March, 2011 Archives

28
Mar

The Stifled Trumpet

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer

The westerly wind whines sharp,

wild geese cry in the sky, the frosty morning’s moon.

Frosty the morning’s moon,

horses clatter hard,

stifled the sound of the trumpet.

“Loushan Pass” by Mao Zedong, 1935

No, I’m not becoming a communist. I am intrigued by the idea of Mao as a poet, and wonder whether Pharaoh was as well.

I can imagine him going out to the Nile early in the morning when the plague of Hail was just beginning, terrified by the noise, perhaps even more than the hail itself, and composing a similar poem. All of Egypt’s chariots and might army, all of its work projects, were silenced. The only sound was that of the sky thundering, shaking his kingdom.

What was he thinking? I suspect that he had to laugh at himself, chuckle over the irony that he, the man who turned his back to Moshe and Aharon, pretending to not even hear them demand the release of the Children of Israel, could now, not even hear himself. He could hear only God’s message, brought by Moshe. He now had to listen; there was nothing else to hear.

How interesting that we too constantly remind ourselves to hear: Shema Yisrael, Hear O Israel. God wants us to hear His message. He wants us to pay attention. He wants us to listen to our words as we pray. He wants us to hear the way Pharaoh heard God’s message on the morning of the Hail; Listen as if it His, is the only sound in the world.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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25
Mar

Sixth Sense

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Portion of the Week, Spiritual Growth

All the Mitzvot in the Torah were designed as an expression of the Ultimate Will and Infinite Wisdom. They are all beyond human ken and understanding.

However, there is one category of laws called “Chok” which are blatantly beyond any human understanding.

Parah Adumah is the paradigm of Chok. We cannot understand how a Red Cow can bring purity. We cannot understand why the Cohen who purifies becomes impure.

A Chok changes us; it forces us to confront the fact that we cannot understand. The Chok reminds us that we of finite mind and understanding cannot begin to comprehend the Infinite Will and Wisdom of the Creator.

The Chok does more: Each time we observe a Chok, whether it is the separation of milk and meat, or wool from linen, or a Red Cow, we are observing with a sense that what we do matters in ways that are beyond us. The Chok teaches us that we cannot fully appreciate the power and implications of our actions.

The Chok nurtures a Sixth Sense in us, a sense that we can use with each Mitzvah we observe, the sense that what we are doing attaches us to the Infinite. The Chok can transform all we do.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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25
Mar

Of Priests and Policemen

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

“This unfortunate world has been blasted in all ages by two evil principles – Kingcraft and Priestcraft – that, taking advantage of to human necessities, in themselves not hard – salutary, and even beneficial in their natural operation – the necessity of civil government, and that of spiritual instruction, have warped them cruelly from their own pure direction, and converted them into the most odious, the most terrible and disastrous scourges of our race (William Howitt, “History of Priestcraft In All Ages and Nations”)

I can’t disagree with Howitt, nor can I control my joy when studying this week’s Parsha with Howitt’s criticisms in mind. The High Priest, the Kohen Gadol, Aharon, hesitates before assuming his lofty position. He is aware of his limitations and his faults. He feels undeserving. His concern is for the people, not for the position. He was willing to risk all at the Golden calf calf to save the people he so loved. Surely, he is not counted among those priests criticized above.

God sits severe and absolute limits in His Home: when Nadav and Avihu act on their own; when they violate the strict rules controlling the Kehuna, they immediately die. The Mishkan is not a place where Service of God can be warped even for a second.

I rejoice when Aharon, so soon after two of his sons die, stand up to Moshe, the King, and argues from his judgment. I rejoice even more when Moshe, the King, concedes the point, and celebrates the fact that his brother was right, he openly admits that his brother was right and he was wrong. Moshe’s Kingcraft was incorruptible.

In “The Blind Eye of History,” Charles Reith criticizes our habit of attempting to solve a problem by passing a new law. Most societies attempt to control disorder by passing laws; and most have failed.

However, the two portions we read this week, Shemini and Parah, both describe a law that precedes society, a system of law that exists before this society is born. A system of laws that challenge us to elevate ourselves, to understand the essence of the laws, to appreciate that we can not completely control human behavior; we can direct it with truth rooted in God. The laws of kashrut and the laws of the Parah Adumah are definitely not laws that are a response to a societal problem; they are a challenge to us, the people, and to the Kings and spiritual leaders.

