Parsha Bereishis

Parsha Bereishis is the first Torah portion of our new cycle of reading the Torah and is the blueprint of creation of our lives, were HaShem's plan for a world of purpose begins. Rashi: The world is created for two reasons, Israel and the Torah.Since Israel is the purpose of creation and unity among Israel will also causes a unity in the entire world.HaShem, our G-d is a living G-d and so is His Torah. With the giving of the Torah, HaShem gave something of  Himself, as a guide how to connect  with Him,how get to know Him and our purpose.

We, as the Jewish people continue with our responsibilty as HaShem' s nation. We have a living G-d and connect to Him through Torah study.

The Torah we received at Har Sinai, together with Moshe's teachings is essentially beyond our grasp, but as we learn Torah each year again, new layers of unstanding goes into our consciousness. 

With each Parsha we gain more insight, which will bring us to a higher level of spiritual and personal growth for our purpose.

Parsha Bereishis start with the creation of the world, from light and darkness,from trees and greenery, from land animals and sea creatures, from the sun,the moon and the stars and finally man. As HaShem decided that it was not good for man to be alone. And from the side of Adam He creates a woman, and they married each other.

On the seventh day HaShem stops creating and sanctify this day as a day of rest, Shabbos.

Adam and Chava have the whole of Gan Eden to themselves, could eet from any tree or anything they wish to eat, except HaShem command them not to eat from the tree of knowledge, of good and evil. As we know Chava was persuaded by serpent to violate the commandment, and she eats from the forbidden fruit together with Adam.

They both where banished from Gan Eden. Chava gave birth to two sons Cayin and Hevel. The two brothers had a difficult relationship, full of hatred quarrel, which ended in Cayin killing his brother Hevel.

 

 

 

More insight in Pasha Bereishis

Parsha Noach

Parsha Noach opens with " Noach was a righteous man, wholehearted in his generation"

Why does the Torah praise Noach? Does the  Torah means that he was a righteous man compare to the wicked people only of his generation but also of other generations?

Bereishis tells us that Noach  was righteous and wholehearted, and  that Noach " Walked with G-d".  To return back to what the Torah says about Noach righteousness in his  generations, that before HaShem flood the earth, Noach already lived through several generations, and of these generations only Noach was worthy of being saved, together with his family and two pairs of every animal.

From Adam til Noach, ten generations who had became extemely wicked, and in Noach's time HaShem became so disappointed with the way humanity behaved, that it reachd to the point for HaShem, to recreate the earth by flooding it first.

 

"And how the earth was corrupt before G-d, and the earth  became full of robbery " - Bereishis 6:11

The Hebrew word for corrupt is vatishacheit and a expression of immorality and idolatry: " Lest you deal corruptly and the earth became full of robbery- Rashi, Devarim 4:16

Rashi also states that " chamas" means  "robbery " , as it says : And of the dishonest gain chamas, which is in their hands - Yonah 3:8

The Baal HaTurim says: Chamas has a gematria of 108, this equals to the water of Noach. The people were punished by measure for measure for their sins. The gematria of chamas is also equal to the purgatory and this teaches that the people were punished with boiling water - Talmud, as it says " G-d boiled the flood's of water in the fires of purgatory - Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 10:3.

Findings of the Baal HaTurim is that the gematria of chamas both waters of the flood and the fires of Geheinom.

And the earth was filled with violance and frauds "

Why did the Torah switch to the use of the name  Elokim  the attribute of Justice ( Ibid 6:5) HaShem attribute of mercy is used?

What do words Lifnei/ before HaElokim, to make it even more understandable?

Pirkei Avos 4:11 says: every person that violates a commandment, he acquiers a accuser for himself, as his accuser is a destructive agent. HaShem will keep our accuser in check, when it is a minor sin.

So when it says: "Now the earth was corrupt before G-d- vatishacheit Ha- eretz lifnei" it means that before HaShem had completed Judgement of every individual, a total of destructive agents, which created by the sins of man, and dominated the world.

What is the reason , why the Torah says " The land became full " ?

The corruption which penetrated the world, as it says: Now the earth was corrupted before G-d, and the earth to be full of destructive agent's all called Hamas.

The Floods

The question why HaShem  chose to destroy the world through a flood, as He could had chosen from so many other forms of destruction. But He didn't, He chose water. But why water?

As we know in Judaism when we think of water, we think of the Mikveh, the Mitzvah  to immerse ourselves in natural flowing water, to clean ourselves of spiritual impurity.

To understand the flood and the power of the Mikveh, we have to understand the concept of water.

When HaShem created the earth, there was only water in the beginning, formless, no land the Torah state that only afterwards did  land emerge from the water.

Why would HaShem destroy His creation? Well, HaShem didn't, He was rather recreating than destroying. This generation became so corrupted that HaShem decided to start all over again, only with Noach. HaShem immersed the world in water so that He could revert it in the orginal state, dry the land and create again, this lasted 40 days.

The uniqueness of the Mikveh, when we immerse in the water, we return pure, in the orginal state as before we're born. Like a ger ( convert) immerse in the Mikveh and is reborn. The final step in conversion the ger enter as his or her's old self and comes out of Mikveh being reborn and ready to start a new life as a Jew.

The understanding of the number 40 and the meaning of the difference measures of 40.

The Mikveh requires 40 Se'ah of water.

The floods lasted 40 days.

A fetus is formeless until 40 days of conception.

A pregnancy last 40 weeks

The Jewish people wanderd the desert for 40 years

The age of binah( understanding) is 40 years of age.

Moshe was spent  40 days and nights on Har Sinai receiving the Torah.

The number 40 and the water, which is part of creation. The word Shofar shares a root with mei shafir, this is the amniotic fluid that is surrounded the baby in the womb.

The shofar is a wake- up call, to bring us back to root of oneself. When on Rosh Chodesh Elul we hear the first blast and on Yom Kippur the final blast, it' exactly 40 days and Yom Kippur makes a rebirth after Teshuvah  and starts  recreation for a new year.

We have water, the number 40 and destruction, corruption and again possibly a flood? Who knows, but not by HaShem.This world will not see a reset, or something that is building back better, but more a recreation of all that is not good.

Emunah and Bitachon HaShem. 

Parsha Lech Lecha

HaShem appear to Avram, and command him to leave his home, to travel to the Land that He will show him. Without asking question Avram packs some belongings and sets out his journey.

Why didn't HaShem gave a specific destination of Avram's journey?

The Torah tells us that Avram left his home, to travel to the land of Canaan. But how did Avram know where to go?

Was it as the Ohr Hachaim interpret, that  from the beginning HaShem increases Avram's  challenge, by deliberately revealing  the journey's destination, once he begings the travel into the unknown. HaShem  shows Avram  him the land and along the journey he builts an altar and continues to spread the word of G-d.

