Introducing you to new planes in spirituality, society, and self-awareness - one week at a time
All Tied Up
If You Care, You Don’t Forget
That’s what your mother and your teacher probably told you, and surprise!–they were right. Judaism wishes to teach this to us with multiple mitzvot associated with tying knots, because when you’re all tied up with something, you’ll never forget it.
The Ultimate ROI
Doing What’s Right Isn’t Always about Right Now
Any investor understands that it takes risk, effort, and a long time of seeing no return to really reap the benefits later. As we continue our millennia-long Exile and look at our Temple in ruins, think of all this time as an investment: amazing returns are coming our way.
We Don’t Always Follow the Rules
When It Comes to Teaching Judaism, We Take an Unconventional Approach
“Slow and steady wins the race,” they said. And it’s usually true. But sometimes we can’t afford slow and steady. When teaching our children—or even ourselves—about Judaism, we must be bold and ambitious–above and beyond what would usually make sense.
When Ordinary Is Extraordinary
Finding Meaning, Purpose, and Wonder in Everyday Moments
Jewish holidays are all on fixed dates. But curiously, when it comes to Purim, it seems that certain aspects of the holiday can be observed on a number of different days. This interesting fact tells us that not only are holidays uniquely special; any day can be unique if we look carefully.
Today Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life
Every Moment Is Creation All Over Again
Popular conception imagines Creation as a one-time thing, millennia ago, and just running on autopilot ever since. Chasidic thought busts that myth, teaching that Creation is a dynamic event occurring each second anew. With that in mind, every day is truly a new opportunity.
Don’t Be a Good Person
Be a G-dly Person. It’s a Lot Harder–And Better
Religion can be attractive to many for one simple reason: it makes you a better person (hopefully). While not a bad argument, this isn’t the extent of Judaism’s majesty at all. The life of the hardworking and quick-to-die worker bee teaches us this valuable lesson.
A Slice of Perfection
The First Feather in Your Cap Is Already Reason to Celebrate
To a perfectionist, it’s “all or nothing,” right? But for the pragmatist whom Judaism champions, partial perfection is already a remarkable achievement. The matzah ball soup on the last day of Passover teaches us why.
Your Most Distant and Unholy Moment Is G-d’s Greatest Opportunity
The reality of life for so many is a series of banal, mundane, and oftentimes downright unholy moments. What are we supposed to make of this frustrating situation? A lesson from the lifespan of a fruit in Jewish law teaches us that G-d is best found in precisely these moments.
A Jew Is a Jew, Is a Jew, Is a Jew
Appreciating the Untouchable Preciousness of Every Jew
The Four Species we shake on the Sukkot holiday famously represent four different types of Jews. From the way the Torah describes each plant, we learn a valuable lesson about the immutable value of every Jew–regardless of what they do, or do not do.
You’re Never Alone
A Unique Solution to a Dreadful Societal Problem
Even in the age of connectivity and the proliferation of something called “social media,” people have never been more lonely. A niche law in the Torah’s treatment of a servant provides a poignant companion to anyone at any time: G-d Himself.
Gratitude Is Good for You
Saying “Thank You” Isn’t Just about Doing the Right Thing
The benefits of feeling and expressing gratitude are well explored. A somewhat obscure law about dedicating fields to the Temple brings us to a surprising perk: expressing gratitude can bring tangible goodness into your life.
The Most Precious Thing in the World
Every Moment of Torah Study Is an Infinite Opportunity. Literally.
Is the Torah just a really nice moral code? A great history book? A book of laws? Can it, or will it, ever change? Discover the true value of our people’s defining book.
Portal to Infinity
Sinai: The Day That Changed Everything
The Jewish people have always treasured our sacred book, the Torah. But what does that mean for an average person who hasn’t the time or head to be a full-time academic? Is there value to just dabbling here and there? Discover the answer through a Sinaitic lens.
