Weekly Torah Portion

  • KOTEL

    Vayetzeh 5778

    Praying in the Dark
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This week’s parasha focuses on our Patriarch Jacob.  We accompany him as he leaves his father’s house, through his rest-stop at Beit El and the dream with the promise he gets, his arrival in Haran and dealing with his cheating father-in-law, his marriage to two wives – Leah and Rachel, and then to Bilha and Zilpa, the births of his children, all the way through to his return to the Land of Israel.

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  • הכותל

    Toldot 5778

    Every Person Is a Whole World
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    Last week, we finished reading the life story of Abraham, the first of the three Patriarchs of the Jewish nation.  In this week’s parasha, we turn to the life of his son Isaac, the second Patriarch, and immediately we read the stories of the twin brothers, Jacob and Esau, who were so different in character from one another.
    The parasha goes into great detail regarding the competition between Jacob and Esau to find favor in the eyes of their parents, Rebecca and Isaac.  This conflict is summarized in the following verse:
    “And Isaac loved Esau… but Rebecca loved Jacob”
    (Genesis 25, 28)

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  • הכותל

    Chayei Sara 5778

    Corruption? Not in Our House!
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This week’s parasha, Chayei Sara, can be summarized as: The change of generations in the Patriarch’s family.  But this short title hides behind it a complicated drama.  After Abraham’s wife, Sara, dies, he understands that he has to find a wife for his son Isaac.  Abraham worried that if Isaac wouldn’t get married, there would be no continuation to his family and as a result there would be no continuation to the monotheism that stood for the values of justice and charity – that same faith that Abraham spread thousands of years ago and which his descendants – the Jewish people – stand for until this very day.

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  • הכותל

    Vayera – 5778

    The Reward for a “Becoming Expression”
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In this week’s parasha of Vayera we read the story of the sinful city of Sodom, where its residents enacted laws forbidding hosting guests or helping the needy and “
    were very evil and sinful against the Lord.”  God tested them when he sent angels disguised as humans who came to the city toward evening and were hosted by the only resident who did not obey these evil laws – Lot, the nephew of Abraham.  When the city’s residents found out, they gathered around Lot’s house and demanded he send his guests out of his house where they could lynch them.

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  • החומות

    Lech Lecha - 5778

    Faith with Responsibility – Lech Lecha
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
     
    One of the most significant events to occur at the beginning of the history of the Jewish nation is “Brit Bein Habetarim” (The Covenant of the Halves) which we read about in this week’s parasha.  At this event, Abraham experienced a Divine revelation starting with a promise that he and his wife Sarah would have a son which they had not yet been privileged to have, and later he was promised the Land of Israel which his sons would inherit in the future.
     

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  • הכותל

    Noah 5778

    The End of a Righteous Person

    The story of the flood stands at the center of this week’s parasha, with Noah himself the central character.  The story of the flood begins when in ancient times, humanity deteriorated to such moral lows that murder, rape, and stealing became acceptable norms.  Because of this, God decided to “restart” creation by erasing the old world and “recalculating route”.  However, God did not choose to recreate all of creation; He left remnants of humanity and of living creatures from which the new world would develop.

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  • הכותל

    Breishit 5778

    You Are Welcome to Choose! 
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
     
    This Shabbat we begin a new cycle of Torah reading. We return to look at the beginning of the Torah and the beginning of humanity.  There are many existential questions in the parasha of Breishit:  Why does man need to be part of a couplates man to do what he does? What actions might bring God to “regret” creating man?

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  • KOTEL

    Simchat Torah 5778

    A Dance of Joy
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    On Simchat Torah, which marks the end of Succot (Feast of Tabernacles), synagogues around the world do “hakafot” – joyful dances around the Torah scroll.  This joy is connected to the order of the Torah reading every Shabbat.  Every year we complete an entire cycle of reading the five books of the Torah, beginning with the book of Breishit and ending with the book of Devarim.  This yearly cycle is completed on Simchat Torah.  We are happy, and express this joy, because we were privileged to complete another cycle of reading and learning Torah and because we are privileged to begin another yearly cycle.

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  • הכותל

    Succot 5778

    Standing before God: The Happy Stage – Succot
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    The holiday of Succot (Feast of Tabernacles) which we will celebrate shortly is a central link in the chain of holidays during the Hebrew month of Tishrei – the Jewish month of holidays.  This dense succession of Tishrei holidays is not coincidental; it is a process we are meant to go through every year, to experience the messages inherent in these special days and internalize them so they continue to impact us throughout the upcoming year.  In a wider perspective, the life of every Jew is meant to be shaped by the month of Tishrei. 

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  • הכותל

    Yom Kippur 5778

    Human Existence with the Divine Attribute of Mercy
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
     
    Yom Kippur, which comes out this year on Friday night until Saturday night, is a day whose name depicts its essence.  “Kippur” means atonement.  This is the day when God atones for people’s sins, or as it says in the Torah:
    For on this day He shall effect atonement for you to cleanse you. Before the Lord, you shall be cleansed from all your sins.
    (Vayikra 16, 30)

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  • הכותל

    Rosh Hashana 5778

    Kingship, Faith, and Hope – Rosh Hashana
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This Wednesday evening, we will be celebrating Rosh Hashana – two days (Thursday and Friday) that mark the beginning of a new year in the Jewish calendar year.  The name Rosh Hashana (literally meaning “Head of the Year”) comes from the book of Yechezkel referring to the entire Hebrew month of Tishrei, the first month of the year.  In the Torah, this holiday is called “Yom Tru’a” (meaning Day of the Shofar Blast) for the main commandment of the holiday: blowing the shofar.

