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Parshat Ki Tavo :    Perception and Reality

09/20/2019 10:35:25 AM

Sep20

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parshat Ki Tavo: Perception and Reality

A poll was done in the United Kingdom a few years ago asking how many Jews there are in the world and how big is the State of Israel. The average answer was that there are 50 million Jews in the world and that Israel is the same size as the UK. Of course, in reality there are about 15 million Jews today, fewer than there were before the Holocaust, and Israel is less than one tenth the size of the UK. In this week’s parsha we read the first fruits declaration, which we are familiar with because we recite it during the Passover seder as well. It begins with the words “Arami Oved Avi Vayered Mitzraimah Vayagar Sham Bimtey Me’at Vayehi Sham Legoy Gadol/My father was a wandering Aramean, who went down to Egypt and dwelled there in small numbers, and became a numerous nation.” Rabbi Yakov Yitzchak Trunk from Kutna teaches that this verse explains antisemitism. That those people who hate Jews don’t perceive reality. Even though we are small in number, they perceive us as being a numerous nation. And not just numerous, but plotting something nefarious and seeking to dominate the world. Within each antisemitic claim there is a grain of truth that is twisted and distorted. We are a small nation, but we do “punch above our weight” so to speak. Not in a nefarious way, but in a positive way. As Jews we seek to improve the world, not dominate it, and thus you see Jews doing amazing things that improve the world for everyone, from science, to medicine, to engineering, to the arts, and more. So we do have an outsized influence for our small numbers, but it is for good, not for bad. It is only the antisemites’ hatred that doesn’t allow them to see that reality.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rav Sela

Ki Teitzei - Returning Lost Jews

09/20/2019 09:38:54 AM

Sep20

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Dvar Torah Ki Teitzei: Returning Lost Jews  

 

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Parshat Ki Teitzei: Good for Us

09/13/2019 12:18:38 PM

Sep13

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parshat Ki Teitzei

Good for Us

What do chickens think when we take their eggs? We are commanded in this week’s parsha to shoo away the mother bird if we want to take the eggs. Many presume that this is an act of compassion so that the mother bird does not have to witness our taking of her eggs. But Rabbi Moshe Horowitz teaches that this law has nothing to do with compassion. As it says in the Mishnah, “The one who says, ‘because of the bird’s nest may God’s mercy be extended’ is silenced. In fact, Rabbi Horowitz teaches, if it was about mercy and caring about the mother bird’s feelings then we would take the mother bird at the time we took the eggs. Because it is not like the mother bird returns to the nest and has forgotten about her eggs. Whether she witnessed the taking or finds out later, she is still grieved. It would be better to take her as well so that she is not grieved. Rather he explains that the mitzvah is about perpetuating the species. We don’t take the mother with the eggs because we want her to lay more eggs and continue the population of birds. What might be compassionate for the mother bird in the moment, taking her with her eggs, is bad for the bird population in general. What is good for the species outweighs what is good for this individual bird at the moment. And that is true for people as well. Something might not be good for us personally, but it is good for our family, our community, our society. We raise up individual rights in our country, we value each precious life in Jewish tradition. But sometimes we take our individuality so far that we lose sight of the greater good. Not that we should be sacrificing individuals left and right in the name of a better society. But maybe we individuals should take an extra moment when evaluating a communal decision and see if it is better for the group than for me personally and be willing to do what is better for the majority than what is better for us individually.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rav Sela

D'var Torah - Shoftim: Interior Decorating

09/13/2019 10:16:11 AM

Sep13

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Shoftim: Interior Decorating  

 

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Parshat Shoftim: Flashing before Your Eyes

09/06/2019 12:41:51 PM

Sep6

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parshat Shoftim

Flashing before Your Eyes

They say that if you think that you are going to die, your life flashes before your eyes. Is that true? If you are fully conscious, what do you really think about in your final moments? In this week’s parsha we read about rules for warfare, and a fascinating section where different classes of people are dismissed from military service, including someone who has built a home, but hasn’t lived in it yet. Rashi explains that this is a matter of great personal anguish. Rabbi Avraham Mordechai from Gur, though, challenges this explanation. He wonders, “Does a person really worry more about not having lived in their new house more than simply dying in battle!?!” Rather, he says, he would hope that if a person is in battle and thinks that they are going to die that they would think about meeting their maker, and whether they have repented for any sins they have committed before having to answer before God. If we think that we are going to die, we should certainly repent, as Rabbi Eliezer said, “Repent one day before you die.” And since we don’t know our final day we should repent every day. However, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai adds that Rashi’s explanation is not preposterous for a person immersed in physicality and who is distanced from spirituality. That type of person, when faced with death, will think of material things, like, “Oh man, I’m going to die and I didn’t even get to spend one day in the new home that I built.” Living that material a life is dangerous, because when we are confronted with death we should be thinking, “Oh man, I didn’t apologize to those people who I hurt.” Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are our yearly reminders to get our spiritual affairs in order, to apologize and ask for forgiveness, to repent for our misdeeds, before our final day. As we approach Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, let’s remember to repent and stay on the right track every day.

Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah,

Rav Sela

Re'eh - Tzedakah

09/06/2019 11:06:40 AM

Sep6

Rabbi Ahud Sela

 

D'var Re'eh - Tzedakah  

 

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A D'var Torah for Parshat Re'eh titled, "Reverse Robin Hood".

08/30/2019 10:51:03 PM

Aug30

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Parshat Re'eh: Reverse Robin Hood

Robin Hood was said to have robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. But are there people who rob from the poor? In this week’s parsha we read various commandments regarding how we should treat the poor, including the commandment to lend to them, even though a Sabbatical year is approaching, which would wipe out the debt. The Torah commands us not to worry about that loss because, “Ra’a Be’einecha Be’achica Ha’evyon/Your eye is evil towards your poor brother.” Rabbi Ze’ev from Strikov explains that this is referring to a verse in Proverbs (22:22) “Don’t steal from the poor because they are poor.” This seems obvious. We already have a commandment not to steal from anyone, and only a cruel person would steal from someone poor, so what does this verse teach us? He explains, that if you do not want to give a poor person charity that is your choice, but don’t steal his poverty from him by thinking that he doesn’t deserve your charity. If you think that he is undeserving of tzedakah, that is having an evil eye towards your poor brother. If you do not give, it is because of you, your miserliness, not because of his poverty. If we see another person as undeserving of our help, then we have robbed them of their humanity and that is the worst thing that we can steal from someone. We might not be able to solve everyone’s problems or provide for everyone’s needs, but we shouldn’t deny them their humanity or dignity.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rav Sela

Ekev - Anti-Semitism

08/29/2019 10:15:47 PM

Aug29

Rabbi Ahud Sela

 

Ekev - Anti-Semitism  

 

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A D'var Torah for Parshat Ekev titled, "Becoming Rich."

08/23/2019 11:04:08 AM

Aug23

Rabbi Ahud Sela

08/16/2019 11:18:08 AM

Aug16

Rabbi Ahud Sela

Ve'etchanan - Love, Not Jealousy  

 

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Sun, September 22 2019 22 Elul 5779