WHen Avram reaches Canaan, a famine forces him and his family to go to Mitzrayim( Eygpt)  he asks Sarai to present herself as his sister. Sortly after arriving, Sarai is abducted and taken to the kings palace, to be released again soon after HaShem's interverance.

Avram was commanded by HaShem to leave his home, and Lot his nephew,( whose father died young) went  with him. When they arrived in Canaan before the famine, Avram became rich, and Lot, whether it was for selfish reasons, he stayed with his uncle and he had is own sheep and cattle and tents. Was Lot motivation to stay, only to share in the financial profits?

Did Lot go with his uncle because he sensed as Avram was a good businessman, and he might get rich, if he stayed with his uncle? 

According to Zohar, Lot went with Avram to learn from his uncle, but he didn't  learn very much. Even worse, Lot's presence put a stop to Avram's prophecies, at it seems HaShem didn't speak to Avram again while Lot was with him.

Going back to where Sarai was released and Avram escaped a death sentence as he presented themselves as brother and sister. It was the plague that prevented the king to touch Sarai, and she also convinced the king to let her return to Avram and to compensate they paid the king with gold,silver and cattle.

When they left Mitzrayim and were back in Canaan, Lot went his own way and headed for the city of evil, Sodom. Unfortunetely he falls in the hands of the mighty army of Chedorlaomer, who already conquered five cities in the Sodom valley.

When Avram receives the message about Lot, he set out to rescue his nephew, defeats the four kings and receives a blessing from the king of Salem, Malki zedek  in Jerusalem.

The next time HaShem speaks to Avram, the Torah says, is after Lot separated from Avram. Rashi comments that HaShem didn't want to speak to him in the presence of his wicket man, and yet, when Lot was living in Sodom, angels came and visit him and he offered them hospitality, even at the risk of his own life. Lot had many faults, but his behavior with the angels, he showed nothing but goodness, and therefore it was justified that he was saved from the destruction of Sodom. It could have been that  the angels where send to save Lot.

The Haftarah of Lech Lecha comments on weakness.

Maybe Israel did seems weak and vulberable, but Israel will win, because HaShem will aid them and be with them, and they will conquer their enemies.

" For I am the Lord your G-d who grasps your right hand and say to you: " Do not fear" I will help you.

Klal Yisroel should not  despair, because HaShem is with us.

They who trust HaShem, shall renew their strength, they shall grow and the rebirth of Israel will  mirrors Avram prophescy.

On a united mission

 

The Jewish Woman


Editor's Note On a United Mission

Dear Readers,

A cousin posted this on our family chat:

I spoke with my niece in Jerusalem this morning, and she told me a story that demonstrates the unity of our nation.

This past Shabbat, exactly a week after the horrific attack by Hamas, as her husband and other men were leaving their apartments to go to synagogue, their neighbors, who are not normally Shabbat observant, were also running out. They said they were going to patrol and guard a post in their neighborhood.

My nephew and his friends said, “We’ll go with you.”

The neighbors replied, “No, your job right now is to go to synagogue and pray for us.”

The war in Israel has brought out such an overwhelming feeling of unity. Unity means realizing and appreciating the unique contribution of every individual. There are many ways that we can achieve our common goal. The important thing is to remember that we are a special nation with a special destiny, appointed with the mission of bringing light and G-dliness to our world.


In this week’s Torah portion, we read about Abraham, the father of every Jew. G-d commands Abraham, “Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house … to the land that I will show you.”

Abraham travels to what would become the Promised Land and builds an altar there. Rashi explains that Abraham built the altar to thank G-d for His two promises: that he would have children and that he would be given the land of Israel.

In addition to promising Abraham that the Holy Land would belong to him and his children, G-d’s command was to go forth from his finite self and discover his true, higher self, which is one with G-d. Abraham was not fazed by the corruption around him, nor was he intimidated by the evil. He accepted the Divine mission, “to go,” to become G-d’s messenger and teach the world Divine consciousness and morality.

From the moment that G-d instructed Abram to leave his homeland and set out on his journey, the process of cosmic refinement began.

As Abraham’s descendants, we are each entrusted with this mission. When darkness and evil surround us, we need to double down on adding light.

As the war continues in Israel, we each need to do our part. For the soldiers, that means physically fighting our enemies, while for many of us, it means adding in prayers, mitzvot or donations to our brothers and sisters.

With heartfelt prayers for each and every one of our soldiers, and wishes for the safety and security of all our brethren in Israel and the world over,

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW

 

 

 

Parsha Vayeira

 

Avraham's Ultimate Test

Why do we give Abraham the credit for passing the test of the binding of Isaac? Isaac was the one who was ready to give his life.

Rabbi Mendel of Horodok explained:

For lofty souls such as Abraham and Isaac, giving their lives to fulfill G‑d’s command was no great test. The great test was for Abraham to refrain from “weighing the ways of G-d".

The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, explained:

Abraham, for many years of his life, built a ladder of reason. He was a skeptic, a man driven by what made sense to him, repelled by the irrational.

The people around him lived in a chaotic world of many gods. They worshipped the sun, the moon, and the stars, as well as many other mythical beings. Abraham applied his mind to understanding these beliefs—and came to reject them all.

Abraham, the Midrash says, was like a man who traveled in the forest, found a mansion fully lit, and exclaimed, “Certainly there must be a master to this mansion!”

Abraham, the Midrash says, was like a man who traveled in the forest, found a mansion fully lit, and exclaimed, “Certainly there must be a master to this mansion!”

Where others saw a jungle, he saw an orderly universe, and he realized there must be something that transcends this order, creates this order, and directs it. With his keen, independent intellect, he came to the conclusion that there is a single G‑d who is beyond intellect. And so he fearlessly proclaimed to all the world.

And then G‑d pulled his ladder out from under him. The same G‑d who had promised him that Isaac, his son, would be his heir, that same G‑d commanded him, “Take your son, your only son, the one you love, Isaac, and raise him up for an offering on one of the mountains that I will show you.”

Reason had no place here. If you had asked Abraham at this point, “How does this make sense? How can it be resolved?” he would have no answer. Because there was no answer. There was no ladder that reached to this place.

If you had asked Abraham at this point, “How does this make sense? How can it be resolved?” he would have no answer.

And yet Abraham, the skeptic, the independent thinker, the man of reason who had rebelled against an entire civilization because they made no sense to him, kept walking to that place that flew in the face of all logic and reason.

Because it wasn’t about reason. It wasn’t about the ladder. It was about remaining bonded to the One who created all reason. For whom nothing has to be, and anything could be. And so, in that place, there are no contradictions. In that place, all is one.

