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One of the karbanot, offerings, brought in the Temple was the Korban Todah – the Thanksgiving Offering. If a person was in a dangerous situation and managed to survive, he would travel to the Temple in Jerusalem and bring such an offering. Nowadays, when one survives a situation in which his life was in danger, he or she recites a special blessing called Birchat HaGomel in place of the Thanksgiving Offering.
We have all heard of the tragedy this past week in Brooklyn, in which a fire broke out in the middle of the night, leaving seven children from the Sassoon family dead and their mother and the eighth child in critical condition. It is beyond belief and the pain is tremendous. Losing one child is a colossal tragedy in and of itself; losing seven in one shot? Unimaginable. Continue reading Parshat Tzav – In the Wake of the Brooklyn Tragedy: Hugging our Children
It is not uncommon for us to find ourselves in situations where if we would simply fudge the truth, things would work out more conveniently. It is extremely tempting to give in to that little voice claiming that it would not be such a big deal. It is especially hard to resist this impulse when we are trying to be good citizens and help someone else out. After all, giving in to that temptation to not be totally honest can help us accomplish more good in the world. Is it really so bad to fudge the truth just a little bit? Is a little white lie really so terrible?
Towards the end of this week’s parshah, the Torah tells us of an encounter between Joseph and the wife of his master, Potiphar. Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, but Joseph resisted. He responded to her advances, “Potiphar gave me his full trust. He appointed me as the head steward of the entire household and has never turned down a request of mine. How, then, can I perpetuate this great evil and sin against God?”
With this statement, Joseph seemed to be giving two explanations for his refusal. The first reason was that after all the kindness Potiphar had shown him, such an act would be unfair. The second was that it would be a sin against God. Why wasn’t the first reason enough? What was the second reason adding? Continue reading Parshat Vayeishev – Unjustifying the Means
The Oxford Dictionary provides two definitions for the word ‘Jew’, one the verb form and one the noun form. Even in this age of political correctness, ‘Jew’ in the verb form is defined as “Bargain with someone in a miserly or petty way”. Parenthetically, one would expect that this usage of the word would have ended with the Middle Ages, or at the very least with the end of the Holocaust. Unfortunately, its presence in the Oxford Dictionary shows us that anti-Semitism is still alive and well.
However, the noun form of ‘Jew’ is defined as “A member of the people and cultural community whose traditional religion is Judaism and who trace their origins through the ancient Hebrew people of Israel to Abraham.” Where does this word come from, and why has it been the term used to refer to our people as opposed to Hebrew, Israelite or some other term?
Continue reading Parshat Vayeitzei – Jewish Appreciation