Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)

)A Radical Solution for Intergenerational Poverty Imagine the following two scenarios: (1) You decide to sell land that had been in your family for generations and sometime later you realize it was a major immense mistake. Your family falls into poverty, which leads to a downward social and economic spiral, one which can lead to what […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Kedoshim (Leviticus19-20)

Rethinking Holy Karl Duncker, one of the pioneers of Gestalt psychology, conceived a challenge to demonstrate the need for unconventional thinking. In a room with a table pushed against the wall is a box of thumbtacks, matches, and a candle. Subjects were asked to attach the candle to the wall and have it lit. Many […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Achrei Mot(Leviticus 16-18)

Self-Imposed SlaveryWhat would you do if you lost your life’s savings? About 18 years ago, thousands of people had to face this tragedy. In her book Lost and Found, Geneen Roth describes the intense pain of finding out that all her life’s savings were lost to Bernie Madoff but what she gained was priceless.Before the […]

The Final Days of Passover 5784-2024

Freedom is not Enough If you had lived in communist Russia in 1922, you would have endured great oppression. What words of encouragement might a community Rabbi have imparted? How could he talk about freedom on Passover when people’s basic human rights were being denied? R’ Moshe Feinstein was in this situation over 100 years […]

Passover 5784-2024 This is the Story of a Hurricane

Ever since October 7th, our world has been forever altered but long before that the winds of change have been blowing. In one generation, snail mail turned into email, rotary phones turned into cell phones, and Blackberry turned into an iPhone. There’s uncertainty concerning politics, gender, marriage, support for Israel and many other issues that […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Metzora Internal Freedom

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Metzora Internal Freedom Social media has made it commonplace for people to post negative and condemning remarks about people with whom they disagree. This and other types of malicious behavior are considered major offenses in Judaism. There’s not a whole lot we can do about it today but in ancient times, a person who […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha:Tazria (Leviticus 14-25)

Creating PossibilitiesThis week’s Parsha discusses the harmful effects of lashon hara, senseless negative speech. People who don’t take speech seriously, talk 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 is that negative talk has the ability to destroy […]

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

Preying vs. Praying  This week’s Parsha ends with a detailed discussion concerning the specifics for determining whether a fish, animal, or even insect is kosher. The exact names of the kosher birds are listed and in addition we are taught what characteristics a bird requires to be fit for Jewish consumption. Birds of prey […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Tsav(Leviticus 6-8)

Why Civilizations Die In the book, The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking our way out of extinction, Rebecca Costa delivers a fascinating account of how civilizations die. Their problems become too complex. Societies reach what she calls a cognitive threshold. They simply can’t chart a path from the present to the future. The example she gives is the […]

Purim 5784/2024 Are You Frozen or Chosen?

Someone once summarized all Jewish holidays: they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat, and this seems to be the case in the Purim story. A plan (between King Achashverosh and his advisor Haman) was made to annihilate the Jews, the plan was thwarted, Jews defeated their enemies, and since then we have made […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Pekudei (Exodus 38:21-40:3)

Lessons from Dunkin Donuts And they brought the Mishkan (Tabernacle) to Moses… When all the parts of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) had been made, they were brought to Moses, who actually stood the walls up and erected the Mishkan. Rashi quoting the Midrash explains that due to the massive weight of the materials, none of the people were able to raise it up, so […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly ParshÐa: Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35)

The Power of Experience After being liberated from Egypt and participating the Sinai experience, the Jews build a Golden Calf. Now it came to pass when he (Moses) drew closer to the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, that Moses became angry, and he threw down the tablets… (Ex. 32:19) Moses had spent 40 days and […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10)

Diamond in the RoughYou shall place both stones on the shoulder straps of the ephod, remembrance stones for the Children of Israel. (Exodus 28:12)Moses was commanded to make garments for the Cohen Gadol— ‘high priest.’ Included in these was a piece of clothing similar to an apron called the ephod. It had two shoulder straps and held precious […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Teruma (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