That is why, when Abraham finally arrived at the vortex of his ultimate challenge, as he thrust out his hand to grasp the cold metal of the slaughtering knife, at that point all this challenge vanished into thin air.

“You have brought him up to this mountain,” G‑d said to him. “That is all I asked. Now take him down.”

Suddenly, there had never been a challenge. Suddenly, the ladder had never fallen. Because, in that place, there are no challenges. There is nothing but the One.

A tower built by the mind will always remain precarious. All it takes is one mind cleverer than your own to pull out a beam from here, a girder from there, and soon you’re crashing downward, doubting there is anything beyond, doubting that anything you believed was true.
 
The Towers we build

You too, with your mind, can build a tall ladder. Even a tower. If you’re smart enough, you can build your tower so tall, you can see from up there things that can never be understood. Such as the One who made the mind.

But a tower built by the mind will always remain precarious. All it takes is one mind cleverer than your own to pull out a beam from here, a girder from there, and soon you’re crashing downward, doubting there is anything beyond, doubting that anything you believed was true.

Your tower needs a foundation made by the same One who gave you your mind. Excavate deep inside yourself, uncover your true identity—that place where you unite in an inseparable bond with the One who made you.

Then the supports of your tower will be strong. If someone will question them, you will say, “So, another thing I don’t understand. There are many.”

And you will stay connected Above.

As with Abraham, so too with you. When you will stand firm when nothing seems right, when nothing makes sense, when the G‑d you believe in seems to have disappeared and taken your ladder with Him, and yet you keep on climbing upward—you too will reach to a place where you will look back and say, “What was I thinking? There was no challenge. Everything was in place  all along.

 

By Rabbi Tzvi Freeman 

Chabad.org

 

 

Parsha Chayei Sarah

Most of Parsha Chayei Sarah is about the story of Yitzchak. The Chazal tells us that Avraham fased ten tests. One of them is the binding of Yitzchak .The tenth test is most likely  the death of Sarah and the part of burying her  in Me'aras Hamachpeilah and as mysteries as it may seems that the command  to sacrifice his owm child would have been his ultimate test, in comparable to the death of Sarah.

What is the true nature of the test of burying Sarah?

Is it true that Avraham was challenged to overcome his grief of losing Sarah and as well dealing with Efron?

There is a deeper meaning to one of the powers behind Avraham's test, which was a question of perception, to see Sarah's death as a oppertunity to grow rather than to give up, and to fall apart.

Sarah's death was not the end ,it was the beginning of the next stage of their extented connection. This explains why the Torah pays attention to Avraham's death towards the end of Parsha Chayei Sarah.

Chazal teaches us that marriage is eternal. Husband and wife are created before birth, and separated by birth and each with a mission in life to bring the world into a holier place. Trough marriage they are reunited and become one again.

What is this mission and challenges  we are facing? We pass the test, but what does this means  when HaShem already knows the outcome? Why send us in the first place?

Could it be a learning process, how our relationship is with others or even more importantly how our relationship is with HaShem?

 

Parsha Chayei Sarah contains three narratives,

1. The death of Sarah.

2. Avraham buying a burial plot, this is the first plot of Holy land  owned by the Jewish people of the covenant.

3. The search of a wife for Yitzchak, the first Jewish child and the last period of Avraham's life and his death.

 

Where was Avraham at the time of Sarah's passing?  

Sarah died in Hebron, Avraham was not in with her, as we know about the binding of Yitzchak and in Bereishis 22:19 we can read that Avraham returned to his servants, and together they went to Beersheva and Avraham settled  in Beersheva.

Rashi tells us that Avraham only temporarly settled in Beersheva following the binding of Yitzchak and when he received a message of Sarah's death  he returned to Hebron.

Avraham's plan was to settle in Beersheva permanently and he send a message to Sarah to join him, only then he found out about her death and returned to bury her. Avraham had second thoughts about telling Sarah about the binding of Yitzchak. As who would believe HaShem would ask this of him and then changed His mind? Avraham had concerns that Sarah wouldn't let him come near Yitzchak again when she knew.

He send Yitzchak to live with his mother when learned about her passing. Avraham had send Sarah to Hebron to find them a home and to purchase to plot of burial  ground, the cave of Machpeilah from Efron, but she died before she had a chance.

AVraham returned  to Hebron, full of grief for the death of his wife, buying  the burial plot from Efron and burying Sarah in Me'aras Hamachpeilah.

There was a dialogue discribed in the Torah between Avraham and the Hittitite tribe after Sarah's passing.The Hittities offered the land for free, but Avraham refused. They then offered him to pay a fine of four hundred silver coins, which Avraham accepted.

 Sarah's life was of commitment, her faith and devotion for HaShem never lost strength in all her one hundred  and twenty seven years.

Avraham sends his servant to find a wife for his son Yitzchak, there is only one condition, she must come from the same birth place as him. This servant who is not named, but by Rabbis identify as Eliezer. The servant takes on this oath and follows Avraham's  command,then sets off in his journey with ten camels and other goods.

Rivka born in Haran to Bethuel, Avraham's nephew. When Eliezer arrieved in Haran he saw Rivka by the well, she offered to get water for the camels and himself, she also offered him a sleeping place for him and his camels. Later when sitting at the table he tells them he is a servant of Avraham and his purpose of his visit to Haran.

Eliezer explained that he came to the well to pray to HaShem, helping him to find the right woman for Yitzchak. After hearing the story of this the sign that Rivka would be  the futher wife of Yitzchak as did   offer him water and hospitality, Laban and Bethuel agreed Rivkah should go back with Eliezer and marrying Yitzchak  and as appreciation they received the camels and goods.

AVraham Avinu

The Torah tells us that HaShem blessed Avraham as he dedicated his life to fulfill HaShem's will and he was consistent proactive to keep the covenant with HaShem. When he finised the years, he had lived with dedication, to be able to put his own ego aside to serve HaShem, as he utilize his own mind and heart to bring righteousness into this world. He live his mission and kept moving forward.

Avraham's ability to keep  on moving forward in his mission is in our DNA.

Avraham Avinu was one hundred and seventy five years old when he died and was buried along side Yitzchak and Yishmael in Cave Me'aras Hamachpeilah in Hebron.

Sarah's legacy

Parsha Chayei Sarah, which means " Life of Sarah " although the Parsha only recounts her death, buying a plot of land, the burial  and the marriage of her son Yitzchak. This Parsha tells us more about her life than her death.

Avraham could have related to the hard life she had to endure. She couldn't have any children until the age of 90 years. Sarah was in captivity by both Avimelech and the Pharao.Not forgetting the struggle she had living with Hagar and Yishmael.

