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This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the website.  We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given.  For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website.  If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the website.

A Modern World and Ancient Prophecies PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rochel Holzkenner   
Monday, 20 January 2014 21:13

In the 19th century and much of the 20th, war was a game for the players. Territorial invasion and imperialism were considered fair play; the fittest deserved to survive. On European soil, peace was maintained through a delicate balance of power, and when that power shifted, ammunition broke loose. World War I racked up a death toll of 15 million, all in a dispute over power and territory. By the end of World War II, the death toll was at a shocking 78 million.

Yet in 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait to solve Iraq's financial problems, the world was outraged. That kind of move was not considered cool anymore. Something had changed in our moral perceptions.

Respecting One's Elder Siblings PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rabbi Aryeh Citron   
Monday, 13 January 2014 00:00

The fifth of the Ten Commandments expresses the imperative to honor one's parents. In the original Hebrew, the words are: Kabed et avicha v'et imecha. The Talmud derives from an extra letter in this verse, the vav in the word v'et, that one must also respect his elder brother.

Based on this, some say that respecting one's older brother is a Torah obligation. Others maintain that it is a rabbinic obligation, which merely finds support in the above verse.

Some say that this obligation only applies while one's parents are alive. Others say that it applies after they are deceased as well. Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef rules that one should be stringent in this matter.

Music, Language of the Soul PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks   
Monday, 06 January 2014 00:00
For the first time since their departure from Egypt, the Israelites do something together.  They sing.  "Then sang Moses and the children of Israel."  Rashi, explaining the view of Rabbi Nehemiah in the Talmud that they spontaneously sang the song together, says that the holy spirit rested on them and miraculously the same words came into their minds at the same time.  In recollection of that moment, tradition has named this week Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of Song.  What is the place of song in Judaism?

There is an inner connection between music and the spirit.  When language aspires to the transcendent, and the soul longs to break free of the gravitational pull of the earth, it modulates into song.  Music, said Arnold Bennett, is "a language which the soul alone understands but which the soul can never translate."  It is, in Richter's words, "the poetry of the air."  Tolstoy called it "the shorthand of emotion."  Goethe said, "Religious worship cannot do without music.  It is one of the foremost means to work upon man with an effect of marvel."  Words are the language of the mind.  Music is the language of the soul.
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