In other words, these two portions make me feel safe, the Kingcraft and Priestcraft are controlled.

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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24
Mar

Spiritual Exercises for Shabbat Parah

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Portion of the Week

“I will sanctify My great Name that is desecrated among the nations, that you have desecrated among them; then the nations will know that I am God, the Word of the Lord, God, the Lord, when I become sanctified through you before their eyes (Ezekiel 36:23).”

“Then I will sprinkle pure water upon you, that you may become cleansed; I will cleanse you from all your contamination and from all your idols (Verse 25).”

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (Verse 26).”

“I will put My spirit within you, and I will make it so that you will follow My decrees and the guard My ordinances and fulfill them (Verse 28).”

From the text of this week’s Haftarah, we see that Parshat Parah discusses more than purity and impurity, it also discusses sanctification and desecration, a new heart and a new spirit, and, eventually the gift of God’s Spirit being placed within us.

From the midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:8), the Talmud (Moed Katan 28a), and the Rambam (Laws of the Red Heifer 1:9) we know that there is another element to the Parah Adumah; that of atonement.

It seems to me that we can use all these elements of the Parah Adumah as part of our Shabbat, Parshat Parah:

Friday Night: Sanctification

Ezekiel describes sanctification coming before cleansing and purification. Therefore, we must use the sanctity of Shabbat, specifically Kiddush, to access this area of Divine Influence on this Shabbat.

One: We should have special Kavanah for the Friday night kiddush that we merit this special gift of sanctification available on this Shabbat.

Two: we should make sure to expend every effort to sanctify this Shabbat in all of our actions and speech.

Three: Use the Friday night meal to discuss and describe your most powerful experiences of sanctity.

Four: Have extra Kavanah when reciting the blessing of Keddusha in the Friday night prayer.

Five: Focus on the special gift of Sanctity offered on this Shabbat when reciting the prayer, “Ata Kidashta,” “You sanctified.”

Shabbat Morning: Purification

Ezekiel describes cleansing and purification following sanctification. We should therefore, use the Shabbat morning prayers to focus on purification.

One: Have Kavanah, especially during Pesukei d’Zimrah and the Blessings of the Shema, to use the words of your prayers to purify each aspect of creation described in the prayers from any impurity caused by our actions, words, and thoughts.

Two: Have the following Kavanot in the Morning Amidah:


  • “Moses rejoiced;” focus on the purity necessary for Moshe to stand before God on Mount Sinai, the extraordinary level of purity necessary for him to hold the Luchot in his hands, how a “faithful servant” must have a certain level of purity to serve the King, and, how only one with a very high level of purity can merit to where, “A crown of splendor.”

  • “And the Children of Israel shall keep the Shabbat;” focus on the “guarding” of the the Purity of this specific Shabbat. Just as there were boundaries marking different levels of purity necessary to a approach the Mishkan, so too, we must have, especially on this Shabbat, very clear boundaries guarding its purity; determining before the Shabbat meal, which speech will be allowed at the table, and which will not.

  • “You did not give it, God, our Lord;” to anyone other than those prepared to live a life of purity. “I will make an extra effort to maintain my internal purity so as to merit the gift of Shabbat.”

  • “Our Lord and the Lord of our forefathers;” emphasize the phrase, “Purify our heart to serve You sincerely.”


Three: Wash your hands before the Ark is opened focusing on the purity necessary to stand in the Presence of God.

Four: Wash your hands before touching the Torah, focusing on the purity necessary to a approach Torah.

Five: Make a special effort to stand during the Torah reading in a state of Spiritual purity.

Mussaf: A New Heart and a New Spirit

The Mussaf, or Additional Service, is a time when things are added; things such as a New Heart and Spirit. Therefore, the prayers that allow us to segue from Shacharit and the Torah Reading to Mussaf must be used to prepare for the Additional Gifts we are about to receive, on this Shabbat specifically a New Heart and Spirit.


  • “Yikum Purkan;” focus on the community as a whole receiving the New Heart and Spirit offered on this Shabbat.

