Parshat Korach

Every time I meet a rabbi or pastor who now is a full-time stock broker, a realtor, an entrepreneur with a storefront business or an export-import firm (not to mention a lawyer, an accountant, or even a therapist) — and I ask why they left the rabbinate — the answer typically is the same

Rabbi Sidney Applebaum of Cong. Beth Judah in Brooklyn, the shulwhere I grew up, used to say from his pulpit that he ...

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Parashat Korach (Commentary 2)">Parashat Korach (Commentary 2)


Korach is a fascinating Torah Portion because, as happens so often when the Torah narrates real-life events, the characters “ring incredibly true” to our own life experiences.  We all know superficially good people, who have so much going for them, yet who propel themselves down an horrific course of self-destruction, driven solely by unabated jealousy or incomprehensible animus. That intense jealously, often born of an overwhelming inferiority complex, frequently finds its nearest convenient outlet when ...

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Parshat Chukat

This week’s Torah portion bears one of the Bible’s great enigmas. What exactly did Moses do that prompted the Divine to bar him from crossing the Jordan into Israel?

What was the infraction?

Most students are taught that Moses’ misfeasance was that he hit the boulder even though the Lord told him only to speak to it. If Moses and ...

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Parshat Pinchas

We ended last week’s parasha with the Jewish nation crying as quasi-leaders sinned publicly with Midianite women, who had come into our camp at the Moabites’ behest.

We would have no rest from these Midianites, nor from their Moabite agitators. God ultimately would warn us to avoid such nations utterly — not even to wish Moabites or Ammonites well (Devarim 23:7).

The Moabites and Ammonites stemmed from Lot, Avraham’s nephew. The Midianites were our “cousins,” ...

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Parshat Matot-Mas’ei

In our combined Sedra this Shabbat, the Jewish Nation’s unity seemingly faces its toughest test since Chet haM’raglim (the sin of the Spies) just as we are about to embark on the culmination of forty years’ hopes and dreams.  Eretz Yisrael is within sight, just across the Jordan.  We have waited four decades, amid peregrinations marked so far by 41 distinct journeys through the Sinai, and now comes the pay-off: we all are about to enter the Promised Land ...

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Parshat D’varim

I primarily do two kinds of teaching: Torah classes in a wide range of areas within my extended congregational community and California civil procedure and advanced torts at law school. As the terms wind down, my law students often ask whether I would mind devoting time in our last class of the term to reviewing material we have studied. And that is the way of teaching. One begins by explaining where she is going with her message ...

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Parashat Eikev

This summer’s “cultural news” has been dominated by the deaths of several particularly prominent celebrities: Ed McMahon, who entered our homes for years as Johnny Carson’s sidekick. Farrah Fawcett, whose pin-up poster sold more than 12 million copies in the 1970s and adorned the dorm rooms of a generation, and whose hairstyle sent millions of women to stylists pleading to “look like Farrah.” Michael Jackson, who was performing song and dance from as early as 5 years ...

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Parashat R’ei


In Parshat Re’eh, Moshe reviews the laws of kashrut. The Torah says that these laws separate us from the Nations and make us a holy people by precluding us from eating detestable things.  (Devarim 14: 2-3, 21)  Inasmuch as kashrut is such a defining aspect of Judaism and indeed of the Jewish People, it seems worthwhile to look at kosher rules a bit more closely.  In doing so, we consider not only the Written Law found in the Chumash ...

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Parshat Shoftim

When I was a kid, I was a very important person in shul. My dad was not at all prominent in the greater society — he merely worked for his brother, selling toys and stationery as a wholesaler in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, starting his workday at 7 a.m. and working through 7 p.m. every day, including Sunday. (Sabbath-observant, he got to leave midafternoon on Fridays.) But at shul, he was well liked, even loved, and was ...

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Parshat Ki Teitzei

It took my divorce to understand fully all of those sermons that I had preached over the years about caring for the orphan, the widowed, the poor, the stranger

With approximately half of American marriages ending in divorce, the social crisis unfolding within the American Family Institution concerned me deeply as a congregational rabbi during the 1980s and ’90s, my first two decades in the pulpit. I spoke about it. I ...

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