Parashat Hashavua

Portion VaYay Lech - Joshua takes over ... and With Yizkor coming up ...

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Changes in life - and the antidote-
In the portion Moses blesses JOSHUA in passing him the baton ...before leaving this world.
SO - Did Moses' kids say Yizkor for their Dad? And for all those that died in the 40 years in the desert?
But here the portion takes on another direction - 
Getting the people together - as a jump start to "moving on"- and Moving into Israel
it's the Mitzvah called Hakhel (the King would read the Torah in the Temple every 7 years)-
 where for TODAY the Lubavitcher said - we must set up groups to study together - read Torah - and call it HAKHEL - 
(because the desert years are NOT a paradigm for the Jews
 (as it IS for the children
 of Ishmael who to this day are a desert people -BUT they received a gift of OIL... - 
so was that to reward Abraham their forbear?)
MOVE AHEAD - AND AS  Reb Shlomo CARLEBACH SAID FOR this next holiday
Yom Kippur we ask G-d to forgive us for not going "through the (spiritual) gates".
(At the time of) Neila, G-d tells us, “Nvo’a sharekha” Come inside, 
Stop standing at the gates asking for forgiveness. Come Inside” (close to the Almighty)
based on an article from AISH - in memory of Rabbi Packouz    Kalman Moshe ben Reuven Avigdor
 problematic about Yom Kippur: how can anyone honestly come back year after year and say the exact same words, asking God for forgiveness for the same sins time and time again? At what point is it no longer believable?
The problem is rooted in trying to change their behavior – 
when they really should have been focused on trying to change their perception of themselves!
Our mission on Yom Kippur is to explore who we really want to be and commit to being that type of person. 
That is, once we define what we want our essence to be then we can naturally align our behavior to meet that new reality.

This is exactly what repentance is supposed to accomplish. 

Because Yom Kippur is the day when we search for who we are and commit to living a life that follows our self-definition,
Ultimately, when the work of Yom Kippur is done correctly, it leads one to self-fulfillment. This is why the Talmud describes it as one of the most festive days on the Jewish calendar. Reconnecting with who you truly are leads one to incredible self-satisfaction and a sublime sense of joy.


Portion Nitzavim - Standing (on line?) Before the Almighty

Portion Nitzavim - Standing (on line?) Before the Almighty
Questions from this week-
Are we here to teach others?
Are we here  to make the world a calmer place?
Are we here to FIX the mess that is today's world?
and to all these and more questions - HOW?
In the portion Moses speaks to the people - at the time just before their entering Israel to fight the Canaanites
and settle the land of Abraham their ancestor.
So - there's a couple of million people- is Moses -who is 120 - SHOUTING to them?
He says "we are ALL here" - but Are We ALL Here? Is EVERYBODY listening?  AND -
Is there a parallel for today - a warning message and a PRAYER for 
a paradigm for communication as a healer - and for making Israel and the world BETTER?
So waiting on line at the airport to get my flight - with 2000 others -Wednesday night,
there was a lot of fighting and running ahead - because the security was NOT laid out properly-
and young understaffed security group kept moving groups ahead of the hundreds waiting to be checked patiently,
Until the throngs surged - and walked up to the El Al counters
It was midnight and boarding had started already on a few flights!
Security for El Al started yelling and telling the people at the counters NOT to process people THEY did not send in
I tried to talk some sense and calm into the security guys - who had messed up - 
I went on with the surge - and was talking to
 a few not-religious people who were being bullied by security
and with one Rabbi type who was telling young yeshiva guys to run ahead.
So we 4 talked a bit - calmly - about the above issues - while trying  to move from line to line
who assigned us seats and took our suitcases and let us go fast -
even though we couldn't all find all our approvals needed to board!
Was the push and the shouting a parallel to the  Fire and Brimstone Messages of
Moses (who worked with no audio visuals?)
Our talking calmly among our little group seemed to work be cause - well we all got here safely!
SO Are we Here to Teach the World or not?
Moses' words seemed to work
because for
14 years they all listened to Joshua!
Maybe the Meditations of Rosh Hashing and Yom Kippur?
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Key Tavo ... of Curses and Songs

