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Va'eira 5771

Va'eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! What do non-Orthodox Jews think about Orthodox Jews? While there are probably as many opinions as there are Jews, a fairly common response would be: "Medieval, not with the program, non-thinking, follow a bunch of rules by rote ... and Orthodox women are oppressed." I was brought up in a non-Orthodox household and that was my opinion ... until I had the opportunity to be exposed to Orthodox Jews and learn Torah. Over the years it has been a tremendous frustration to have people pigeonhole me and Orthodox Judaism because of the Orthodox label and without much knowledge of Orthodox Judaism.

Sometimes it gets even more frustrating. A non-Orthodox Jew told a colleague of mine, "I won't give money to Orthodox institutions because the Orthodox are the death knell of Judaism." How could the man intelligently carry this belief? The Orthodox have on average six children who all go to Jewish schools, who all have Hebrew names and who study Jewish thought and practice as the main components of their curricula; they have an almost non-existent rate of intermarriage, are committed to Judaism and the Jewish people, produce the only significant aliyah to Israel and make up the majority of the officer corps in the Israeli Defense Force. An objective person would have to conclude that the man is mistaken.

The problem is a lack of communication and a lack of information about the value system of Orthodox Jews. This has led to a painful alienation within Jewry. If there was more knowledge and understanding, there would be more harmony and peace within the Jewish family.

Recently, my friend and colleague David Baum wrote a brilliant book to bridge the communication-information gap between non-Orthodox and Orthodox Jews. Entitled The Non-Orthodox Jew's Guide to Orthodox Judaism, it is the most articulate, informative and well-presented book that I've ever read presenting our heritage. Even Orthodox Jews would tremendously benefit from reading it!

This book is for any Jew who wonders what Jews believed for 3,300 years, why the Jewish people have survived 3,300 years and what Orthodox Jews really believe. The only caveat for the reader is that he has to read the book with an honest and open mind, acknowledge his own level of knowledge of Judaism and be objective, fair and committed to seeking truth, not self-justification.

Here's the Table of Contents, Part One - The Jew and Himself: What Really Happened at Mount Sinai? Free Will and the Meaning of Life. What Exactly is the Torah? Reward, Punishment and Why Bad Things Happen to Good People.

Part Two - The Jew and His Society: Integrity and Interpersonal Relationships. Men and Women. Truth and Morality. Marriage and Intimacy.

Part Three - The Jews and the World: The Jews and the Nations. The Modern Age. The Land of Israel and the State of Israel. The Messiah and the End of History.

If you have a child, relative or friend who is an Orthodox Jew and want to understand his life - or you would like to get insights into life, then this is the book. The Non-Orthodox Jew's Guide to Orthodox Judaism is very enjoyable reading. It is written with humor and enlightening stories. And ... it's available at or your local Jewish bookstore.

For more on "Orthodox Jews" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

Here begins the story of the Ten Plagues which God put upon the Egyptians not only to effect the release of the Jewish people from bondage, but to show the world that He is the God of all creation and history. The first nine plagues are divisible into three groups: (1) the water turning to blood, frogs, lice, (2) wild beasts, pestilence/epidemic, boils, (3) hail, locust, and darkness.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that these were punishments measure for measure for afflicting the Jewish people with slavery. The first of each group reduced Egyptians in their own land to the insecurity of strangers, the second of each group robbed them of pride, possessions and a sense of superiority; the third in each group imposed physical suffering.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states in reference to the plague of hail:

"The wheat and spelt were not damaged, for they were late in ripening" (Exodus 9:32).

What lesson can we learn from this regarding our attitude in life?

Rashi, the dean of all commentators, explains that since they were late in ripening, they were soft when the hail struck. Thus, they were able to bend with the wind. This flexibility enabled them to bounce back.

Rabbi Chayim Mordechai Katz, Rosh Hayeshiva of Telz, taught in the name of Rabbi Yosef Leib Bloch, that a person needs to be very strong in his principles and ideals - so strong that no power on earth could make him veer from the truth and his values. However, the way to do this is to be like the reed - to be soft and flexible, kind and gentle when talking with others. A person who is obstinate and inflexible might appear stronger, but he is like a cedar tree. In a strong wind, unlike the bending reed, the cedar is either uprooted or broken in two. Softness and gentleness combined with persistence in keeping one's principles is the approach that will be victorious in the end.


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Happy Anniversary!

Marc Singer &
Helena Igra, MD


In Memory of our "Papini"

Eli Sztulwark

from his children
Jessica, Daniela
and Donny



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