There’s No Such Thing as an Antisemite
They Really Hate G-d, Not Us
Antisemitism is the world’s oldest and strangest form of hate. No matter the reason or circumstance, people just can’t stop hating the Jews. It turns out that it’s really G-d they hate. And if that’s the case, we’d do well to trust in G-d and rely on Him to defend Himself.
“Live Free or Die” Is What G-d Wants
The Watershed Moment When Truly Choosing G-d Was Born
It would seem that it’s a binary choice: doing what I want, or doing what G-d wants. But G-d’s ambivalent reply to the Jew’s request to send spies teaches us that if we work hard enough, we can get the best of both worlds.
The Universe Begins with One Person: You
Navigating the Great “Universalism vs. Particularism” Debate
The pendulum of history has swung back and forth on this question: What’s more important: the collective, or the individual? Discover how the Torah’s original rabble-rouser, Korach, made a bold, ambitious claim that, one day, will be proven correct.
As Metal Is Cast, So Is Our Mettle Forged
True Strength and Deep Commitment Emerge from the Smelting Pot of Life
Seldom do the Jews sing in the Bible. But when they do, it’s glorious. A closer look at the only two instances of such song and who led the cast brings us to a profound conclusion about the tzuros (sufferings) of life: they’re the best thing to ever happen to us.
Do Not Negotiate
Sometimes It’s Best Not to Answer At All
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where everyone engaged in honest dialogue, asking questions not to challenge or deride, but only to genuinely learn? Sadly, that isn’t our world (yet). A garish story in the Torah teaches us that when someone isn’t looking for an answer, it’s best not to engage at all.
“Make Israel Here”
Discovering the Unique Meaning of Every Stage, Place, and Part of Life
Competing forces, people, and urges vie for your attention in every stage of life. A unique story of talking lottery pieces teaches us to stop, focus, and drill down into whichever stage you’re at right now. Tomorrow, you’ll focus on tomorrow.
When Pain Spells Gain
The Key to Unlocking Your Deepest Self
Challenges, suffering, and pain are unfortunately regular features of life. But is it really so unfortunate? The underwhelming name of the entire second book of the Torah and its opening parshah, “Names,” provides a different message: pain brings the biggest gain.
The Elusive Fifth Element
Going the Extra Mile Makes All the Difference
Early Jewish thinkers taught that the entire world is made up of four elements. But then there’s an elusive fifth element that lies at the core of everything. The intricacies of Passover chametz law teach us that when it comes to our relationship with G-d, it is this fifth element He seeks.
The Secret of Jewish Survival
A Merger between Human Commitment and Divine Intervention
Many wonder what makes the Jewish nation keep on ticking like the Energizer bunny. Answers abound, but one thing is for sure: we remain committed to our faith, and G-d keeps on providing the miracles to make it happen.
Become a Jewish Influencer
It’s Not Just for Rabbis, Scholars, and Activists
For one fateful battle in the desert, an aging Moses did not personally lead the battle, opting to send his younger, stronger deputy instead. And for that, he was punished. Because when it comes to defending Judaism, everyone is on the front lines, no matter your age or stature.
Out of Three, One
Unity and Love Within—Not Above—Division
The number “three” pops up frequently in Judaism, with G-d, the Jews, and the Torah as the ultimate three-way partnership. There’s a reason for it: One gets a lot of airtime as the ultimate number of unity, but there’s something special when three brings one and two together.
Take the Time to Invest in Your Jewish Experiences
Some complain that Jewish experiences just “don’t talk to them.” A curious instance of recording the Torah before the Torah was even given teaches us that to maximize the experience, investing time and energy into preparation makes all the difference.
If You Know Alef, Teach Alef
Lessons from an Upside-Down Cup Shaped the Wrong Way
The Temple Menorah had golden goblets fashioned on it. The funny thing is, they were all wrong: upside-down and too narrow at their base. But they broadcast an important message: pour out whatever you know, however narrow or small it may be.