 Portion Key Tavo ... of Curses and Songs
It's not easy to explain a torah portion filled with blessings - and also curses.
Just the historical side could take volumes.
It says ...
Blessed are you in your towns and in the country -...
Which soon leads into
Cursed are you in your towns and in the country...
And what did the Israelites understand from these words of Moses anyway,
Remanded to them again on entry to Canaan - with 14 tough years Staring at them in the  face ?
As we now look to the imminent High Holy Days
Also staring at us in the ongoing pandemic
I would like to borrow a few words from my teacher Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach
Who said
For the King's birthday party the rich people brought expensive gifts
But the poor people had nothing
So they decided to sing and dance their way into the party
And the King waa happy with their song
Entering Canaan or
Entering a Synagogue
Or entering the new Jewish Year
Go with a song in your hearta and on your lips
And grab the blessings
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Key Tay Tzay: the Warrior and the Woman

Portion Key Tay Tzay: the Warrior and the Woman
Life - it mimics the Torah - or it loses!
The torah has the SPIRITUAL SIDE
And also the Rules of Engagement!
So while waiting in the sun for my bus today, after reviewing the weekly OU portion commentators,
I look up to see a young father trying to jam a
Baby carriage into a stuffed bus baggage compartment.   But he didnt succeed, and sat there  in the gutter , looking perplexed.
After 2 minutes of other busses honking and trying to get around that " number 402", I gave one last look at the 50 people ignoring the guy, walked over, moved a couple of bags, and helped the thankful father put in the carriage
As it says in the middle of the portion if you see the donkey of your brother not fitting into the baggage compartment ...uhhhh ... faltering under the burden ...
Where was the wife n baby? Probably doing their part, keeping the driver from driving off.
What's that to do with the portion? That starts out "if you go to war and capture a woman ..."
Some Rabbi I Heard this week quoted the RamBaN (not Rambam maimonide s ) who reminded us (900 years ago) that since the portion always comes before the High Holiidays, that we should take a look at our maybe not best spiritual ways -
In preparation for the spiritual introspection  part of
"getting holy for the high holy days"!
Note: the torah rule:
If a warrier decides he wants to marry a captive she has to live in a Jewish home for 30 days with no makeup and recant and renounce and mourn her parentage...
And then he can marry her or release her but Not Abuse or Enslave
Okay - in war a lot goes down,
The portion also talks about divorce rules ... and
Zohar (kabala) goes deep as always - into the supernatural forces ,
The Dark Side -and "the other" ...
And the Fixing - when possible
If a divorcee remarries....
"The Other"- is the "dark side" from him or from her...
But which is the left side amd which is the right side...?
Right there is enough To Start for all my High Holiday
Torah Rules
And the Spirit
And preparation for High Holiday Introsoection
Shabbat Shalom - stay healthy
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Shoftim – Judges? Need Judges OR - ?

Portion Shoftim – Judges? Need Judges OR - ?

The Portion begins with Judges and Policemen – as with the whole 5th book of the Torah the commandments of the first 4 are repeated and enhanced the month before Moses passes.

In the middle of warning Israel not to follow the witchcraft of the Canaanites, there is ALMOST lost in the middle a POSITIVE COMMANDMENT to be TAMIM – huh? Translate:

"Be Simple-  or be Perfect – IM HASHEM – with the Almighty your G-d."

Everyone reads the RASHI commentary which says "be Simple" in dealing with G-d and his ways and Mitzvas. DON'T BE A WISE GUY.  And Rashi speaks to ALL generations.

But in MY understanding – you need to Connect to those Simply close to G-d – so here's what I wrote(in Hebrew)  to someone going for a major test this week . (In English! Now)

Years ago my friend M was doing his military service – assigned to Guarding the Western Wall – 10PM to Dawn! IMPORTANT! But pretty boring, huh?

So, like a friend, I would sometimes hang out with M for a few hours – usually the last few hours of his shift.

We are friends since 2nd grade. But mostly we talked about "TODAY". He would tell me of the various wierdos who came out to THE WALL at midnight. I told him my experiences living in Crown Heights for a few years.

