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Torah Thoughts: Parashot Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5781

Adding Good Deeds to Ritual By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky This week we read two parashot, Acharei Mot and Kedoshim. In the beginning of the first one we find the ritual of Yom Kippur. Indeed, it is the same reading we read on the morning of Yom Kippur. One of the first instructions for Aaron, the priest, about the Yom Kippur ritual is this, “With this shall Aaron enter the Holy:

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Tazria Metzora 5781

“Who is the person who desires life, loving each day to see good? Then guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.” (Psalm 34: 13-14) B”H Rabbi Daniela Szuster In the two parashot of this week, Tazria and Metzora, are described the details of the disease of leprosy, Tzaraat, and stipulate how the Cohen should proceed according to the kind of illness that the person had. Most

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Shemini 5781

Torah Thoughts on Parashat Shemini and Yom Hashoah 5781 By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky Today, Thursday, Nissan 27th, April 8th, is the official Jewish commemoration of the Holocaust, known as Yom HaShoah V’Hagvurah, meaning Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day. The date was selected in a resolution passed by Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset, on April 12, 1951. Although the date was established by the Israeli government, it has become a day commemorated

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Torah Thoughts: Shabbat – Seventh Day of Pesach 5781

We Should Not Rejoice When a Human Being Falls B”H Rabbi Daniela Szuster The service of Hallel consists of six Psalms (113-118), which are recited as a unit on different Jewish festivals, immediately following the Shacharit Amidah. These occasions include the three major festivals, Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot, and the minor festival, Chanukah, and Rosh Chodesh. Besides this, it is a new custom to recite it for modern celebrations as Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Y’rushalayim.

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Torah Thoughts on Bedikat Chametz 5781

Torah Thoughts on Bedikat Chametz 5781 By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky Traditionally, the formal search for chametz (leaven), bedikat chametz, is conducted on the night before Pesach. This year, since Pesach starts on Saturday night, we search for chametz on Thursday evening, the day you are probably reading these lines. That is why I would like to say (or write!) a word about the symbolism of the chametz. First things first:

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayikra 5781

Drawing Closer to God and to our People: The Advantages we have in our Time compared with those of our Ancestors B”H Rabbi Daniela Szuster This week, we are starting to read the third book of the Torah, the book of Vayikra, Leviticus. In this week’s parashah, you can find the rules and procedures for the different types of korbanot, offerings or sacrifices, that were brought to the Mishkan (tabernacle).

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Terumah 5781

Parashat Terumah 5781
B¨H

Rabbi Daniela Szuster

“Creation of the World and the Building of the Miskan (Tabernacle)”

This week´s parashah begins with God´s order to collect donations in order to build the Mishkan and then we have all the instructions Moses received on how to build it. Some sages found that there are many similarities, common action verbs and expressions between the description of the building of the Mishkan and the story of the creation of the world. There are so many similarities that many sages believe it couldn’t be a coincidence. I would like to share with you those similarities through the following table and then, highlight the underlying message this comparison will reveal.

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Mishpatim 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Mishpatim 5781

Be a Mensch!

Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

This week we read parashat Mishpatim (literally, laws or rules). The vast majority of the Torah text that comes before this parasha is a continuum of stories about the origins of the people Israel. This includes the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs and the exodus from Egypt. However, in parashat Mishpatim we are presented with a long list of laws, most of them civil ones.

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Yitro 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Yitro 5781
The Meaning of the Structure of the Ten Commandments
B”H
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
One of the main topics of this week’s parashah is the revelation at Mount Sinai. This historic event is one of the most significant in Jewish history because it was when God gave the Torah to the people of Israel. At this event, the entire nation experienced a singular revelation and took upon itself to obey the commandments of God when they said “Na’aseh ve’nishma,” “We will do, and we will hear.”

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Beshalach 5781

Torah Thoughts on Parashat Beshalach 5781

Freedom

Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

This week we read parashat Beshalach. The first verse of this parasha reads, “Now when Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was nearer; for God said, “The people may have a change of heart when they see war and return to Egypt” (Exodus 13:17).

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Bo 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Bo 5781
Storytelling as a Tool for Shaping Identity, Sharing Meaningful Messages and Healing Deep Wounds
B”H
Rabbi Daniela Szuster
It is written at the beginning of this week’s parashah: “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh. For I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his courtiers, in order that I may display these My signs among them, and that you may recount in the hearing of your sons and of your sons’ sons how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I displayed My signs among them—in order that you may know that I am the Lord.” (Sh’mot 10:1-2)

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vaera 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vaera 5781
Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

Be Yourself!