There’s No Such Thing as an Isolated Jew
You’re an Integral Part of the Community, Whether You Like It or Not
Some get exhausted at or intimidated by the prospect of actively participating in the Jewish community. But the laws concerning which garments the High Priest wore in the Temple teach us that the choice has already been made: you’re in! It’s time to embrace this wonderful reality.
G-d Doesn't Want It Darker
If It Seems That Way, Great Things Must Be Coming
We all go through difficult, dark times—sometimes excruciatingly so. Judaism has long held the view that like the Jews’ original odyssey through the desert, no stop on this journey of life is so dark as to be meaningless. In fact, the more difficult it is, the greater the growth thereafter.
How to Make a Successful Remake
Transmitting Values in a New Language Is an Art Form
A remake is always hard. How do you maintain the original authentic theme and flavor while injecting new and relevant language? Two drastically different historic attempts at translating the Torah teach us how to ace this tough task: with creativity and an abundance of caution.
Struggle Isn’t a Bug. It’s a Feature
Reframing Negativity Isn’t Only about Looking to the Future
A Talmudic story of a sage laughing at the scene of tremendous destruction teaches us profound truths about the destruction in our lives: it’s not just getting better “some day”; the destruction is the very feature that’s making it better right now.
The Big Picture
Your Life Really Only Centers around One Thing
Modern life is a dizzying abundance of “splintering.” Every day brings so many different places to be, roles to fill, and projects to carry out. World events regularly turn things upside down. How do we maintain our sanity and peace through it all? By centering everything around one thing: serving G-d—in whichever capacity He wishes.
Jerusalem: Our Eternal Undivided Capital
The Meeting Place of Heaven and Earth
It’s the most hotly contested piece of real estate within the most hotly contested land in the world. What’s so special about Jerusalem that evokes so much passion? Walk its cobblestone streets and you will feel that it is the nexus of Heaven and earth.
Don’t Worry; There’s No Reason to Fear
How to Maintain Calm When Life Goes Sideways
Jewish people throughout history have maintained legendary faith in G-d, no matter how worrisome the future may look. But how? How do we allay fears about the future when we truly don’t know what will be? It’s all about trusting in G-d and relying on His master plan.
Why Evil Exists
When Opposition Demonstrates the Greatest Support
Squaring the idea of an omnipresent G-d with the reality of evil has always been a thorny theological problem. Discover the surprising premise that upends this entire conversation: it’s along the lines of, “G-d can make a rock He can’t pick up—and then pick it up, too.”
“G-d, Once in a While, Can’t You Choose Someone Else?”
The Privilege, Responsibility, and Humility of Being “Chosen”
Our claim as the “chosen nation” has too often been misconstrued and misunderstood. It’s time to set the record straight and internalize what this idea really means: We are entirely humble before G-d and here to serve. Now it’s time to get to work.
Kowtowed into Submission?
Judaism Doesn’t Believe That G-d Is Waving a Pitchfork over Your Head
“Fear of G-d” and submitting to authority are central planks to religious Jewish life. But who wants to live in fear and submission? No one. The good news is that Judaism doesn’t demand that from us. In fact, “fearing G-d” is quite the opposite: It is an edifying and empowering awareness to enrich your life. Discover how.
“You Matter,” G-d Said
Discovering Our Immutable Value in the Shofar-Blowing Ceremony
There comes a time when thinking people stop and ask themselves, “Do I really matter?” It’s a scary question. The shofar-blowing ceremony provides a reassuring answer: Beyond anything you might do, G-d decided you matter—and that’s who you are. Go ahead and relish that.
There’s Always Room for Improvement
It’s Not Just Something Your Therapist Says. Your Soul Demands It
That we can always improve is pretty much a no-brainer. Yom Kippur comes along each year and adds: Today, your soul receives a reboot. You’re a new person now. You can improve—and dramatically so.
The Ascetic Materialist: A Welcome Paradox
Developing a Cunning Approach to Everyday Life
Jewish tradition abounds with stories of pious ascetics who ate black bread and slept on wooden boards. But that doesn’t seem to be so commonplace these days. Should we go back? The sukkah—a primal hut, but with all the trappings of a house—provides an innovative and healthy approach.