Yitzchak her son was her legacy. He always remaind loyal to his mothers Torah teachings. In essence Yitzchak's life, was the story of Sarah's life. She raised her son to keep on going on the path of Torah  and he was even prepared to sacrifice himself for the sake of HaShem. 

This is why all generations merit forgiveness from HaShem because of his ultimate faith. Sarah' was determent to raise a future Patriarch for the Jewish nation. 

The Midrash tells us that Sarah achieved a much higher level of prophecies than Avraham did, as she knew Yishmael behavior was corrupted and she had concerns about Yitzchak being pulled away  from his path of Torah by Yishmael.

Sarah's death reflects her life,  everything she complished in her life, despite all the suffering, life was good. Sarah was a great Matriarch, who accepted het lot in life without complaining and saw it as something that was " for the good " seeing the postitive side of life, which makes life good. 

Yishmael and the End of Days.

Parsha Toldos

Covenant & Conversation

שיג ושיח

 

“I have called these studies Covenant & Conversation because this, for me, is the essence of what Torah learning is – throughout the ages, and for us, now. The text of Torah is our covenant with God… The interpretation of this text has been the subject of an ongoing conversation for as long as Jews have studied the Divine word… Every age has added its commentaries, and so must ours.” – Rabbi Sacks

 

Why did Yitzchak love Esav?

 

Even before their birth, Yaakov and Eisav struggled in the womb, destined to be eternal opposites. As they grew, Eisav became a skilful hunter who was loved by Yitzchak, while Yaakov was quieter, more prone to Torah study, and favoured by Rivka. Rivka’s favouritism towards Yaakov was encouraged by a Divine prophecy received before her children’s birth, revealing that her children would be the founders of two separate nations, with the older ultimately serving the younger.

And yet, despite the foretold ascendance of their youngest son, Yitzchak’s love for Eisav persisted. It persisted despite Eisav’s cunning personality and trickster nature. Despite the prophecy that Yaakov was destined to be greater than his brother. Despite the favour clearly shown to Yaakov by his mother.

Various interpretations of Yitzchak and Eisav’s relationship can help shed light on this peculiar dynamic. Rashi proposes that Yitzchak was actually deceived by Eisav, who displayed false piety. For example, Rashi says that Eisav would ask questions about tithing items like salt and straw, to mislead Yitzchak into believing Eisav was religiously observant. And, if you’re wondering why Eisav could not deceive Rivka, it’s suggested that she had experience seeing past deceptions from her time with Lavan – her conniving brother.

This understanding of the text assumes a certain naivety from Yitzchak, and emphasises the deepness of his love for Eisav.

Another perspective, however, suggests something very different – that Yitzchak knew the depth Eisav’s true nature and yet – he loved him still. This interpretation dovetails with Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook’s advice to love a wayward child even more than a child who stays on the path. Yitzchak’s love, in this interpretation, embodied the moral imperative of parenthood, to not give up on a wayward child. To love unconditionally.

Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel notes that Eisav’s bond with Yitzchak was unusually deep, and he displayed exceptional commitment towards his father. Indeed, upon the strength of this bond, the Torah commands the Israelites to respect Eisav’s descendants, the Edomites, and to avoid waging war against them.

So what was the result of Yitzchak’s care for Eisav?

Eisav reciprocated Yitzchak’s love but remained Eisav the hunter, the man of the field, not the man to carry forward the demanding covenant with God – with all the spiritual sacrifices this would entail. As Rabbi Sacks explains, not all children follow the path of their parents. If Yitzchak hoped that Eisav would ultimately become just like his parents, he failed.

Still, there are honourable responses to failure. Loving our children, no matter what, is a praiseworthy response, for surely that is how God loves us.

 

What was the positive outcome of Yitzchak’s love for Eisav?

Did Yitzchak and Rivka parent differently because of their own rebellious brothers?  

Rabbi Sacks questions whether Rivka told Yitzchak about the oracle. What do you think? Can you find other examples in the Torah where Rivka and Yitzchak speak to each other?

 

Yitzchak marries Rivka and for many years they wait and hope for children. Finally, their prayers are answered. Rivka feels a struggle in her womb and, in explanation, God informs her that she will give birth to twins, the founders of two separate nations, with the older eventually serving the younger.

Eisav is born first, red and hairy, followed by Yaakov, who holds onto Eisav’s heel as he emerges. As they grow, Eisav is favoured by their father, while Yaakov is preferred by their mother. One day, Eisav returns from the field feeling hungry. Displaying little regard for his inheritance, he sells it to Yaakov for a meal of red lentil stew.

When Yitzchak grows old, and his eyesight weakens, he decides to bless Eisav. However, Rivka disguises Yaakov as Eisav, and Yaakov instead receives the blessing of prosperity and leadership. Eisav is distraught and begs for a blessing for himself. Yitzchak tells him he will live by the sword and serve his brother, but he will eventually break free.

Eisav vows revenge on Yaakov, planning to kill him – but not while father is still living. Rivka acts again to protect Yaakov, telling him to run away from home. She sends him towards her brother Lavan, and hopes that he will find safety there, and maybe also a wife.

 

There is an old adage: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Meaning, children often resemble their parents in some way or another. Whether it’s in mannerisms, values, and so on, Yitzchak continued the trajectory of his father, Avraham, visiting Gerar during a famine, digging wells, and serving Hashem. By contrast, considering their historical legacies, one might think that no father and son could be less compatible than Eisav and Yitzhak. Yet, Eisav somehow managed to win the affection and favour of his father.

 Did Yitzchak even know just how different and even immoral Eisav could be? Or, did he love him in spite of – or even because of – their differences? Rabbi Sacks concludes the latter. The love a parent has for their children should transcend differences. So too the love of God for the Jewish people.

Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch once noted, if Yitzchak and Rivka had studied Eisav’s nature and asked themselves how even an Eisav could be taught to honour God… that mighty man would not become just a mighty hunter, but truly a mighty man before God. How does this philosophy dovetail with Rabbi Sacks’ point about Eisav?

Parsha Vayetze

Yaakov leaves Beersheva for Charan as he flees the wrath of his brother Esav, and to prepares to search for a wife.

As the sun sets, Yaakov went to sleep and dreams of a ladder stretching all the way into Shamayim, upon which  machanaim ascend and descend. HaShem appears to Yaakov and promises to guard him on his journey and to return him to Canaan. Alarmed by this vision, Yaakov wakes up and reflect upon the holiness of the place.

Upon arising the next morning, Yaakov names the location Beis E-L and vows loyalty to HaShem in return for divine protection. He then continues his journey. Yaakov arrives at a well where he meets his first cousin Rochel, and helps her with watering the family flock. At home Rochel informs her father, Lavan of Yaakov's arrival and Lavan goes out to meet his nephew.

