What's P'shat?

Recent Posts

You Can Say That Again (Shavuot)

We usually associate the “haggadah” with the holiday of Pesach. But is there such a thing as a “Shavuot haggadah?” You bet! In fact, its text appears in the Torah itself–and we actually recite it on Pesach night. Read more, here, in this brief thought for Shavuot:


Success Secrets (Acharei Mot)

Earlier version delivered this past Shabbos at Congregation Ahavas Achim in Highland Park, New Jersey:

“Today, I want to sure with you the secret to success.”

Have you ever heard someone start a sentence that way?

I hear it all the time. (more…)

The Second Death of the Firstborns (Pesach Sheni)

Editor’s note: This post was supposed to be published on the morning of Sunday, April 29,  but was mistakenly scheduled a day early. 

Today is Pesach Sheni — the “second Pesach.” In Temple times, this holiday was celebrated exactly one month following Passover, by anyone who was unable to observe the festival on its regular date, due to ritual impurity or geographic distance.

Few of us pause to consider the meaning behind this minor holiday. Yet the story behind Pesach Sheni may be one of the most fascinating, and one of the most dramatic stories behind any Jewish holiday — if we just read it the right way.

Here, in that spirit, is the link to a special shiur exploring the “untold backstory” of Pesach Sheni. It was originally presented at Congregation Ahavas Achim, in Highland Park, New Jersey, and has been partially annotated with footnotes to help readers navigate through the source material. In it, we propose the following (spoiler alert):   (more…)

Reaching Out (Pesach)

A brief thought for Pesach, based on ideas which will hopefully be further developed, iy”H:

There are dozens of ways to tell the Pesach story on seder night. But most agree that however it’s told, the story should feel “hands on.” Indeed, from one perspective, the Pesach story might best be told as a story that’s all about the “hands”—the “hands,” and the “arms.”  And this, in three parts:

Most notably, there is the “arm of God.” On the seder night, we repeat over and again how Hashem led b’nei Yisrael out of Egypt with a “זרועה נטויה”—an “outstretched arm.” It is one of the central motifs of the Passover story, both in the Torah and in the hagadah. Yet this is actually Pesach’s second “arm.” (more…)

The Matchmakers (Vayakhel)

The following is an expanded write-up of remarks originally delivered this past Shabbos at Cong. Ahavas Achim in Highland Park, New Jersey.

Good Shabbos everyone. This morning, I’d like to discuss one of the most pressing issues in the Jewish world today: matchmaking.

I know what you’re thinking–but hold that thought. Because it’s not dating and marriage that I’m talking about. No, when I say “matchmaking,” what I’ve got in mind are matching campaigns. You know–like, fundraising. (more…)