The Process of Redemption
News Flash: It’s Already Underway
When two Torah portions both seem to be misnamed, you can bet something deeper is at play. Indeed, this double anomaly teaches us an important lesson about healing and rebirth: the process begins a lot earlier than you might imagine.
Children Are Small Adults
It’s Never Too Early to Start a Jewish Education
It’s a common mistake: parents don’t really take their children seriously, and one day, boom!: they’re all grown up. Understanding just how developed children are at already very young ages is a clarion call for parents to get serious about their education.
Jews Don’t Pray. They Daven.
G-d Is Not a Vending Machine
“Daven,” a mysterious word with uncertain origins, is one of those glorious terms that convey the heart of Jewish prayer. More than just a chance to ask G-d for stuff, or a stuffy experience in a hard-backed pew, the Jewish conception of prayer is that it is a heartfelt and spiritually exhilarating opportunity to connect with G-d.
“Pull Yourself Up by Your Own Bootstraps,” They Said. It’s a Lie.
You Can’t Jump Out of Your Own Skin. Get an Objective Opinion.
The “self-made man” is one sacred cow long drilled into our collective psyche. A curious omission of a key family member on an important list of relatives in the Torah leads to an enlightening and honest conclusion: you can’t mentor yourself.
Leadership Lessons: Personal, Local, and Global
A Multifaceted Discussion on Leadership
“What’s a good leader?” is the type of question you debate with cab drivers and family members at Thanksgiving dinner. A long list of leaders in the very beginning of the Book of Numbers kicks off this lively and informative exploration of this important topic.
Judaism: No Longer Playing Defense
Minyan at the Airport: You In or Out?
When G-d gave the Torah, He nominated every Jew as a king. The original Chasidic master, the Baal Shem Tov, provides a blueprint for a Jewish attitude that sees a world not in opposition, but rather as a loyal subject to her king, G-d, and His Torah.
Unleash Your Power
Every Individual Is an Entire Collective
A tribal prince offered a sacrifice millennia ago on Shabbat, and we’re mining the lesson ever since. It’s time to give yourself permission to feel important and significant. Your every action matters—and cosmically so.
Passing Up the Bonus
If It Costs the People, It’s Not Worth the Gain
Suppose the “masses” are slacking off, and you now have the opportunity to distinguish yourself and shine. Would you do it? From a glaring narrative hole in the parshah, we learn that a true leader would never do that. His or her fate is always with the people.
To Commit, To Question, or . . . Both?
A License to Question Isn’t a License to Reject
If to think is to question, to discover, and reject when necessary, to accept and obey means to not think. So how do we approach religion: accept without thinking, or question and challenge? The story of the spies provides the answer: both.
Power to the Little Guy
Why Judaism Cherishes Ordinary People over Holy Saints
Jewish history and lore is replete with sages and saints, and with matriarchs and patriarchs. But let’s face it: most of us are never going to be any of the above. Where’s our place in Judaism? The quelling of Korach’s revolt surprisingly tells us that it’s actually front and center.
Trauma, Trauma, Wherefore Art Thou?
Reframing the Past to Fortify the Future
Shoving trauma under the rug is never a good idea, but dwelling on it and letting it dictate your life isn’t either. An entire parshah named after a famous villain shows us how to strike a healthy balance between fleeing and facing a traumatic past.
Why You Must Learn from Your Own Mistakes
Some Things Cannot Be Taught. They Must Be Learned and Earned.
“You got burned trying to go the cheaper route? I told you it wasn’t a good idea!” said every parent to their child. But that’s life: to really appreciate something, we sometimes have to learn it the hard way And so it is with our relationship with G-d: it cannot only be taught; it must be learned and earned.
Me or We?
Is There Space for Both?
