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Sunday September 27 
Today is Erev Yom Kippur and we will eat our Seuda Mafseket later today (final meal before the fast).  Rabenu Yona in Shaarei Teshuva (4:8) offers an amazing interpretation of the significance of this meal: “If a person transgressed a negative commandment and repented, he should worry about his iniquity and long for and anticipate getting to Yom Kippur in order that he will be accepted by God, may He be...Read more...

Friday September 25
The unique coupling of the terms Avinu and Malkenu by Rabbi Akiva (Gemara Taanit 25b) which is the basis of the prayer known by that name which we have been reciting twice a day since Rosh Hashanna is genius, but raises some serious questions. How could Rabbi Akiva have paired these two terms when they are paradoxical and connote opposite kinds of relationships which are normally mutually exclusive? Father conjures a...Read more...

Thursday September 24
We have been reciting the powerful prayer of Avinu Malkenu twice a day since Rosh Hashanna.  Nobel Prize Laureate of Israel, Shmuel Yosef Agnon, in his work “Yamim Noraim” (p.86), quotes from Sefer Tiferet Uziel which makes the very interesting assertion that the “katvenu” “write us in” lines of Avinu Malkenu parallel the themes of the five books of the Chumash:  Life, redemption, spirituality,...Read more...

Wednesday September 23
Someone once wisely pointed out that if you do not buy a lottery ticket there is no chance you will win the jackpot!  You have to be “in it to win it” as they say.  There is a similar concept about teshuva:  The Chafetz Chayim (Maamar Torat Habayit Ch 10) quotes an anonymous gaon who said that if a person would just speak often, over and over, about teshuva then one time it might be effective in...Read more...

Tuesday Sept 22
Yesterday in the Haftarah for the fast day we read the pasuk from Yishayahu (55:6): 
  דִּרְשׁוּ ה, בְּהִמָּצְאוֹ; קְרָאֻהוּ, בִּהְיוֹתוֹ קָרוֹב
Seek Hashem while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near
The Gemara in Rosh Hashanna 18a echoed by the Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva (2:6) sees this pasuk which speaks about a time when Hashem is...Read more...

Monday, 9/21

Today we commemorate the Fast of Gedalia.  In the years following the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, some Jews of neighboring lands did begin to return to the land and Jewish life began to slowly reemerge under the leadership of Gedalia Ben Achikam who had been appointed as the governor by the Babylonians.  He was murdered on this day by other Jews led by Yishmael ben Netina for political reasons leading to...Read more...

Fri Sept 18
Today is the twenty ninth day of Elul!  It is Erev Rosh Hashanna!!
The Rambam writes in Hilchot Teshuva 3:4
לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ כָּל אָדָם שֶׁיִּרְאֶה עַצְמוֹ כָּל הַשָּׁנָה כֻּלָּהּ כְּאִלּוּ חֶצְיוֹ זַכַּאי וְחֶצְיוֹ חַיָּב. וְכֵן כָּל הָעוֹלָם חֶצְיוֹ זַכַּאי וְחֶצְיוֹ...Read more...

Thursday Sept 17
Today is the twenty-eighth day of Elul!
The Gemara in Yevamot (49b) asks about the apparent contradiction between a verse in Devraim and in Yishayahu:
משה רבך אמר מי כה' אלקינו בכל קראנו אליו, ואת אמרת דרשו ה' בהמצאו... 
Moshe your teacher said “Who is like Hashem our God [available] whenever we call to him” and you [Yishayahu] said “Seek out Hashem...Read more...

Wednesday September 16
Today is the twenty-seventh day of Elul!
In the Mizmor “L’David Hashem Ori” which we are saying in Elul, David HaMelech desperately pleads for closeness to Hashem. What prompted this urgency and what can we learn from it? Rabbi David Kimchi (Radak) (1160-1235) explains that David HaMelech was concerned that the war he was fighting, albeit a noble cause, would distract him from the most important things in...Read more...

Tuesday September 15 
Today is the twenty sixth day of Elul!
Now that RH is quickly approaching my kids have been singing “dip the apple in the honey” or “tapuchim bidvash l’Rosh Hashanna…” and it  never ceases to bring a huge smile to my face...perhaps even a bigger smile than the sweet taste of the honey itself!  There is so much we can learn from the practice of eating honey on Rosh Hashanna.  This...Read more...

