Working on the Chain Gang


My Derashot from Last Shabbat
and 2nd Day Shavuot
Getting Good Seats (Bamidbar)

Megilat Naomi: A Story of Life and Death


Some Articles of Interest I Read this Week

Will my Children Remain Religious? (Makor Rishon)

38 years later, pilots recall how Iran inadvertently enabled Osiraq reactor raid (Times of Israel)

Using A CPAP Machine On Shabbat (The Jewish Press)


Excellent Quote  
This past week, Rabbi Nosson Kaminetzky passed away. He was a son of the great Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky z"l. In his early years, he was involved with establishing the Mesivta of Long Beach, and eventually moved to Eretz Yisrael in 1970, where he taught at Yeshivas ITRI in Yerushalayim. Over the past few decades, Rabbi Nosson Kaminetzky was a frequent contributor to Torah periodicals, including Hamayan, Kovetz Bais Aharon v’Yisrael and Moriah.

He is well know for writing a book, the Making of a Godol, that caused some controversy for its frank description of great Torah scholars.

In explaining his approach, Rabbi Kaminetzky quipped: "the greatest bizayon (insult) to gedolim (Torah scholars) is to suggest that the truth about them is a bizayon (insult) to them".





The Rabbi's Desk

06/07/2019 04:30:49 PM


Inside: (see below)
•  Yizkor Derasha Topic
•  My Derasha from Last Week
•  Thought on Ruth from Book Launch Event

•  Sermons from the '40s in Honor of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day
•  A Niggun for Shavuot

The Topic for my Derasha before Yizkor 
on 2nd Day Shavuot (Monday) is

Megilat Naomi:
A Story of Life and Death


My Derasha from Last Shabbat
Learning from the Six Day War


Thought on Ruth from Book Launch Event
We celebrated this week a Pre-Shavuot Book Launch featuring (our very own) Mayor Michael Wildes who launched a book he wrote on immigration Safe Haven in America: Battles to Open the Golden Door and Rabbi Dr. Stu Halpern who launched a book he edited and contributed to, Gleanings: Reflections on Ruth.

As part of my introduction to the evening, I shared the following observation on Ruth.

Ruth declares her desire to convert and affiliate with the Jewish people in poetic fashion. Her well known series of metaphors border on redundancy.

כִּי אֶל אֲשֶׁר תֵּלְכִי אֵלֵךְ / For wherever you go, I will go

וּבַאֲשֶׁר תָּלִינִי אָלִין / wherever you lodge, I will lodge

עַמֵּךְ עַמִּי וֵאלֹהַיִךְ אֱלֹהָי / your people shall be my people and your God my God

בַּאֲשֶׁר תָּמוּתִי אָמוּת / Where you die, I will die

וְשָׁם אֶקָּבֵר / and there I will be buried

What is Ruth conveying by these many different ways of expressing one desire? And why must she declare her affiliation not just in life but even unto death?

For me, it seems that Ruth intuits that she has been selected for a special destiny. And she further senses that the Jewish people are marked for special destiny. And so, in this powerful declaration, Ruth is weaving her own personal destiny into that of the Jewish people. With entire life, her entire being, she feels moved to join our people absolutely. Her very fate, her very destiny – till her death – is bound up with that of her new people.

In similar fashion, the book edited by our own Rabbi Dr. Stu Halpern brought together many, diverse thinkers who were able to weave their won ideas into the tapestry of this Megilah. They were each able to take their unique perspective and ‘read it into’ the story of Ruth.


Sermons from the '40s in Honor
of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day

This past week was the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. I took this opportunity to look through old sermons from that era and selected three to share with you. I love reading sermons and seeing how Rabbis delivered messages addressing events going on in the world around them, studying the approaches they take and the sermonic tools they use to do so.

Soldiers in a New Democracy by Chaplain Rabbi Louis Engelberg 1943

The Old and New Invasion by Rabbi Nathan Taragin 1944

Victory in Europe by Chaplain Rabbi Louis Engelberg 1945


A Niggun for Shavuot
Growing up, we listened to a lot of Belzer Niggunim on tape on Erev Yom Tov and other times. Here is (somewhat) popular niggun that comes from the Yotzrot of Shavuot. Click here to learn what Yotzrot are.

Click here for an audio file of the niggun - there are several in the file and its the first one.




The Rabbi's Desk

05/24/2019 04:02:33 PM


Inside: (see below)
•  Derasha Topic
•  Navi Shiur Shabbat Afternoon

•  Last Week's Derasha
•  For This, Hashem Made the Internet

The Topic for my Derasha this Shabbat 
prior to Musaf in the Straus Main Sanctuary is

A Song of Fire and Water: 
Lessons from Lag B'Omer


The 2nd of my 2-part Navi Mini -Series takes place this Shabbat afternoon at 6:45pm in the Isaac Perry Beit Midrash

Last week we discussed whether the precise nature of the sin of David with Batsheva in light of the Rabbinic view that "whoever claims David sinned is mistaken." We showed how a close reading of the text allows for different approaches.

This week we will focus on David's teshuva, his repentance, and how it reflects his overall character as a national hero. This class will not presuppose attendance at the first one. All are welcome.

Dedicated by Ruth and Lou Schapiro in memory of Ruth's Parents, Rabbi Boris & Sara Gottlieb ob”m


Last Week's Derasha for Parshat Emor

Truth, Trust, Tlaib's Tweet,
and Anti-vaxxers


For This, Hashem Made the Internet

In this section, I typically feature content of a Jewish nature. This week, however, I’d like to share a very important tweet I came across from a favorite comic. Gary Gulman, a member of the tribe mind you, is a stand-up comedian who has been in the business for over 25 years. He shares candidly online about different aspects of his life and career. I was most taken by a long series of tweets in which he shares advice and reflections on the struggles of crafting the art of a stand-up comedian. He is very generous with his experience and insight, and very honest about failures and successes. He is sharing genuinely to help others looking to make such a career. He also shares about his long struggle with depression, which takes enormous courage and strength. Today, I saw this tweet which I believe is important for all of us to read – whether we struggle with depression, with some other mental health challenge, or we are blessed not to have to endure such struggles. It’s an enormously important observation for all and to be able to share widely this helpful wisdom – Hashem made the internet.





The Rabbi's Desk

05/17/2019 02:20:19 PM


Inside: (see below)
•  Derasha Topic
Asher Strobel Leadership Program Presentation this Shabbat
•  Excellent Quote from TeachNJ Dinner this week

The Topic for my Derasha this Shabbat 
in the Straus Main Sanctuary is

Truth, Trust, Tlaib's Tweet,
and Anti-vaxxers


A special brief presentation following services in the Straus Main Sanctuary  this Shabbat will be made by Henri Kolb & Fiona Shlackman speaking about their Poland experience on the Asher Strobel Leadership Program


Excellent Quote: I was privileged to attend the 1st annual TeachNJ Dinner this week. For those who may not be aware, TeachNJ was founded in 2015 to advocate for equitable government funding for New Jersey’s nonpublic schools. They have secured an additional $100 million in funding for day schools, which is used to increase security, enhance education and defray higher tuition costs. Approximately 170 day-schools and yeshivas receive support through Teach NJ efforts. Teach NJ is supported by a collaboration of schools, synagogues, volunteers, and, most notably, the Jewish Federation of Northern NJ and the Orthodox Union. We are so proud that our dear friend Sam Moed is the President of this important organization. Sam presented awards recognizing members of other faith communities who are involved with TeachNJ. Just before posing for the picture, Sam commented “this is what a big tent looks like.” I couldn’t agree more. 

To learn more visit TeachNJ and make sure to take note of the other members of our community who are involved in leading this critical effort.