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  • הכותל

    Nitzavim-Vayelech 5777

    Desolation, Flourishing, and Then…
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This Shabbat we will read two short parashot – Nitzavim and Vayelech – describing the covenant ceremony Moshe held for Am Yisrael before the nation entered the Land of Israel.  In this ceremony, Moshe speaks about the anticipated process of settling in the land, after which there will be a long exile followed by the merciful return of the nation to its land.
    In his description of the future state of the land during the long years of exile, Moshe describes utter desolation and destruction:
    And a later generation, your descendants, who will rise after you, along with the foreigner who comes from a distant land, will say, upon seeing it sulfur and salt have burned up its entire land! It cannot be sown, nor can it grow [anything], not [even] any grass will sprout upon it.
    (Dvarim 29, 21-22)

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  • הכותל

    Ki Tavo 5777

    The Power of Gifts to the Poor - From Egoism to Altruism
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    At the beginning of this week’s parasha, Ki Tavo, we read about two “agricultural” commandments that can only be fulfilled in the Land of Israel and which deal with the relationship between man and the harvest grown in his field.  One is the mitzvah of “bikurim”, first-fruits, and the other is “ma’aser ani”, poor man’s tithe.
    What is poor man’s tithe? Every year, after a person brings his harvest in from the fields, he must take off ten percent and give it to others.  The receivers of this tithe are not permanent. The Torah set up a seven-year cycle.  On the third and sixth years, the tithe goes to the lowest socio-economic layers of society, those who are unable sustain themselves, such as converts, orphans, and widows.

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  • הכותל

    Ki Tetzeh 5777

    A Long Educational Journey – Ki Tetzeh
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This week’s parasha, Ki Tetzeh, deals with a wide array of commandments pertaining to Am Yisrael’s individual and public life in its land.  This included the laws of inheritance and laws of war, laws of building a home and plowing a field, laws of marriage and laws of divorce.  One of the halachot (Jewish laws) in this parasha is meant to emphasize the comprehensive moral journey which Torah life should teach Am Yisrael.  This is the journey the nation took during the thousands of years of its existence as it stayed on the path of Torah and influenced the nations around it with the values of the Torah.  This halacha deals with a slave who escaped from its master.
    Let us read two verses from the parasha:
    You shall not deliver a slave to his master if he seeks refuge with you from his master.
    [Rather,] he shall [be allowed to] reside among you, wherever he chooses within any of your cities, where it is good for him. You shall not oppress him.

    (Devarim 23, 16-17)

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  • הרובע היהודי

    Shoftim 5777

    A Call for Peace – Parashat Shoftim
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    The parasha we read this week, Shoftim, deals mostly with issues of rulership: appointing judges, anointing kings, and other halachot (Jewish laws) pertaining to kingship, division of estates, and going to war.  One of the laws of war is the following halacha:
    When you approach a city to wage war against it, you shall propose peace to it.
    (Dvarim 20,10)
    This halacha expresses the Jewish value system clearly: Peace is the best way to solve political problems.  War is waged only when there is no other option.

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  • הכותל

    Re’eh 5777

    Giving and Good Heartedness
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In this week’s parasha of Re’eh, we hear Moshe Rabeinu talking about the commandment of “tzedakah”, charity.  Looking closely at his words, we can gain a new understanding of this important mitzvah of charity which our sages have said is equal to all the other commandments combined, and that charity brings redemption closer.  The tremendous importance of the commandment of tzedakah is conveyed by the fact that for thousands of years there has never been a Jewish community around the world that did not have a charity fund so that Jews could help one another in times of need.

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  • הרובע היהודי

    Ekev 5777

    Who is Interested in Giving to Us?
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites


    This coming Shabbat we will be reading one of the sections in the Torah that we recite twice a day in Kriyat Shma – the section of “Vehaya im shamo’a” (And it will be if you hearken…).  This parasha describes the comfortable and pleasant life Am Yisrael will have in its land, Eretz Yisrael, if the nation takes the right path of fulfilling the Torah and its commandments; and on the contrary, what is to be expected if the nation does not take the right path and worships idols leading to the deterioration of its material status up to being exiled from its land. 
    At the end of this parasha, we are commanded to see it as one of the Torah’s most important principles:
    And you shall set these words of Mine upon your heart and upon your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand and they shall be for ornaments between your eyes.
    And you shall teach them to your sons to speak with them, when you sit in your house and when you walk on the way and when you lie down and when you rise.
    And you shall inscribe them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.
    (Dvarim 11, 18-20)

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  • הכותל

    Vaetchanan 5777

    A Life of Wisdom – Parashat Vaetchanan
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
    The book of Dvarim consists mostly of speeches that Moshe Rabeinu gave before the nation days before his death on the border of the Land of Israel.  Between one speech and another, we read about Moshe’s deeds during his last days.  Thus, for example, in this week’s parasha of Vaetchanan, we read about the creation of “shelter cities” on the eastern side of the Jordan:
    Then Moses decided to separate three cities…
    so that a murderer might flee there, he who murders his fellow man unintentionally, but did not hate him in time past, that he may flee to one of these cities, so that he might live:

    (Dvarim 4, 41-42)

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  • הכותל

    Tisha B’Av 5777

    Necessary Conditions for the Temple to Exist
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This Tuesday, Tisha B’Av, is the saddest day in the Jewish year.  Ever since the Temple was destroyed, the Jewish nation huddles together on this day, remembering the past and hoping for a good future.  On this day, the entire nation expresses the deep national mourning in sevmarital relations.  All these are expressions of both national and personal mourning through which we enter the atmosphere of sadness and mourning appropriate for this day.  All these prohibitions begin the evening before (Monday evening) until the next evening.

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  • הכותל

    Dvarim 5777

    Compromise and Justice – Parashat Dvarim
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This week we begin reading the last of the five books of the Torah – the book of Dvarim.  This book is mostly composed of speeches Moshe Rabeinu gave before the nation during the days before his death on the border of the Land of Israel.  These speeches summarize the nation’s history during its forty years in the desert on the way from Egypt to the Land of Israel.  Likewise, Moshe presented them with guidance and instructions on how to preserve the Jewish nation’s uniqueness after settling the Land of Israel – with a view toward the spiritual and cultural challenges they will be facing from the adjacent nations.
    One of the events Moshe reviewed in his first speech was the appointment of judges. After explaining the need to create a widespread legal system, he described the instructions he gave the judges prior to their appointment:
    And I commanded your judges at that time, saying, "Hear [disputes] between your brothers and judge justly between a man and his brother, and between his litigant.
    (Dvarim 1, 16)

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  • הכותל

    Matot – Masei 5777

    Public Integrity and Social Responsibility – Matot – Masei
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In this week’s parasha of Matot, we read the stories of the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuven.  These two tribes were blessed with many flocks of livestock.  When they arrived with the rest of the nation at the entrance of the Land of Israel after forty years of wandering in the desert, they noticed that the areas on the east side of the Jordan, conquered before the Land of Israel itself, were good areas for their herds. “The place was a place for livestock”.  They desired them after finding they answered their needs and turned to Moshe with the request:
    "If it pleases you, let this land be given to your servants as a heritage; do not take us across the Jordan."
    (Bamidbar 32, 5)

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  • הכותל

    Pinchas 5777

    A Man of Spirit
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In this week’s parasha, Pinchas, we read about the difficult message conveyed by God to Moshe, the nation’s loyal leader, that he must climb up Mount Abarim and see the Land of Israel from afar.  Why from afar?  Because he will not be privileged to enter it.Moshe, who when still in Egypt saw himself as committed to the welfare of the nation; Moshe, who stood in front of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and demanded the liberation of the nation of slaves; Moshe, who liberated the nation, split the Red Sea, got the Torah and gave it to the nation; Moshe, who led the nation devotedly through forty years of wandering in the desert – is now being told that his role is over.  He will not reach his destination.  He will not enter the Land of Israel.  He – the revered leader – will die in the desert.And what is Moshe’s response to this message?  Does he pray?  Does he plead for his life, for his respect?

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  • מנהרות הכותל

    Balak 5777

    Who Doesn’t Know Everything?
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Site
     
    This week, we read the fascinating story of Balak, King of Moav, who was afraid of the Jewish nation encamped adjacent to his country.  He was so afraid that he took the far-reaching step of sending his land’s dignitaries to the great magician, Bilam Ben Beor, who lived on the banks of the river Prat and was known for his tremendous powers of blessing and cursing, and pleaded with him to curse Am Yisrael.

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  • החורבה

    Chukat 5777

    The Girl Who Stood by The Water
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In this week’s parasha, Chukat, we make a thirty-eight-year leap in history and end up in Bnei Yisrael’s last year in the desert, the year in which they arrived at Arvot Moav – the eastern entrance to the Land of Israel. We will remain there, in Arvot Moav, until the end of the book of Dvarim and the end of the Torah. This week, we will accompany the nation on its long journey, full of wars and other hardships. A moment before the beginning of the journey, still in the Zin Desert, we hear about the death of Miriam, Moshe’s older sister.

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  • הכותל

    Korach 5777

    Who Will Get the Kehuna (Priesthood)?  Parashat Korach
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    Parashat Korach tells a sad story.  A group of people led by Korach, one of Moshe’s family members, challenged Moshe’s leadership.  It was a popular yet organized uprising that opposed the leader’s authority. 

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  • הכותל

    Shlach 5777

    How Does One Join a Nation?  Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    Toward the end of Parashat Shlach there is a short list of instructions relating to sacrifices in the Temple, and at the end there is an interesting proclamation regarding the status of the “ger”, a convert – a person who was not born Jewish but chose to join the Jewish nation, versus an “ezrach”, a citizen – the term used by the Torah to describe a person who was born into the Jewish nation.  This proclamation carries great ideological significance that should be examined closely.