Lavan and Yaakov reached an agreement that Yaakov will work for Lavan for seven years in return to marry Rochel. When the wedding night arrives after seven years has passed, Lavan deceives Yaakov by giving his older daughter Leah instead of Rochel. He gives also his servant Zilpa to Leah.

When Yaakov discovers Lavan's deceit the very next morning he confronts his uncle, but still agrees to work for him for another seven years in return to marry Rochel. After these seven years Yaakov finally marries Rochel, Lavan gives his servants Bilha to Rochel. Yaakov works another seven years for Lavan.

The Torah gives a history of the growth of Yaakov's family. Reuven, Shimon, Levi and Yehuda are born to Leah. Dan and Naftali are born to Bilha and Gad and Asher are born to Zilpa after Yaakov rakes the maidservants as mistress at his wives request. Further are born to Leah, Zevulun and Dina, and finally after a long period of childlessness, Rochel gives birth to Yosef.

After Yosef's birth, Yaakov informs Lavan of intension to return to Canaan with his family. Lavan convinces Yaakov to stay and work for a wage. Six years pass, and during this time Lavan constantly attemps to cheat his nephew. 

At the end of the six years, Yaakov tells Rochel and Leah that HaShem has commanded him in a dream to return with his family to Canaan. Yaakov's family then gathers their belongings and flee without Lavan knowing. Rochel secretly steals her father's idols. After three days when Lavan discovers Yaakov's escape, he then pursues Yaakov and his family and catch up with them at Har Gilad.

Lavan and Yaakov exchanges hars words. Lavan searches for his idols unsuccesfully and they finally agree to part ways. Yaakov continues on his journey and encounters with Machanaim.

The name Machanaim, Rambam states, does not reflect Yaakov's awareness of two sets of angels but his dawning recognition of litterly two parallel camps.Just as the Machanaim sanctify HaShem in Shamayim, Yaakov realizes, that man must learn to sanctify HaShem on earth.

 

Was the dream Yaakov had actually Har Moriah, which later became The Temple Mount in Jerusalem?

Two generstions earlier Ahraham arrives at Har Moriah with Yitzchak, the Torah states: וראה את המקום מרחוק- " and he saw the place from afar". By refering to Har Moriah and the location of Yaakov's dream " the place " the Torah does connect the two locations and indicates that they are one and the same.

Yaakov did name the location in dream as Beis E-L which means  " the House of G-d".

Returning to Yaakov vows. How are we to understand Yaakov's vow? 

Yaakov seems to be making his worship of HaShem conditional upon material gain?

When Yaakov said " the Lord will be his G-d" it sounds like only when conditions are met, but the fact is that the very conditions which Yaakov now seems to questioning where already promised by HaShem in his dream, " And behold I will be with you, and I will guard you wherever you will go, and I will return you to this soil "

How come Yaakov seems to be unsure of those promises now?

It maintains in numerous other commentaries that yaakov's words are not to be understood as a vow at all, but as a heartfelt prayer.

When Yaakov Arrives in Charan, the first thing he does is pray to HaShem, as until this point he lived in a insular world of Torah study and when he first set foot into his new world, any of the ways and manners were totally different to him. He then made it his priority to first pray .

In todays world  when we just like Yaakov lead a insular life of Torah learning and entering the world to start making a living. We to start the day with prayer, to ask HaShem for strength and guidens to overcome challenges, it is a way to get ready to fulfill our spiritual mission in this world.

Yaakov took some stones and placed around his head, when he realized that he was entering a world full of challenges and he knew he had to symbolically protect his head surrounding stones, for focus and awareness from distraction and idolatry.

We to can protect our head, through developing strengthing our intellect and emotional connection with HaShem, to fulfill our mission with perseverance just like our Patriarch did.

When we protect ourselves we will be motivated and inspired from the heart and mind, the essence of the soul. This is level consciousness, being one with HaShem, to fulfill His Will in observing Torah and the Mitzvos.

The Mishnah says: " He who observes the Torah in poverty will in the end fulfill it out in wealth "

The essence of our soul enables to fulfill our mission, to unite the mundane world with the holiness of HaShem.

Just like Yaakov combined many stones into one and his soul revealed the unity of reality and dedicating it to it's mission for HaShem.

This stone could be transformed into a home for HaShem.

Pasha Vayishlach

Yaakov's Greatness

 

Yaakov's complex journey continues, as Yaakov seems to be aflicted with challenge upon challenge, from birth into aldulthood. His battle with his brother Esav regarding  the bechorah, his birthright and ending with Yaakov fleeing for his life. Then there is the deceitful deal with Lavan and when he finally returns after twenty- two years to his homeland Eretz Yisrael, he is confronted with the abduction and assult of his daughter Dina by Shechem. And if this wasn't enough, his beloved son, Yosef was been taken away from him and sold into slavery. Yaakov lived his life and was tormented with hardship upon even more hardship, but despite all the challenges, he persevered and came out stronger, he achieved an absolute greatness.

We also can experience several challenges in life as a test of our potential purpose and mission in life.

A test given by HaShem, and because HaShem is all knowing and exactly aware of  how much we are capable of handling. The question is, why would HaShem put us to the test? Why does HaShem send us challenges and tests? What is the purpose of these challenges?

On a basic level, we don't seems appreciate things must until we lose them, how many things do we not take for granted. We only learn by experiencing yissurim, life challenges in heath, family matters of financial worries.

On a much deeper level, HaShem send us these challenges or tests in order to repent for our wrongdoings and mistakes. HaShem gives us the apportunity to do Teshuvah.

HaShem also send us these challenges as a wake- up call, when we find ourselves on the wrong path and motivate us to question our choices in life. The gemara tells us that if something really negative happens to us, our first reaction would be to find out what we could change about ourselves, which area we have to work on and gives us the apportunity to reconnect to HaShem and live a more spiritual and purposeful life.

The Rambam explains that the purpose of a challenge is to push us even further to reach our koach into po'al. HaShem already knows exactly who we are and what we can achieve to become the best version of ourself in fulfilling our mission He has given us.

The Mishnah tells that Avraham received ten tests and he persevered and overcame all of them. HaShem already knew Avraham could past these tests, so why did HaShem felt the need to put Avraham to these test? Each test that Avraham overcame was another step into his journey towards perfection.

How do we face our challenges, how do we suppose to act during moments of pain and disstress?When we are in pain, whether this physical or emotional and even spiritual, we daven and beg HaShem with all our heart and soul, to make this pain go away and imagine how life would be without suffering. When we do whatever it takes to deal with the pain and when we think that we can't take it anymore, as the strenght and hope are fading, the pain begins to ease.

