Vayishlach: It pains to advertise!

Vayishlach: It pains to advertise!

“Tis the season,” advertisers say, to buy, buy, buy! They’ll use many techniques to encourage us to do so.  These will certainly include extolling – and exaggerating -- the benefits of their goods and services, while remaining silent about defects and limitations.  There’s nothing surprising about this; “Buyer, beware!” is, and likely always has been, a necessary marketplace motto. But, how does it square with Jewish ethics, especially when Jews have been accused of “sharp business practices” for millennia?  We can learn Jewish advertising values from this week’s Torah portion. ...

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Nov 29

Vayetze: Our Upper World Connection

Vayetze: Our Upper World Connection

Whenever a smoke-alarm in our home chirps, I schlep an extension ladder from our garage, slide it open to maximum length, and hold it securely against the wall.  My wife shimmies up to the high-ceiling to change the battery. Why her and not me? This week’s Torah portion teaches us that ladders are for angels! I refer, of course, to ...

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Nov 22

Thanksgiving: More than Gratitude Attitude

Thanksgiving: More than Gratitude Attitude

Today is “Thanksgiving Day” in America.  In 1863, President Lincoln proclaimed an annual “day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”  By so doing, he transformed the longstanding custom of individually-declared American “days of thanksgiving” into an annual observance.  While gratitude is not uniquely Jewish, it is central to Jewishness.  The very word ...

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Nov 22

Toledot: Extra! Extra!

Toledot: Extra! Extra!

[To listen to this D'var Torah, click here /Portals/45/Toledot_1.mp3] According to Jewish tradition, the Torah contains no unnecessary words.  But what about Genesis 28:5 in this week’s portion, Toledot?  It mentions Isaac, Jacob, Laban, his father Betu-el -- and Rebekah.  It’s perfectly obvious from previous chapters who Rebekah is; yet, the Torah identifies her here as “Rebekah, mother of Jacob and Esau.” Why are we told what we already know?  My answer: ...   

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Chayyei Sarah: A Modest(y) Proposal

Chayyei Sarah: A Modest(y) Proposal

 

Why do Jewish brides veil their faces? In this week’s Torah Portion, Chayyei Sarah, Rebecca, who has never met Isaac, agrees to travel to his home and marry him.  When she first sees him from afar, she takes her veil and covers herself.  (Gen. 25:65).  This biblical story is the source of our “bedecken” wedding veil ritual. But why did she do it? ... 

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Yayera: Tell a Friend!

Yayera: Tell a Friend!

The supermarket chain Alpha Beta used to end its TV and radio commercials with the tagline “Tell a Friend.”  Its marketing department knew that, both for good and ill, our friends greatly influence us.   ...

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Nov 01

Lech L'cha: Set Your Preferences?

Lech L'cha: Set Your Preferences?
Watch/hear this 3 min D'var Torah: http://youtu.be/iXk3x7fsVTw  Throughout Jewish history, our sages have commented on the strange phraseology of G-d’s command to Abraham: Lech L’cha to the land that I will show you.&nb... Continue Reading »

Noah: G-d's Failed Policies?

Noah: G-d's Failed Policies?

 

During this election season, the candidates and parties hotly dispute the wisdom of leadership policies.  Judaism has a long tradition of challenging even Divine policies, both contemplated and implemented (the Book of Job being the preeminent example), though always stopping short of rejecting or dismissing G-d. How then might we judge G-d’s most dramatic and violent policy: wiping out virtually all life on earth?

 

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Oct 18

B'reishit: Divine Et-iquette

B'reishit: Divine Et-iquette

 

Some months ago on Jeopardy! a seminary student appeared as a contestant.  During his brief on-air interview, he offered, and was invited, to recite the first verse of the Bible in Hebrew. ...

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Oct 12

Vzot Habrachah: Jewish Views of G-d

Vzot Habrachah: Jewish Views of G-d

For this Shabbat, an intermediate day of the joyous Sukkot festival, our sages assigned a special holiday reading from Exodus and Leviticus.  The final Torah portion, Vzot Habracha, will be read on Tuesday for Simchat Torah, whereupon we will begin the Torah anew with B’reishit next Shabbat.  This, therefore, being my only opportunity to share thoughts about the final Torah portion, I’ll jump ahead and do so now.  ...

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Oct 05
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He who guards his mouth preserves his life
Proverbs 13:3