The Rabbi's Desk

05/10/2019 05:10:36 PM


Inside: (see below)
•  Guest Scholar this Shabbat: Rabbi Yaakov Glasser
•  My Derasha from this Past Shabbat  
•  Bergen County Israel Flag Raising 
•  Video Shiurim from Rav Asher Weiss on Vaccination
•  For This, Hashem Made the Internet - Parshat Kedoshim

The Derasha this Shabbat in the Straus Main Sanctuary will be deliver by our Guest Scholar, Rabbi Yaakov Glasser

Click here for Rabbi Glasser's topics


Derasha from this Past Shabbat, Parshat Achrei Mot

Jewish Nationalism and the Jewish Nation


Bergen County Israel Flag Raising with Jewish Federation
I was privileged to represent our community at the Annual Bergen County Israel Flag Raising at the Bergen County Administration Building  in conjunction with the JCRC of our Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. I introduced the invocation I delivered by observing that there instance in the Torah, the 5 Books of Moshe, where flags are found. As the Israelites traveled through the desert surrounding the Mishkan with Hashem's presence, the tribes are identified by flags (See Bamidbar Chapter 2). The flags which marked their camping locations served two purposes. First, the flag identified the unique identity of each tribe. Second, though, the flags were lined up to surround the Mishkan together. So we see that the flags brought the unique personalities of the tribes together to form a sense of brotherhood and fraternity. For us, the Jewish community and the pro-Israel community, to see the flag of the State of Israel raised next to the flags of Bergen County and the United States is an inspiring demonstration of the sense of brotherhood and friendship we feel living in such a blessed country as this one. To celebrate Israeli independence with such strong local support is a true testament to the values of the Torah that we can find in so many places.


Video Shiurim from Rav Asher Weiss on Vaccination

I'd like to share these videos of one of the great Poskim and Torah scholars of our day, Rav Asher Weiss. Click here for his bio.


HaRav Asher Weiss - Vaccinations in Halacha

HaRav Asher Weiss - Vaccinations in Halacha - Q and A


For This, Hashem Made the Internet - for Parshat Kedoshim

I saw in my twitter feed the following insight of the Kotzker Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern zt"l. He taught that a person must believe in three things - Hashem, Klal Yisrael, and Yourself. How else, he added, can you fulfill ואהבת לרעך כמוך!

In other words, each word of that famous pasuk represents someone a person must have allegiance to. ואהבת refers to Hashem since that word is used as we say in the Shema in the context of believing in Hashem. לרעך - which means, your friend and suggests that we have to believe that we can count on the Jewish people. כמוך - is the most profound insight here as the Kotzker is emphasizing that a person must have cultivate the healthy self-confidence to be a servant of Hashem. This lofty principle to love thy neighbor as thyself is fulfilled completely when based on these three lessons.




The Rabbi's Desk: Poway and Anti-Semitism

04/30/2019 05:08:18 PM


Dear Friends,

This latest attack on a Jewish house of worship elicits a variety of feelings and reactions. The murder of Lori Kaye who was engaged in the very same Avodas Hashem that we were engaged in the same morning, leaves us mournful, angry, and shaken. The brave and noble actions of Poway Chabad Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein are a source of inspiration and pride. After being shot in the hands, Rabbi Goldstein summoned the strength and courage to offer words of comfort and encouragement to his flock in the midst of their frightening ordeal. His heroic behavior displayed a steadfast resolve to triumph over the evil that faced them quite literally.

Allow me to offer a framework by which we can process the variety of feelings engendered by this dreadful incident followed by some practical suggestions. 

Deborah Lipstadt, renowned historian and valiant defender of Holocaust memory, has observed that anti-Semitism has always existed and will stubbornly persist waiting for its moment to lash out. In her words, anti-Semitism is like a virus that “lives even when we can’t see it and when given the right opportunity,  emerges and does its terrible damage.” 

This observation can be appreciated more deeply with an insight of Rabbi Menachem Ziemba hy”d, one of the Torah giants in pre-World War II Poland who lived his last years in the Warsaw Ghetto.  Through herculean effort, Rabbi Ziemba actively promoted Jewish practice and Torah study in the Warsaw Ghetto and was an inspiring leader to those trapped in the ghetto. He was gunned down by the Nazis during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in 1943. Indeed, his Yahrtzeit was this past Wednesday of Chol haMoed Pesach, 19 Nissan.

Rabbi Ziemba analyzes a curious phrase quoted by Rashi in describing the reunion of Eisav and Yaakov. At the climactic moment when they first meet and embrace, the Torah has a set of dots over the word - וישקהו / and he kissed him - which Chazal understand as implying that Eisav kissed Yaakov insincerely. Rashi then adds a comment of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai that the dots actually suggest the opposite. While Eisav bears hatred for Yaakov in general, the dots here indicate that this kiss was an exception to his generally felt antipathy and that Eisav sincerely felt compassion for Yaakov at that brief moment and kissed him wholeheartedly. Rabbi Ziemba focuses on Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s language in describing Eisav’s hatred:

אר"ש בן יוחאי, הלכה היא בידוע שעשו שונא ליעקב אלא שנכמרו רחמיו באותה שעה ונשקו בכל לבו Says Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, it is a known halachah that Eisav hates Yaakov. At that moment, however, his compassion was aroused and he kissed him wholeheartedly.

What does it mean that Eisav’s hatred is a הלכה היא בידוע / a known halachah? Describing this as a halachah makes no sense here since we aren’t discussing a matter of Jewish law whatsoever. He is describing an emotion of Eisav and his descendants, not a matter of observance. What then does the word halachah mean in this context if its not referring to Jewish law. Rabbi Ziemba explains that - הלכה היא בידוע / a known halachah - means that the hatred of Eisav is an enduring reality that defies logic. The hatred of Eisav endures in the anti-Semitism of his successors towards the descendants of Yaakov in future generations. And the enduring reality of anti-Semitism is based not on any logic or reason. Jews will always find that there are those who hate them simply for being Jewish, and any pretext or explanation for such hatred needs no logical basis. Rabbi Ziemba elaborates on the illogical nature of anti-Semitism by noting astutely that we have been hated for being capitalists and we have been hated for being communists. We have been hated for having too much power and we have been hated for being weak and downtrodden. We have been hated for being intellectually gifted and we have been hated for being when viewed as subhuman leaches on society. We have been hated for being too religious, holding onto an ancient heritage, and we have been hated for trying to be too secular and cosmopolitan. Even today, I would add, we have been hated for being foreigners in the countries of other nations and we have been hated for daring to build our own homeland.

Anti-Semitism as a הלכה היא בידוע, an enduring reality having no logic to it, can grow virulently off any pretext. In one sense, anti-Semitism is diabolically resilient and steadfast. It will always exist, as Deborah Lipstadt observed, and can grow in any climate as Rabbi Ziemba teaches.

And just as Anti-Semitism as a הלכה היא בידוע is diabolically resilient and steadfast, we Jews have been resilient and steadfast in standing up to its threat. Though we have suffered on countless occasions and in incalculable ways, we as a people have remained resilient and steadfast with God’s help to ensure our survival. In other words, if Anti-Semitism is a הלכה היא בידוע, our resistance to anti-Semitism has been a הלכה היא בידוע as well. And it is this version of the הלכה היא בידוע that Rabbi Goldstein embodied as he faced violent anti-Semitism threatening to take his life and others.

Our challenge now is to establish our own הלכה היא בידוע, our own resilience and steadfastness towards the following efforts in combating anti-Semitism. 

• It shouldn’t take incidents such as this to appreciate the work of our CSS leadership and volunteers. Everything they do serves to maintain a high level of security for all of us, from the time spent training to the various responsibilities they assume. It is imperative that each of us show our appreciation when we enter and exit shul. This is precisely why our Annual Dinner will be recognizing the CSS members to show our hakarat ha-tov. Additionally, CSS is always looking for volunteers. If you haven’t already, please consider joining their team.

• Yom haShoah needs to become a הלכה היא בידוע. It must be an event to which every one of us attends because we must, not because we need to be inspired or moved or convinced to come. Our Yom haShoah commemoration is one of the key elements to combating anti-Semitism and a necessary ingredient to educating ourselves. Equally important, our participation maintains a deeper connection to the Holocaust which cannot be attained by reading articles or sharing posts. 

• We must root out extremist rhetoric and ideology from our media consumption and avoid what I like to call ‘disembodied debate’. Disembodied debate is the sort of dialogue that takes place on social media where conversations lack the moderating force of being in the physical presence of another living, breathing human being. Social media platforms are a place where too many people come to reinforce their prior held beliefs. Debate on social media rarely leads to productive dialogue and contributes instead to more polarity. We must replace social media dialogue with face to face interactions, because these will compel us to see the humanity of our opponent as we discuss and debate ideas.