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  • יום ירושלים תשע

    Behaalotcha 5777

    Leadership without Partitions – Behaalotcha
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This week’s parasha, Behaalotcha, tells us about the appointment of the elders.  This story did not begin well.  The nation that was being nourished by the manna – the Divine food that came down from heaven every morning – started missing Egypt.  It remembered the abundance of the Nile, the fish, the vegetables, the varied foods.  The manna seemed boring and tasteless.  Moshe heard the nation crying and complaining and felt he no longer had the strength to lead it on his own.  He turned to God and said:
    Alone I cannot carry this entire people for it is too hard for me.
    (Bamidbar 11, 14)

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  • הכותל

    Shavuot 5777

    Free Will and Infinite Love – Shavuot
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz – Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
    On this coming Tuesday evening, the Jewish nation will celebrate the holiday of Shavuot – the time when our Torah was given.  On this great day more than 3,300 years ago, the nation that had just been liberated from Egypt stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and heard the Ten Commandments – the foundation of all the Torah’s commandments.

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  • ברכת כהנים

    Naso 5777

    The Key to God’s Blessing – Parashat Naso
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
     
    Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing, which we read in this week’s parasha of Naso, is a favorite moment for people who go to the synagogue.  In Israel, this blessing is recited every day; outside of Israel, it is recited several times a year.  Toward the end of the prayer service, the Kohanim walk up to the front of the synagogue, wrap themselves in their tallit (prayer shawl), raise their hands toward the congregation and bless it with a blessing composed of three parts:
    "May the Lord bless you and watch over you; May the Lord cause His countenance to shine to you and favor you; May the Lord raise His countenance toward you and grant you peace."
    (Bamidbar 6, 24-26)

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  • הכותל

    Bamidbar 5777

    Free for Anyone in the World 
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    Last week, we finished reading the book of Vayikra – the third of the five books of the Bible, whose main focus is laws pertaining to the Temple and the priests, laws of purity and impurity.  This week, we begin the fourth book – Bamidbar.  It is interesting to discern the chronological division of the five books of the Torah. The book of Breishit encompasses thousands of years of history up to Yaakov’s descent to Egypt with his family. 

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  • הכותל

    Behar-Bechukotai 5777

    You are not free to forfeit your freedom!
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In this week’s parasha of Behar, which we will read along with Bechukotai, we encounter a unique phenomenon not found elsewhere in the Torah.  Usually the Torah does not get involved in issues relating to the free market.  Someone interested in selling something can name his price and sell it to whomever is interested.  The Torah does not involve itself in whether the price is higher or lower than the value of this item.  Only when an exorbitantly high price damages the public, our sages set up various rules that protect the public but they too did not deal with the private sector.  Even if that same item is of great value to the seller, the decision to sell it and the price he will get for it is between the seller and buyer only, under the laws of supply and demand, and the Torah does not get involved.

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  • הכותל

    Emor – Lag Baomer

    The Spiritual World that Survived – Parashat Emor
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This week’s parasha, Emor, deals with many commandments, the lion’s share of which relate to halachot (Jewish laws) of the kohanim who served God in the Temple.  One of these mitzvot is the mitzvah of “truma”: a certain percentage of the field’s yield given to the kohanim.  The parasha details under what condition the kohen can eat from the truma and when this is forbidden; who of the kohen’s family can eat from the truma and who cannot, and other issues connected to this commandment. 

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  • מאחורי הקלעים

    Acharei Mot – Kdoshim 5777

    A Proposal for a Different Culture
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This week, we are again reading two parashot – Achari Mot and Kdoshim –
    just like last week.  These two parashot are read together almost every year since they complement each other in many ways.  For example, the prohibitions of forbidden sexual relations are mentioned in Acharei Mot and the punishment for them is written in Kdoshim.
    At the beginning of this list of prohibitions in Acharei Mot we read something interesting that was said to the nation in the desert as they were making their way from Egypt to the Land of Israel, then called Canaan:
    And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: I am the Lord, your God. Like the practice of the land of Egypt, in which you dwelled, you shall not do, and like the practice of the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you, you shall not do, and you shall not follow their statutes.
    (Vayikra 18, 1-3)

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  • הכותל

    Tazria-Metzora 5777

    A Sacred Complex – “Here is Life” – Parashat Tazria Metzora
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    The two parashot we read this week – Tazria and Metzora – deal with a list of halachot (Jewish laws) pertaining to purity and impurity. Certain situations in life are considered “impure” and these parashot guide a person how to purify himself. Contrary to popular belief, it is not forbidden for a person to become impure (other than for a Kohen) but if he wants to enter the Temple or eat sacred foods, meaning sacrifices, he must first purify himself.

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  • הכותל

    Shmini 5777

    Tradition, Torah, and a True Friend
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This week’s parasha, Shmini, tells us about one of the most festive events on Am Yisrael’s journey to the Promised Land: the dedication of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.  The Mishkan was the temporary temple that accompanied the nation in its wanderings until the Temple was established in its permanent location in Jerusalem.  The Mishkan was where the Divine Presence rested, through which Moshe received his prophecies, and was a sort of replacement for Har Sinai where the Revelation took place and the nation got the Torah and the Tablets of the Covenant.

