Messages from 2020

Shavuot 5780/2020Lessons About the Crown from Ruth, not Corona

 The two-day festival ofShavuot begins tonight. The Bible describes it as an agricultural celebration but most people know it as the as the Jewish holiday that commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai.  It took seven weeks for this nascent nation to travel from Egypt to Mount Sinai. The name Shavuot, […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Bamidbar/Shavuos 5780-2020You Count!

When the cycle for the weekly Torah readings was established centuries ago, this week’s Parsha was designated specifically to be read this Shabbos. I.e. the reading is from the first few chapters of the Torah’s fourth book, Numbers and always proceeds the holiday of Shavuos. What connection is there between this week’s Parsha and Shavuos, the festival commemorating the […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Emor (Leviticus 21-24)Passing the Baton

A great deal of this week’s Parsha deals with matters pertaining toKohanim, the decedents of Aaron. “Priests” is usually the English translation but there’s no appropriate terminology to describe this unique group of people whose task it is to perform the service in Jerusalem’s ancient Temple as well as being teachers for the Jewish people. […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16-20)The Revenge Paradox

Do not take revenge… (Leviticus 19:18)The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when their tormentors suffer.  (Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption)Which one of us hasn’t had inner thoughts of vengeance at […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Tazria-Metzora (Leviticus 12-15)Speaking Without Critiquing

    This week’s Parsha continues discussing the harmful effects oflashon hara, senseless negative speech. Many people don’t take speech seriously; they freely speak about others without regard for their feelings or the potential damage it can cause. King Solomon wrote, Life and death are in the hands of the tongue. One explanation given in the Talmud is that […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Shmini (Leviticus 9-11)A Birdseye View

When enumerating the non-kosher birds, the Torah mentions a bird called da’ah. The Talmud points out that, later on (Deuteronomy 14:12), when the Torah repeats the list of kosher birds, it refers to it as a ra’ah. The Talmud (Chulin 63a) takes note of the Etymological significance of “ra’ah” because it is the root of the Hebrew verb […]

Keeping Up with the Stein’s

(Being as we are less than two weeks away from Passover, each week we will have a short dvar Torah on Passover and another on the weekly Torah reading. Keeping Up with the Stein’s Passover is the holiday of freedom and Matzah is known as the bread of poverty, lechem oni.  If it has eggs or fruit juice or […]

Six Jewish Takeaways from COVID-19

[Being as the Corona Virus is currently in our thoughts most of the day, I have to chosen to write about it in a practical way. Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha comes afterward.] Six Jewish Takeaways from COVID-19We are all at wits end trying to manage in these challenging times. The Talmud (Yevomot 63a) tells us that […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly: Purim 5780-2020 A Sister Who Wouldn’t

One of the puzzling incidents in the Purim story is Esther’s asking King Achashverosh to invite Haman, the arch enemy of the Jews, to a banquet. Ostensibly, she asked for a party so that she could plead with the king to have the decree against the Jews rescinded, but why would she invite the anti-Semite […]

Weekly Torah Portion: Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24)What’s Your Bribe?

Linguists are at a loss to find an origin for the word “bribe.” It is first used in 14th century old French but it means “steal.” By mid-15th century its meaning had shifted to “gift given to influence corruptly.” No one knows where “bribe” came from or how it ultimately came to have the meaning we use […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: BeShalach (Exodus 13:17-17:16)What’s Your Song?

How should we react when we see or hear of our enemy’s demise? Thousands of years ago King Solomon advised:Do not rejoice at your enemy’s downfall, and when he stumbles let your heart not be joyous, lest the G-d see and be displeased and turn back His anger from him [to you] (Proverbs 24:17-18).This statement tells us […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Va’eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35) Starbucks and Pharaoh

Imagine if you were miraculously given superhuman power and had the ability to confront an evil monarch, someone who has persecuted, oppressed and murdered tens of thousands of people. How would you approach him? Would you address him in a respectful way or would speak in an insulting and degrading fashion? Whether it was Ivan […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha:Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1) Cookie Monster

If you want to know how power effects even our most mundane choices, you need go no further than the “Cookie Monster Study,” done by Dr. Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at Berkeley. Here’s how he describes it. We bring three people to the lab, and we randomly assign one person to the role of leader. […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27)5780-2020 Sweat

Ad Vingerhoets is a professor of psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. The thing that makes him unique is that he is an expert on crying and has spent over twenty years “studying when and why we cry, and how the study of crying may help us obtain better insight into human nature.” According […]