These proposals can lead us closer to a time described by the Prophet Yeshaya (ch 11 v9):

לֹא יָרֵעוּ וְלֹא יַשְׁחִיתוּ בְּכָל הַר קָדְשִׁי כִּי מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ דֵּעָה אֶת יְהוָה כַּמַּיִם לַיָּם מְכַסִּים In all of My sacred mount nothing evil or vile shall be done. For the land shall be as filled with knowledge and understanding of God as water covers the sea.

May it be Hashem’s will that these words are fulfilled speedily and in our days.

Rabbi Poupko





The Rabbi's Desk: Pesach Torah Resources

04/18/2019 09:30:24 AM


•  My Seder Reader
•  Watch Rabbi Kuessous' Shiur for Women
•  Seder Starters


Click here to download
Rabbi Poupko's Seder Reader

Thought provoking sources for further Seder reflections


Watch Rabbi Kuessous' Shiur for Women

"Fundamentals of Faith: Internalizing the Essence of Passover"


Click here to download Seder Starters: Torah nuggets and thought questions from our Spiritual Leadership to inspire discussion and reflection at your Seder table.

Rabbi Chaim Poupko
Rabbi Daniel Goldberg
Chaya Kanarfogel Rayman
Rabbi Shlomo Hyman
Rabbi Willie Balk
Rabbi Andrew Israeli





The Rabbi's Desk

04/12/2019 11:03:28 AM


Inside: (see below)
•  Shabbat haGadol Derasha
•  Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft  
•  Ayelet Poupko's Persuasive Essay

My Shabbat haGadol Derasha tomorrow
in the Straus Main Sanctuary
Mincha 6:35pm / Derasha 7:05pm

The Righteous Mind of the Haggadah:
Identifying the Central Value of the Haggadah
and its Lessons for Today's Social Conflicts and Polarized Discourse

Click here to download the source sheets
hard copies will be distributed at the Derasha

Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft
Though it was disappointing to see that Israel's Beresheet Spacecraft crashed into the moon during its landing attempt yesterday, I believe the lesson of this amazing event was captured perfectly in a scene from one of my favorite TV shows, the West Wing. This is the opening to the show and the beautiful lesson is found in this concluding scene.

Additionally, Yeshiva University posted the following on Facebook:
In December of 1968, following the historic telecast of the moon’s surface, Rabbi Norman Lamm shared a sermon entitled “The Lunar Perspective.” We share his moving words again today in celebration of the amazing accomplishment of SpaceIL and the Beresheet mission! Here is a link to the full sermon:…/ass…/HASH0133/6882a38a.dir/doc.pdf

Some other links of interest:
•  In the wake of the 1969 moon landing, Rabbi Menachem Kasher wrote a Sefer on the religious implications of being on the moon.
•  Rabbi Shlomo Goren suggested amending the text of Kiddush Levana.
• Brief summary of reactions of other Rabbis such as Rabbi Yosef B. Soloveitchik and Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky.

Ayelet Poupko's Persuasive Essay
I posted on Facebook this week that Shoshana and I are immensely proud of our daughter Ayelet whose persuasive essay she wrote for school was published on the website of the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. Click here to read the essay.




The Rabbi's Desk

04/05/2019 01:14:40 PM


Inside: (see below)
•  Yesh Tikva Infertility Awareness Shabbat 2019 
•  Ezer Mizion
•  AIPAC Policy Conference
•  Rabbi's March of 1943
•  For This, Hashem Made the Internet

This Shabbat in the Straus Main Sanctuary
will feature a special presentation from the annual

Englewood Chailifeline Girl's Shabbaton
Click here for the full Chailifeline Shabbat Program

Yesh Tikva Infertility Awareness Shabbat 2019

This Shabbat, our shul proudly joins the Yesh Tikva organization and over 100 other shuls in dedicating this Shabbat to raise awareness and sensitivity towards infertility in our community. Couples struggling to conceive face a wide array of emotional and physical stresses, far beyond what can be captured in these few words. Couples in our communities, though, face the added challenge of being constantly exposed to a Jewish experience and practice that places great emphasis on children. There are so many moments and traditions we maintain that can be painful triggers for couples dealing with infertility. The very first, small step we can take as a community towards fostering a more supportive environment for our friends struggling with infertility is to become more aware and sensitive to their experience.

As part of this first step, please note the following items:

Ezer Mizion
We enjoyed a phenomenal Ezer Mizion Shabbaton last Shabbat with Chazan Isaac Meir Helfgot and Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. The Straus Main Sanctuary had a special energy brought by this all-star lineup. The havdalah event with Simcha Leiner was deeply moving. Getting to know IDF soldiers and families whose lives have been saved through Ezer Mizion was an experience we will never forget.

Click here for a video from the Havdalah event which contains the deeply moving moment a bone marrow recepient met his donor for the first time.

AIPAC Policy Conference
I was deeply privileged to lead our largest delegation ever to the AIPAC Policy Conference the other week. Many thanks to Moish Muschel and Fred Horowitz for their tireless efforts in coordinating our delegation. We got much EngleNachas from seeing Rabbi Goldberg on the main stage. Click here for video of his presentation. 

Click to enlarge

Rabbi's March of 1943

I recently posted on Facebook about the contrast I felt being at the AIPAC Policy Conference and how my great-grandfather participated in the Rabbi's March of 1943.

1943: My great-grandfather, Rabbi Eliezer Poupko z"l, (3rd from the right) joined hundreds of Rabbis who marched on Washington to beg for help for the Jews of Europe being marched into gas chambers...only to be ignored.
2019: His great-grandson joins fellow Rabbis and Jews (18,000 strong) to support the continued close relationship between the US and Israel.

For This, Hashem Made the Internet we can find a heavy metal version of one of the most famous Niggunim of the Tzemach Tzedek. To learn more about the Tzemach Tzedek, the 3rd Lubavitcher Rebbe, click here.




The Rabbi's Desk: Purim Highlights

03/19/2019 09:27:58 PM


Inside: (see below)
•  **Purim Open House**
•  Matanot L'Evyonim
•  Derasha from this past Shabbat
•  Ayelet Poupko's Bat Mitzvah Siyum Dvar Torah

My Derasha this Shabbat in the Straus Main Sanctuary
will be a Derasha like you have never heard before in honor of Purim and inspired by the band whose name was inspired by QUEEN Esther. 

click image to enlarge

**Purim Open House**

Everyone is invited to a Purim Open House at our home
on Purim Day, March 21st
from 12:30pm – 2:30pm
324 Audubon Road

Stop in for some Torah, a L'Chaim, snacks, and hot food

Matanot L'Evyonim
Haman observed the disunity of the Jewish people of his time. He described us to Achashveirosh as “a nation spread out and divided”. Our Rabbis see this as one of the primary spiritual weaknesses that left us vulnerable to the wicked aggression of Haman. This is why the Mitzvot of Purim are meant to strengthen our connections between one another and combat disunity. The optimal way to hear the Megilah is all together in shul, not in private homes (unless one is infirm), to counter Haman’s accusation and publicize the miracle to as great a number of people as possible. We join together in festive meals and add to each other’s enjoyment with Mishloach Manot. Most importantly, though, is the Mitzvah of Matanot l’Evyonim which not only supports those who lack but strengthens our bonds with those less fortunate as well. To fulfill your mitzvah of Matanot l’Evyonim please click here to make a donation online to our Charity Fund or bring a check to the shul office made out to Ahavath Torah Charity Fund and marked ‘Purim’ in the memo. Matanot l’Evyonim will be distributed on Purim day to those struggling with financial hardships locally and in Israel.

My Derasha from this past Shabbat
in the Straus Main Sanctuary

The Normalization of Hate: From Haman to Today

By request, I am sharing links to our daughter Ayelet's Bat Mitzvah Siyum Dvar Torah as well as the source sheet. Thank you to the entire community for making this celebration so special for all of us.




