October 17, 2021 |

Rabbi Avi Heller


Great Expectations

A foolish story I once heard imagines two deceased souls who meet at the entrance to the next world. As they stand in line to be admitted (sadly, it seems, even the afterlife has bouncers and security) they discuss their lives on earth. One asks the other: "What is the bravest thing you have ever...

The Beginning of the End

Chicken Little was a false prophet of doom. Well, maybe he didn't say it in the name of God and, probably, he was very sincere in his concern. But he DID whip the entire animal kingdom into a mass hysteria that sky was falling on account of one acorn landing on his head. With a little more sober...

The Kindness of Yoseph

I've never understood the title of the Broadway play "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat". First, the story is about Joseph, his father and his brothers, not Joseph and the coat. That may be nitpicky. It also might be nitpicky to ask why they called it a technicolor coat (which refers to a...


Does God have our back? I mean, can we Jews rely on Divine protection? Because we really need it. On one hand, we are still around. Despite thousands of years and the demise of all the other ancient civilizations, the Jews are still kicking. On the other hand, who has suffered like we have?...

Seeing the Best in Others

I once went on a Rabbinic interview weekend that taught me an important lesson. Rabbinic interviews - sometimes called "probas"-- are grueling and intense experiences. I was scheduled to speak seven times, to eat meals with members of the congregation and to answer questions about everything from my...


One of the most tragic stories in the first book of the Torah is the death of Rachel. Here is how the Torah describes her death: "And they traveled from Beit El, and, while there was still a stretch of land to go before Efrat, Rachel went into labor and she suffered in her labor. And it was...

Two From Sforno

Rabbi Ovadia S'forno (1475-1550) was a great Italian Jew. His commentary on the Torah is printed in the classic "Mikraot Gedolot" anthology and is a favorite resource for Rabbis and scholars. S'forno was a true Renaissance man, a pious and learned Jew who was also well-versed in philosophy and...

The Attributes of the Forefathers

Everyone knows that having a father is an important part of a child's life. Children who - unfortunately - grow up without the loving touch of a father must struggle to replace the special admiration and love that comes from a father's touch. In some cases, an adopted father, or a father-figure, can...

To Build a Jewish Home

One way of looking at this week's Torah portion is that it is all about women. The very first words - "and the days of the life of Sara were 100 years, 20 years and 7 years" - tip us off to this point (Genesis 23:1). Similarly, a more zoomed-out perspective reveals three major episodes in our sidra,...


Having a guest at your home can change the course of their life. It happens all the time. Sometimes, the change is subtle, over the course of a hundred Shabbat dinners. Sometimes, it is dramatic, a single encounter that alters the vector of a person's journey completely. A family I knew in Jerusalem...


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