• October 8, 2021

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    Two Understandings of Leadership – A Tightrope We All Walk
    A D’var Torah for Parashat Noah
    By Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman

    Every time I write or speak about parshat Noah, I am determined to get past the first verse and find a d’var Torah somewhere in the remaining 152 verses. Sometimes I am successful. Today, not so much. I apologize for the focus on the very famous midrash which many of you know well. But hopefully, I will be able to frame it differently and expand on it just a bit.

    The first verse of the parsha reads: “These are the generations of Noah, Noah was ‘tzaddik tamim’ in his generation” (Gen. 6:9). Of course, the words that raise the red flag are ‘in his generation.’

    To quote Rashi, “There are those among the Rabbis who expound these words as praise, that is, if Noah could be Read More >

  • September 17, 2021

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    In the Aftermath of Yom Kippur
    A D’var Torah for Parashat Ha’azinu
    By Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman

    The poem/song of Ha’azinu begins with a grammatical problem. The first verb in the opening verse – ha’azinu, listen – is in the imperative form. However, the second verb – tishma, hear – is in the simple form. Moses demands that the heavens “listen” and then lets us know that the earth “will hear.”

    This inconsistency captured the attention of the Or HaHayyim (Rabbi Chayim ben Attar). After addressing this problem on the level of peshat, he continues from the perspective of derash: “Moses addressed the two components of which a person is made, the spiritual and the physical. The ‘heavens’ represent the spiritual dimension and ‘the earth’ represents the physical/material.” In other words, Moses was speaking to the soul and to the body. The grammar points to a very important and Read More >

  • July 22, 2021

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    For the Love of God
    A D’var Torah for Parashat Va’ethanan
    By Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman

    It is in Parashat Va’ethanan that the Torah begins speaking about the love of God. Certainly the most famous of these verses follow immediately after the six words of the Shema.

    Let’s quote them in full:

    Deut. 6: (5)And you shall love Hashem, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all you might. (6)These words which I command you today shall be on your heart. (7)You shall impress them upon your children – speaking of them when you are staying at home or when you are moving along your way – when you lie down and when you rise up. (8)Bind them as a sign on your hand as a symbol between your eyes. (9)And write them on the doorposts of your Read More >

  • May 28, 2021

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    A D’var Torah for Parashat Beha’alotekha
    By Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman

    Two stories appear at the end of the parasha this week, Beha’alotekha, which teach important lessons about life in general, but speak clearly to the ways in which our AJR pluralistic community survives and thrives.

    The first story is that of Eldad and Meidad, two of the seventy leaders of the people on whom had been bestowed a level of prophecy so that they might assist Moses. When these two seemed to use their prophetic powers in excess, Joshua called upon Moses to punish them. Moses responded to Joshua saying, “Are you jealous for my sake? If only all the people could be prophets if Hashem would but place His spirit in them.” (Numbers 11:26-29)

    We are witness here to a great quality of Moses and one for which we should all aspire: The Read More >

  • April 2, 2021

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    A D’var Torah for Shabbat, the 7th Day of Pesah
    By Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman

    The seventh day of Pesah is highlighted by Shirat Hayam – the song that we sang when we saw that we were finally free from Egypt. It is impossible to overstate the importance of Shirat Hayam. It represented a moment of the highest spiritual heights. Indeed, the rabbis established that we would recite neither the Shema nor the Amidah without introducing them with words of the Shira. The conclusion of the seder with the words “Leshanah Habah B’yerushalai’im” and the conclusion of the festival with Shirat Hayam indicate the amazing spiritual aspiration of Pesah.

    Yet despite the celebration of such spiritual greatness, or perhaps because of it, I would like to focus this d’var Torah on the five verses that follow the Shira and conclude our Torah Read More >

  • February 4, 2021

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    Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction
    A D’var Torah for Parashat Yitro
    By Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman

    Three months after leaving Egypt, our ancestors arrived at the foot of Mt. Sinai. God called Moses to the mountain and gave him the words by which he would prepare the people for a remarkable event. Moses would tell the people that God desires us to be God’s treasure, God’s nation of priests, God’s holy people. In three days, God would descend to the top of the mountain while the people stood at its foot. God would be revealed to the people, and in God’s own voice, the people would begin to receive the Torah.

    Three days later, the moment arrived. With thunder and lightning, a heavy cloud and an ever louder sound of the shofar, God “appeared.” The people shuddered and trembled as Moses brought them to the Read More >

  • December 11, 2020
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    Which Hanukkah Story?
    A D’var Torah for Parashat VaYeishev
    By Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman

    Most of us know that there are two Hanukkah stories. The first is the one that appears in the Talmud (Shabbat 21b). This is the one we learned as children. In short, the Greeks sought to force all the Jews to abandon Judaism and adopt Greek religious culture. A small band of Jews, led by Mattityahu HaCohein and his sons, rebelled and courageously fought back against the Greek armies.

    Upon their success, they entered the Temple that the Greeks had defiled. They cleaned the building and rebuilt the altar and as they were preparing to rededicate the Temple, they found that they had but one day’s worth of pure olive oil to light the menorah. They lit what they had and behold, God brought a miracle and the oil Read More >

  • October 16, 2020
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    A D’var Torah for Parashat Bereishit
    By Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman

    The story of creation. Though the Torah does not tell us, we might ask: Why did God create in the first place? Perhaps because God was lonely. Not ordinary loneliness – existential loneliness. God existed, but as long as nothing else did, God’s existence had no meaning. So God set out to create something – someone – with whom God could have a relationship – a relationship which later God will call love. God created in search of love.

    With the most unusual holiday season behind us, and an extraordinarily stressful few months ahead of us, it might be wise to embrace some of the lessons of God’s search for love.

    Our Kabbalistic tradition wisely points out that God’s first step in creating love was to make Godself smaller. On one level, that was Read More >

Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman

Rabbi Jeffrey Segelman is Director of Fieldwork and a lecturer in Professional Skills at AJR. He is also the rabbi emeritus of the Westchester Jewish Center.