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Rabbi Wein’s Weekly Blog

Sabbath/ Holidays

KI TAVO 8/31/2015 02:18 PM

The next few parshiyot of the Torah, leading up to the final uplifting and glorious conclusion, portray for us a somber picture of the experiences that the Jewish people will undergo in their march through history. The descriptions of the horrors that will overtake the Jewish people, when their national entity is destroyed and they embark on a long and painful exile of millennia, are graphic,...

KI TEITZEI 8/24/2015 12:34 PM

The saga of the captive woman described in this week's Torah reading has always remained a somewhat puzzling subject. The Talmud itself reacts to the realities of war – those young male soldiers and vulnerable female captives – by stating that the Torah is reacting to the natural base desires of men in times of stress and danger. So to speak, the entire matter is a concession to evil...

GRATITUDE 8/24/2015 12:24 PM

The month of Elul brings forth many different emotions, thoughts and insights. It is, after all, meant to be a month of introspection and serious self-analysis. And, one of the values that this month is meant to evoke in our minds and thoughts is that of gratitude. The rabbis of the Talmud saw gratitude as being one of the most basic values of Judaism. Since nothing in life is perfect and we...

SHOFTIM 8/17/2015 03:19 PM

Unlike other faiths, Judaism does not foresee this world to be one of perfection of the entire human condition. Thus in this week’s Torah reading we are told to create a system of legal justice and means of enforcement of law and order. Society cannot simply rely on the good will and innate good nature of people; this leads to anarchy and chaos. To this end, judges and police are part of the...

RE’EH 8/10/2015 01:04 PM

It is interesting, at least to me, to note that in the review of the Jewish holidays of the calendar year that appears in this week's Torah reading, only the three festivals of Pesach, Succot and Shavuot are mentioned. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are noticeable in their absence from this list of holidays. The obvious reason for their omission is that the commandment to go up to Jerusalem for the...

EIKEV 8/3/2015 02:44 PM

The word with which this week's Torah reading begins literally means ‘because of’ or ‘as a consequence of’ one's actions and behavior. However Rashi chooses to define the word ‘eikev’ in a more allegorical sense. Rashi traces the word to its root where it means the heel of a person. We find that this is its meaning when the Torah describes our father Jacob holding onto the heel of...

VAETCHANAN – NACHAMU 7/27/2015 01:40 PM

In the Torah reading of this week our teacher and leader Moshe prays and begs for a final time, that Heaven revoke its decree preventing him from entering the Land of Israel. His plea is unsuccessful and, in fact, he is told not to raise the subject again during his lifetime. It is striking to note that Moshe does not complain about the outcome of his entreaty nor is there any note of...

POST-TISHA B’AV THOUGHTS 7/27/2015 12:45 PM

I spent the better part of the afternoon of Tisha B’Av reading a book recently published concerning the history of Chicago's Orthodox rabbinate from the late 1800s to the middle of the twentieth century. The book has special meaning to me since I knew many of the rabbis described in the book during my early years in Chicago a half-century ago. Also the fact that my father and grandfather...

SHABBAT AND TISHA B’AV 7/20/2015 03:05 PM

It is an established fact that Shabbat trumps almost every other commandment, custom and practice in Jewish life and law. Allowing circumcision on Shabbat is the exception and not the rule. Whether confronting the fast days or feast days, Shabbat takes precedence. It rules, by rabbinic decree, over shofar and lulav as well as over the mournful commemorations of personal and national grief, loss...

DVARIM - CHAZON 7/19/2015 01:17 PM

The book of Dvarim begins on a somber note. In fact the entire book, for most of its contents and statements, is a very sobering volume. Our teacher and leader Moshe reviews for us his career and the events of his leadership of Israel over the past tumultuous forty years. He spares neither himself nor the people of Israel in his assessment of the mistakes and misfortunes that occurred over that...