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Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog

Sabbath/ Holidays

HAAZINU 9/18/2017 02:01 PM

There are two approaches to understanding much of the prophecy contained in the grand poem of Moshe that constitutes this week’s Torah reading. Rashi in fact develops both themes thoroughly in his commentary. One view is that the Jewish people and their future are the subjects of Moshe’s Divine words. The difficulties and challenges raised in the verses of this Torah reading are those...

ROSH HASHANAH 9/18/2017 01:56 PM

Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of a reflective period in the Jewish calendar year. At one and the same time we look back at the accomplishments and failures of the past year and we also look forward to our lives and hoped for achievements in the coming good year now dawning upon us. The prayers of Rosh Hashanah represent this duality of outlook. They also represent the constants in our...

SELICHOT 9/11/2017 01:16 PM

The custom of reciting selichot – penitential prayers – preceding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is an ancient one dating back to the period of the Geonim in Babylonia if not even to Talmudic times. There are different customs as to when to begin reciting these prayers. Most Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewish congregations begin the recitation of selichot at the beginning of the month of Elul...

NITZAVIM – VAYELECH 9/11/2017 12:31 PM

Ah! The covenant once more. The basis of the relationship between the Jewish people and their Creator is the covenant that exists between them. The covenant is central to the story of the Jewish people. Our father Avraham entered into and created the terms of this eternal covenant. The covenant was embodied in his flesh itself and sanctified by the sense of sacrifice that the historical narrative...

KI TAVO 9/5/2017 02:06 PM

Moshe describes in horrid detail the ravages of the disaster that will befall the Jewish people towards the end of their long exile from their homeland. We no longer have to accept the descriptions outlined in the words of Moshe as they appear in this week’s Torah reading on faith alone. We have eyewitnesses, testimonies, films, official documented government records, and written memoirs that...

KI TEITZEI 8/28/2017 01:15 PM

The Torah deals with temptation in this week’s reading. Temptation is a constant factor in human existence. Usually we do not carry out the acts that tempt us simply because of lack of opportunity and not necessarily because of our piety. People are watching, the police are in the vicinity, the circumstances currently conspire against us being successful in this tempting but illicit venture....

ELUL 8/20/2017 03:24 PM

In Eastern Europe as well as in other European, Balkan and Middle Eastern Jewish communities, the advent of the month of Elul was greeted with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. Both feelings were engendered by the fact that Elul immediately precedes Tishrei, the month that combines judgment and joyful holiday celebrations. Because of the awesome aspect of judgment associated with...

SHOFTIM 8/20/2017 02:35 PM

Human justice is often unjust, even cruel in the extreme. The barbarism of the Medieval Era was perpetrated in the name of justice. The Psalmist commented ruefully that people construct evil lawfully through legislation and court decisions. The experiences of the past century with Germany, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, Cuba, Iraq, North Korea, etc. certainly suffice to illustrate this sad point. ...

RE’EH 8/13/2017 01:57 PM

The American Declaration of Independence claimed that certain basic human rights were obvious. Yet what is obvious to some is in reality obscure and unknown to many others. Because of this, the Torah emphasizes the obvious in this week’s Torah reading. The choice between death in this world and the next, and life – eternal life, no less, should be obvious. The Torah in fact states that seeing...

EKEV 8/6/2017 05:08 PM

Rashi comments that the word Ekev used here as meaning because or therefore is really the same word in Hebrew for the heel of a human being. Like all parts of our bodies, the heel is valuable, useful and vulnerable. Just ask Achilles! Fashion states that sinful people use the heel to trample on Godly commandments and moral strictures. The heel thus becomes a negative representation of the use of...