He once SIMPLY said: Wow! Living with all those (Lubavitcher) Hassidim, you (I) must have gotten very deep into PRAYER.

M is a genius and a Rabbi/Teacher – not a simple guy but a VERY perfectly close-

I am in Israel, trying to simply stay close TO those simply close to the Almighty, Blessing all.


Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Ru-aiy : Is the Torah Speaking to ME?

Portion Ru-aiy : Is the Torah Speaking to ME?
Okay. RUAIY means SEE not LisTEN - 
But did anyone ever say to you, SEE WHAT I MEAN?
Did you Ever feel that some portions 
of the Torah ARE,
 and some portions just
Aren't Speaking to YOU?
Maybe you didn't SEE the MEANING!
It's not just the 3000 years since it was given us as a present.
But isn't there a fence (not a wall)
 inside of us,  that makes us 
sometimes jump and Connect - 
to a kitten, a puppy, a child, a sunset? - 
and Sometimes NOT?
So the portion SHOWS us ALL and says:  
WHEN you Go Up to the Land of Israel - 
and look UP at
these 2 mountains 
(surrounding where you shall bury Joseph-
that Jew that Saved the World from Famine,
Something to Think About!)
You will be given the chance to become
Har Grizim people ( a hill of lush growth)!
But Then Turn around and look at non lush
Har Eyval - where to this day nothing grows!
See- you dont want to be that way!
SEE If you want to grow, says the portion,
Or Not to grow
That is the question.
But you will all be happier
As Jews and As Humans
If yes to the Blessing of Grizim
No to the sadness in Eyval Mountain
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Aykev in the Park Hotel

Portion Aykev in the Park Hotel


the portion says "if It happens that you will listen.  (To my commandments)


So how was it that

many years ago

One Passover night - while fulfilling the SEDER commandments


A few naval Arabs floated in to where we are praying now


Killed families

And children?


You shouldn't know from this here now -

 let's hope for the future,

 but we need to understand....


Evil ... The Kabbalists call it " the Primordial Snake "


Cursed in the Garden of Eden to be our enemy ... for "tripping us up".


The Kabalists say "the snake" (or its surrogates)

 weasels into our minds that


We should demean some commandments ... And 

that leads to eventually dropping them all!


Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach says,


We Jews fight the Snake - but how?

We do it with Simcha! Doing even LITTLE mitzvas with JOY!


Especially stuff that "doesn't look important" - 

do it for the Almighty with JOY!

Do it for the Shabbos - with JOY!


Say gutt shabbos to 10 people this week -B Simcha - with JOY!


Shabbat Shalom


Rabbi Andy Eichenholz



Portion VaEtChaNan : Praying at Dawn

Portion VaEtChaNan : Praying at Dawn
For the last 2 days I have had to pray in a Texas motel and the Miami airport and
Make a Minyan on the plane returning to Israel.
Yes - just to see my new granddaughter in Texas - a lot of work
But worth it,
Yes - there are many rules about praying
And there are traditions 
BUT in The Traditions some Questions exists :
Especially given all modern distractions!
when is it best to pray and where?
We read in portion Balak a few Weeks ago that
The evil prophet
Bilam felt he knew when and how to pray to curse the Israelites!
(we were saved because the Almighty changed his curses to blessings).
Is it possible he "Knew" when to pray
Moses did not?
Classic Judaism has us start with Blessings right when we 
Wake up ...
Hassidic tradition on the other hand,
Has said 
To begin just when I'm ready...
Praying a bit to prepare for the Formal Prayers
And what constitutes "Prayer"
 versus tefilin and or talit or Minyans ?
So was Moses' prayer heard and
Answered - or delayed or denied?
My untraditional thoughts are Based on the Commentaries,
That Moshe Rabaynu our teacher
That a Jew Must Pray
(But Not depend on their "desired outcome"
Because Prayer Bring Us Closer to Hashem,
And Closer to All the Divine Attributes.
Blessings of the Divine to All.
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Devarim - Tisha B'Av - burning Jews in England - or California?