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  • הכותל

    Last day of Pesach, 5777

    What Are We Happy About?
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    The seventh (or eighth, outside of Israel) day of Pesach is different from the five days preceding it in that it is a “yom tov” – a holiday on which acts of “melacha” are forbidden, like the first day of the holiday.  On this day, Jews traditionally read the parasha about the parting of the Red Sea and the song that followed it, in commemoration of the wondrous miracle that took place on the eve of the holiday when the sea parted and made way for the newly-liberated Am Yisrael to cross and escape the Egyptian masters who followed them into the sea and drowned. 

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  • הכותל

    Pesach 5777

    Redemption and Personal Initiative

    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
    The seven (or eight outside of Israel) days of Pesach begin with Leil Haseder.  This is a special night when families – parents and children, and sometimes three generations or more - gather around the table to talk about the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

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  • הכותל

    Tzav 5777

    Taking the Flame from within Our Lives
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In the parasha we will read this Shabbat, Parashat Tzav, we read many details pertaining to the Jewish laws, halachot, of sacrifices and how they are to be sacrificed in the Temple.  These verses dealing with the Temple, which was destroyed about two thousand years ago, seem irrelevant now that we are living in such a different culture and time.  However, it is fascinating to continuously discover that they contain significant ideas which shed light on a person’s life in general, and a Jew’s life in particular, even thousands of years after they were written.
     

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  • הכותל

    Vayikra 5777

    The Individual and the Nation Worshiping God
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
     
    This week, we are starting the book of Vayikra, having completed reading the book of Shmot last Shabbat.  This book deals primarily with laws of the Temple, purity and impurity, and therefore it is also called “Torat HaKohanim”, the Torah of the priests.  Reading it today might seem irrelevant to our lives since the Temple has not stood in Jerusalem for about two thousand years.  However, reading and listening to the words of the Torah carefully shows us that even those sections that seem irrelevant at first glance reveal themselves to have implications for all areas of life and can provide significance to our lives in every generation and in culture.

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  • הרובע היהודי

    Vayakhel – Pekudei 5777

    Wisdom Residing Deep in the Heart
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    Over the last few weeks, we have been reading parashot outlining the plan for the construction of the Miskan, the Tabernacle – the temporary temple that accompanied Bnei Yisrael during their forty-year journey in the desert – as well as the ritual objects it contained.  In this week’s parasha of Vayakhel we read how the necessary funds and materials for the construction of the Mishkan were collected and the process of the construction.
     

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  • פורים בכותל

    Purim 5777

    The Jew Who Did Not Bow Down to Evil – Purim
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    We are about to celebrate the holiday of Purim, one that marks the miracle that occurred about 2,300 years ago when the Jewish nation was saved from mass extinction.  The story goes as such: Haman, advisor to King Achashverosh who ruled the Persian Empire, was angry at the leader of the Jewish nation – Mordechai - due to the latter’s refusal to bow down before him.  As revenge on Mordechai and his nation, Haman schemed to destroy all the Jews in the Persian Empire in one day.  But the salvation of the Jews was in place even prior to Haman’s scheme.  Sometime before this, Esther, Mordechai’s niece, was chosen to serve as the wife of King Achashverosh, and she managed to thwart Haman’s plans.

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  • בתי מחסה

    Ki Tisa 5777

    Taking Advantage of Our Traits
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In this week’s parasha, Ki Tisa, one of the Jewish nation’s most serious transgressions is described: The Sin of the Golden Calf.  Moshe Rabeinu, the nation’s leader, went up to Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights to receive the Torah and deliver it to the nation.  During this time, the nation camping at the foot of the mountain created a golden calf and began to worship it.  This sin of “avoda zara”, idol worship, is very foreign to us nowadays.

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  • הכותל

    Tetzaveh 5777

    A Leader Who Carries the Nation in His Heart – Parashat Tetzaveh
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
     
    This week’s parasha – Tetzaveh – deals with the clothing worn by the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, in the Temple.  These were valuable clothes meant to symbolize the Kohen’s respectable status and the fact that he was chosen to serve the nation and sacrifice its sacrifices.

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  • הכותל

    Truma 5777

    A Human Temple
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This week’s parasha, Truma, deals with details of building the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. This was the temporary temple that accompanied Am Yisrael during their wanderings in the desert until the permanent Temple was built in Jerusalem.  We read many details in this week’s parasha that relate to the building of the Mishkan, the exact measurements of its ritual objects, and the exact length and width of the Mishkan itself.
    The parasha begins with these words spoken to Moshe:
    Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering… (Shmot 25, 2)

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  • פרשת משפטים - תשע"ז

    Mishpatim 5777

    Justice and Compassion – Can They Go Together?
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In this week’s parasha, we are still feeling the impact of that transcendent and magnificent event at Ma’amad Har Sinai when the nation leaving Egypt merited a Divine revelation and received the ten basic commandments that carry the significance of the term “Jewish”.  Parashat Mishpatim deals with many laws that pertain to slavery, damages, and loans.

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  • הכותל

    Yitro 5777

    What is God Offering Us? Parashat Yitro
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Site

    We’ve reached the central point, the pinnacle of the story.  This week, we read the main story which is the focus of the Torah, and of the Jewish nation’s life throughout the generations – Ma’amad Har Sinai – The Revelation at Mount Sinai.
    The Torah describes the event itself in great detail.  It was so magnificent and captivating that no human could calmly observe it.  It was a public revelation, unprecedented and one-of-a-kind in human history.  The entire nation, women and men, adults and children, experienced the most intense experience a person could have.  They stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and heard God speak to them.  “I am the Lord your God Who brought you out of the Land of Egypt”. 

