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Ein Sinia

This week’s parasha begins with the story of Jacob’s trip to Haran and his stop in Bet El on his way. Jacob stops in Bet El to spend the night there, and God appears to him in a dream and promises him that he will return to this land, and that his children would be the exclusive heirs of this land. The next morning, Jacob wakes up and realizes that he is in a special place, which the Torah calls Bet El (formerly known as Luz). The commentators discuss the location of the different places mentioned: the ladder, Be’er Sheva and Bet El, but I would like to go ahead a few thousand years to a remarkable Jewish settlement in a small Arab village right near the biblical Bet El. In 1906, Jacob Shert

Chanukah - The Mitzvah to Light Chanukah Candles

Our Sages instituted a mitzvah to light candles all eight days of Chanukah, when the Jewish people celebrated and gave thanks to God for helping them defeat the Greeks, liberate Jerusalem, and purify the Holy Temple. In addition, the oil in the Temple’s menorah burned miraculously during those days. Even though lighting Chanukah candles is a rabbinic mitzvah, we recite a blessing over it: “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to light the Chanukah candle.” One could seemingly ask, how can we say “He has commanded us,” when the Written Law does not contain such a commandment? [The answer is]: the Torah gives t

Chavruta of the Week: Josh Lifson and Mordechai Hadad

Thursday afternoons we meet to learn Mishnayot together. We’re learning Bava Batra which deals with the responsibilities of property owners. It's fun for us to learn together and to hang out because we have a similar manner of thinking. In honor of being the Chavruta of the week, we learned something from next week’s Parsha ;-) We wrote about the climax of the Yaakov - Esav relationship, which we will read about next week: When Ya’akov Avinu was about to meet his brother, Esav, after twenty years of exile, the Torah recounts that Ya’akov was very frightened. Why should he be frightened? Didn’t Hashem promise to protect him wherever he goes? Ya’akov was worried that Esav had some special meri

Dreams and Ladders

Reading our parasha we can see that Yaakov has a very close acquaintance with dreams and angels. At the beginning of the parasha, when Yaakov Avinu starts his long adventure, he gets a chance to see angels. In a spectacular scene, he sees them going up and down the ladder symbolizing the close escort Hashem is giving him, not only in Eretz Yisrael, but wherever he will be going. But his story with dreams and angels goes on. At the very end of the parasha, when he is finally on his way back from Lavan, he meets angels again. 'ויעקב הלך לדרכו ויפגעו בו מלאכי אלוקים.. ויקרא שם המקום ההוא מחניים' When thinking about the significance of dreams, one might think that they are simply a biological p

Chavruta of the Week: Shayna Weisz and Neta Noiman

Every week, we meet to pursue a common interest: reading Hebrew literature. We read short stories and books that are well-known in Israel and that are part of Israeli culture. We recently read Mitaken Chalomot by Ori Orbach and are currently reading Hakayitz shel Aviya by Gila Almagor. The experience is a highlight of our week and connects us to the diverse culture of Israeli life. Shayna: Reading the stories together allows me to enrich my Hebrew. Neta is open and approachable and is great at explaining the nuances and hidden meanings in Hebrew expressions and terminology that would be missed if I were reading the stories on my own. In addition, via the literature, she provides subtle ins

Shabbat - Brushing Teeth and Toothpaste

One may brush one’s teeth on Shabbat to clean them and to treat bad breath. Similarly, mouthwash may be used to freshen one’s breath. However, it is proper to refrain from using toothpaste, the same way we refrain from using bar soap or thick liquid soap. While it is true that some forbid brushing teeth on Shabbat, either due to the concern of Seĥita, because the gums might bleed, or because the bristles of the toothbrush might break, nevertheless, the primary halakhic position is that one may brush one’s teeth with a toothbrush le-khatĥila. It is only in a case where it is almost certain that the gums will bleed that this is prohibited. One may wash off the toothbrush with water after brush

Eretz Yisrael - Eretz Mitzvot

Throughout Chumash Breishit we can find Eretz Yisrael as a central part of the drama. Ever since Avraham Avinu started his journey from Charan, it is clear that the only place for him and his descendants is Eretz yisrael. It is the promised land in which the future nation will prosper, and its landscape is a crucial part of the making of the nation. Leaving that land will be acceptable only if there is no other choice. Avraham found himself going down to Egypt because of the drought, and his grandson Yaakov did the same for the same reason. That is what makes it so unusual that Hashem did not allow Yitzchak to do the same. But even more than Hashem’s refusal, the reasoning for the decision s

Eshkol Region - Nahal Gerar

The first Sabra in the entire Jewish people built his life in the Promised Land, but not everything went easily for him. After several years of wandering, a difficult test comes in the form of years of famine, which forces Yitzhak to find a creative solution for the basic existence in the Holy Land. Yitzhak migrates to Gerar, to the kingdom of Avimeleh, and there he confronts the injustice and hypocrisy of the upper class, and has to establish his role from scratch. Through these stories of struggles and fights, we get to know a beautiful and fruitful region, which many years later still plays an important role for the reconstruction of the Jewish state and the future of the Jewish people in

The Mitzvah to Pray in a Synagogue

When a person prays in a synagogue with a congregation, his prayer is heard (see Berachot6a). Even someone who missed praying in a minyan has a mitzvah to pray in the synagogue, since it is a permanent and special place of holiness in where prayer is more accepted. However, when the minyan is held in a different place, it is preferable to pray with theminyan rather than individually in the synagogue. If there is a small minyan in the synagogue and a larger minyan elsewhere, although there is merit to praying in the company of many, the value of praying in a synagogue is greater. Every community has an obligation to fulfill the mitzvah of building a synagogue which will be their mikdash me’at

Laws of Yom Tov Sheini

‘Yom Tov Sheni’ is equivalent to ‘Yom Tov Rishon’ in all its halachot, for everything the Rabbis instituted, is similar to what the Torah commanded. Thus, all the prohibitions that apply to ‘Yom Tov Rishon’, including Rabbinical prohibitions, also apply to ‘Yom Tov Sheni’. Likewise, all the prayers on ‘Yom Tov Sheni’ are the same as ‘Yom Tov Rishon’. Also, ‘kiddush’ is recited over wine, and the blessing ‘Shehechiyanu” is recited just like ‘Yom Tov Rishon’ (Shulchan Aruch 661:1). On Pesach, ‘Leyl HaSeder’ is conducted twice – along with all its commandments and blessings. And although, seemingly, there is room to argue that since we observe ‘Yom Tov Sheni’ on account of ‘safek’, in regards t

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