When we are in pain we should use the pain, to push ourselves to the maximum we are capable of handling. Growth happens only when we face the challenge and resist the pressure. There is simply no growth in the comfort zone. Growth means learning by taking on this challenge and push ourselves, as HaShem may try to help us by challenging us to grow

At this moment you are the person you are, because of all the challenges you faced and overcame and we learn to welcome our challenges, and we could also achieve greatness in this world. As we push our physical, emotional and mental blocks and being aware of what we are about to take on, the big steps to make, we must put our complete trust in HaShem. With our eyes closed and emunah, we find ourselves on our path in partnering with HaShem to reveal His presence to the world. To do this we need to be ready, be strong and inspire others, just like Yaakov did.

Parsha Vayishlach - Rabbi Moshe Weiss, spiritual leader at Chabad of Sherman Oaks.

Parsha Vayeshev

Collective responsibility.

By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

 

Parsha Vayishlach contains a shocking incident. Dina, Yaakov’s daughter, is abducted and raped by Shechem, the son of the local town’s ruler. Her brothers are incensed and demand justice. Shechem then asks for permission to marry Dina and in an act of subterfuge, Yaakov’s sons agree to the marriage and strike a deal, saying that first all the males of the town of Shechem must be circumcised.

 

Once the men are weakened by the pain of their circumcisions, Dina’s brothers, Shimon and Levi, carry out a brutal revenge by killing every male in the town. Yaakov reproaches his sons, and fears retaliation from neighbouring communities. However, Shimon and Levi justify their actions, arguing that their sister should not be treated so sickeningly.

 

The Torah, unusually, includes authorial comments emphasising the moral gravity of the situation. It articulates the grief and anger of Yaakov’s sons upon learning of their sister’s ordeal, and their internal justification in punishing the city for her defilement. But was this enough of a justification?

 

Years later, on his deathbed, Yaakov curses Shimon and Levi for their violence and recklessness, foretelling their dispersion in Israel. This act by Yaakov presents a stark contrast to the earlier justification of their actions.

 

This narrative sparked a debate between two prominent Jewish scholars: Rambam and Ramban. The Rambam, in his Mishnah Torah, argues that the people of Shechem were collectively responsible for failing to bring their prince to justice for his crime against Dina. After all, the Noahide laws demand the establishment of legal courts by Gentiles to enforce justice. According to the Rambam, the entire town was complicit in this violation.

 

The Ramban offers a counter-argument. He posits that while the Noahide laws obligate establishing justice systems, they do not imply collective responsibility or warrant death for failing to implement these laws. Indeed, he questions why Yaakov would condemn his sons if their actions were justified. This debate highlights the unresolved nature of collective responsibility and justice in Jewish law and theology. While Jewish law advocates for collective responsibility among Jews, the question arises whether this principle extends beyond Jewish law to all societies, as the Rambam suggests. To what extent are individuals responsible for the establishment of a fair judicial system in their towns?

 

According to the Talmud, one who can prevent sin in their household, community, or the world but fails to do so is morally culpable. Rabbi Sacks adds that the human courts of law can only punish the one who has acted, but God can choose to also hold to account any bystanders who permitted a preventable evil to take place.

 

This dovetails with the horrible events of the Holocaust. Philosopher Karl Jaspers, when considering the guilt of the German populace, terms the guilt of bystanders as ‘metaphysical guilt’. In other words, ‘guilty in a way not adequately conceivable either legally, politically or morally.’

 

If this is the case, Shimon and Levi’s actions cannot escape moral condemnation either. Despite the guilt of Shechem, the brothers were wrong to execute justice by killing all the males, and Yaakov is right in condemning them. Yeshayahu Leibowitz, a noted Israeli moralist, suggests that some actions, even if vindicated, can still be morally reprehensible. Rabbi Sacks concludes that it is critical to distinguish between collective responsibility and collective punishment. While the former is a moral imperative for all of us, the latter, as exemplified by the actions of Shimon and Levi, is far more ethically fraught. This parsha serves as a powerful exploration of justice, morality, and the complexities of collective ownership.

Parsha Miketz

Yosef who spend two years in a Egyptian prison, finds himself at the end of his period having to explain the Pharaoh's dream. The pharao dreamt about seven lean cows, seven healthy cows and seven thin cows. Troubled by his dreams, he turns to his advisers, but he not satisfied with their interpretation, one of them them remembers Yosef and his ability to interpret dreams and he mentioned him to the Pharaoh. It was at the Kings command , that Yosef was taken from the dungeon to the palace, where the Pharaoh tells Yosef about his dream. Yosef explaines to the Pharaoh that his dream are divinely inspired visions. Telling that seven of plenty to be followed by seven famine, but Yosef suggest that the Pharaoh appoint a wise man to supervise the storage of the provision during the years of abundance as a reserve for the years of famine.

The Pharaoh was so impressed with Yosef inrerpretation, that he made him second in command over Egypt, with the responsibilities for the food  during the years of plenty and the distribution of the provision during the years of famine.

 

In Parsha Miketz, there is also the story that connects Yosef to Chanukah and this is no coincidence. The obvious connection is between Yosef and the Greeks. Yosef is the only male in Torah who is been spoken of as beautiful. In Pasha Noach, Noach blesses his two sons, " yaft Elokim l'Yefes, v' yishkon b'ohalei Shem. Yefes is the ancestor of the Greeks, and Shem the ancestor of the Jews.

It seems to paint a beautiful picture, which fitting into the boundries of Judaism, but the Chanukah story tells a different story, a very negative and harmful relationship between the Jews and the Greeks.

The concept of beauty was a fundamental point of the battle between the Jewish people and the Greeks as the Greeks did not believe in using beauty to reflect anything higher, they viewed physical beauty as a end to itself. The focus was only external to them and was just physical perfection, which was detached from something deeper. For the Greeks, true Godliness is competition of physical and intellectual perfection. This is why the Greeks come from Yefes, which means beauty. The Greeks could had a very harmonized relationship with the Jews, by joining the physical with spiritual. Instead they chose to corrupt the beauty and disconnect themselves from spirituality.

Yosef is connected to Chanukah because he represents the harmony between the spiritual and the physical, with this he reflect something much higher.  This is why the Torah calls Yosef beautiful, is because is physical body projected something infinitely deeper than itself. The name that Pharao gave him, Tzafnas Paneiach,  which means " reveal the hidden". A name reflects the inner essence and Yosef's middah was trully beautiful.

Yosef had the ability to shine from the inside out and the hidden light of Chanukah, the light that lights up the truth, helping us to see what really lies beneath the surface. Beauty has a much deeper meaning than how a person looks, a beautiful person in life of oneness with all the aspects of who we are, with our thoughts, our words and our actions reflects an higher purpose, a higher source in a higher reality. This all is Yosef and this is also the light of Chanukah.