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  • הכותל

    Beshalach 5777

    The Future that Changes the Past
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
     
    This Shabbat when we read Parashat Beshalach is also termed “Shabbat Shira” for “Shirat Hayam” (The Song of the Sea) which we festively read on Shabbat morning in the synagogue.  When and why was Shirat Hayam said?
    Six days after Am Yisrael was liberated from Egypt, it reached a dead end.  The desert and the sea enclosed it from three different directions and behind it – the powerful Egyptian army was approaching to return it to slavery and oppression in Egypt.  It seemed that all the events of the past year – the ten plagues and the wondrous Exodus from Egypt – were for naught.  It seemed that the promises Moshe made in the name of God were not going to be fulfilled.  Desperation took hold and the nation reached an abyss that could only be grasped by someone who tasted freedom only to understand that it was out of reach.

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  • הכותל

    Bo 5777

    Redemption, Dependence, and Prayer
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In this week’s parasha, Parashat Bo, we read about one of the most influential events in the history of humanity: The Exodus from Egypt.  The Jewish nation - enslaved doing hard labor in Egypt; whose infants were cruelly thrown into the Nile River; who was denied basic human rights – was liberated.  No more slavery.  No more oppression.  From now on, the nation would make its way toward the Promised Land, the Land of Canaan, with awareness of the choice and role it is meant to fulfill: establishing in the Promised Land a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.

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  • הכותל

    Vaera 5777

     
    Ten Plagues and Three Insights
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
     
    In this week’s parasha, Vaera, we read about seven of the “ten plagues” brought on the Egyptian nation and its leaders.
    These plagues were not given only as a punishment for the Egyptians’ treatment of the enslaved Jewish nation which was particularly cruel – throwing infants into the Nile River, and more – but also to educate the Egyptian people to change their ways and outlooks which led them to this cruel and abject behavior.

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  • הכותל

    Shmot 5777

    Yes You Can!
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    Last week, we finished reading the book of Breishit, the book about the “Founding Fathers”, the book in which we read about Creation, about the choice of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov, about their lives, their hardships, and their journeys.  The end of the book of Breishit told us about Yaakov’s family settling in Egypt as a family close to the rulers who even got a special part of the land to inhabit.

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  • הכותל

    Vayechi 5777

    An Eternal Partnership and A National Interest
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    Yaakov’s blessings to his sons prior to his death are what stand at the center of Parashat Vayechi.  Yaakov earmarked a few words to each son through which he provided guidance.  These words acted as guidance not only to that particular son but to all of that son’s descendants as well.

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  • פרשת ויגש – תשע"ז

    Vayigash 5777

    Culture Clash
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In this week’s parasha of Vayigash, we read about the great descent – Yaakov’s family leaves the Land of Canaan and goes down to Egypt. They do not do so out of joy, but rather under financial and existential duress. Canaan was suffering a terrible drought and the famine had reached peak levels, while in Egypt, Yosef the son/brother served as an assistant to the king and was the de-facto manager of the kingdom. It was Yosef, as we recall, who planned and implemented saving grain during the years prior to the famine. Egypt became the largest food supplier in the region and Yosef was the administrator of the Egyptian economy.

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  • חנוכה

    Chanuka 5777

    Chanuka Candles and the Information Age
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz
    Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    Chanuka, which Am Yisrael has been celebrating for almost 2,200 years, is a holiday marking a historic event that occurred during the Second Temple period. Antiochus IV Epiphanes was the Greek king of the Seleucid Empire. He wanted to impose Hellenistic culture in the Land of Israel and did so by enforcing destructive decrees forbidding Jews from fulfilling commandments. The Hasmonean family, priests who inhabited the area of Modiin not far from Jerusalem, led a revolt that ultimately – and surprisingly – succeeded in overcoming the Seleucid Empire and establishing Jewish rule in the Land of Israel.

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  • יודאיקה

    Vayishlach – 5777

    A Sin against Man and against God
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This week’s parasha of Vayeshev deals mostly with the story of Yosef, Yaakov’s favorite son. Yosef, the handsome youth, gets preferential treatment from his father, leading to his brothers’ feelings of jealousy and hatred. At the end of the first part of the story, we read about the brothers selling Yosef into slavery. Yosef is taken as a slave to Egypt where he is sold to serve in the house of Potiphar, one of King Pharaoh’s ministers.

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  • הרובע

    Vayetzeh – 5777

    Big Deceit, Small Deceit
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    When conveying the history of Am Yisrael and of the fathers of our nation, the Torah tends not to give us the entire story, but rather specific parts of it from which anyone can learn significant lessons. For example, the Torah tells us Avraham Avinu’s life story beginning at the age of 75. Yitzchak’s life is conveyed briefly. The Torah chooses to tell us about two years of the many spent by Am Yisrael in the desert.