  • “Ashrei;” a good part of this prayer focuses on what will happen: “I will exalt You,” “I will bless Your Name for ever and ever.” “Every day I will bless You,” “Each generation will praise Your deeds to the next.” We are describing what can and will happen, especially when the we aspire to pray with the New Heart and Spirit that we will receive on this Shabbat.

  • Psalm 29: The The Ari haKadosh rights of many Kabbalistic allusions found in this Psalm and teaches that when it is recited with intense devotion it causes profound spiritual benefit in the Heavenly realms. Recite this Psalm with intention that we should all merit, through our New Heart and Spirit, to seeing this Psalm with the power described by the Ari.

  • “And when it rested,” the verses sung when the Ark was returned to its place; picture in your mind how we are different after learning Torah, having a New Heart and Spirit, then we were when we first took the Torah out.

  • “Those who delight in it will inherit eternal honor, those who savor it will merit life and also those who love this speech that befits it have chosen greatness.” Focus on the New Heart and Spirit that is possible on this Shabbat.

  • “They shall rejoice in Your kingship, those who observed the Shabbat and call it a delight. The people that sanctifies the Seventh, they will all be satisfied and delighted from Your goodness.” Concentrate on the “delight” of a new heart and spirit, and the higher level of satisfaction and delight only possible with the new heart and spirit.


Mincha: Receiving God’s Spirit

if we have properly used all the previous steps; Sanctification, Purification, the gift of a New Heart and Spirit, we will be properly prepared to receive the gift of God’s Spirit. Therefore, this prayer demands preparation, specifically that of reifying all that we have learned and experienced since the beginning of this Shabbat. We should review any new insights, and any powerful experiences of this Shabbat, and adding them to this prayer. The goal is to pray as if animated by God’s Spirit.

Seudah Shilishit: Yom Kippur

It is at this point of Shabbat that we access the special gift of Atonement, as if we had just experienced Yom Kippur, which is why the Parah Adumah shares so much in common with the Yom Kippur service. This meal should be eat-in just as we eat the meal immediately after Yom Kippur. We should have the same sense of joy of having achieved total Atonement.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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24
Mar

Insects and Manna

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in 613 Concepts, Portion of the Week

In his book, “Insects as Human Food,” Dr F. S. Bodenheimer, professor of zoology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describes his efforts to identify the biblical manna. Some scholars have thought that it was a lichen, Lecanora esculenta, which grows on rocks in many parts of the Middle East, producing pea-sized fruiting bodies that are prized as sweet delicacies. These fruiting bodies are light enough to be blown about, so they could conceivably form a manna rain. But it would be a unique event, and the Bible reports a regular appearance of the manna every morning. Furthermore, no one has ever found this lichen in the Sinai region.

There are, on the other hand, may reports from travelers in the Sinai region of a “manna” associated with tamarisk thickets. This granular, sweet manna appears every year for a period of some weeks in June, although it varies greatly in abundance from year to year. It has generally been assumed to be a secretion of the tamarisk itself, but Dr Bodenheimer, who visited the Sinai to study this “manna,” found that it was the product of two species of scale insects living on the tamarisk shrubs. His argument that this insect is the source of the biblical manna convinced Marston Bates, one of my favorite essayists, and who almost destroyed his marriage by his insistence that all his guests and his wife sample all sorts of tasty insects. Dr Bates believes that this is why the Torah allows us to eat certain insects; to acknowledge their role in producing manna!

I hope both Drs Bodenheimer and Bates are wrong! Their theory kind of ruins my appetite for manna, and that, I believe, is exactly why the Torah allows us to eat certain grasshoppers!

As my wife will attest, as will every person who has ever cooked for me, I am a finicky eater. Debbie, as I was writing the first paragraph above, brought me a plate of gluten free polenta, “which,” she said, “is similar to foccacia,” (I never heard of polenta or foccacia before!)transformed into a slice of pizza. The problem is that it has a huge mushroom on top. Yuk! What shall I do? What’s worse; a grasshopper or a mushroom? But, here I am, writing about the Torah teaching us to overcome such (refined) tastes; so, here I go… (I’m removing the mushroom)

The Torah pushes us to overcome our initial reactions to things; to take a second look, to experience all we are permitted, to enjoy God’s creation, even polenta.

I’ll stay away from grasshoppers, but I will take a second bite of this “pizza,” Yuum….