The Rabbi's Desk

03/15/2019 12:07:02 PM


My Derasha this Shabbat, Parshat Vayikra Shabbat Zachor
will be delivered in the Straus Main Sanctuary. Topic:

Normalized Hatred
from Haman to Today

Following services, my daughter Ayelet will speak and make a Siyum in honor of her Bat Mitzvah.
All are invited to attend and join us for Kiddush.

Inside: (no longer linked, please scroll down)
•  Matanot L'Evyonim
•  My Derasha from this past Shabbat 
•  Reaching Out to Muslim Clergy
•  For This, Hashem Made the Internet: Liturgical Purim Parodies


Matanot L'Evyonim
Haman observed the disunity of the Jewish people of his time. He described us to Achashveirosh as “a nation spread out and divided”. Our Rabbis see this as one of the primary spiritual weaknesses that left us vulnerable to the wicked aggression of Haman. This is why the Mitzvot of Purim are meant to strengthen our connections between one another and combat disunity. The optimal way to hear the Megilah is all together in shul, not in private homes (unless one is infirm), to counter Haman’s accusation and publicize the miracle to as great a number of people as possible. We join together in festive meals and add to each other’s enjoyment with Mishloach Manot. Most importantly, though, is the Mitzvah of Matanot l’Evyonim which not only supports those who lack but strengthens our bonds with those less fortunate as well. To fulfill your mitzvah of Matanot l’Evyonim please click here to make a donation online to our Charity Fund or bring a check to the shul office made out to Ahavath Torah Charity Fund and marked ‘Purim’ in the memo. Matanot l’Evyonim will be distributed on Purim day to those struggling with financial hardships locally and in Israel.


My Derasha from this past Shabbat
in the Straus Main Sanctuary

Paradise Found


Reaching Out to Muslim Clergy

I am honored to be a member of the clergy group of Mayor Michael Wildes' new Cultural Affairs Committee. This has presented me with the wonderful opportunity to get to know better the leadership of the other faith communities in Englewood. In particular, I was privileged to meet Br. Sultan Karamali who has been a religious leader in the Muslim community in this area for many decades. I sent him a brief note this morning expressing my thoughts following the horrific terrorist attack in New Zealand which claimed the lives of 49 innocent people of the Islamic faith.

Dear Br. Sultan Karamali,

I was horrified and heartbroken to learn of the vicious attacks on the two mosques in New Zealand. As a member of the clergy, I am sickened that those children of God who were murdered were struck down while engaged in worship. I am reaching out to you in a spirit of brotherhood to express my solidarity with you and all those of the Muslim community. Standing together I know we can communicate God's true message of love and understanding, appreciating how each community is different and deserving of respect.

May God comfort the bereaved and provide healing to those injured. I look forward to having the opportunity to speak with you and discussing ways to honor the memories of the victims and delivering a message of peace and hope to our communities.

Please accept this note on behalf of myself, my family, and my entire congregation.

Chaim Poupko

Senior Rabbi, Congregation Ahavath Torah of Englewood, NJ

For This, Hashem Made the Internet: Purim Liturgy

Thanks to the Internet (and by extension, Hashem), one can find some wildly creative Purim versions of well-known tefilot. Indeed, there is a whole literary genre of Purim parody compositions. Here are just a few...

A Purim Version of Aanim Zemirot entitled Aanim Zemorot (get it?) by Elli Schorr. More info can be found about it and the author here.

Purim Versions of Aishet Chayil and Kol Mekadesh Shevi'i (as well as other parts of Friday night zemirot) that were transcribed into an online forum from a book called Sefer Zemirat Tziyon.

A very old piyut (liturgical poem) about Purim which scholars debate whether it is paroday or an actual piyut to be recited.

And of course there are many Purim Kiddushes that have been composed over the years. Here's one version.




The Rabbi's Desk

03/08/2019 12:26:53 PM


My Derasha this Shabbat, Parshat Pekudei
will be delivered in the Straus Main Sanctuary

and will be on the topic

Paradise Found

Inside: (no longer linked, please scroll down)
•  My two Derashot from this past Shabbat 
•  Dvar Torah at Moriah Middle School

•  New Class on Olat Re'iyah, Rav Kook's commentary on the siddur
•  Addiction in Our Communities
•  For This, Hashem Made the Internet


My Derasha from this past Shabbat in the Straus Main Sanctuary
Personal Reflections on a Public Issue:
Women's Ordination Comes to Bergen County

My Derasha from this past Shabbat in the Isaac Perry Beth Midrash
A Tenuous Derasha, Flag on the Play


Dvar Torah at Moriah Middle School

One of my favorite movies is 'Inside Out', the animated film about a young girl and the motions that live inside of her anthropomorphized as different characters. The movie offers profound lessons on the inside life of an individual and how to cope and nurture the many different kinds of feelings within each of us.

One of my favorite concepts from the movie is 'core memories'. Core memories are events or experiences - treasured moments - that stay in our memory long after they occur because of the special meaning they have or the strong emotion they produce. They are represented in the animation by special, bright orbs.

The Ramban sees the giving of the Torah on Har Sinai as a national 'core memory'. Though it is a singular moment in time, the experience must be maintained in our collective psyche forever. Indeed, according to the Ramban the Torah commands us to remember the experience of receiving the Torah at Sinai. In this week's Torah reading, Pekudei, we find that the cloud of Hashem's presence descends on the Mishkan when it is completed just like the cloud of Hashem decended on Har Sinai.

Based on this, the Ramban understands that one of the primary goals of the Mishkan was to maintain the experience of Har Sinai as a 'core memory' for the Jewish people. That certain elements that occurred on Har Sinai are perpetuated in the Mishkan and Batei Mikdash in order to perpetuate that 'core memory'.

Even though we don't have a Beit haMikdash to capture this core memory for us of the giving of the Torah, each time we are in shul or study Torah it's an opportunity to be in the presence of Hashem and for us to create a moment for ourselves that helps connect in some small way to that core memory. 


New Class on Olat Re'iyah, Rav Kook's commentary on the siddur: My Wednesday morning class on the Siddur began a new topic this week. The class meets at the home of Bernice Hornblass Kohn Wednesday mornings at 9 AM and is dedicated in memory of Dedicated in memory of Albie Hornblass, Sydell Spatz Brooks, David Spatz, and Max Brooks zichronam li’vracha. Each session is a standalone lesson so one can join at any point. 

Class 02 (audio)

Class 01 (audio)

The text can be downloaded here (pdf)

Addiction in Our Communities

At the last RCBC meeting, we discussed addiction prevention and treatment with the Bergen County Prosecutor, Dennis Calo, and Lianne and Etiel Forman. Many of you may already know the Formans as the enormously courageous parents of a daughter plagued by addiction. They have been leaders in bringing this painful issue out into the open in the Orthodox community here in Bergen County. I'd like to share this flyer with you about a support group for families affected by addiction. And there is plenty of information at their website

Click image to enlarge




For This, Hashem Made the Internet

In 2015, a High School age, Lubavitch young woman wrote an inspiring poem entitled, "Worst Day Ever?". The poem went viral and still continues to garner wide attention across the internet. Most recently, a famous Hollywood actress shared it on Instagram. Click here to listen to an NPR episode about the poem and the poet.

Worst Day Ever? by: Chanie Gorkin

Today was the absolute worst day ever
And don't try to convince me that
There's something good in every day
Because, when you take a closer look,
This world is a pretty evil place.
Even if
Some goodness does shine through once in a while
Satisfaction and happiness don't last.
And it's not true that
It's all in the mind and heart
True happiness can be attained
Only if one's surroundings are good
It's not true that good exists
I'm sure you can agree that
The reality
My attitude
It's all beyond my control
And you'll never in a million years hear me say 
Today was a very good day

Now read it from bottom to top, the other way,
And see what I really feel about my day.




