The Adventures of Kosherman (pt. 1 and pt. 2)

Watch these two Mesorah DC videos to see Kosherman in action.

Episode 1: Kosherman kasherizes your kitchen.
Description: Kosherman takes on both beast and bird in the process of kosherizing this kitchen.
Featuring: Rabbi Motzen as Rabbi Motzen, Aaron Wolff as Kosherman, Tila Kety as The Gecko, Sara Glickman as the damsel in distress, Stephen Richer as Ali G.
Camerawork: Noa Levanon
Watch Episode 1

Episode 2: Kosherman goes shopping.
Description: Your local superhero — Kosherman — recently journeyed out into the great unknown (the gentile world) to show YOU how easy Kosher shopping can be.
Featuring: Rabbi Motzen as Rabbi Motzen, Rabbi Teitelbaum as Rabbi Teitelbaum, Sara Glickman as Kosherman’s assistant, and Stephen Richer as Kosherman.
Guest Appearance: Moshe Itzhakov
Watch Episode 2

Yale calls for paper submissions: Jewish wisdom in management

How can we put Jewish wisdom back into in management and management education?

Do you know?  Or do you have a good idea?  If so, Yale University, Ben-Gurion University, and The Academy of Business in Society are looking for you!

Selected contributors will present their papers and will be published.

For more information on submitting a paper, see Practical_Wisdom_Call_for_contributions_Jewish_traditions_Final-1

For more information about this academic project, see this PDF.

Parsha Time: Part 3 — Will Gotkin on the qualities of a leader

Will Gotkin is a recent graduate of The George Washington University and a regular contributor to GTJ.

The Jew and G-d – An Unbreakable Connection

Every Jewish person has a neshama – Jewish soul – which Chassidut explains is part of G-d Himself. True, every human – Jews and non-Jews alike – is made in the image of G-d, but the Jewish people were given a special type of soul that would allow them to pursue the all-encompassing path of Torah and mitzvos. This bond is deep and even goes beyond the Torah.

This week’s parsha is titled ‘Tetzaveh,’ a word that literally means ‘command.’ However, ‘tetzaveh’ is also a derivative of the word ‘tzavsa’ which means ‘connection.’[1] In the first line of the Parsha, Moshe is told by G-d: “And you should command the children of Israel that they should bring to you pure olive oil…it ignite the lamp (until it burns) continually” (Exodus 27:20). The sentence could also be read as “And you should connect the Jewish people,” hinting that Moshe connects the Jewish people with G-d.[2]

This is the only parsha in the Torah (since his first appearance) in which Moshe’s name is not mentioned (The book of Devarim are his words to the people). Although G-d frequently addresses him in Parshas Tetzaveh, Moshe’s name is conspicuously missing.

One famous explanation for this is that G-d fulfilled Moshe’s request that if G-d punishes the Jewish people for the sin of the golden calf, Moshe be removed from the Torah (see next week’s parsha, which takes place before ParshasTetzaveh). G-d forgave the Jewish people, but still removed Moshe from this Torah portion. This is testament of how powerful our words can be and even more so the words of a righteous leader are in affecting the world.

However, Moshe is mentioned throughout the parsha even if not by name, being referred to as ‘You’ right in the beginning. Why did G-d refer to Moshe as ‘You’? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the objectives expressed in this parsha can only be achieved by Moshe’s essence, the aspect of him that cannot even be conveyed by his name.[3]

By asking to be erased from the book, Moshe wished to invoke an essential bond between himself and the Jewish people and thereby the essential bond between G-d and the Jewish people.[4] This bond is one that goes beyond Torah and mitzvos. It is a supernal connection between Hashem and the Jewish people that is so strong that it is not dependent on Torah and mitzvos. Obviously, Jews must study Torah and pursue mitzvos in order to connect in the way G-d desires, but by Moshe invoking this transcendent, unbreakable bond established by G-d’s covenant with Avraham (see the Book of Bereshis) it allowed for the atonement of the people’s sin and brought them back to the Torah.[5]

Moshe’s self-sacrifice epitomizes that of a true Jewish leader. In the beginning of the parsha he was told that the Jewish people should bring olive oil to him in order that it be used to ignite the menorah so that it burns continually. This is because a true leader can enable the people to reach a level of spiritual self-sufficiency, to the degree that they no longer have to depend on their leader in order to keep the fire of Torah and love and fear of G-d burning continually.[6] It’s up to us to keep that fire ablaze.

