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What Makes God Laugh
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There is an old saying that what makes God laugh is seeing our plans for the future.[1] However, if Tanakh is our guide, what makes God laugh is human delusions of grandeur. From the vantage point of heaven, the ultimate absurdity is when humans start thinking of themselves as godlike. There are several pointed examples […]
Healing the Trauma of Loss
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It took me two years to recover from the death of my father, of blessed memory. To this day, almost twenty years later, I am not sure why. He did not die suddenly or young. He was well into his eighties. In his last years he had to undergo five operations, each of which sapped […]
Healing from the Trauma of Loss (Chukat 5776)
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It took me two years to recover from the death of my father, of blessed memory. To this day, almost twenty years later, I am not sure why. He did not die suddenly or young. He was well into his eighties. In his last years he had to undergo five operations, each of which sapped […]
Hierarchy and Politics: The Never-Ending Story
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It was a classic struggle for power. The only thing that made it different from the usual dramas of royal courts, parliamentary meetings or corridors of power was that it took place in Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem, Holland, and the key characters were male chimpanzees. Frans de Waal’s study, Chimpanzee Politics,1 has rightly become a classic. In […]
Two Kinds of Fear
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One of the most powerful addresses I ever heard was given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, on this week’s parsha: the story of the spies. For me, it was nothing less than life-changing. He asked the obvious questions. How could ten of the spies have come back with a demoralising, defeatist report? […]
From Despair to Hope
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There have been times when one passage in today’s parsha was for me little less than life-saving. No leadership position is easy. Leading Jews is harder still. And spiritual leadership can be hardest of them all. Leaders have a public face that is usually calm, upbeat, optimistic and relaxed. But behind the façade we can […]
The Blessing of Love
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At 176 verses, Naso is the longest of the parshiyot. Yet one of its most moving passages, and the one that has had the greatest impact over the course of history, is very short indeed and is known by almost every Jew, namely the priestly blessings: The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘Thus shall […]
The Sound of Silence
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Bamidbar is usually read on the Shabbat before Shavuot. So the sages connected the two. Shavuot is the time of the giving of the Torah. Bamibar means, “In the desert.” What then is the connection between the desert and the Torah, the wilderness and God’s word? The sages gave several interpretations. According to the Mekhilta […]
A Sense of Direction
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Smartphones can do amazing things – few more amazing than Waze, the Israeli-designed satellite navigation system acquired by Google in 2013. But there is one thing even Waze cannot do. It can tell you how to get there, but it cannot tell you where to go. That is something you must decide. The most important […]
Family Feeling
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I argued in Covenant and Conversation Kedoshim that Judaism is more than an ethnicity. It is a call to holiness. In one sense, however, there is an important ethnic dimension to Judaism. It is best captured in the 1980s joke about an advertising campaign in New York. Throughout the city there were giant posters with the slogan, […]