Portion Devarim - Tisha B'Av - burning Jews in England - or California?
You know black Africans s would Never burn Jews like the English 
and many others - did.
See below the "apology" (or half apology) of the Anglican Chuch
Tisha Bav was the date of the 
Spanish  inquisitiin ...which burned Jews even in south America.
But not in Italy!
And not in Africa!
I will tell you why:
Take the case of my cousin who was in England and met the head of the Ugandan Aviation Administration
She sent him to me where he spent a Shabbat in my home in Brooklyn.
Afterwards he told me he was amazed by the respect my little children showed him.
He said in England children were afraid of him because he was Black.
As it turned out - he was born into a Ugandan tribe that practices a form of Judaism!
My cousin was probably about 102 when she passed away yesterday (Wednesday)
She had many merits but most people don't know this story how she brought Black Africans closer to respecting the Jewish people!
Read the below blurb - also from Wednesday - on the Church of England, from Honest Reporting
More important - fast Sunday and ALSO celebrate (Sunday Night) -
because Tisha Bav represents the destruction of our Jerusalem Temple-
but NOT the destruction of the Jewish energy respect and dedication to 
(including - trying to fix the hatred,
and remind the world about how crazy regimes are worse than "climate change",
because they can lead to IMMEDIATE holocausts and nuclear war)
So why not apologize for bother stuff besides the below:

After 800 years, the Church of England has announced that it will formally apologize for adopting antisemitic laws that directly led to the expulsion of British Jews in 1290.

“The phrase ‘better late than never’ is truly appropriate here,” said Dave Rich, the policy director of a British antisemitism watchdog group, adding: “The historic trauma of medieval English antisemitism can never be erased and its legacy survives today — for example, through the persistence of the ‘blood libel’ allegation that was invented in this country.”

This is one of multiple steps taken by the Church of England to improve relations with British Jews in the past few years. In 2019, it emphasized the value of the Christian-Jewish relationship, recognizing that centuries of Christian antisemitism in Europe paved the way for the Holocaust.

The formal “act of repentance” is set to take place in 2022 on the 800th anniversary of the Synod of Oxford, an array of laws that restricted Jewish rights in England and required them to wear a “badge of shame.”
What about giving weapons and leaders to help Arabs conquer and murder Jews in Israel - 1929-1949?
May this be the last Tisha Bav we need to fast TO WAKE UP THE WORLD!
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion - Matos Maasei: Did you ever Pass a Rainstorm in a Desert?

Portion - Matos Maasei:  Did you ever Pass a Rainstorm in a Desert?
I started to write about this week's portion yesterday - including the 42 
stops by the Israelites on their journey coming from Egypt to Israel.
I was thinking how it must have been boring in the Desert for 40 years.
I remembered driving from LA to Las Vegas - and being confused by a cloud -
UNTIL when my car got up close
I realized it was raining - and it started pouring on my car - for about 2 minutes ...
a wet - but beautiful phenomenon!
But this morning - I just walked 3 miles in a hurricane before dawn to come pray here (in Staten Island)
And I was fine until ten minutes out from the synagogue when
 there was no way to avoid the puddles and the splashing cars - so I got soaked.
But I remembered Florida and a previous hurricane;
The state was shut down on a Friday while my plane was flying into Miami ... but the state had some busses to get us to town.
I RAN to find a hotel and a grocery store,
Bought food for Shabbat
Invited a couple of young Israelis who I met in the grocery store.
The canals were rising, things were all closing, and I was in a dilemma-
Should I go to Shul Friday night or not? 
Should I be "Stubborn for G-d" or Sane for G-d's Sake?
I figured SOMEBODY had to pray - so I got directions to the Lubavitcher Yeshiva in South Beach
and started walking those 3 or 4 miles...
The water in the street literally was up above my waist
people shouted from buildings on the street
"Come Up Here or
The alligators will get you! But I (foolishly?) smiled and waived and kept going.
Of course the yeshiva building was locked, and the students had been evacuated.
On the walk back the waters had subsided a lot,
But I knew I had done something the Almighty would have wanted me to do ...
as one of the 42 steps on my journey (everyone has their journey)
 through "the wilderness"...
to the Land of Israel
Chazak V Ematz - be strong and courageous - we say this week at the end of the Torah Portion.
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz