Putting Family First – Parshat Yitro 2020

When I watched the Steven Spielberg film, Lincoln, back in 2012, there were numerous aspects of Lincoln’s presidency that I was surprised to discover through the movie. For example, there is a scene in which regular, every day Americans are welcomed into the White House, one by one, to meet with the president of the … Continue reading Putting Family First – Parshat Yitro 2020

Me and My G-d – Parshat Beshalach 2020

Rav Shlomo Yosef Zevin records the following story about Rav Menachem Mendel of Kotzk, the Kotzker Rebbe. There was a certain teacher who often traveled from his hometown of Bilgoraj in Poland to visit the famous Chassidic master, Reb Yaakov Yitzchak, the Chozeh of Lublin. On one occasion, the Chozeh told his visitor the teacher … Continue reading Me and My G-d – Parshat Beshalach 2020

We Won’t Know Until We Get There – Parshat Bo 2020

During my time studying in ישיבה in Israel, I took some risks, made some decisions that I never would today. One of the most absurd things I did during that time was to show up at ישיבת הכותל on Friday afternoon without any prior arrangements at all. I packed my bag, got on a bus … Continue reading We Won’t Know Until We Get There – Parshat Bo 2020

Why Kermit the Frog? – Parshat Va’eira 2020

A few months ago, I talked about “The Rainbow Connection,” a song by performed by Kermit the Frog in The Muppet Movie. Afterwards, Andrea Kamens mentioned to me that there is another profound song of Kermit’s worth taking seriously: “Bein’ Green.” In the song, Kermit expresses frustration with the way he looks, the way in … Continue reading Why Kermit the Frog? – Parshat Va’eira 2020

No Man’s Tale – Parshat Shemot 2020

On March 8, 1498, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote a letter describing with admiration the sermons he recently heard from an Italian Dominican Friar named Giralomo Savonarola. Savonarola was deeply opposed to the Medici ruling family in Florence and he used his sermons to inspire his listeners to reject their control. Machiavelli was impressed with the messages … Continue reading No Man’s Tale – Parshat Shemot 2020

Who Are These? – Parshat Vayechi 2019

Nicholas Sparks’ first novel The Notebook was a smash hit New York Times bestseller from its first week on bookshelves. It spawned a very successful film adaptation in 2004 and an upcoming Broadway musical. One reason why the book is so popular is because of the idyllic young romance between the two main characters, a … Continue reading Who Are These? – Parshat Vayechi 2019

Was Goshen an Orthodox Jewish “Ghetto of Choice”? – Parshat Vayigash 2019

William Shakespeare’s plays are among the most influential works of fiction in the history of Western literature. It is indisputable that The Merchant of Venice, which centered around a loan dispute between Christian noblemen and Shylock, a Jewish moneylender and merchant, continues to influence both Jewish and non-Jewish perspectives on Judaism and anti-Semitism. For whatever … Continue reading Was Goshen an Orthodox Jewish “Ghetto of Choice”? – Parshat Vayigash 2019