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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24
Mar

Work Ethic

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

“Even so, after the hard work of man and ox to turn

earth over, nothing stops the goose to uproot wheat,

Eurasian cranes, and chicory with its bitter roots,

nor is heavy shade harmless. The Father himself hardly

willed that agriculture would be easy when he called forth

the field with his art, whetting human minds with worries,

not letting his kingdom slip into full blown laziness (Virgil).”

“In every generation a person must see himself as if he went out of Egypt.”

We know well the feeling of laboring for nothing; “nothing stops the goose to uproot wheat.”

We know well the sense of constantly worrying whether our work will pay, whether we will have enough to support our family; “whetting human minds with worries.”

We do have a sense of what it meant to work as a slave in Egypt.

Virgil explained that it is all so as to, “not let(ting) his kingdom slip into full blown laziness.”

Who is the “laziest” person in the Haggadah?

The Son Who Does Not (Care Enough to) Ask. Even the Wicked son bothers to ask.

When we apply Virgil’s observations to questioning the world, Torah, and what we know, they take on new meaning:

They describe the person who has struggled for years to study Gemara (Talmud) without success. Virgil’s words can be used to describe the person who feels that it is so easy to lose everything he has gained in his Torah study and Service of God. They describe the person who worries that no matter how much she studies it is not enough. His words are an apt description of the person who has been searching for years to find his special connection to his Torah study and Mitzvot, but is constantly frustrated by wind blowing it all out of his reach.

When we are asked to view ourselves as having gone out of Egypt, and knowing the pain of slave labor; we are being asked to acknowledge the moments when even our Service of God feels like heavy labor.

The standard is defined at the Seder, at the time of the Four Children, and our response to those moments; we have a choice on the Seder night whether to work hard to add meaning to every step, or whether we will suffer through as does the Child who does not ask. Will we challenge ourselves to find meaning in each word and every step, as does the Wise child; or will we wait for someone to hand it to us all ready and prepared, as does the Simple child? Or, will we, at least, put up a fight, challenging those around us to explain what they see in their individual work, as does the Wicked child?

Our Avodah at the Seder is our Work Ethic.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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24
Mar

“Make a D.A.T.E. with Kosher” by Prof. Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in 613 Concepts, Portion of the Week

What are some of the  life lessons we learn from kosher? To answer the question we need to make a D.A.T.E.

D stands for do a double take. There are two signs we look for in animals to see if they are kosher. Why two signs? Why not one? Why not three? What does the number two tell us?

It teaches us to not be in a rush, but to check what we are doing. If you are going to buy a rug, measure the room twice. Make sure your first conclusion was correct. The expression, “Measure twice, cut once” says it all.

A stands for the act before the act. Before an animal can be fit to eat you have to kill it in an approved fashion. Most things need preparation. If you are running a meeting, there is a lot to do beforehand. You need an agenda, handouts, speakers, visuals and other details put in place. The act before the act is essential for success.

T stands for treat people with extreme sensitivity. This is one explanation why we do not boil a kid in its mother’s milk. Many years ago I was in a social club with a man named “Bob”. Bob was a fun guy but also liked to gossip and was boisterous. One evening some members of the club met for dinner at a restaurant. Bob was raucous, loud and annoying. Everyone in the restaurant was looking at him with disdain. My fellow club members and I were so embarrassed we felt like crawling under the table. We never went to dinner with Bob again.

A few years later Bob called to invite me to his 50th birthday party. It was to take place at a bar and I agreed to attend. He then told me his wife just found out she was pregnant and I said congratulations. But he said to me, “Don’t mention it tonight at the party because a couple will be there and the wife recently had a miscarriage.” He did not want to bring up his happiness about his wife’s pregnancy because they might feel bad.” This was an extremely sensitive act, and that night he was my moral mentor.

E stands for enjoy. The example I vividly remember was a talk by Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg ztl. He said it was okay to enjoy doing a mitzvah. He talked about his duty when he went to visit his mother. She enjoyed cooking for him, so his job as a good son was to eat as much as he could without being a glutton. He told us even if his mother was not a good cook, he needed to eat as much as he could because it made her happy. Then, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face, he told us his mother was a great cook. The food was delicious, he enjoyed eating as much as he could and that was perfectly all right.

So make a date with the lessons of kosher:

D o a double take and check everything.

