October 17, 2021 |

Rabbi Avi Heller

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Seder Tidbits Part 2

This week, we continue our seder tour. I hope these insights will help you prepare for yours! MAGGID "Maggid" literally means "the one who tells." Most of the previous actions -- washing without a blessing, eating the karpas and dipping it in salt water, breaking the middle matza and hiding the...

Seder Tidbits Part 1

In 21st century America, it is no secret that the majority of Jews are deeply assimilated. By assimilated, I mean that they have chosen to identify and associate with 'American' modes of thought and behavior, rather than Jewish ones, and that they have done so willingly. The consequences of this...

It's No Sacrifice

One of the amazing things about being part of a Jewish community is that - most of the time -- it motivates us to be our best. All of us -- individually -- want to be good people and Jews. But our individual efforts are not enough. We need others to motivate us and challenge us, to hold us to a...

Out of Touch

When I was working at Hillel in the late 90's, my boss, Richard Joel (now the president of Yeshiva University) was struggling with a difficult problem. He had been so successful at revitalizing the image and experience of Jewish campus life at Hillels that his major donors - among them Michael...

The Crown of Torah

Reading this week's Torah portion, one is immediately struck by how different Judaism was three thousand years ago. (It wasn't even called Judaism back then.) The descriptions of the wandering Jews (Israelites, really, b'nei yisrael) in the desert describes a people whose religious life was focused...

The Shabbat Experience

The idea of Shabbat is one of the most important Jewish contributions to the world. The Talmud says (Yerushalmi, Berachot 1) that Shabbat is equivalent to (lit. measures up against) all the other commandments in the whole Torah[1]. The Torah begins (Genesis 1) with the seven days of creation leading...

Asking Good Questions

A Jewish high school senior once came to talk to me about dating non-Jewish girls. He knew I would be opposed, but he was hoping he could demolish me in argument. Then, he could tell his parents that the Rabbi didn't have any good answers and neither do you. Neither he nor his parents were...

Heart of Darkness

Although the plagues inflicted by God against the cruel but hapless Egyptians inflicted great material damage (and great death in the massacre of the first-born), their primary impact was psychological and psycho-theological. Consider the final three plagues: Locusts Darkness First-Born What...

Getting Used To It

One of the quirks of the human personality (and an essential tool of our survival) is the ability to get used to almost anything. If a human being loses their legs, their sight, their hearing, they can adapt and compensate with their other abilities to a degree that would amaze those of us with all...

End of Days

Our forefather Ya'akov gathers his sons together in the last days of his life, seeking to give them a final testament and ethical will. His life has been a hard one, full of turmoil and strife and he knows that his family is not only divided but also in great peril. They have descended to Egypt and...

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