Sunday September 13
Today is the twenty fourth day of Elul!
Last night we began saying Selichot.  The centrepiece of selichot is the 13 Midot, 13 Attributes of Hashem’s Mercy mentioned after the sin of the Golden Calf at Har Sinai in Parashat Ki Tisa: “L‑rd, L‑rd, benevolent G‑d, Who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth, preserving lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving...Read more...

Friday Sept 11
Today is the twenty second day of Elul!
I remember this day so vividly.  19 years ago today, I was beginning my second week as a student in Yeshiva University when we awoke to the smoke and the panic and the carnage of 9/11 emerging from Lower Manhattan about 180 blocks away.  Our whole world changed in an instant, life suddenly came to a halt and our own vulnerabilities all came rushing to the fore....Read more...

Thu Sept 10
Today is the twenty first day of Elul!
This morning in the Torah reading we read:
אַתֶּ֨ם נִצָּבִ֤ים הַיּוֹם֙ כֻּלְּכֶ֔ם , You are all standing this day
Rashi says: Why is parashat Nitzavim juxtaposed to the curses [in parashat Ki Tavo]? Because when Israel heard these ninety-eight curses [delineated in Ki Tavo], besides the forty-nine [curses] stated in Leviticus (26:14-38), they...Read more...

Wed Sept 9
Today is the twentieth day of Elul!
In the Mizmor “L’David Hashem Ori” which we have been saying in Elul, David HaMelech says: “One thing have I asked (shaalti) of the LORD, that will I ask for (avakesh).”  The Maharal (Or Chadash on Megilat Esther 5:5) notes that there is a difference between the two verbs used here to describe David’s request:  Sheelah and Bakasha.  He says that “sheelah” is...Read more...

Tues Sept 8
Today is the nineteenth day of Elul!
In the seventh chapter of Hilchot Teshuva the Rambam says:
הוֹאִיל וּרְשׁוּת כָּל אָדָם נְתוּנָה לוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ יִשְׁתַּדֵּל אָדָם לַעֲשׂוֹת תְּשׁוּבָה וּלְהִתְוַדּוֹת בְּפִיו מֵחֲטָאָיו וְלִנְעֹר כַּפָּיו מֵחֲטָאָיו...Read more...

Monday Sept 7
Today is the eighteenth day of Elul!
The Slonimer Rebbe, Rav Shalom Noach Berezovsky z”l, in his Sefer Netivot Shalom says:
“Character traits are the wings of our service of Hashem. Just as winged creatures cannot rise and
fly without their wings, so too humans who engage in Torah and mitzvot cannot rise without the
purification of their character traits which are their spiritual wings. The more a person...Read more...

Sunday September 6
Today is the seventeenth day of Elul!
Yesterday in the Torah reading for Ki Tavo we read:
יז אֶת ה הֶאֱמַרְתָּ, הַיּוֹם:  לִהְיוֹת לְךָ לֵאלֹהִים....  יח וַה הֶאֱמִירְךָ הַיּוֹם, לִהְיוֹת לוֹ לְעַם סְגֻלָּה…
“17 Thou hast avouched the LORD this day to be thy God... 18 And the LORD hath avouched thee this...Read more...

Friday Sept 4
Today is the fifteenth day of Elul!  We are now halfway to Rosh Hashanna.
Dr. Erica Brown in her book “Return: Daily Inspiration for the Days of Awe” says: “Teshuva is a never-ending process because we are always changing and the context of our universe is always shifting” (p.7).  I have always loved this line and found that it rings so true since we are ever-evolving and dynamic beings constantly in...Read more...

Thursday Sept 3
Today is the fourteenth day of Elul!
On this exact day of Elul 291 years ago, on 14 Elul 5489 (September 8 1729) Jewish institutional life in continental North America began!  On this day, Congregation Shearith Israel laid a foundation stone in lower Manhattan for the first structure ever designed and built as a shul in this land. Although the congregation was founded in 1654 shortly after Jews arrived in the new...Read more...