It’s a familiar tension that pops up all the time: Who should I prioritize: myself or someone else? Sometimes it seems impossible to do both. A close look at Moses’s life and his thundering words to Pharaoh tell us that when G-d is involved, “me and you” can both be served.
Don’t Fall Prey to the Gaslighter
Sometimes the Best Strategy is to Simply Scream “Go Away!”
There’s the truth, and then there are a million other versions. Usually, we know the truth. So when others come along and try to convince us otherwise, it’s best to recognize them for what they are: lying, manipulating forces that deserve nothing more than a shout: “Get out of my life!”
One Mitzvah for You, One Mitzvah for Me, One Mitzvah for Everyone
Putting “Do a Mitzvah” on Everyone’s Bucket List
Do you have a bucket list of things you’d like to do at least once in your life? Many people have such lists. What they may not know is that “do a mitzvah” could well be the most important item to add to that list, for the entirety of Creation depends on it.
Right Now You’re Here—And Nowhere Else
Investing Everything into the Task at Hand. And Then Moving On to the Next
“Live in the moment” is a popular buzz phrase today. But what if the next moment is equally, or even more, important? The Jews’ puzzling behavior with the spoils at the sea teach us an important lesson about this very question.
The Theory of Everything
Appreciating the Underlying Oneness in Everything—Including You
We live in an incredibly fragmented world; everything and anything eventually seems to splinter, come apart, or disintegrate. What is the secret glue that holds everything together—in our lives, throughout the world, and over history? Discover the Theory of Everything.
Positive and Pain Free
If Judaism Is Hurting You, You’re Doing Something Wrong
Piety and asceticism have long been considered ideological allies. Indeed, fasting, abstinence, and a general disdain for the body and materialism are the assumed brand of the sincerely devout. But along came the Chassidic revolution and brought with it a somewhat brazen but ultimately beautiful version of Judaism that’s yours to enjoy.
When Time Stands Still
There’s Nothing Hypocritical about Your One-Off Good Moment
One of the greatest challenges to meaningful change is the nagging feeling that whatever changes we make are only incremental and not reflective of our true selves. So why bother? When it comes to your relationship with G-d, the surprising and refreshing truth is that every move carries infinite, timeless value.
Get Out and Help Someone Else
Public Service Is a Critical Part of Life
In an era of self-development, self-actualization, and self-fulfillment, putting aside personal needs to help someone else is somewhat of a lost art. While Western society has shifted over the last century from the collective to the individual, Purim’s other main character, Mordechai, teaches us to push back on the trend.
What Do You Really Want?
Finding a Map to the Real You
We all want a lot of money, a big house, nice cars, healthy relationships, good vacations, and even a sprinkle of happiness and meaningful moments. But what do you really want? And how do you get there? Discover the formula for identifying and unlocking the real you.
The Religious Creative
Is Religious Lifestyle Compatible with Creative Self-Expression?
Poetry, music, painting, liberal arts: none of these sound like the stuff of a devout religious lifestyle. Stories of tradition, conformity, and asceticism are the bread and butter of religion. Can the twain meet? Of course they can! Discover how.
Is It Really a Mistake?
Certain Mistakes Happen to Certain People
What do our mistakes say about us? Is “It was just a one-time mistake” an acceptable defense? Discover the lesson taught by an errant leader in Temple times: Moral lapses are not just one-off events to be ignored because they go unpunished. Instead, reflect on what your mistakes mean about your life at large.
Loyalty or Love: Which Do You Prefer?
When Loyalty Is as Endearing as Love
Is trudging through a relationship on brute commitment alone a good thing or bad thing? Well, it depends how you look at it. A detailed analysis of the leavening qualities inherent in the Passover matzah reveals that sometimes, loyalty and commitment are exactly the type of love we could all use.
Don’t Be Lazy about What You Love
Investing in What’s Familiar and Taken for Granted
“Ah, don’t worry, they’ll understand.” How often do people say this offhand remark to dismiss a minor offense? Too often. In this fascinating ride, discover how the murderous Cain made the same mistake—and how you are able to be Abel: committed and invested.
