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Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik

Writing the Story

March 9, 2010, by

Moses is described as the “safra rabah, the great scribe of Israel” (Sotah 13b). Moses was surely a scribe in the technical sense; as Rambam noted in his Introduction to the Mishneh Torah, Moses wrote a Torah scroll for each of the twelve tribes and one to be placed in the Holy Ark. The reference

The Puzzling Story of the Megillah

February 17, 2010, by

The story of Esther tells us in the most lively, realistic fashion, with a tinge of refined yet biting sarcasm, about paradoxical, absurd events, which are both tragic and comical at the same time. We are told a story of a king who, as our Rabbis have already remarked, killed his beautiful, beloved, young queen

Slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt

January 6, 2010, by

“We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt” (Deut. 6:21). We were slaves to Pharaoh, not Pharaoh’s slaves. The former would be only a juridic-social description; the Jews belonged to Pharaoh legally, but spiritually were free people with their own minds and an independent approach to reality. However, when we state that someone is “Pharaoh’s slave,”

The Curse of Boredom

December 30, 2009, by

Man is bored. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on his entertainment and amusement. He pays enormous sums to anyone who can elicit a smile from him and make him forget his daily worries. What are these worries? Poverty, sickness, persecution, physical pain? None of these. His main worry is existence itself. He is

Hanukkah and Independence Day

December 16, 2009, by

Is Hanukkah merely a holiday telling us a heroic story of battles won and political victories gained, like the American Fourth of July or the French Fourteenth of July? A political event, even one of the greatest importance, can be celebrated only as long as the people view it as a turning point in history,

The Two Dreams of Chanukah

December 9, 2009, by

The story of Hanukkah is typical of all our confrontations in the Galut, the Diaspora. In aristocracy, each family has a coat of arms, an emblem. What was the emblem of Joseph? It was the ketonet passim, of course, the multicolored coat, a coat composed of stripes that his father made for him (Gen. 37:3).

Praying at the Place

November 25, 2009, by

Makom, with regard to the patriarchs, means a place for prayer: “And he lighted upon a certain place, va’yifga ba-makom, and remained there all night” (Gen. 28:11). Based on this verse, Chazal say that Jacob was the one who established the evening prayers (Berachot 26b). He petitioned God ba-makom, at a certain place. Prayer requires

Kindness At All Costs

November 4, 2009, by

When the three travelers, angels in disguise, came to visit Abraham, the ailing patriarch chose to disrupt a conversation with God in order to greet them (Gen. 18:1-2). Thus Chazal said that to receive lonely travelers on a hot day and give them water to drink, tell them to wash up and serve them food,

Finding the Holy

October 27, 2009, by

“And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Shechem… and the Lord appeared to Abraham and said: To your seed will I give this land; and he built there an altar unto the Lord who appeared to him” (Gen. 12:6-7). Why was it necessary to say “who appeared to him”? The sentence “He