The Rabbi's Desk

03/01/2019 10:13:40 AM


My Derasha this Shabbat, Parshat Vayakhel,
will be delivered in the Straus Main Sanctuary prior to
and will be on the topic
Personal Reflections on a Public Issue:
Women's Ordination Comes to Bergen County

Following services in the Straus Main Sanctuary we will have the great joy of celebrating with Leya and Noah Falkenstein the bris of their baby boy, grandson of our members Beatty and Joe Schwartz

Inside: (no longer linked, please scroll down)
•  Thank You to Our Beloved Community
Shoshana's Speech from Rachel Tzofia's Zeved ha-Bat 
•  New Class on Olat Re'iyah, Rav Kook's commentary on the siddur
•  For This, Hashem Made the Internet 


Thank You to Our Beloved Community

The joy that Shoshana, Ayelet, Elana, and I feel for our new baby, Rachel Tzofia, has been phenomenally enhanced by the experience of sharing it with all of you. The Zeved ha-Bat was remarkably moving for us, seeing how many of you joined in our simcha, in our singing, and in our celebration. The warmth that pervaded the Straus Main Sanctuary was so comforting to us as we stood before you and spoke openly about all of the emotions we were experiencing. Shoshana and I are so amazed and humbled by the many gifts delivered, Shabbat meals ordered, and the large number of you that provided us with a night nurse. We feel immense gratitude for all that's being done and truly blessed to be part of this special community.

Shoshana's Speech from Rachel Tzofia's Zeved ha-Bat

Thank you for the opportunity to explain the names that we chose for our daughter - רחל צופיה. Let me begin with רחל. Chaim’s maternal grandmother’s name was Hinda Risha, and Risha is a Yiddish nickname for the Hebrew רחל. Having lost her husband, Rabbi Herman Davis, in his mid-fifties, Bubby Davis lived her life with strength, fortitude, and an eagerness to help others. She lived her entire life in Chicago and so Chaim grew up with Bubby Davis as an integral part of his upbringing. She inspired us all by making aliya at the age of 81, enjoying some of her best years living in Israel.

AND, the significance of the name רחל carries deep meaning for our family and the experiences that we have endured.

Our matriarch רחל is a complex personality who experienced numerous conflicting realities. One example of רחל’s dialectical life can be seen in her relationship with her husband יעקב. On the one hand, רחל was deeply coveted and beloved by יעקב, and at the same time, their relationship was fraught with pain and unfulfilled expectations - as their love was never able to reach its full expression. Another instance of רחל’s dichotomous life appears in her deep desire to have more than one child - as she expressed explicitly when naming her first son יוסף which means “God should add”. And רחל was blessed with another child, but with it came her untimely death and dashed hopes of seeing this gift to fruition.

The duality personified by רחל is particularly poignant for us. The last time I stood at this pulpit was to eulogize our daughter Chana a”h. And today I stand here feeling deep joy for the gift of רחל צופיה. It would be inaccurate to say that I stand here feeling הָפַכְתָּ מִסְפְּדִי, לְמָחוֹל לִי – that You God have turned my mourning into dancing. More accurate are feelings that reflect a duality, similar to so much of what רחל felt in her life - feelings that are a mixture of joy and gratitude for what is, with sadness for what could have been – dare I say, what should have been.

For the Rabbis, רחל’s legacy is marked by her ability to influence God in a way that אברהם, יצחק, יעקב, and משה all were unable. In a Midrashic passage, these four individuals appeal to God’s mercy waving their unique sacrificial act. אברהם and יצחק each reference the Akeidah, יעקב mentions the numerous times his life was threatened, and משה highlights his loyalty as God’s servant. And yet, it is only רחל’s sacrifice of allowing her sister לאה to marry the man for whom she longed and waited, that persuades God. I believe that רחל’s sacrifice stood out for the Rabbis, precisely because it was not a sacrifice of necessity. If there was ever a moment where the fulfillment of one’s own needs would not have been viewed selfishly, this was that moment, as רחל herself sacrificed in order to marry יעקב.

And yet, as she prepares for her wedding ever eager to marry Yaakov, רחל pauses to look deeply at לאה, and what she sees are the many layers of her sister’s vulnerability and suffering. And, with her heart wide open רחל sublimates her own needs, and acts with a degree of compassion that is truly stunning. רחל’s sacrifice and decision emanated from legitimate ambivalence, and from within this deeply human place, her sacrificial act pierced heaven.

Legitimate ambivalence is ever so present in response to pain. In an ideal world, we would hope for pain to refine us, to help us give to others more easily since we know deeply the feelings of being denied. But רחל shows us that it is also very human to respond to our own experience of suffering by feeling absolved to care for others. From a place that is entirely understandable, we may feel that it is those who haven’t suffered who should be extending themselves. What רחל offers, is permission to feel the true impact that pain leaves on a person – how it simultaneously enlarges and shrinks the heart.

With full transparency I share with you that after losing Chana I have felt my own heart shrunken at times, feeling on occasion as if the world owes me, owes us. And, from that very same place of pain, my heart and vision have opened, and broadened, and deepened, and widened, allowing me to see others and relate to others with more compassion than I could have ever imagined.

One final thought about רחל is elucidated by ירמיה who describes her as רחל מבכה על בניה - the matriarch who cries for her children, refusing to be comforted until their hopes and dreams are realized. This aspect of רחל is expressed in the name צופיה which means someone assigned as a lookout - looking with longings and yearnings, with expectations of hopes and dreams fulfilled.

Together, these two names, represent for us our experiences, our longings, and our hopes for the future -for our family as well as for all of Am Yisrael. Thank you.

New Class on Olat Re'iyah, Rav Kook's commentary on the siddur: My Wednesday morning class on the Siddur began a new topic this week. The class meets at the home of Bernice Hornblass Kohn Wednesday mornings at 9 AM and is dedicated in memory of Dedicated in memory of Albie Hornblass, Sydell Spatz Brooks, David Spatz, and Max Brooks zichronam li’vracha. Click here to download and listen to the first class. The text can be downloaded here. Each session is a standalone lesson so one can join at any point.

For This, Hashem Made the Internet

The Seforim Blog is a fantastic source for anyone who loves Seforim, Jewish History, and Jewish learning. The blog posts offer fascinating insights into the history of different books and their authors.
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein was one of the premier Torah scholars and Poskim of the 20th Century and his published responsa are an indispensable resource for the study of Halahacha. There has been some intrigue about the true authorship of the final volumes. This article on the Seforim blog describes how software and data analysis were used to investigate this issue. Enjoy!

The Rabbi's Desk

02/22/2019 02:59:46 PM


The Derasha will be delivered following services in the Straus Main Sanctuary
by our Guest Scholar this Shabbat
Dr. Elana Stein Hain
“What Makes Legal Loopholes Religious?”

Following the presentation will be our daughter's Zeved haBat

Inside: (no longer linked, please scroll down)
•  Last Week's Derasha: Scent of a Nation, Whoo-ah
•  Parent-Child Learning Parsha Questions
From the “No Coincidences” Department 
•  Great Quote for Reflection
•  For This, Hashem Made the Internet 


My Derasha from this past Shabbat
in the Benaroya Sephardic Center / Chetrit Sanctuary

Scent of a Nation, Whoo-ah
Parent-Child Learning Continues
Last year's questions on
Parshat Ki Tisa

From the “No Coincidences” Department 

Please God we will be naming our new daughter this Shabbat, 12 Adar I 5779. This happens to be the anniversary of a very tragic day for my ancestors. Exactly 100 years ago to the day, on 12 Adar I 5679, there was a terrible pogrom in the Ukrainian town of Felshtin in which my great-grandfather, Rabbi Dovid Shlomo Novoseller (my father’s maternal grandfather), was the Av Beis Din. While my great-grandfather and his son survived, his wife and two daughters were murdered. The pogrom was so devastating that word reached the USA and was reported in the New York Times. For my new daughter to be named on the exact same day 100 years later following the murder of three saintly women from my family’s history, is a remarkable testament to the resilience of our people drawn from faith in Hashem and commitment to Torah. 

Click here for the New York Times article

Click here to read more about the Felshtin Pogrom

Great Quote for Thought and Study
I came across this quote in a book this week and I thought of some questions for thought and study that I present following it.

My freedom thus consists in my moving about within the narrow frame that I have assigned to myself for each one of my undertakings. I shall go even further: my freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the claims that shackle the spirit.

— Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons 

What comparisons can be made between 'the narrow frame' and the concept of halachah (Jewish law)?

Does halachah promote or inhibit creativity? What are some examples of either?

Can Stravinsky's observation be used as a metaphor to deepen our understanding and appreciation for Jewish life?

