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Rabbi Hillel’s Blog

Thinking about the Future

  • Posted on July 10, 2020
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An inspirational section of this week’s parasha is the appointment of Moses’s successor: God tells Moses that it is almost time for him to ascend Mt. Avarim, gaze upon the Land of Israel, and die. He will not merit to enter the land; there will be no changing God’s mind.   The exemplary ruler that Continue Reading »

How Good Are Your Tents!

  • Posted on July 3, 2020
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In our parasha we are introduced to Bil’am, a famous non-Israelite prophet, who “hears the utterances of God and knows the thoughts of the Most High” (Numbers 24:16). He is hired to use his special spiritual powers to curse Israel, and indeed he tries to do so, but God intervenes and forces him to bless Continue Reading »

Confidence in Caring

  • Posted on June 12, 2020
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This week’s parasha contains a famous verse which we sing whenever we open the Ark to take out a Torah scroll: “Vay’hi binso’a ha’aron vayomer Moshe…” – “And it was, whenever the [Holy] Ark would travel, Moses would proclaim, ‘Rise up, God, let Your enemies disperse, and let those who hate You flee.’” The next Continue Reading »

Jerusalem – City of Peace

  • Posted on May 22, 2020
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Throughout Jewish ritual and liturgy we find countless mentions and reminders of Jerusalem. Breaking a glass under a huppah is just one of those.   In many communities it is customary to remember Jerusalem at every meal by chanting or singing a Psalm just before the Birkat Hamazon blessings. On days having no festive nature, Jews may use Psalm Continue Reading »

Disease as Punishment?

  • Posted on April 23, 2020
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Though Tzara’at (commonly misidentified as leprosy) resembles a medical condition, its diagnosis and cure belong in the religious realm and not the ‘secular’, medical one. True, much of the treatment seems medical: seclusion and cleansing, but it is a Kohen, not a physician, who diagnoses it, and it is a Kohen who pronounces the patient healed. Furthermore, Continue Reading »

Counting Blessings

  • Posted on April 3, 2020
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The Shabbat before Pesach is called “Shabbat HaGadol”, the Great Shabbat. This is because of its significance, being right before Pesach, and also because the word “HaGadol” appears in the special Haftarah for the day: “Behold I am sending you the prophet Eliyahu before the great (HaGadol) and profound day comes.”   Eliyahu (Elijah) is Continue Reading »

Radically Different, Radically the Same

  • Posted on March 27, 2020
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This week, our parasha deals exclusively with korbanot – sacrifices.   The concept of animal sacrifices is certainly one that is foreign to most of us, yet they played an enormous part of our communal religious life for at least 1400 years, from the construction of the Mishkan (tabernacle) in the desert until the destruction of the Second Temple Continue Reading »

COVID-19 Column

  • Posted on March 20, 2020
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Dearest congregants and friends,   Life sure has increased its efforts to teach us all to value each and every day, to live each day to the fullest, and not to assume anything will be the same tomorrow! This global, total lockdown happened so suddenly, without warning. And yet, despite all the weirdness and uncertainty, Continue Reading »

Erase but Don’t Forget

  • Posted on March 6, 2020
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The Shabbat preceding Purim is named Shabbat Zachor (“remembrance”) because of the additional verses added to our regular Torah reading from a second Torah scroll (Deut. 25:17-19). The additional verses describe how the evil nation Amalek took advantage of our weakness and attacked us from behind, while we were completely unprepared. We read these verses Continue Reading »

Creating Holy Spaces

  • Posted on February 28, 2020
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This week we being to read about the construction of the Mishkan (or tabernacle), the portable Temple that the Children of Israel used during the 40 years they wandered in the desert. The description spans four parashot –Terumah and Tetzaveh contain the instructions, and Vayak’hel and Pekudei describe the implementation. At the very beginning of Terumah, the parasha elaborates on how donations were solicited for the necessary Continue Reading »