Divrei Torah

Each summer at my American synagogue, Temple Israel of Natick, the divrei Torah are offered by members of the congregation. In 2014, I made the suggestion that at least one of the divrei Torah be presented by someone from the Israel Action Committee and focus on Israel. I've somehow turned out to be that person in 2014 and 2016, both times for Parsat Pinchas. Here is the start of my d'var Torah each time, with links to the full divrei Torah.

D'Var Torah - Pinchas
July 30, 2016

Shabbat shalom.

Today's parshah, Pinchas, serves as a reminder that, as important as our sacred texts are, we need to interpret them using our own knowledge, understanding and morality.

God explains to Moses how he rewarded Pinchas, the son of Elazar and grandson of Aaron, for slaying Zimri, and his Midianite consort and thus halting a lethal plague.

Is the Torah really telling us that licentious behavior causes plagues? Is it really telling us we should slay people engaging in such behavior?

The parshah discusses a census of the people, including 601,730 males between the ages of twenty and sixty, used in conjunction with the allocation of the land of Israel among the tribes and families.

Is that figure reasonable?

... read the entire text ...

D'Var Torah — Pinchas
July 12, 2014

Shabbat shalom.

One thing I've learned from life in Israel is that you always have to be ready to change plans and improvise.

After I'd prepared a rough draft on Pinchas, the bodies of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad were found, a handful of Israelis did some abhorrent things, Hamas increased its bombardment of Israeli towns, Israel finally responded, and I ripped up my draft.

Last week, Rabbi Liben noted the midrash that when Balaam observed the encampment of the Israelites, he noticed the openings of their tents did not face one another. From this he inferred the Israelites were a modest people.

This modesty apparently didn't last even through the entire parshah.

… read the entire text …


After almost two years in Massachusetts, I reluctantly concluded that not only wasn't the organized Jewish community here doing anything significant to deal with the anti-Israel bias of The Boston Globe and other Massachusetts newspapers, but no action was visible on the horizon.

The last straw was when The Boston Globe published an anti-Israel op-ed on Yom Hazikaron and I realized that nobody in the Jewish community was publishing op-eds on that or any other Jewish holidays.

Out of that frustration comes PRIMER-Massachusetts, an effort to informally organize pro-Israel activists to monitor newspapers and alert each other when action is needed. I hope it will eventually become as effective as PRIMER-Connecticut has been.

Please visit the PRIMER-Massachusetts website; if you're in the area and want to get involved, send me an email or fill out the form on the PRIMER-Massachusetts website.

The Grey Lady

The New York Times doesn't seem to like publishing my letters, so I decided to make them available here. This is one of my latest:

To the editor:

Reading Nathan Thrall's Orwellian analysis of "The Six-Day War at 50," I had to check my calendar to confirm it wasn't 1984.

Aside from the fact that, for almost all practical purposes, what Thrall and others incorrectly call an "occupation" ended nearly a quarter century ago when the Palestinian Authority was formed and began governing the lives of 95 percent of the Arabs in the disputed territories, Israelis are not comfortable having rockets launched at us from the Hamas-controlled de facto Palestinian Arab mini-terror state of Gaza and another 150,000 rockets targeting us from Hezbollah-occupied southern Lebanon. We are not comfortable having Palestinian Arab terrorists ramming cars and trucks into us while we stand on our sidewalks and stabbing us as we walk in our cities.

Most of all. we hate having to send our sons and daughters into the army and into harm's way to protect us.

That's why we've repeatedly gone the extra kilometer to try to induce the Palestinians to make peace with us. Unfortunately, we can't force them to abandon their dream of destroying us. Until their society transforms itself, we have no choice but to endure and live our lives as joyfully as we can while we dream of the day when we can all beat our swords into plowshares.


Alan Stein

Read more of my letters to The New York Times by clicking here.

The hypocrisy of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, hit a new low in Februrary, 2014, when just two weeks after ignoring the suffering of the Jews in a statement issued on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, she had the chutzpah to criticize Israel for not being complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Jews from their own homeland. I responded with an open letter to Ashton.

Read My Letter


PRIMER-Connecticut has its own blog. It's worth checking out.

Hannah and Sol Stein

My parents, who lived long – although not long enough – and fulfilling lives.

The Only Holocaust Memorial

Robert Arbetman expresses some brilliant thoughts about Holocaust memorials.


Devoted to Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting. PRIMER-Connecticut puts most of its energy into the neverending battle to keep the Hartford Courant honest.

Crash Course on the Arab-Israeli Conflict

A collection of facts about the Arab-Israeli conflict often ignored in the media.

Anatomy of a Violin

When I absconded with one of my father's violins, I had some repairs made and had the very accomodating String Doctor take some photographs of the inside of the violin when it was taken apart. You may find them fascinating.

Resources for Pro-Israel Peace Advocates

A fairly concise collection of online resources available for those interested in peace in the Middle East. A new addition is a selection of letters sent to newspapers.

Myths & Facts Online Mitchell Bard has put one of the most valuable guides to the Arab Israeli conflict online.

Myths and Facts has 22 chapters covering everything from Israel's roots to each of the wars to the current uprising. Because it is online we can now respond rapidly to new myths with accurate facts. All of the information is hyperlinked to the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture.

This is a work in progress and Dr. Bard welcomes comments and suggestions.

Advocating for Israel The Anti-Defamation League has created a tremendous resource for advocates of Arab-Israeli peace in the Middle East. A printable version may be downloaded and published copies may be obtained from the ADL.

Honest Reporting HonestReporting is a fast-action website dedicated to ensuring that Israel receives fair media coverage. It scrutinizes the media for anti-Israel bias and then mobilizes subscribers to complain directly to the news agency concerned.

My Mideast Peace Plan -- Early in 1995, in response to a question on an Internet discussion list, I put together an outline for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace plan. Not much has changed since then-other than it becoming obvious to everyone that Yassir Arafat never had any intention of agreeing to a peaceful settlement-and the plan is almost as appropriate today as it was then.

Yassir Arafat Photo In October, 1995, I had the dubious pleasure of hearing Yassir Arafat speak at a meeting with Jewish leaders. It's interesting to look back and compare my observations then with today's reality. Click to read my observations.

Not long after that came the string of terrorist bombings in Israel. My daughter was in Israel during that period and I wrote some observations at that time. Click here to read my observations about the bombings.

American Family Immigration History Center -- Includes passenger records from the ships which carried over 22 million immigrants to Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924.

My challah recipe. It's a variation of an excellent recipe from The Jewish Catalog.