Parsha Vayigash

This summery of Parsha Vayigash  is part of Covenant & Conversation  שיג ושיח

By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

 

 

Vayigash, meaning “And he came close.” This is the context for when Yehuda approaches the second-in-command of Egypt, saying, “Pardon your servant, my lord, let me speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself.” Of course, unbeknownst to Yehuda, he’s actually speaking to his brother Yosef! But Yehuda’s act of coming close – of being vulnerable in that way – melts through Yosef’s emotional defences, leading him to reveal his identity: “I am Yosef! Is my father still alive?”

This theme of Vayigash is highlighted by its contrast to the earlier moment when Yosef’s brothers, seeing him from a distance, plotted against him. Instead of seeing his face, it’s as if they saw only his ornate cloak, which symbolised their father’s favouritism. This distance lead them to treat Yosef not as a brother but as a symbol, an object of envy and hate. The tragedy of Yosef and his brothers is rooted in this distance.

When Yehuda comes close to Yosef – vayigash – the coldness thaws, and they become brothers again, not strangers. This demonstrates the delicate tension between too much distance, which leads to a metaphorical freezing, and too much closeness, which can cause injury. Somewhere in this dichotomy, we need to find a balance.

The story of Yaakov and Eisav reflects a similar pattern. In the beginning, Yaakov’s proximity to Eisav leads to conflict and insult. After 22 years of separation, they finally reunite, and their relationship is healed, leading Eisav to embrace Yaakov as a brother and friend.

The Torah suggests a solution to this complex dynamic: first separate, then join. This principle is evident from the Creation story in Bereishit, where God separates light from darkness, water from dry land, and so forth. Separation is at the heart of Jewish law – distinguishing between holy and unholy, pure and impure, permitted and forbidden. In Judaism, kadosh, or holy, signifies separation. To sanctify is to separate. Separation creates order, defeats chaos, and gives everything and everyone their space. Once we take a step back and see more clearly, we can respect our differences. Then we can join without causing harm.

The ceremony of havdallah at the end of Shabbat, especially the havdallah candle, symbolises this concept as well. Multiple wicks must join together to create a havdallah flame, demonstrating how distinct entities can unite harmoniously. This principle applies to many types of relationships as well – between husband and wife, parent and child, and siblings.

The balance between closeness and distance is a delicate one. The Torah’s narrative of Yosef and his brothers, along with the broader themes of separation and closeness, provide profound insights into managing relationships. Whether in familial bonds, friendships, or broader social and cultural contexts, understanding and navigating this balance is key to building healthy, respectful, and fulfilling relationships.

Parsha Vayechi

Rising to leadership in Parsha Vayechi and a hidden struggle beneath the surface of Yosef's story as, unknowingly, each of Yaakov's sons strive for a prize of overwelming responsibility and unlimited value.

By the time the narrative reaches a conclusion,a fundamenental question is answered: Who, from among the sons of Yaakov, will rise to leadership within the Jewish nation?

There are three possible candidates, each a complex figure with strong positive achievements.

1. Reuven - firstborn to Yaakov; leadership role is Reuvem's birthright and, his to lose. He, alone among the brothers, attempts  to save Yosef and return him to his father's home.

2. Yosef- a born leader; Yosef rises to the top of any environment in which he find himself. He becomes a powetful figure who is able to manipulate circumstances and the behavior of others in order to achieve his goals.

3. Yehuda- powerful and persuasive; Yehuda convinces his brothers to sell Yosef into slavery, rather than allow him to perish in the pit. Yehuda rises to protect his youngest brother, Binyamin, when Bimyamin is threatened by Yosef with imprisoment.

When Yaakov blesses his sons from his deathbed in Parsha Vayechi, the patriarch clearly indicates HaShem's verdict. Yehuda is to be  the progenitor of leadership within the people of Israel, " The scepter shall not pass from Yehuda nor legislation from among his descendents until the Moshiach arrives and his will be a gathering of nations." 

" Leadership is yours and will continue, across ages, among young descendents. Your wrenching personal journey has earned you his honor and responsibilty ."

During his journey towards responsibilty, Yehuda makes a powerful use of one of the most delightful words in the Hebrew language; " Anochi e'ervenu ", he says, as he convinces his father to allow Binyamin to travel to Mitzrayim, " I will personally guarantee him."

When Yehuda " guarantees" Binyamin's safety, he declares his connection to his brother. " We are bound together, " he effectively argues, " with a tie that cannot be broken."

Similary, the Rabbinical proclamation " Kol Yisroel areivim zeh ba' zeh."  usually translate to " All witin Israel are responsible one for the other," actuall means much more. On a deeper level, the phrase indicates that we are inseparably bound to one another, connected with heart and soul.

Yehuda introduces the concept of  areivus into Jewish history. He rises to leadership when he truly grasps the ties that bind the family of Israel, ties which join us to each other to this day.

Parsha Shemos

The book of Shemos continues,  where Beresheis  leaves off, and introduces us to Moshe Rabbeinu, our great leader that ever lived and leading the Jewish people out of Mitzrayim, receiving the Torah at Har Sinai from HaShem.

 

Moshe an Jewish male infant, born to the parents of the tribe Levi, Yocheved and Amram, was hidden by his parent to prevent their baby boy from being killed by decreed of the Pharaoh. When they no longer could garantee his safety, they placed their son in a basket and released it unto the surface of the river Nile. While his older sister Miriam was watching over him from alongside the riverbanks.

 

When the baby boy was discovered by Batya, the daughter of the Pharaoh, she knew he was a Jewish baby, but was determined to raise him as her own son and named him Moshe. Miriam who was watching, approaches Batya and suggested a wet- nurse for the baby, and Moshe once again cared for by his own mother.

 

After years of living in the palace of the Pharaoh, Moshe witnessed one day the enslavedment and the beating of a Jewish slave, by the Egyptian taskmaster and came to the defence of the victim by slaying the taskmaster and hiding his body in the sand. Realizing the retribution of the Pharaoh, he flees to Midian where he meets and marries Tzipporah, the daughter of Yitro, a Midianite priest.

 

Moshe remains in Midian with Yitro, serving as a shephard of his father in-law's flocks. One day, as he is performing his duties, Moshe is drawn to this burning bush, which is miraculously not on fire. When he goes over a examine this bush, HaShem spreaks to him from the burning bush and tells Moshe to return to Mitzrayim and leading the Jewish people to freedom. Overruling Moshe's repeated objections concerning his own worthiness for leadership, HaShem appoints Moshe's older brother Aharon, to serve as Moshe's partner and spokesman.

