International House of Prayer

[Previously posted at The Times of Israel:]

Ohr Hachayim Deuteronomy: Vezot Habrachah

 International House of Prayer

“For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations.” -Isaiah 56:7

There is much written in the Bible, the Talmud and later Rabbinic literature as to the place of the Jewish people amongst the nations. One of the most direct lines is God’s statement that the Jews shall become “a nation of priests” (Kohanim). Many of us are familiar with the term “Kohen” (priest) and the exalted status they have in Jewish history and society. However, what many may have forgotten is that the root of the word, the formative verb, is “lekhahen” (to serve).

Simply put, the nation of Israel is meant to serve the nations of the world. To be a beacon of wisdom, morality, justice and kindness. Not a far off, distant light that gives no warmth, but a close, approachable hearth that welcomes those that wish to warm themselves and learn and share in our experiences. To set an example of families, communities and hopefully a country worth emulating. To assist others in connecting to our positive values and historic lessons.

The Ohr Hachayim (on Deuteronomy 33:7) goes even further in his analysis. Not only is there a need by the nations of the world for the Jewish people, there is a symbiotic and even an eschatologically (look it up…) dependent relationship. Jews need the Gentiles and cannot fulfill their mission without them. The most poignant example, the one that the Ohr Hachayim highlights, is the story of Ruth the Moabite (see my ongoing novelization).

He claims that while the tribe of Judah was destined to produce the king of Israel, that destiny would never come to play until the Gentile, Ruth the Moabite, brought her unique spark to the people of Israel. Only then could Jewish and world history follow its course and lead to a better future.

May we live to see Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled, that the House of God in Jerusalem shall truly be a House of Prayer for all the nations.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,



 To my Gentile friends and readers. You are sparks that I’m honored to glean much light from.

Hearing-Aid for the Dead

Ohr Hachayim Deuteronomy: Haazinu

 [First posted on The Times of Israel:]

Hearing-Aid for the Dead

“The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle it; but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake it.” -Germaine De Stael

One of the cardinal beliefs of Judaism, as articulated by Maimonides in his thirteen principles of faith is that at some point in the future God will bring the dead back to life:

Principle 13: “I believe with complete faith that there shall be a revival of the dead…”

Who God will revive is another matter entirely, and there is great debate amongst Rabbis as far back as the Mishna (2,000 years ago) as to what qualifies someone for revival or not.

Moses, in his eloquent and final poetic prophecy to the Children of Israel states:

“Give ear, ye heavens, and I will speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.” –Deuteronomy 32:1

The Ohr Hachayim wonders what aspect of the earth Moses is addressing. He answers that Moses is speaking to none other than the dwellers of the earth, those buried there, namely, the dead.

The Ohr Hachayim explains very simply that if one heard God’s voice, God’s instructions, God’s precepts while they were alive, they will hear God’s voice again when he calls the dead from their slumber and they will awaken. If one was deaf during his lifetime to God’s call, to God’s whispering, to God’s directives, then he is unlikely to hear Him when he calls again during the promised revival of the dead.

May we unclog our ears and our minds and listen to what God is telling us.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,



To AV Israel. A worthy organization for hearing-impaired children in Israel.

Instant Repentance

Ohr Hachayim Deuteronomy: Vayelech

 Instant Repentance

 “Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error.” -General Peyton C. March

We are a generation obsessed with instant gratification. Instant coffee, instant noodles, instant camera, instant messenger, instant relationships. If you can think of it, you can demand it and expect it, instantly.

[There rest of this Torah Insight is at]

The Worst Curse

Ohr Hachayim Deuteronomy: Nitzavim

The Worst Curse

“Memory is the scribe of the soul.” -Aristotle

Judaism ascribes much meaning and power to words. This coming week, as we celebrate the Jewish New Year, there is a tradition at the meal to pronounce blessings for the coming year, as well as curses calling for the destruction of our enemies. Jews have not lacked for enemies or colorful curses to bestow upon them.

[The rest of this Torah Insight is at]

Soul Hijackers

Ohr Hachayim Deuteronomy: Ki Tavo

Soul Hijackers

Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure. -Thomas Alva Edison

There is comfort in the status quo. You may not always like it, but it is predictable, it is safe. Change requires risk. There is danger. The results may even be worse than what you’ve become accustomed to.

[The rest of this Torah Insight is at]

Individual Torah

Ohr Hachayim Deuteronomy: Ki Tetze

Individual Torah

“Never forget that you are one of a kind. Never forget that if there weren’t any need for you in all your uniqueness to be on this earth, you wouldn’t be here in the first place. And never forget, no matter how overwhelming life’s challenges and problems seem to be, that one person can make a difference in the world. In fact, it is always because of one person that all the changes that matter in the world come about. So be that one person.” -Richard Buckminster Fuller

When one finally gets the enormity of what the Torah encompasses, it can be fairly overwhelming: The Bible, Mishna, Talmud, all of their ancient and modern commentaries, Jewish Law, Philosophy, Ethics, History and more. The list is enormous, with more material being added every day. It is no wonder it is called a “sea of Torah” – one can drown by being immersed in so much information.

[The rest of this Torah Insight is at]

Every Man A City

Ohr Hachayim Deuteronomy: Shoftim

Every Man A City

“Man: The most complex of beings, and thus the most dependent of beings. On all that made you up, you depend.” -Andre Gide

Plato’s Republic (circa 380 BCE) is considered the first text in our possession to compare a human being to a city. The parallels are many. We are composed of many different parts. We have many requirements. We have different elements vying for attention. Despite the different parts and demands, they need to get along harmoniously, there needs to be an internal balance, otherwise the entity ceases to function.

[The rest of this Torah Insight is at]