For This, Hashem Made the Internet

A few months ago, I wanted to procure a copy of Chidushei Maran Ri"z haLevi which is generally a hard to find sefer since it's sold primarily by descendants of the author Rabbi Yitzchok Zev haLevi Soloveitchik. So I made the order with an individual in Jerusalem, Rabbi Yaakov Rosenes, who takes orders for hard to find books and purchases them himself and ships them out. His website is Truly this it was for this website that Hashem made the internet. Recently, I saw an article written about him in Mishpacha Magazine. The following is an excerpt from the article.

Thursday night in Jerusalem is always hectic —but this one was particularly so for Rabbi Yaakov Rosenes. Two large orders had come into his seforim website: Dvir in Raanana wanted 12 volumes of Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv’s he’aros, along with the last three volumes of his Sh’eilos U’Tshuvos; and Jeff in New Jersey was seeking the 18-volume Tiferes Tzion by Rav Yitzchak Zev Yadler.

Google often lists Rabbi Rosenes’s website, Virtual Geula, among its top results for Torah literature title searches, offering hope to seforim hunters like Dvir and Jeff who have exhausted every other possibility. Rabbi Rosenes has built an extensive list of contacts and seforim purveyors over the years; for Dvir and Jeff, he knew exactly where to turn.

Rabbi Rosenes set out from his home office in Ramat Shlomo in the family car. The first pick-up — Rav Elyashiv’s seforim, for Dvir — took Rabbi Rosenes to the old part of Givat Shaul, the home of Rav Chaim Zeivald. Rav Zeivald was the editor for most of Rav Elyashiv’s seforim, and a formidable talmid chacham in his own right. The particular volumes that Dvir in Raanana wanted were nearly impossible to find in stores. Rabbi Rosenes knew that Rav Zeivald was the world’s sole source for these works.

The door to the Zeivald home opened and the rich aromas of Erev Shabbos wafted out. Rebbetzin Zeivald explained that the rav was at the beis medrash, but she invited Rabbi Rosenes in to take the seforim while she and her daughters continued with preparations. He surveyed the 1950s décor in the salon and made his way around the family table, at that moment serving as a staging area for baked goods.

Stepping around baskets of clean laundry and grandchildren’s toys, he arrived at the tall bookcases, where Rav Zeivald had prepared the order. Most of it, that is — a few stray items had to be located at the top of the packed shelves. A chair was provisioned for him to climb on to reach the last volumes. Rabbi Rosenes collected the box of simple black books containing Rav Elyashiv’s treasured divrei Torah and left for his next pick-up — in the cozy back alleys of Beis Yisrael, near Yeshivas Mir. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 749)

The Rabbi's Desk

02/15/2019 02:33:09 PM


My Derasha topic this Shabbat Parshat Tetzaveh in the
Benaroya Sephardic Center / Chetrit Sancutary:
Scent of a People, Whoo-ah
(Rabbi Kuessous will be in the Straus Main Sanctuary)

Inside: (no longer linked, please scroll down)
Last Week's Derasha: Make a Little 'Godhouse' in Your Soul
Parent-Child Learning Parsha Questions
Intra and Inter Faith Monday

For This, Hashem Made the Internet (NEW FEATURE)

Last week's Derasha for Parshat Terumah
בלבבי משכן אבנה – Make a Little 'Godhouse' in Your Soul

Parent-Child Learning Continues
Last year's questions on Parshat Tetzaveh. 

Intra and Inter Faith Monday

This past Monday I had the great pleasure to attend two meetings focused on strengthening bonds both intra-faith and inter-faith.

I first met with Rabbi Lindsey Healey-Pollack, the Rabbi at Congregation Kol HaNeshamah, to welcome her to Englewood and her new pulpit. This afforded us the chance to get to know each other and set the stage for future opportunities for our communities to work together. I wish her Hatzlachah Rabbah in serving her community and our people.

Later that day, I was honored to host in our shul the second meeting of the Clergy sub-committee of Mayor Wildes Cultural Affairs Committee. We are discussing projects we can work on to bring members of our community together for the benefit of our town. Plans are underway for a joint effort to tackle the problem of hunger as it affects Englewood. Many of us may not be aware how many of our fellow citizens rely on programs to provide meals to individuals and families and supplementary snacks and the like to school children. I am very excited at the opportunity this presents for shul to reach out more than before to our neighbors of other faiths and partner with them to support those disadvantaged. Stay tuned!

(Photo Credit: Bett Schwartz)
Standing (l to r): Rev. Preston E. Thompson, Jr., Senior Pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, The Rev. Dr. William H. Allport, II, Rector of St. Paul's Church, Mayor Michael Wildes. Sitting (l to r): Rev. Richard Hong, Pastor of the 1st Presbyterian Church, Rabbi Poupko, Rabbi Shmuel Konikov of the Chabad, Pastor Eddie Spencer IV, lead servant of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church. We were joined later by Rabbi Reichman.

For This, Hashem Made the Internet

As a product of the information age or the computer age, I do a lot of Torah learning and teaching preparation on the computer and benefit greatly from a number of websites that have become important tools. I'd like to share just a few of them.
This website has the entire Chumash and major commentaries. What makes this site so useful is that the commentaries are accessed by verse and organized by topic or question. So when a visitor to the site selects a pasuk, the major issues addressed are displayed and one can view the classical commentaries that address the issue. The first pasuk of this week's Torah reading, Teztaveh, contains the word תָּמִיד (lit. always or constantly). Looking here, one can find how Rashi distinguishes between different usages of the word as well as other approaches in other commentaries. Please note, this website has no English translations. Which brings us to another excellent site. 
This website describes itself as "a one-stop Tanakh study resource, providing the texts, tools, techniques, and technology to help scholars, educators, and laypersons...". One of the best parts of the site is the Mikraot Gedolot section where one can view a number of the classical commentaries arrayed in a clean, accessible format and there are many ways the user can customize the view and get English translation. The site has sections for GemaraRambam, Tur, Shulchan Aruch, and more. There is a lot of other good stuff there and ways to customize your learning experience.

I also use and often which are great databses of Jewish texts are easy to copy and paste from. Sefaria recently added the English translation of the Talmud based on Rabbi Adin Stensaltz's explanation of the Talmud.

It was for these websites and may others like them that Hashem created the internet.

The Rabbi's Desk

02/08/2019 02:50:19 PM


My Derasha topic in the Straus Main Sanctuary
this Shabbat Parshat Terumah

The Prophetic Message of the Song
"Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh"

Inside: (click links to jump to a section or simply scroll down)
REMINDER: Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch Changes
Parent-Child Learning Parsha Questions
Two Midrashim Cited in Introducing Last Week's AIPAC Shabbaton Guest Speaker Elliot Brandt

For This, Hashem Made the Internet (NEW FEATURE)

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch Changes announced for the Straus Main Sanctuary begin this Shabbat

  • Start time moved to 9:00am
  • Derasha will be delivered BEFORE Musaf
  • Thoughtful messages for meditation will be offered to help us focus on the Tefilah
Parent-Child Learning Continues
Click here for last year's questions on Parshat Mishpatim. 

Two Midrashim I Cited in Introducing Last Week's AIPAC Shabbaton Guest Speaker Elliot Brandt

Friday Night Introduction
A Midrash quoted in Yalkut Shimoni (306) introduces Parshat Mishpatim by quoting a pasuk from Tehillim (99 4) - וְעֹז מֶלֶךְ מִשְׁפָּט אָהֵב “mighty king who loves justice”. The Midrash observes that this pasuk underscores a fundamental difference between Hashem, as a king, and kings of flesh and blood. Human king who want to assert their authority have little interest in democratic principles or the rule of law. The king is the law or above the law. His will shall not be restricted by any other force. Not so for the King of Kings. Hashem wants his subjects to rule themselves grounded on principles of justice and fairness. Indeed, Hashem's will or commandments only seek to provide justice, righteousness, and kindness between people.

The Modern State of Israel is a sacred country that aspires to follow Hashem’s model. As the only true democracy in the Middle East, Israel strives to maintain a just and fair society. No human endeavor is perfect, but these are clearly Israel’s values and in that way the State is a sanctification of God in this world. Not so for Israel’s enemies both within her borders and surrounding her. These are societies, in large measure, run by authoritarian regimes that seek to quell democratic principles and who actively or tacitly promote anti-Semitism and xenophobia.