Putting in Your Personal Touch Have you ever put together something from Ikea? Their instructions are a series of pictures without any accompanying explanatory text. It would have been helpful if we had been given even minimal textual prompts, but the decision was made that this is how they are going to instruct their customers, and […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24)

What’s Your Bribe Linguists are at a loss to find an origin for the word bribe. It was first used in 14th century old French, but it means “steal.” By the 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 […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Yitro (Shemos /Exodus 18-20)

Unsung Heroes and Your Unique ContributionSince the breakout of the war, we have heard so many stories of heroism. Some involve a hero with a name and a picture. Some involve an anonymous hero who makes a donation or performs an act of chesed (kindness) and then disappears. And then there are stories that we never even […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Bo (Exodus 10:1-13:16)

Killing Your Options Syrian Jews have a custom to sing a Hebrew poem at a brit milah (circumcision).People worry about their wealth being, but not about their days fleeing         (Odam doeg al ibud domov v’einu doeg al ibud yomov)Money will not help their yearning; the days that pass will not be returning.    (Damov einum ozrim, yomav einum chozrim).Life is about making […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Vaeira (Exodus 6:2-9:35)

The Solution to Your Problem isn’t Complicated–It’s DifficultThe sinking of the Titanic on her maiden voyage was a great nautical catastrophe but the real tragedy is that it could have been avoided. One of the most foolish mistakes was that the ship’s radio operators received 21 warnings of ice, all of which were ignored. The Titanic serves a metaphor […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Shemos (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

To Thine Self Be True (Derech Eretz kadmah l’Torah) Imagine a U.S. army General telling a soldier on kitchen duty he would like to speak with him after dinner about an important covert mission. Would this soldier need permission from his Sergeant? Whether it is the head football coach changing a play or a CEO overruling a […]

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

How to Motivate Yourself to do Good ThingsAnd Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; is my father still alive? And his brothers could not answer him because they were terrified at his presence. (45:3)Instead of simply stating, “I am Joseph,” he added “Is my father still alive?” Anyone following the story knows that he […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Mikeitz (Genesis 41:1-44:17)

Learning to Recognize the Right People [While Joseph is still in prison, Pharaoh dreams of cows and sheaves and demands that someone interprets his dreams. The wine steward remembered Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams, mentioned it to Pharaoh, and Joseph was freed and brought before Pharaoh, who acknowledges the truth of Joseph’s interpretation (about the impending […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly: Vayashev (Genesis 37-40)

How Do You Wrap Your Chanukah Gifts?Here’s a rarely discussed Chanukah topic: How should one give a Chanukah present? Sometimes it’s sufficient to simply ship it with an attached note but usually we have to wrap it and hand deliver it. A group of researchers (https://theconversation.com/the-science-of-gift-wrapping-explains-why-sloppy-is-better-128506) set out to find out what impact wrapping has on a recipient’s appreciation […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Chaye Sara (Genesis 23:1-25:18)

Kindness Explained This week’s Parsha begins with the sad tiding of Sara’s death. Abraham goes through a complicated negotiation in order to purchase a burial spot for her as well as delivering a eulogy. The Midrash applies a verse to these kind deeds: He who pursues charity and kindness will find life, charity, and honor. (Proverbs 21:21). […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Vayeira (Genesis 18:22)

  Don’t Write a Check, Make the TrekQuestion: Who is the oldest person in the Bible to have been circumcised and how old was he? Answer: Abraham was 99 years old when he circumcised himself. Even though he was in a lot of pain, he was distressed that no visitors were coming his way. Finally, […]

  Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha: Vayeira (Genesis 18:22) Don’t Write a Check, Make the TrekQuestion: Who is the oldest person in the Bible to have been circumcised and how old was he? Answer: Abraham was 99 years old when he circumcised himself. Even though he was in a lot of pain, he was distressed that no visitors […]

Rabbi O’s Weekly Parsha Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17)

Are You Trading Your Happiness? We don’t need modern research to tell us that money can’t buy happiness, yet when an article comes out that provides concrete data or insights into the relationship between money and happiness, it is worthwhile to pay attention. Four years ago, Arthur Brooks wrote in an article documenting that while consumption has […]