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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

Mon, December 6 2021 2 Tevet 5782