Devotionals

The Hebrew language includes many words used to describe various forms of happiness. According to former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the term osher (אושר) refers to a type of personal happiness that one experiences when engaging in an activity such as listening to music or observing something spectacular in nature. Simcha (שמחה), on the… Read more »

This psalm speaks of the coronation of a king, possibly David. It includes praises and blessings to the king of Israel who rules from Tzion, who will judge the nation, lead the army, and follow in the ways of Hashem. God sees the king as a kind of priest, as he serves the people and… Read more »

Avraham is commanded to travel to a land unknown to him. To assuage his fears that he would not find friends or supporters in his new home, Hashem promises that He will remain on Avraham’s side by blessing those who bless him and cursing those who curse him. He concludes with the promise that Avraham… Read more »

The Shabbat (שבת), ‘Sabbath,’ is designated as a sign between Hashem and the Children of Israel that Hashem created the world, and resting from work on Shabbat is the sign that the Jewish Nation recognizes God as the Creator. Each week, Jews reaffirm their submission to Hashem by sanctifying the Shabbat, and they recite this… Read more »

What is the meaning the Hebrew word maalot (מעלות), translated here as ‘ascents,’ which appears in the opening phrases of the next fifteen psalms? According to Rashi, it is a reference to the fifteen steps in the Beit Hamikdash upon which the Leviim stood while reciting these fifteen psalms. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the… Read more »

This psalm starts with the words sha’alu sh’lom Yerushalayim, ‘Pray for the well-being of Yerushalayim.’ Shalom (שלום), translated here as ‘well-being,’ is the first Hebrew word many people learn. It actually has three meanings: ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye’ and ‘peace.’ It is the word with which friends greet one another, but shalom is more than a greeting;… Read more »

The kibbutz movement, which began in the 1920’s, was primarily a secular enterprise. Jewish pioneers sought to create an ideal living environment guided by brotherhood and shared idealism. However, there was also a religious kibbutz movement. In 1944, a group of religious Jews founded a kibbutz on the principles of Torah and religious idealism. They… Read more »

Despite the predictions of punishments that will befall the Children of Israel, Amos ends his prophecy with a message of hope. He proclaims that the day will come when the people will return to the Land of Israel, build houses, plant vineyards and trees, and enjoy their fruits. This is reminiscent of the idyllic times… Read more »

Strangely, the word lechem (לחם), ’bread,’ is the root of the word milchama (מלחמה), which means ‘war.’ According to Rabbi Benjamin Blech in his book The Secrets of Hebrew Words, people usually do not go to war because they are wicked, but rather because they are deprived of basic necessities, such as bread. If we… Read more »

Verses 14-20 discuss the command for the People of Israel to appoint a king, and the subsequent restrictions the Torah places on the kings of Israel. Appointing a king is one of the three commandments that the Jews were instructed to perform after settling the land. Without leadership, chaos ensues, as the verse implies “In… Read more »