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  • יודאיקה

    Toldot – 5777

    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
    Spirit Defeated Strength

    In this week’s parasha, we meet Yitzchak’s and Rivka’s sons: Yaakov and Esav, the famous twins that were so different from one another there was a difficult rivalry between them.
    From the time of their birth, they were different. “And the first one emerged ruddy; he was completely like a coat of hair, and they named him Esav”. While Yaakov attested that he himself was smooth. Their occupations were very different as well. “And the youths grew up, and Esav was a man who understood hunting, a man of the field, whereas Jacob was an innocent man, dwelling in tents.” (Breishit 25, 27)

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  • הכותל

    Chayei Sara – 5777

    About Death and Life
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    The name of this week’s parasha is one of the most beautiful in the Torah – Chayei Sara (The Life of Sara). But when we start looking at the parasha we see that it deals with death much more than it deals with life. Already as the parasha begins we read about Sara’s death and burial, and at the end of the parasha we read of Avraham’s death and burial.
    Is the parasha’s name – Chayei Sara – nothing more than irony? Doubtful. Avraham and Sara’s death are described in the Torah and in the midrash as events that could illuminate life. The midrash states that Sara’s years were equal in goodness:
    A hundred as twenty – for beauty; twenty as seven – for sin.
    (Yalkut Shimoni)
    About Avraham, the Torah states:
    And Abraham expired and died in a good old age, old and satisfied.
    (Breishit 25, 8)

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  • הכותל

    Vayera 5777

    Avraham, Sodom, and the Yield of Insanity – Parashat Vayera
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
    In this week’s parasha of Vayera, for the first time, we encounter Avraham as he prays. Prayer is neither a ceremony nor a chore. Prayer is turning to G-d – the Lord of everything, asking that He give us what we lack and give us a good life.
    Avraham prays. And what does he request? Nothing for himself. He prays for other people, for the people of Sodom, those same people who the Torah calls “very evil and sinful against the Lord”. These were the people he prayed for.

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  • הכותל

    Lech Lecha 5777

    Avraham, Monotheism – And What Next?
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In this week’s parasha of Lech Lecha, we meet Avraham Avinu for the first time as he is chosen by God to be the first father of the Jewish nation, at the age of seventy-five. Why was he chosen? What do we actually know about Avraham Avinu?

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  • הכותל

    Noah 5777

    The Answer to the Unasked Question
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    The two first parashot in the Torah, Breishit and Noah, act as a sort of preface to the Torah’s central story. The main part of the Torah is the story of family, and of a nation, of fathers and mothers, of tribes that were in exile and left it, received the laws of G-d and ms a position on the most basic of foundations: the concept of creation; the world as good or bad; work and rest; relationships; man versus sin; sin and punishment, and more… 

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  • הכותל

    Breishit 5777

    My Truth – Our Truth

    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This Shabbat, we begin a new cycle of Torah reading: reading the entire five books of the Torah in the synagogue throughout one year. We go back to the starting point, to the great questions that have challenged mankind: Where did it all begin? What did the beginning look like? Is there significance to our being here on earth? Is there an aim to human existence?

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  • שמחת תורה

    Simchat Torah 5777

    What are we happy about?
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    Simchat Torah is the last holiday in the string of Tishrei festivals that begins with Rosh Hashana, continues to Yom Kippur and Succot, and ends with Shmini Atzeret following Succot. Outside of Israel, Shmini Atzeret is followed by Simchat Torah, while in Israel they are on the same day. Whate celebrating? Every Shabbat, we read a parasha from the Torah, and on this day, we complete all five books of the Torah. We celebrate this completion with a huge celebration, with singing and dancing. The interesting timing of Simchat Torah begs the question: Why was it arranged so that completing the reading of the Torah comes out at the end of the series of Tishrei holidays? Is this a coincidence?

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  • סוכות

    Haazinu 5777

    A Journey on the Wings of an Eagle

    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    Most of parashat Haazinu is a poem dealing with the connection between the Creator and Bnei Yisrael throughout the generations. Naturally, the poem touches also upon the glorious periods when the nation walked in the path of G-d and He was close to them, as well as the difficult times when the nation veered away from the path and the Creator distanced Himself.
    At the beginning of the poem, there is a description of the birth of this unique relationship, when G-d chose Am Yisrael:
    He found them in a desert land, and in a desolate, howling wasteland. He encompassed them and bestowed understanding upon them; He protected them as the pupil of His eye. As an eagle awakens its nest, hovering over its fledglings, it spreads its wings, taking them and carrying them on its pinions.
    (Dvarim 32, 10-11)

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  • סוכות

    Succot 5777


    To Enjoy Being in G-d’s Shadow – Succot (Feast of Tabernacles)
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    The holiday of Succot is an especially happy one. After the transcendent and fearsome feelings of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, it feels great to be released into nature, to go out to the succa (booth) with the entire family to celebrate the holiday about which the Torah says, “Be wholly happy”! But why? What is the purpose of celebrating this holiday? The Torah states:
    …in order that your [ensuing] generations should know that I had the children of Israel live in booths when I took them out of the land of Egypt.
    (Vayikra 23, 43)
    What are these succot, these booths that our forefathers sat in in the desert?