This is one of the many reasons why the good work of AIPAC, and other organizations such as NORPAC, are so valuable in promoting the US-Israel relationship. Our countries share an important dedication to the democratic principles of justice identified by the pasuk in Tehillim, principles that Hashem our King wants us to uphold.

Shabbat Morning Introduction

There are few personalities in our history with more chutzpah than the prophet Yirmiyah. His sharp criticism of his people and their corruption made him unpopular in his generation. But his true chutzpah can be seen in his fierce advocacy on their behalf in contending with Hashem. It would take someone like Yirmiyah to look at an innocuous pasuk in Parshat Mishpatim, one that has to do with lending, and find a stinging rebuke of Hashem, as it were. We read אִם כֶּסֶף תַּלְוֶה אֶת עַמִּי “If you lend money to My people” (Shemot 22 24). The Midrash Rabbah (31 10) notices that the use of the word “My people” is strange. Money is lent to an individual or a group of people. So then why frame the concept in reference to the entire nation? The Midrash takes up the voice of Yirmiyah in developing a homiletic understanding of this nuance. The pasuk in Yirmiyah (6 30) states כֶּסֶף נִמְאָס קָרְאוּ לָהֶם that Hashem declares the Jewish people a rejected silver coin. The Midrash asserts that Yirmiyah complains that the Jewish people in exile would be treated as a coin. As it gets passed hand to hand, the coin’s image rubs out little by little and has to be re-stamped in order to restore the imprint. So, the Jewish people would be passed from nation to nation, suffering more and more at each successive stage. This is why the pasuk about lending is framed in terms of “My nation”, hinting at this concept that we, as a nation, would suffer in the exile like a coin passed from lender to borrower.

We, in this generation, are blessed to see that coin finally used as seed money to grow as an investment with the establishment of the State of Israel. Much of our suffering, which climaxed with the Shoah, has been relieved as we are finally able to live out part of our destiny in our homeland. And this investment is being nurtured by the enormous amount of human capital produced by our brothers and sister in Israel. The ingenuity and intelligence that are advancing Israel as a state and as an economy is clear demonstration of Divine support. AIPAC is one of the most major tools we have to ensure that from this side of the ocean we can help to continue this burgeoning, miraculous ‘investment’ that is our beloved Israel.

For This, Hashem Made the Internet

A new feature where I share fascinating links of Jewish interest that I stumble upon during my internet browsing that are so amazing they make me say “for this, Hashem made the internet.”

This week’s installment is a short poem written by Heinrich Heine the German-Jewish poet, journalist, essayist, literary critic, and (regretfully) apostate. I learned from a Tweet that in 1851, a few years before he died, he composed an ode to Cholent entitled "Sabbath Princess".

English Translation - Sabbath Princess
Cholent, beautiful spark of Divinity!
Cholent, daughter of Elysium!
So would Schiller’s song have sounded,
Had he ever tasted cholent.
Original German - Prinzessin Sabbat
Schalet, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium!
Also klänge Schiller’s Hochlied,
Hätt’ er Schalet je gekostet.

Source from Twitter

The Rabbi's Desk

02/01/2019 03:38:38 PM


This Shabbat in the Straus Main Sanctuary we will be led by
Guest Chazan Simcha Rotenberg 
and our Guest Speaker for the AIPAC Shabbaton,
Elliot Brandt, Managing Director for National Affairs & Development, 
will address following the services

Last Week's Derasha
Parent-Child Learning Parsha Questions
Prayer Recited at the Englewood Cultural Affairs Committee

Dvar Torah Given to Moriah Middle Schoolers
Dvar Torah on Korbanot from Mincha/Maariv

For This, Hashem Made the Internet (NEW FEATURE)

My Derasha from this Past Shabbat, Parshat Yitro:
The Har Sinai Fyre Festival

Parent-Child Learning returns this week! Click here for last year's questions on Parshat Mishpatim. 

I was honored to offer a prayer at the conclusion of the first Englewood Cultural Affairs Committee established by our new mayor and member, Michael Wildes, to bring leaders and citizens of our city together and address various aspects of cultural life here. I am honored to be on the Clergy Sub-committee with leaders from other denominations and faiths. I composed a prayer in English, based somewhat on the Mi Sheberach we say Shabbat morning following Yekum Purkan, which blesses the various individuals in the community who contribute their time and energy to promote Jewish life. The following is the prayer I offered:

May He who blessed our ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah, bless this Committee for Cultural Affairs who faithfully occupy themselves with the needs of the community and endeavor to bring together Your children of different faiths and different cultures for sacred work together. May the Holy One, Blessed be He, give them their reward and may He remove from before them any stumbling block or hindrance and grant them the wisdom and sensitivity to spread only goodness throughout our beloved city of Englewood. May He send blessing and success to all the work of our hands, and let us say Amein.

Dvar Torah given to Moriah Middle Schoolers following Shacharit this past Wednesday morning

Text messaging and Emoji’s have taught us how we can pack a great deal of meaning into a short expression. Just three letters such as ‘lol’ or ‘omg’ or an image of a smiley can convey so much more than the few characters that comprise them.

Similarly, the entire Torah can be packed into one idea, one phrase. We learn from the famous story of the potential convert who approaches Hillel and asks him to teach and the entire Torah standing on one foot. Hillel answers “what is displeasing to you don’t do to others, now go learn the rest.” Just like a text message or an Emoji, Hillel captured the entire Torah in a very small expression. The lesson, of course, is that the entire Torah and all of the mitzvot represent this value of treating others properly.

The opening mitzvah of this week’s Parsha, Mishpatim, demonstrates this beautifully. Following the giving of the Torah, the first mitzvah we are given has to do with proper treatment of Jewish servants. This underscores the fact that we must treat servants properly because we know what it’s like to be enslaved. Indeed, more than 40 mitzvot call upon us to recall that we must behave a certain way because we know it’s like to be enslaved.

Furthermore, this overriding value to treat others properly (which sums up the entire Torah) doesn’t just relate to mitzvot between one person and another. This value relates to mitzvot between a person and Hashem as well, because when we treat another person properly we are recognizing that they were created in the image of Hashem and when we accord a person proper dignity we are thereby honoring Hashem at the same moment. We now see more deeply how the value of treating others properly encompasses all of the mitzvot.

Dvar Torah from Between Mincha/Maariv
Between Mincha/Maariv during the week, Rabbi Goldberg and I have been giving Divrei Torah on a different Mitzvah each week based on the Rambam's Sefer ha-Mitzvot. We are in the midst of a series on the Korbanot. The following is one of the Divrei Torah I shared this week. 

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The Korban Chatat is normally translated as a 'sin offering'. And it's true that it is brought on account of a sin. In most cases, however, the sin committed wasn't done by someone intending to violate the Torah. Instead, the Chatat is commonly offered as a result of an inadvertent transgression, a prohibited act done absentmindedly. (This does not include a case of ones, where someone performed the act purely by accident or by coercion). So why then is the Chatat understood as a "sin" offering if the person didn't willfully sin?

This is why many argue that the word from which 'Chatat' derives its name isn't cheit (sin) but rather chitui - which means cleansing. The message is that a person who commits a transgression inadvertently, still needs spiritual cleansing or atonement and the Korban Chatat is an opportunity to achieve this. Someone who transgresses willfully, b'zadon, gains their atonement through punishment. Transgressing inadvertently doesn't deserve punishment, only an opportunity to atone with this Korban.

Why exactly does an inadvertent transgressor require atonement? The Ramban suggests that from a mystical perspective transgressions are harmful to the soul and even if committed inadvertently  they still leave a mark, or a stain, on the soul and therefor need to be cleansed. Furthermore, committing a transgression inadvertently indicates that a person isn't being careful enough with their observance of halachah and needs to regain more meticulous habits. The Korban Chatat, which requires the person to undergo a process of making an offering to Hashem in the Beit ha-Mikdash, will hopefully foster an experience from which the person will learn these lessons.