[1]The Gutnick Edition Chumash, The Book of Exodus, 203

[2] Ibid.

[3]The Torah – Chumash Shemot. Commentary based on works of the LubavitcherRebbe, 214

[4] Ibid., 215

[5] Ibid., 215

[6]The Gutnick Edition Chumash, The Book of Exodus, 203

Parsha Time: Part 2 — Anna Batler on who gets to be holy

Anna Batler blogs about faith and feminism at  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Anna Batler.

Tetzaveh is a chronicle of priestly clothing and a recitation of the exact order of ritual worship during the seven days of tabernacle sanctification. Buried beneath the fashion show and the party plans there is a coalescing of power. God says that amongst these holy objects is the Devine home.  The text refers to the tabernacle as the “ohel moed” – the tent of meeting (with God). (Exodus 29: 43-46.)

Before the building of this holy tent, the circumstances of one’s birth did not determine if she or he would witness the Divine – even a woman could hear the Devine voice directly. Earlier, Miriam is described in the text as “Miriam the prophetess.” Exodus 15:20.   While this new model is rattled repeatedly, the world of the holy tent is a world where only men born to the right tribe, wearing the right garments, and standing in the right place at the right time have excess to Divinity. (Moshe does not actually follow these rules – however that’s a different dvar).

The project of building this holy tent, and eventually the temple, is circumspect.  Even the text knows it.  If read chronologically, the next big event after the temple is the golden calf. We read it – and see the molten gold of the calf and molten gold of the ark, we see the bringing of sacrifices and we are ashamed. If read out of textual order, as done by Rashi, where Jews are instructed to build the ohel moed only after they already sinned with the calf, the ohel moed becomes a way of mitigating the Jew’s unfavorable desires into something a little less unfavorable.   Rashi on Exodus 31:18.

The limiting of holiness to so few ordained at birth – it cannot stand and it did not stand.  Prophesy cannot be contained by garments, no matter how ornately described. The Torah knows that, at its soul, the ohel moed is a golden calf.

Parsha Time: Part 1 — Rabbi Berkman on working hard

To round up the week, Gather the Jews is posting three commentaries on this week’s Torah portion.  This is the first and is a continuation of Rabbi Berkman’s post earlier this week.

Rabbi Berkman is a rabbi for Mesorah DC and leads this weekly discussion of the Torah portion.

Blogn’ from the Beach

I just checked the weather. As I write this blog entry, it’s 21 degrees in D.C. I’m away in sunny Florida, it was 85 today. That’s probably enough food for thought to get you through the weekend, but let’s revisit our question of the week anyway.

We asked about the words and concept “Chacham Lev”- “wise of heart.” Wisdom usually refers to intellect, while the heart is a place of emotions and desires. What does the merger of the two ideas tell us?

Let me know what you think of this. We all know the type. The guy (or gal) for whom everything seems to come easily. Straight “A”s without even trying, constant promotions while putting little effort into his or her work. You know what I mean.

This person probably has some sort of natural talent that allows her to not work so hard. Maybe she was born smart and is really just more intellectually gifted than the rest of us. Good for he; we really should be happy for her.

Then there are the rest of us. Things may not always come so easily, and if we really want to accomplish something and to succeed, we have to work at it.  More than any natural gift, our success is a product of our desire to succeed. The more we want it, the harder we will try and the more likely we become to accomplish our goals.

Allow me to suggest that a “chacham lev” “wise of heart” is not a person who is naturally talented or someone who was born intellectually gifted. The Torah is telling us about the person who had to work hard to acquire the skill that he has. This is a person fitting to make the regal garments of the “kohain” in the tabernacle to be worn in the holiest of places at the holiest times.

Now let’s look at the rest of the passage: “speak to every wise of heart in whom I invested the spirit of wisdom.”  If they are already wise, born smart, why then would God need to provide any ‘spirit of wisdom’?

The Torah is teaching us an awesome lesson about the power of one’s desire and search for wisdom. God says: “speak every wise of heart”- all those who yearn for and desire true wisdom, because among them you will find “those with whom I have invested the spirit of wisdom.” If we truly want it, and honestly search for it, God will lead us, help us discover and bring true wisdom into our lives.

I’m typing outside today and should probably go in before I get sunburned.