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  • מתפלל בכותל

    Yom Kippur – 5777

    The Road to Change is Easy

    Every Jew’s heart quivers as Yom Kippur approaches. This great and sacred day has tremendous historic roots: thousands of years of repentance and atonement, prayer and pleas for mercy, forgiveness and purity.
    In the flow of life all year we do many things we shouldn’t and wish we hadn’t done. When we arrive at this holy day and do our own introspection, we wish to improve our ways and atone for our sins. And then we face ourselves and wonder: Can one actually change? Is it possible at once to change deeply-rooted habits and become a better and more moral person?

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  • אחר כתלנו

    Vayelech 5777

    The Song of the Torah
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This week, we read about Moshe Rabeinu’s personal parting from Am Yisrael prior to his death. Usually, when Moshe wanted to convey G-d’s message to the nation, he gathered them together and delivered his speech. But in our parasha, when he came to deliver his parting words before dying, he gathered the energy of his 120 years and walked to Machaneh Yisrael where most of the nation lived. The parasha is called Vayelech (and he walked) because of this walk.
     

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  • הכותל

    Bs”d Rosh Hashana 5777

    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    An Opening the Size of an Eye of a Needle – Rosh Hashana

    As the sun sets on Sunday, we will be at the threshold of a new year. We celebrate the beginning of the year with two days of Rosh Hashana, literally meaning “the head of the year”.
    If we examine the name of the holiday, we note that it does not just symbolize the beginning of a new year. The holiday is not called “Beginning of the Year”, but rather “Rosh (head) of the Year”. The head is not just the beginning of the body. When we look at the human body, we can start at the feet and look up. But it is clear to all that the head is the most important part of the human body; the organ that influences and administers everything from moving a finger to producing the most special creation a person can create.

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  • הכותל

    Parashat Ki Tavo – 5776

    National Memory
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
     
    Parashat Ki Tavo is mainly dedicated to strengthening the covenant that the Creator made with Bnei Yisrael.  The Torah emphasizes again and again that when Am Yisrael keeps the commandments, they will merit blessing, and when they stray from the ways of G-d, they will be exiled from their land and will greatly suffer.
    A commandment appears at the beginning of the parasha that seems at first glance to be unrelated to the main content of the parasha.  This mitzvah is the one of “Bikurim”, first fruits.
    What is this mitzvah?

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  • הכותל

    Parashat Ki Tetzeh – 5776

    Current Minus Thirty

    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    Parashat Ki Tetzeh is full of social commandments meant to help Am Yisrael build a proper society after it enters Eretz Yisrael. With these mitzvot, the Torah guides the nation toward becoming a fair society with compassion for the poor and underprivileged.
    In today’s business world, there is a payment method referred to as “current plus thirty”. Meaning, if someone hires someone for a one-time job, they often pay his wages only thirty days past the month in which he worked. There are places where the payment method is even “current plus sixty” or “current plus ninety”. Is this arrangement acceptable in the eyes of the Torah or not?

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  • מתפלל בכותל

    Parashat Shoftim – 5776

    Murder of an Individual – A Shock to the Nation

    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz
    Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In Parashat Shoftim, Moshe Rabeinu instructs the nation on basic principles regarding the military and war. He offers guidance on how to settle the land and explains the correct way to lead community and societal life. Toward the end of the parasha, he deals with a horrifying case: the discovery of a body of a person murdered outside a city and no one knows who the murderer is.

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  • הכותל

    Parashat Re’eh – 5776

    Blessings Are Dependent on Us

    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz
    Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
     
    In this week’s parasha, Re’eh, we continue reading Moshe’s speech to Bnei Yisrael before his death.  At the beginning of the parasha, Moshe presents to the nation two options:
    Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing, that you will heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today; and the curse, if you will not heed…to follow other gods...
    (Dvarim 11, 26)

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  • הכותל

    Parashat Ekev – 5776

    Difficulties in Life – Impetus for Growth
     
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz
    Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    In this week’s parasha, Parashat Ekev, Moshe continues delivering his monumental speech before Bnei Yisrael prior to his passing.  The speech is peppered with deep messages on Jewish philosophy and tools for proper and wise functioning in our daily life.
    Everyone faces difficulties in life.  Some people face financial challenges, others relationship troubles, and still others face health issues.  When we examine several verses in this week’s parasha, we find that Moshe Rabeinu provided his people with a different perspective on the tribulations they suffered on their journey through the Sinai Desert on their way from Egypt to Israel.

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  • החומות

    Parashat Vaetchanan- 5776

    The Path to Love
     
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz
    Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites
     
    In this week’s parasha, Vaetchanan, Moshe continues with his final words before Am Yisrael.  He tells the story of receiving the Torah, proclaims the Ten Commandments, and teaches them the chapter of “Shma Yisrael”, Hear O Israel, which is written in teffilin and mezuzot, and has been recited by Am Yisrael daily – morning and night, for thousands of years.

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  • הכותל

    Parashat Dvarim – 5776

    Words Spoken from the Heart
     
    Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz
    Rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites

    This week, we begin reading from the book of Dvarim, Hebrew for “words”.  The book, as its name suggests, deals almost entirely with the speech given by Moshe to Am Yisrael before the nation entered the Land of Israel.  Moshe reviews the journey through the desert, raises lessons learned, encourages and admonishes, screams and whispers, begs and chants, blesses and loves.  Moshe is bidding his nation farewell.

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