Derashos HaRan

Aharon and the Rewards of Sincere Humility

There is no perfect leader. Leadership is not a single skill but a collection of talents. Some leaders have the ability to best guide the community in one set of circumstances while others are more capable in different times. The difficulty is knowing when a perfect leader is simply unfit for the occasion. In this series * 1: Drasha 1: ...

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Moshe’s Speech Defect and the Dangers of Demagoguery

Beginning the Third Drasha, Moshe’s Speech Defect and the Dangers of Demagoguery One of Ran’s most influential contributions is his theory of charismatic leadership. The Sages insist that a prophet be admired–wealthy, tall, strong. Yet Moshe, the greatest Jewish leader of all, failed one of these criteria. Ran’s explanation of this anomaly reverberates through the ages. The opening verse of ...

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Predicting and Locking In the Future

Last time, we saw Ran’s theory that Yitzchak is described as praying “opposite” his wife because situating oneself in physical proximity to the subject or object of one’s prayers or miracles makes them more effective. This time, we’re going to analyze how much of a role a prophet’s prediction of the future has in setting that future in stone. In ...

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Changing the World with Evocative Acts

Praying Opposite His Wife Biblical stories of miracles teach us not only how Hashem changes nature but also how people do it. Last time, we saw that Ran thought that Ya’akov and Esav’s differences showed that Rivkah’s pregnancy wasn’t itself fully natural. As the derasha continues, he raises another unnatural aspect of the pregnancy. Rivkah, in his view, was completely ...

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The Permanent Friction Between Esav and Yaakov

Ran opens his second derasha with Malachi 1:2, where the prophet reminds the Jews of Hashem’s love, a love that is proven by the contrast between Hashem’s reaction to Yaakov and Esav. His audience might have known this verse by virtue of its being from the haftarah of Toledot (the derashah eventually deals with events from Toledot, specifically the securing ...

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What’s the Best Way to Physical Health?

Practical Highlights of Derashot haRan, Number 3: What’s the Best Way to Physical Health? We live in a world of limited resources. More, we take for granted that it must be that way. The last piece of Ran’s first derashah shows he disagreed, that in his view, we started in a Garden of infinite potential, and that the way back ...

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What Science Doesn’t Know

Practical Highlights of Derashot haRan, Number 2: What Science Doesn’t Know People have long recognized that the physical world is a profound source of knowledge; a related question is whether there are limits to what the natural world can tell us about our lives, and what those limits are. In the section of Ran’s first derashah that we’ll look at ...

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Communities, Combination and Creation

Series Introduction: Practical Highlights of Derashot haRan Welcome to a new feature, a weekly discussion of R. Nissim of Gerona’s Derashot HaRan. (While there has been some suggestion that the author of the work was someone else, Prof. Leon Feldman put that to rest in his 2003 Mossad HaRav Kook edition of the Derashot, in the introductory pages, 11-14). Better ...

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