It is told about the great rabbi Chaim de Sanz (Sanz, Poland, 1793–1876, a famous Hasidic Rabbi and the founder of the Sanz Hasidic dynasty, and one of the leaders of Eastern European Jewry in his generation) that he once received the visit of a young rabbi. Rabbi Chaim asked the young visitor who he was. The visitor answered, “I am the grandson of the famous Rabbi so and so, who is well known in many countries. Rabbi Chaim replied, “I asked you who you were, and not who your grandfather was.”

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Sh’mot 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Sh’mot 5781

Posted on January 6, 2021

Who is a Good Leader?

B”H
Rabbi Daniela Szuster

If you read a book about leadership, what important key points would you find about being a good leader?

You may find that leaders are born into leadership because of their innate gifts. Some theories stress the motivations of leaders to lead. Other theories stress the powers of persuasion and the gift of popularity.

Besides this, you will find that to be an effective leader, you should be confident enough to ensure that others follow your commands. In addition, a good leader should be a good communicator. Words have the power to motivate people and make them do the unthinkable.

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayigash 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayigash 5781

Serving God Joyfully

Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

Last week’s parasha ended with Joseph demanding his brothers that Benjamin (the youngest among the brothers) remain a slave in Egypt while the other brothers return to their father, Jacob. That was because a silver goblet had been found in Benjamin’s bag. Parashat Vayigash begins with Judah’s plea to Joseph, “if I come home and the youngest lad is not with us, and the soul of the one is bound up with the soul of the other, then it shall come to pass that he (Jacob) shall die in sorrow. Please take me as your slave instead of Benjamin” (from Genesis 44).

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Miketz 5781

Parashat Miketz 5781
B”H
Rabbi Daniela Szuster

Joseph: A Talented and Humble Person

Last week, in parashat Vayeshev, and this week in parashat Miketz, we see Joseph as a young dreamer and as a person capable of interpreting other people’s dreams. Would he make a great psychoanalyst in our time!

Every time someone would ask him to solve their confusing dreams, Joseph would agree on the condition they understood the interpretation did not come from him but from God. It is interesting to note that he expressed this more than once.

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Torah Thoughts: Hanukkah 5781

Torah Thoughts on Hanukkah 5781
Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

Adding Light This Year

Tonight, we will be lighting the first candle of Hanukkah, so the Torah Thoughts for this week are dedicated to this festival.

I want to start with a question: Why do we light one candle the first night of Hanukkah and one additional candle each night, until we have eight candles the eighth night of Hanukkah?

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayishlach 5781

Torah Thoughts: Parashat Vayishlach 5781

An Angel is Created out of each Good Deed we Perform

B”H

Rabbi Daniela Szuster

This week’s parashah begins by saying: “Jacob sent messengers ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom” (Bereshit 32:4). Since Jacob left the house of Laban with all his family, and he returned to the land of Canaan, he sent messengers to his brother Esau.

In the Hebrew text it is written “מלאכים” which usually is translated as “messengers” but also means “angels”. What did Jacob really send to Esau?

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Torah Thoughts on Parashat Vayetze 5781

Torah Thoughts on Parashat Vayetze 5781
Thanksgiving

By Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

For most American Jews, Thanksgiving is a chance to gather with family (well… maybe not this year!) and eat turkey and stuffing, like any other American would do.

The big majority of American Jews regard Thanksgiving as more akin to the Fourth of July than Christmas, since Thanksgiving is considered a civil celebration, lacking religious associations and offering an opportunity to fully embrace a widely observed American tradition.

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Torah Thoughts: Parashat Toldot 5781

“Isaac’s blindness and how we can open our eyes and see the big picture”
B”H

Rabbi Daniela Szuster

The parasha for this Shabbat, Parashat Toldot, narrates the story of Isaac’s sons. First, Rebecca was barren, and then she was blessed and conceived twins. The Torah continues telling about the personality of each son: “And the boys grew; and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Now Isaac loved Esau, because he did eat of his venison; and Rebecca loved Jacob” (Bereshit 25: 27-28).

The boys developed different styles of living: Esau was a man of the field, of dangers and risks, and Jacob a man of the house, of peace and reflection. These are two very dissimilar behavior patterns.

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Torah Thoughts: Chayei Sarah 5781

Honoring Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l

Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky

This week we read parashat Chayei Sarah, which literally means “the life of Sarah.” However, the first verses of this parasha actually tells us about Sarah’s death. Something similar happens with the last parasha of the Book of Genesis, which is called Vayechi, “he lived,” although it tells us about Jacob’s death. 

Our sages learn an important principle from these apparent contradictions. They stated that, צַדִּיקִים שֶׁבְּמִיתָתָן נִקְרְאוּ חַיִּים, “Righteous people are referred to as living even after their death” (Brachot 18:b). This means that righteous people live on through their teaching and living example, even after passing away. 

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