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Just Four You

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Pesach 5777

A few years back, I wrote an article about the significance of the number four at our annual Seder gatherings. I called that modest effort: Let the Fours Be With You. Well, I’m back again to revisit this fascinating issue. In Judaism when we’re constructing a presentation for a concept, we usually build...

Sermons of the Aruch HaShulchan

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Sermon 13: First, Foremost and Faith

The Torah (Shemot 12:2) tells the Jewish people that the month we now call Nisan should be the first of the calendar. Aruch HaShulchan wonders what Mechilta Bo 1 means when it infers that it’s the first month for Jews and not non-Jews, but also for Jews and not Adam HaRishon, the first man.

Rishon as First or Most Important

He reminds us of Rosh Hashanah 11a, where R. Eliezer and R. Yehoshua disagree whether the world was created in Tishrei or in Nisan (in an earlier sermon, we saw him discuss another two of their disagreements on that page). For R. Eliezer, who held that it was created in Tishrei, Hashem is making a special cycle of the year...

Again and Again

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Vayakhel-Pekudei 5777

Don’t you hate it when you’re reading to little kids, you’re putting everything you’ve got into this amazing rendition of a childhood classic, and as soon as you finish the book or story, instead of a standing ovation or full-throated “Bravissimo!” they just say, “Again!”? I mean, can’t we just read another story? I love reading to kids, especially my grandchildren. But that persistent “again,” just gets to me. On the other hand, many authorities claim that the repetition is good for the kid. The famous motivational writer and speaker Zig Ziglar explained, “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the...

Sermons of the Aruch HaShulchan for Shabbat HaGadol

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(Drasha 6): Holding On To Hope in the Face of Our Inadequacy

This sermon opens with an extended analysis of Tehillim 68. The first verses of the Psalm ask for Hashem to arise, scatter His enemies, so that the righteous will see and celebrate before Hashem. Aruch HaShulchan suggests that the psalm refers to two kinds of enemies: son’im who display their enmity openly, and oyevim, who keep it inside. He reads the psalm to say they will come to different fates: the open enemies chased off the face of the earth, while the ones who only feel the enmity will be scattered, such that they cannot find a support system for their hatred.

There are also two kinds of celebration: simcha, the...

Finding Inspiration After Purim

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We celebrate Purim every year to commemorate the celebration in ancient times, when joy conquered fear and good vanquished evil. The story of Esther and Mordechai, as told in the Book of Esther, takes place over many years. Too often, we skip the dates in the text and miss an important message hiding in plain sight in the final, short chapter of the book.

The Gemara (Megilla 12a) says that Achashverosh ruled for 14 years. In the third year, he made his enormous feast, to which Vashti refused to come (Esther 1:3). After this feast, Achashverosh began gathering young women to be his wife. Esther was taken to be Achashverosh’s wife, after a year of preparation, in the seventh year of...
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