October 17, 2021 |

Rabbi Avi Heller


Spies and Climbers

I remember being in Israel during the hot summer of 2005. The whole country was tensely debating the question of Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza. Everywhere you looked, there were orange banners flying and the slogan "yehudi lo megaresh yehudi.[1]" Even those who supported the...

Summer Lovin'

My son, Nadav, used to think that the ark in shul was the Torah's house ("is that where the Torah lives, Abba?") and that - just like we do - it comes out sometimes to go to shul. And - just like we do to each other - we hug it and kiss it when we meet. He never asked me if the Torah also gets to go...

Lilmod U'Lelamed (To Learn and to Teach)

There is a story told (in Kiddushin 66a[1]) about King Yannai, who was one of the Hasmonean kings of the Second Temple period (2nd century BCE). Though he had a lust for power and glory, he managed at first to have a good relationship with the Rabbis, partially due to his wife's good influence....

Add It Up

Counting is a major part of the Jewish tradition. The very first section of the Torah enumerates the seven days of creation, counting out each day and culminating in Shabbat. The Torah repeatedly counts the children of Israel, the years of the slavery in Egypt, the life spans of Biblical figures,...

Lag Ba-Omer and Upsheren

As many of my dear readers already know, our youngest son Uriel's upsheren, or first haircut, will take place on Sunday May 16. He was born right before Shavuot and so this is also his third birthday party on the Jewish calendar. He's excited about having a party and getting his hair cut. (His hair...


I heard a story in the name of the acclaimed Israeli psychologist Haim Ginott about a woman who won the teacher-of-the-year award. She was celebrated for her excellent pedagogy, her lesson plans and her students' test scores. A week after all the pomp and circumstance, she found two students outside...

Achievement Fatigue

A strange thing happened to me after I ran my first marathon: I fell to pieces. I don't mean physically, though I was VERY sore for a few days. For a few weeks, I lost my focus at work, was irritable at home and felt a little depressed and out-of it. I could not seem to muster enthusiasm for...

Spiritual Momentum

When you find a typo in a document, it can usually be ascribed to insufficient proofreading or sufficient illiteracy. However, when the Torah misspells a word, as it does in this week's portion, we should be on our guard for deeper meaning. At the end of a long section dealing with the kosher laws,...

Blood on the Doorposts

In 1940, Winston Churchill, upon his first entrance to the House of Commons as Prime Minister, made one of the most stirring calls-to-arms in history. In an attempt to rally Britain against the threat of Nazi Germany, he said: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.We have...

Seder Tidbits Part 3

SHULCHAN ORECH All festival days are characterized by a meal (a se'udat mitzva) celebrating the day and its sanctity. At these meals, we make kiddush over wine, wash hands and make a blessing over a double portion of bread (matza on Pesach), eat meat and fine foods and say the birkat ha-mazon...


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Esther D. Kustanowitz

Joined: February 3, 2008

Esther D. Kustanowitz is a writer, editor and social media consultant based in Los Angeles. She has many Dvar Torah writers in her family, and she can't wait to read contributions from Divrei Torah: The Next Generation (two nephews and a niece).

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