For This, Hashem Made the Internet

A new feature where I share fascinating links of Jewish interest that I stumble upon during my internet browsing that are so amazing they make me say “for this, Hashem made the internet.”

This week’s inaugural installment relates to the Parshat ha-Shavuah, Mishpatim, which contains halachot that deal with a violent ox. This was graphically depicted in the 14th century Italian manuscript of Pisḳei Rav Yeshayah Aḥaron found in the Catalogue of the Hebrew and Samaritan Manuscripts in the British Museum (Or 5024)    Source from Twitter

The Rabbi's Desk

01/25/2019 11:45:32 AM


My Derasha Topic in the Straus Main Sanctuary
this Shabbat Parshat Yitro:

The Har Sinai Fyre Festival*:
How to Have an Authentic Experience

(*Click here if you don't know what the Fyre Festival was)

Last Week's Derasha
Parsha Questions from Last Year's Parent-Child Learning
Dr. Shoshana Poupko's Post on the Mikva Facebook Page
Dvar Torah on Korbanot from Mincha/Maariv

My Derasha from this Past Shabbat, Parshat Beshalach:
Moshe, MLK, and Moments of Inspiration

Though Parent-Child Learning is off this week during Yeshiva break, click here for some questions from a previous year's session on Yitro. 

My better half, Dr. Shoshana Poupko, posted the following brief Dvar Torah on the Rebbetzin Peggy Gopin Weiss Mikvah of Englewood Facebook page.

♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦  ♦

One of the most astounding aspects of Mikvah observance is that we have absolutely no idea why we go. We know when to go and we know what to do once we get there. We also know that our people have sacrificed throughout history in order to observe this mitzvah, and in a famous responsum, Rav Moshe Feinstein noted that it is more critical to build a Mikvah than it is to build a shul or a school.

If you search on-line or visit a local Judaica store, there is no shortage of articles and books looking to inspire Mikvah observance. Yet, the reality of why we keep these laws is best expressed by the Rambam: 

רמב"ם הלכות מקוואות פרק יא הלכה יב
דבר ברור וגלוי שֶהַטֻמְאוֹת וְהַטְהָרוֹת גְזֵרַת הַכָתוב הֶן, וְאֵינָן מִדְבָרִים שֶדַעְתוֹ שֶלָאָדָם מַכְרַעַת אוֹתָן, וַהֲרֵי הֶן מִכְלַל הַחֻקִים... וְכֵן הַטְבִילָה מִן הַטֻמְאוֹת, מִכְלַל הַחֻקִים הִיא...

It is clear and obvious that the laws of purity and impurity are Divine decrees. They are not concepts that human logic can comprehend, as they belong to the category of commandments known as חוקים - God's decrees for which He has given no reason. Likewise, the immersion to purify oneself from the impurity is in itself one of the חוקים.

As the Rambam explains, we keep these laws simply because God told us to - we do not have any rational or reason for the mitzvah of Mikvah. And yet, knowing how much our people have exerted themselves to deepen their appreciation for this mitzvah, highlights for me one of the most inspirational aspects of our people. Reason or no reason, we have a burning desire to find depth and meaning. We are not satisfied with doing the commandment simply because we are told to – albeit that in and of itself is inspiring to me! We as a people want more – we want to feel deeply connected to what we are doing. Seeing this, it is remarkable that the laws of Mikvah which have no rational basis still draw out our search for meaning and inspiration.

Dvar Torah from Between Mincha/Maariv
Between Mincha/Maariv during the week, Rabbi Goldberg and I have been giving Divrei Torah on a different Mitzvah each week based on the Rambam's Sefer ha-Mitzvot. This past week we began a series on the Korbanot. The following is one of the Divrei Torah I shared. 

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Whenever someone was obligated to bring both a Korban Chatat (sin offering) and a Korban Olah (wholly burnt offering), the Rabbis in the Talmud rule that the Chatat must always be brought before the Olah (unless explicitly stated otherwise). It's somewhat strange then that the Torah chooses to list the Olah first at the beginning of the book of Vayikra, before the Chatat. There is a statement in the Talmud made by Rava that explains that even though the Chatat takes precedence over the Korban Olah, the Torah presents the Korban Olah first before the Korban Chatat “because this is how it should be read” (Zevachim 90a). What exactly does this mean?

The Torah Temimah explains using a well-known idea about the recitation of Korbanot. Following the destruction of the Beit ha-Mikdash, the Rabbis teach in a Midrash that our recitation of the verses concerning the Korbanot and our study of their laws will be considered by Hashem as if we have offered them in the Beit ha-Mikdash ourselves. The Torah Temimah admits, of course, that this idea does not suggest that our recitation is considered as if we actually brought these offerings. In some cases, in order to achieve full atonement from the Chatat offering it must be eaten by the Kohanim and of course such eating cannot take place today. So, obviously the idea is not to be taken literally.

Nevertheless, the Torah Temimah keenly observes that if the Korban doesn’t require any additional actions such as eating - then the recitation of that Korban is in fact more similar to its actual offering in the Beit ha-Mikdash than others. Using this insight he argues that the recitation of the verses concerning the Korban Olah is superior to that of the Korban Chatat. The Korban Olah is completely burnt up on the altar while the Korban Chatat requires that some of it be eaten by the Kohanim. Therefore, the recitation of the Korban Olah is more similar to its actual offering in the Beit ha-Mikdash since it doesn’t require any eating.

Now we can understand the statement “because this is how it should be read”. “Should be read” means that when the Korban Olah is recited by us in an era when there is no Beit ha-Mikdash, the Olah takes precedence, or is superior, since it’s recitation more closely matches its actual offering than the Chatat. Just like the Olah wasn't eaten and offered wholly up to Hashem, so too its recitation is completely expressed to Hashem and there is no missing act of eating.


The Rabbi's Desk - NEW Feature

01/18/2019 10:17:41 AM






My Derasha Topic in the Straus Main Sanctuary
this Shabbat Shirah Parshat Beshalach:

Moshe, MLK, and Moments of Inspiration

Last Week's Derasha
Parsha Questions from Last Year's Parent-Child Learning
MLK March on Monday
Closing Invocation from swearing-in of Mayor Michael Wildes
Dvar Torah from Last Board Meeting
Short Dvar Torah given to Moriah Middle Schoolers
Shiur on Emunah to Names Not Numbers Participants


My Derasha from this Past Shabbat, Parshat Bo: “To Be Continued…”

Though Parent-Child Learning is off this week during Yeshiva break, click here for some Questions from a previous year's seesion on Beshalach. 
    Upcoming Event this Monday: I look forward to marching with fellow Englewood residents and faith leaders to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I urge anyone who can to attend the March which starts from City Hall and help me represent our shul.

Our member, Michael Wildes, was sworn in once again as mayor of Englewood last week. I had the honor of offering the closing invocation. Click here for the text of the prayer I offered.

The Board of Trustees met last week to discuss revising the shul constitution. I used this opportunity to share an idea about the Biblical origins of constitutional governments and organizations.

When a student is assigned a project such as building a model of the planets, or an exploding volcano, or an invention for the Invention Convention, clearly the expectation is that their parents will do most of the work to make sure that the project is as good as it can be. Right? Click here to read the correct answer from a short Dvar Torah to Moriah Middle-Schoolers following Tefilah last week.

I was privileged to be invited by Mrs. Rachel Schwartz and Abby Herschmann to speak about Emunah after the Holocaust to the Moriah Eighth Graders participating the Names Not Numbers program. I drew upon Elie Wiesel’s ‘Trial of God’ and Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik’s ‘Fate and Destiny’ to discuss two important lessons. First, that faith in Hashem can exist alongside questions of Him and feelings of anger or confusion in the wake of terrible tragedy. Indeed, to turn towards God from any perspective (instead of away from God) is, in and of itself, an expression of faith. And second, that our tradition guides us how to respond to tragedy with action and not passivity. That in the wake of the Holocaust, we must develop ways to bring more light and more commitment to our faith. We discussed briefly the best example of this in the establishment of the State of Israel following the destruction of European Jewry. Click here for my source sheets.



The Rabbi's Desk

01/18/2019 09:59:45 AM


Mon, October 18 2021 12 Cheshvan 5782