A ct before the act means preparation is vital.

T reat all people with extreme sensitivity.

E njoy.

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23
Mar

Owning Our Slippers

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

It was a tale well known to children all over Africa: Abu Kassem, a miserly Baghdad merchant, has held onto his battered, much repaired pair of slippers even though they were objects of derision. At last, even he couldn’t stomach the sight of hem. But his every attempt to get rid of his slippers ended in disaster: when he tossed them out of his window they landed on the head of a pregnant woman who miscarried, and Abu Kassem was thrown in jail; when he dropped them in the canal, the slippers choked off the main drain, and caused flooding, and off Abu Kassem went to jail…

One night, when Tawfiq finished (sharing this story), another prisoner, a quiet, dignified old man said, “Abu Kassem might as well build a special room for his slippers. Why try to lose them? He’ll never escape.”

“I hope one day you see this as clearly as I did when I was in prison. The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.” (From “Cutting for Stone,” by Abraham Verghese, Vintage Books)

I love the tale of Abu Kassem’s slippers and its lessons. I found allusions to Pesach: “If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching,” a lesson about Searching for Chametz and how it hints to our search for meaning that must begin by searching for the negative we must remove from our lives before we can search for our path and mission.

“You’ll die bitter,” obviously an allusion to Marror, the bitterness in our lives that comes from not having a sense of purpose.

The most significant is the idea of “Owning your slippers,” “own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have,” which is one of the primary themes of the Haggadah: “In every generation a person is obligated to view himself as if he went out of Egypt,” the Egypt story is our pair of slippers. It is part of who we are and we cannot throw it out the window, or toss it into the canal. It is our’s and we must own it, understand it, apply its lessons, or else we will, as in the story, “die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny.”

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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23
Mar

The Organizer

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer

I often have people who come to meet with me who will use most of our scheduled hour to list the numerous issues with which they are dealing; issues that are overwhelming them. They feel that they have so many items on their agenda that they are unable to make any headway in dealing with any one of their issues.

I listen, and wait until they’re finished. I usually ask them if there’s anything else they want to mention, which usually leads to another explosion of emotions.

When I’m certain that they have put everything on the table, I always ask the same question: “Which issue is the first you would like to tackle?”

The person will usually think for a moment or two and then decide: “I would like to begin with this.” They expect that we will then address the issue which they chose. However, I stop them at that point and point out that the minute they can make a decision about which issue is the most important for them to address, they have begun to assert their control over the list that was overwhelming them. They have chosen their priority. They have imposed an order, or, a Seder.

I suspect that this is why we describe the Pesach night ceremony as a Seder. We have numerous items on our agenda; Matzoh, Marror, Karpas, the Haggadah, and much more. We begin the ceremony by announcing its order. We are imposing an order on the agenda so that we will not feel overwhelmed.

It’s interesting to note that the book from which we pray is called a Siddur, which derives from the same root as the word Seder! We use our prayers to organize our agenda, to impose a certain sense of control over our lives.

A perfect way to prepare for Pesach, which can also be quite overwhelming, is to focus on the Seder, the order in which we want to deal with all of the items on our agenda.

One more thought: the first step of the Seder is Kadeish, the first item on our agenda is to remember that we desire that everything we do, be with a sense of sanctity.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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22
Mar

The Creative Impulse

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

“Man must be doing something, or fancy that he is doing something, for in him throbs the creative impulse; the mere basker in the sunshine is not a natural, but an abnormal man (Henry George).”

I find it fascinating that the most structured night of the Jewish calendar is also the most creative. We have exact instructions as to what to do at each step of the Pesach Seder, and yet, every single one of those steps and instructions stimulates the most creative and vibrant discussions. It’s as if the Seder, the structure, nurtures the creative impulse.

People often ask how can we celebrate being freed from the Egyptian slavery when all that happened was that we were called into a very structured and demanding relationship with an even Higher Authority, God?

The Seder is the response to that question. The only purpose of this structure, of the laws, of the numerous instructions, the Seder, is to nurture our creative impulse.

I am convinced that this is the true meaning of the first step of the Seder; Kaddeish, or Sanctification. The sanctity of our actions is derived not from the robotic following of the instructions, but from their expansion through our creative questions and insights.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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