Wednesday Sept 2
Today is the thirteenth day of Elul!
In the Mizmor “L’David Hashem Ori” which we have been saying in Elul, David HaMelech says there is one thing that he wants above all else and that is to “dwell in the house of Hashem all the days of my life.”  Where did he want to dwell?  In the future Beit Hamikdash?  In a shul? In shamayim? Former Chief Rabbi of Yerushalayim, Rav Betzalel Zolty...Read more...

Tuesday Sept 1
Today is the twelfth day of elul!
Today our kids are going back to (Zoom) school! We have “first day of school pictures” for our kids going back all the way to the year when Joseph began 2 year old nursery seven years ago.  The “first day of school picture” this year looks a bit different than in the past since it was taken in our house and not at school…😊 The return to “school” today is a...Read more...

Monday Aug 31
Today is the eleventh day of Elul!
Yesterday I had the privilege to attend yet another COVID wedding, b”h!  I had the chance to share the following idea with the chatan and kallah:  In last week’s parasha one of the many (74!) mitvzot mentioned is “maakeh,” making a guardrail around your roof.  The pasuk says “when you build a new home, make a guardrail around your roof.”  The commentators...Read more...

Sunday August 30
Today is the tenth day of Elul!
Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz, the famed mashgiach of the Mir Yeshiva in Europe (c. 1873-1936), tells the story of a time when he went to a resort and he heard one vacationer tell another that he wants to go to the springs before he unpacks his bags.  He says that he had also seen this on a spiritual level when yeshiva students would show up for Elul zman with their suitcases and leave...Read more...

Friday August 28
Today is the eighth day of Elul!
Our second Shabbat of Elul is almost upon us!  Three weeks from today we will be making our final preparations for Rosh Hashanna.  Time is flying by...and that is exactly why we blow the shofar!  The Rambam says (Hilchot Teshuva 3:4): “Even though the sounding of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah is a decree, it contains an allusion. It is as if [the shofar's call] is...Read more...

Thursday August 27
Today is the seventh day of Elul!
This morning in shul we read the first aliya of Ki Tetze which begins with the words “Ki Tetze”,”When you go out.”  Those words reminded me that so much of what brings about change in life is movement.  When you go out then questions arise, challenges arise, opportunities arise.  We are creatures of habit that love inertia so until we move (mentally or...Read more...

Wed August 26

Today is the sixth day of Elul!

 א"ר יונתן גדולה תשובה שמקרבת את הגאולה, שנאמר ובא לציון גואל ולשבי פשע ביעקב, מה טעם ובא לציון גואל, משום דשבי פשע ביעקב

Rabbi Yonatan said: Great is repentance, which hastens the redemption, as it is stated: “And a redeemer will come...Read more...

Tuesday August 25
Today is the fifth day of Elul! I had the privilege of attending a wedding last night!  It is always nice to be at a simcha especially in times like this.  I was struck by the seventh of the Sheva Brachot:  “Asher Bara Sason V’Simcha, Chatan v’Kalah, Gila, Rina, Ditza, V’Chedva…” We praise Hashem for creating all kinds of joy.  Why do we include the words Chatan and Kalah in that list?...Read more...

Monday August 24

Today is the fourth day of Elul! Yesterday we inaugurated our Teshuva, Tefilla, Tzedaka series for Elul (watch here).  We heard about all the amazing Chesed work being done in our community especially through five of the key organizations that create a platform for Jewish life in Silver Spring:  Eruv, Mikva (MES), Chevra Kadisha, Bikur Cholim, and Yad Yehuda.  Every one of these pillars of our communal...Read more...

Sunday August 23

Today is the third day of Elul!  There are two strands of thinking in Rabbinic literature about the month of Elul. Some focus on its inherent value as “yemey ratzon,” “days of desire”:  It is the month in which, historically, Moshe ascended Har Sinai to receive the second luchot and build a stronger relationship with Hashem.  This makes Elul a month of auspicious tefilla and closeness to Hashem...Read more...

Friday August 21

Chodesh Tov! The sound of the shofar on this first day of Elul was piercing.  

The Gemara in Rosh Hashana 11b says: 

בתשרי עתידין ליגאל, אתיא שופר שופר, כתיב הכא תקעו בחדש שופר, וכתיב התם ביום ההוא יתקע בשופר גדול. 

In Tishrei the Jewish people will be redeemed. This is...Read more...

Tue, August 3 2021 25 Av 5781