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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.

Man and the Tree PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lazar Gurgow   
Monday, 21 April 2014 00:00

Three Stages in a Tree

This week's Parshah teaches that for the first three years the fruit of a newly planted tree is forbidden to us. On the fourth year we may eat its fruit but only if we carry it to the holy city, Jerusalem, and consume it there. Only after that, on the fifth year, may we finally enjoy the fruit at our leisure.

The majority of Jews today no longer work in the agriculture, but we are all gardeners at heart. We seek to implant the seed of G-d's presence in our hearts, our children, our home and our environment. We too enjoy the fruit of our labor in three stages.

Three Stages in a Jewish Day

We begin every day with prayer. During prayer our attention is exclusively devoted to matters of the spirit and G-d. It is not a time for stray thoughts, idle chatter or selfish enjoyment.

After prayer we study Torah. Here we interact with the world of physical objects and events and are intellectually stimulated, but all under the banner of Jerusalem, the atmosphere of sanctity and Yirat Shamayim (awe of Heaven).

Finally, we emerge from our spiritual cocoon and venture into the world. Here we can reap the fruit of our labor as we go about our everyday business. We do so for the benefit of our own pleasure, but under the clearly visible signs of the morning’s influence.

The Training, The Process, and The Goal

The First stage belongs to G-d. We are there only on his sufferance. This stage is symbolized by three years because we pray thrice daily. The second stage is equally shared between G-d and ourselves. It is His Torah that our minds engage. This is symbolized by consuming the food for our own pleasure but only in the holy city, Jerusalem. The third stage belongs completely to us.

Stages one and two are prerequisites for stage three. Those who successfully complete the first two stages will find that they are not comfortable with exclusive ownership of stage three. They naturally invite G-d to come and join them.

All About Spirituality PDF Print E-mail
Written by Shimon Posner   
Monday, 14 April 2014 11:36

I'm very rich. That I never hear.

I'm very humble. That I never hear.

I'm very spiritual. Ah, at that I cringe very often.

Why don't they realize spirituality is humility?

Truth is, when they say "spiritual" they mean abstract: a quest for the unnoticed, the unstated, the uncommon.

But spirituality, in that definition, is not something inherently good, worthy or desirable.

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak (known in Yiddish as the Freidiker Rebbe) was unimpressed by yeshiva bochurim, the boys in yeshiva, who opened the refrigerator just to see what was inside.

The Scapegoat PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks   
Monday, 07 April 2014 00:00

The strangest element of the service on Yom Kippur, set out in Acharei Mot, was the ritual of the two goats, one offered as a sacrifice, the other sent away into the desert "to Azazel." They were brought before the High Priest, to all intents and purposes indistinguishable from one another: they were chosen to be as similar as possible to one another in size and appearance. Lots were drawn, one bearing the words "To the L‑rd," the other, "To Azazel." The one on which the lot "To the L‑rd" fell was offered as a sacrifice. Over the other the High Priest confessed the sins of the nation and it was then taken away into the desert hills outside Jerusalem where it plunged to its death. Tradition tells us that a red thread would be attached to its horns, half of which was removed before the animal was sent away. If the rite had been effective, the red thread would turn to white.

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