In G-d’s Image
Spreading a Message of Universal, G-dly Morality
Historically, Jews have kept to themselves. But times they are a-changin’, and we now have the unprecedented opportunity to be a “light unto the nations.” Drawing inspiration from Noach, this lesson provides a most edifying message to shout from the rooftops: you are a literal part of G-d; act accordingly!
Religion Is Difficult and Unnatural. And That’s Exactly How It’s Supposed to Be
Appreciating the Passion and Energy of Earned Love
After leading a somewhat religious lifestyle for decades on end, you would expect things to get a bit easier, right? Wrong. Well, if you’re looking for a boring and dry relationship with G-d, then maybe. But if you’re looking for something deeper, welcome aboard.
‘Excuse Me, Are You Jewish?’
The Inestimable Value of a Single, ‘Coerced’ Mitzvah
You may have been stopped in the street by an inspired young boy or girl with the question, “Are you Jewish? Would you like to put on tefilin or light this Shabbat candle?” But what’s the point of doing a mitzvah just to get a young kid off your back? Abraham’s actions long ago provide the answer.
Light up the World
Shabbat Candles Is not Just a Romantic Ritual
There are many ways to work toward a just and moral society. The most tried and tested way begins at home: instilling values in the next generation. The sacred glow of Shabbat is far more than just an antecedent to a lightbulb; it is a spiritual light that burns brightly in the minds and hearts of everyone in the home.
See No Evil, Eradicate Evil
How to Avoid Negative Talk and Bring Out the Best in Others
Gossip, slander, and the rumor mills are objectively pernicious things to avoid. But what do we do about all the bad actors out there? For decades, our forefather Isaac suffered from blindness to teach us all an invaluable lesson: there’s always something good to see in someone else, and if we can find it, maybe they will, too.
Are Jews Supposed to be Sheepish?
Lessons from the Shepherding Habits of Our Forefathers. It’s Not What You Think
The stereotypical image of the meek Jew who favors the study hall or the home is a bane for many. “No, we can fight, too! We can hold our own!” is common pushback. Our forefathers’ obsession with sheep, of all animals, teaches us the perfect blend of humility and strength.
Bar and Bat Mitzvah: Too Young?
A Jewish Conception of Maturity and Adulthood
“Mazel tov! You’re now an adult,” said everyone’s friends and uncles. But aren’t twelve and thirteen far too young for such a statement to be really true? The counterintuitive story in the Torah that provides this age bracket tells us what “maturity” in Jewish thought is really about.
Shabbat All Week Long
Bringing the Inspiration of Shabbat into the Workweek
Did you know that the ancient custom of a wedding ring is rooted in a dramatic biblical story of betrayal and childbirth? And did you know that wedding rings are connected to Shabbat and the workweek as well? Discover the mystical meaning of the wedding ring and how it can infuse meaning into the mundane workweek.
Introducing Peace to a Fractured World
How the Torah’s G-dly Message Is the True Recipe for World Peace
If there’s anything people have wished for from the proverbial genie in the bottle, it’s “world peace.” Yet, after thousands of years, it still eludes us. From a technical law about which candle to choose over the other—Shabbat or Chanukah—we emerge with a powerful elixir to cure our fractured world.
Suffering from Religious Fatigue? Dip into the Reserves
There’s a Whole Cache of Passion Waiting for You
Sometimes, you’re just listless and tired out. Spirituality, religion, or anything of that sort just isn’t talking to you. How do you proceed? Thousands of years ago, Joseph collected money in Egypt and buried it. We’re still discovering that stash today—and it can help your fatigue.
Getting the Job Done: Marks of a True Leader
When It Comes to Leadership, Results Matter
Leadership seminars abound, but is there one quality that lies at the core of it all? A study on the contrast between two great leaders—Rueben and Judah—cuts to the heart of the matter: to lead is to know, to care, and to put yourself aside until the job is done.