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Jewish mysticism is often perceived as ethereal abstract and beyond the ken of all but a select few. It is often considered to have little relevance to the day-to-day life of an ordinary Jew. Indeed, the laws and commandments found in the Torah and Talmud which form the framework of Jewish living can be understood and followed without any knowledge of the mystical literature. Chasidic philosophy teaches, however, that there is an essential, fundamental interrelationship between all levels of Jew...
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"I thought I would do this [ponzi scheme] for just a short time and then extricate myself and my clients from it" —Bernie Madoff, during his sentencing hearing in court. We can imagine the temptation, the first time Madoff's investments turned sour, to use the money from new investors to pay the old. What harm could there be in borrowing in hard times and paying back when things improved? ...
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As we all probably know, there is an important custom before Kol Nidre for everyone to forgive everyone else for whatever wrongs they may have committed against us (ben adoam le’chavero – between man and his fellow). In the Sefardi Machzor (based on the Ari and the Ben Ish Chai), we say: Master of the world! Behold, I pardon and forgive every single Israelite – man or woman, child or adult – who has ever wronged me. [I forgive them] whether they sinned against me under duress or willfully, whe...
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Figuring large in the mystical understanding of Rosh Hashanah is a daring kabbalistic concept—the nesira, the removal of the investment of inner presence in all the worlds on Rosh Hashanah night, to be returned renewed with all the illuminations and energy for the coming year at the time of the shofar blowing the next morning. What is being described is a process of complete spiritual deconstruction, a removal of our consciousness from every externality in order to be renewed from the source of ...
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Revelation is the heart of Torah. “G-d spoke to you face to face,” Moshe reminds the people as he recounts the great event of Sinai in which they all took part (Deut. 5:4). That we all took part in it is essential to the meaning of Sinai. The revelation described by the Torah was not the property of one leader alone, or of an elite group, whose report had to be taken as authoritative truth. The authority of the revelation in the Torah is rather to be vouched for by the experience and the memory...
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As a rabbi, I'm often asked: "Is it true that a Jew may not be buried in a Jewish cemetery if they have a tattoo?", to which I respond emphatically that " There's absolutely no truth to that statement." My personal theory is that this notion was conjured up by someone who wanted to dissuade their child from getting a tattoo and  subsequently some like-minded Jewish mothers picked up on it, thereby perpetuating the myth. My answer usually leads to the next question, " So if I understand you corre...
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They are everywhere: in school, in the boardroom, at the doctor’s office, even in synagogues. They are those forever-spinning little triangular gadgets that will set you back anywhere from $3 - $25 and become an inseparable extension of the hand. Interestingly enough, people report that on first sight they are turned off by the concept of a fidget spinner, but once they try it out they are hooked. But what most people don't know is that fidget spinners are the brainchild of Catherine Hettinger,...
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It takes a special type of person to be a kidney donor. Donating a piece of oneself and exposing oneself to risk represents a whole new level of giving. Yet most kidney donors I’ve spoken to insist that they wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again if they could! Tamar is one such special person. In our town, everyone knows that Tamar is always willing to help anyone in need. Then she announced that she was in the process of being cleared for kidney donation. A physician herself, Tamar knew th...
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My maternal grandparents are Rothschilds. Inevitably, when I share this information with anyone, their immediate response is, "You mean the rich ones?" I always respond with the answer that my grandfather gave me when, as a young child, I asked him the same question. He recounted, with a twinkle in his eye, that when the patriarch of the Rothschild family, Baron Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812), was on his deathbed he turned to his two sons and said to one of them, "To you I bequeath all of...
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A few years ago New York Times columnist David Brooks set out to discover how deeply good people got that way. He discovered that these people are self-made; they are not born that way. They achieve genuine inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments. Brooks coined the concept called the "Moral Bucket List," a list of key experiences that one should have on the way to the richest possible inner life, such as the humility shift, self-defeat, acknowledging one’s d...
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Rabbi Shlomo Landau began working for Torah Links (the outreach arm of the Lakewood Yeshivah) in the summer of 2000, and he was instrumental in founding Torah Links of Middlesex County located in East Brunswick, NJ. Torah Links of Middlesex County began with a few home-based study groups and has blossomed into a full service kiruv organization serving 400+ Jewish families in the area. From Sunday school to Hebrew High, from numerous daily classes to High Holiday programs, the organization works flat-out to create inspiring programs. The results speak for themselves. Thousands of Jews from all walks of life have been positively impacted by the uplifting and inspiring Judaism provided by Torah Links. In addition, countless individuals and families have found their way back to complete Torah observance, and Torah Links is proud to have graduates of its youth programs in top yeshivos and kollelim. Through Rabbi Landau’s tireless efforts, Torah Links is about to commence construction of the Torah Links of Middlesex County Community Learning Center; a 15,000 sq. foot beautiful state-of-the-art full service Kiruv center. Additionally, since the fall of 2002 Rabbi Landau has been a high school rebbi in various Modern Orthodox yeshivot. He is currently a beloved faculty member of the Ray Kushner Yeshiva High School (located in Livingston, NJ). For over a decade, Rabbi Landau has succeeded in inspiring hundreds of young men to investigate and appreciate Jewish living and learning. Rabbi Landau has built long lasting relationships with very many of his students – relationships that have lasted past graduation and continue to flourish today, when he is often called on to act as ‘mesader kiddushin’ at their weddings.
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"I thought I would do this [ponzi scheme] for just a short time and then extricate myself and my clients from it" —Bernie Madoff, during his sentencing hearing in court. We can imagine the temptation, the first time Madoff's investments turned sour, to use the money from new investors to pay the old. What harm could there be in borrowing in hard times and paying back when things improved? ...
by June 19, 2020
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It is hard to see the world in the way we are supposed to- with a lens of optimism and positivity. This is especially true now with all of the tumult in society today.  But the reality is that it is always challenging to see the world correctly. The Torah records the initial visual impairments when the spies sent to Israel to scour the land.  This one episode led to a thirty eight year extension in the desert.  Apparently, Jewish vision always had its issues.              After a taste of giant...
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Jewish mysticism is often perceived as ethereal abstract and beyond the ken of all but a select few. It is often considered to have little relevance to the day-to-day life of an ordinary Jew. Indeed, the laws and commandments found in the Torah and Talmud which form the framework of Jewish living can be understood and followed without any knowledge of the mystical literature. Chasidic philosophy teaches, however, that there is an essential, fundamental interrelationship between all levels of Jew...
by May 8, 2020
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Jews are credited with a plethora of creativity in the fields of arts, science, economics- basically any field under the sun. Unfortunately, we are not always credited with our most creative and productive work, sanctifying G-d’s name. What does it means to give sanctity to G-d’s name and why is it our most creative work?               To begin, we need a working definition of sanctity.  One way of defining sanctity is the ability to do an act purely for its own sake. In other words, our world ...