Shabbat Shalom

Gather the News – Jewish News of the Week – 2/11

I want to apologize for the lack of news gathering last week.  I won’t bore you with the reason why, but I’ll tell you what the reason definitely was NOT.  It was not because I don’t have Internet in my apartment, so I use the 24 hour Starbucks at GW, where the power inexplicably went out while I was writing, resulting in everyone getting kicked out.  No, that would just be silly.  Therefore, much like I do with my attempt at teaching Hebrew school, we’re just going to pretend last week didn’t happen.

I’m also going to try something new here at GTN [1].  Partly to make your GTN experience a more interactive one, and partly to make my job easier [2], I’m going to let you make suggestions for stories you think should be here at the end of every week.  If you see something on the Interwebs that you believe should be mentioned below, shoot me a wireless e-message at  If I include it, I will be sure to give you the hat tip. [3]  Now on to the bullet points, because I know your head is hurting from this lengthy intro.  Half of you probably didn’t even get this far.

  • The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl, and of course it was all made possible by the Jews. Yeah, I said it. (HT: Carolyn B.)
  • Meanwhile, Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel turns to Breslover chasidism in the wake of his Super Bowl loss.
  • And Dan Snyder, the Jewish owner of the far less successful Washington Redskins, sues the Washington City Paper for what he said was an antisemitic image (see below) that accompanied, in my view, a rather good feature.  Now I’m hoping that Snyder doesn’t sue GTJ for the new caption.

    If this is antisemitic, then whomever now has my fifth grade US history textbook has one RIDDLED with antisemitic imagery.

  • Iran claims to have taken back the record from Israel for most games of chess played simultaneously by a single person. Iran also apparently bests Israel in “most irrelevant world record.”
  • The Daily Show profiles Jewish Speaker of the Texas House, Joe Straus.  Fun fact: jokes about Jews using words that make it sound like we have something stuck in our throats never EVER get old. [4]
  • Jews are generous givers, which naturally explains why GTJ has met its fundraising goal…oh, wait.
  • Internet use causes cancer, claims a haredi marketing campaign in Israel. Several are now seeking a heter to read Gather the News.
  • We’re also dominating the Oscar nominations.  Jewlicious provides a rather brilliant (but not phenomenal) analysis. [5]
  • A new movie will portray Israel handling zombies far better than it did the flotilla.

If you’re reading this, it means the power stayed on in Starbucks. Shabbat Shalom!


[1] Other than the new acronym.

[2] Ok, primarily to make my job easier.

[3] I wear a lot of hats, so you know it’ll happen.

[4] Is there any reason that rabbi in the story is wearing the tallis?

[5] See this for the reference.

24 hours left to book your trip to Israel!

Are you a birthright alum who wants to go to Israel again?  If so, you have 24 hours left to apply for the Birthright Israel NEXT DC Leadership Mission (Friday at noon). Go go go!

The Birthright Israel NEXT DC Leadership mission is a week-long immersive experience (from June 13-21) for Taglit-Birthright Israel alumni to travel back to Israel and learn firsthand the work of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington overseas. In an effort to build new leadership for the Greater Washington Jewish community, this opportunity will provide leadership development and training workshops for 25 alumni, to be selected during a blind application process by community leaders. Accepted participants will also see and experience how young people are re-shaping Israel’s business and technological climate, make global connections and see Federation dollars at work. The participants will be required to attend three pre-trip and three post-trip sessions and, upon their return, they will be required to create an impact project, which consists of taking an idea that would impact the Greater Washington Jewish community and putting it into action. To apply for this opportunity, please visit and submit an application by noon on Friday, February 11. Good luck!

Torah question of the week: wise of heart?

Rabbi Berkman is a rabbi for Mesorah DC and leads this weekly discussion of the Torah portion.

In case anyone is still a little groggy after a late Super Bowl night, here’s some food for thought to help wake you up and get your week started. Enjoy!

Wise of Heart?

This week’s Torah portion describes, in great detail, the regal garments that the Kohanim (priests) would wear to serve in the Tabernacle. A kohain in full uniform was certainly, and God willing, will certainly be a sight to see. Who made these unique and detailed garments?

God tells Moshe “speak to all those who are wise of heart,” telling him to employ the most skilled craftsmen to make the vestments. What jumps out at me are the words “wise of heart” or “chacham lev”. The word “wise” is usually an expression of intellect that belongs to the brain not the heart. The heart on the other hand is usually associated with emotions or feelings. What is the Torah expressing by combining the intellectual properties of wisdom with the emotional aspects of heart? What do the words “chacham lev” – “wise of heart” – mean to you?

Chew on it. Let me know what you think, and have a wonderful week!