 

Moshe begins the return journey to Mitzrayim, together with his wife Tzipporah and two sons, Gerhom and Eliezer. Somwhere along the way, HaShem suddenly threatens Moshe with death. Tzipporah seems to understand the threat and circumcices their younger son Eliezer, and the danger passes.

 

Moshe arrives in Mitzrayim and, together with Aharon, gathers the elders and informs them of their people awaiting redemption. Moshe and Aharon then stand before the Paraoh and, as HaShem had instructed at the burning bush, they ask the Pharaoh to alllow the Jewish people to leave Mitzrayim for a three- day period to worship their G-d. Pharaoh refuses and increases the burden of labor upon the Jewish people.

 

Moshe turns to HaShem in frustration and questioned his mission to Mitzrayim. HaShem is then promising  that Moshe will now see the Exodus begins to unfold.

 

Moshe fasted for forty days and nights,beyond human boundaries and limitations, he reached the level of nevuach. And yet, the Rambam says something astonishing and states that everyone is capable of becoming a Tzaddik like Moshe Rabbeinu. How is this possible for us to reach this potential to become a great leader like Moshe? What does the Rambam mean by his statement?

 

When we put this question in another context, of our experience as a fetus in the womb. The Gemara tells us that before we are born, we are forced to take a shevuah, that we will become a Tzaddik. As an oath is a promis which we must keep as a garantee. Could this become a problem? How do we keep this promis? Are we all to be cut out to be a Tzaddik? 

 

The Gemara discusses the journey of the fetus in the womb, while we are in the womb, a malach taught us kol HaTorah kulah, meaning we been taught the whole Torah. The Vilna Gaon explains that to deepest realm of Torah that lies far beyond this world, in time and space. That the Torah is the root of reality, and were we had complete understanding of every level of the Torah, but not only that, we also learned what our individual specific share of Torah, our unique purpose in the world and our personal role which fits into a larger story of humanity as a whole.

 

We been shown perfection, of what we are capable off, what we could achieve and should become. When we came into the physical world with a mission to become everything we been shown in the womb, that was while we were still in a state of perfection.

 

Each and everyone one of us with our own unique potential, in detail to help us to fulfill this role. There are many people not very happy with life and comparing their lives with others, finding reasons to complain. We shouldn't compare or complain, but understand that we are unique, and our purpose specially designed for us, which should give us much more joy in life. Everything in life is there to help us, to make us grow. It is not to become great, its to become you, which makes you great.

 

Becoming a Tzaddik like Moshe Rabbeinu,means living your truth and bringing your potential to a higher realm. When we made this shevuah to become a Tzaddik, we promis to fulfill our unique role in this world. Just as Moshe fulfilled his unique potential, which made him a great leader and aTzaddik.

This video gives an interesting insight into Parsha Shemos ~ By Sweet & Good Torah.

Parsha Va'eira

Va'eira begins with words that fundamentally changed how people think about history, in that they give birth to the very idea of history. God says to Moshe, “I am Hashem. I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov as E-l Shaddai, but by My Name ‘Hashem’ I did not make Myself fully known to them” (Shemot 6:1-2). This statement implies that God is revealing Himself in a way He has not done before.

 

Rashi clarifies that this does not mean the avot were unaware of the name ‘Hashem’. Indeed, God’s first words to Avraham used this very name, and soon after, in Bereishit 12:7-8, we read “Vaera Hashem el Avram” that God appeared to Avram as ‘Hashem’ and was addressed as such. The revelation to Moshe represents something different than just a new name.

 

In Bereishit, G-d manifests as the G-d of creation and nature, known in various forms like Elokim or E-l Shaddai. This aspect is familiar in the ancient world, albeit worshipped through the idea of multiple g-ds each with a different role – the g-ds of the rain, the sun, the harvest, and so on. The G-d of Avraham differs deeply from these false g-ds but operates in a similar domain.

 

However, the aspect of HaShem hat appears to Moshe is radically different. For the first time, HaShem involves Himself in history not through natural disasters (like the Flood), but by moulding and directing an entire nation. For the first time, HaShem was to shape the destiny of entire peoples, liberating the Jews from slavery, leading them into the desert, and building a new society based on justice, welfare, and law.

 

This intervention initiated a new kind of drama and introduced a novel concept of time. Some historians regard this as the moment ‘history’ as a concept was born. Previously, human drama was about maintaining order against chaos, with religion representing the inevitability of the status quo. Time is static, events are cyclical, and nothing fundamentally changes. But now, with HaShem's revelation to Moshe, something utterly new is about to occur. A new nation, a new faith, a new political order, and a new type of society are about to emerge. HAshem is entering history, setting the West on a new trajectory.

 

Time is now a stage for HaShem and humanity’s joint journey toward a future where all humans can achieve their full dignity in HaShem's image. Religion is transformed from a conservative force to an evolutionary and even revolutionary one.

 

Long before the West, Chinese civilisation had invented numerous technologies but did not develop a scientific or industrial revolution, a market economy, or a free society. Historian Christopher Dawson argues that it was the religion of the West that made the difference. Europe was continually transformed by “spiritual unrest,” with its religious ideal centred not on changeless perfection, but a spiritual striving to change the world.

 

To change the world. That is the key phrase. It’s the idea that, together with God, we can change the world. We can make history, not just be made by it. This is the idea that was born when HaShem told Moshe that he and his contemporaries were about to see an aspect of G-d no one had ever seen before.

 

As Rabbi Sacks says, it’s a spine-tingling moment when, each year, we read Vaera and recall the moment history was born, the moment HaShem entered history and taught us for all time that slavery, oppression, and injustice are not written into the fabric of the cosmos or engraved into the human condition. Things can be different because we can be different, because HaShem has shown us how.

Parsha Bo

The redemption from Mitzrayim in this Parsha  gives a certain excitement as the redemption from Mitzrayim will continue until Yemos HaMoshiach.

 

Mitzrayim is just more than a place, a country, as Kabbalah explains the meaning of Mitzrayim, " meitzer " which means " boundary "  and  " Yum " means sea. Yum has a  gematria of 50,  " The fifty Gates of Understanding " and the basis of Torah, of true wisdom.

 

Mitzrayim also stands for any society that restricts the Light of HaShem. Any society that lives contrary to Torah, values a " Mitzrayim " in their time.

 

Leaving " Mitzrayim " means managing our own yetzer hara. On the nations level the Pharaoh was the yetzer hara. If a person overcome his/ her yetzer hara at a time of tests, it means challenging a spiritual weakness to leave his/ her personal Mitzrayim.

 

Apart from the redemption, the Parsha gives many more exciting moments. Following the splitting of the Yam Suf- Red sea  and the drowing of the Egyptian which was inevitable.

 

The great hand of HaShem inflicted the ten plagues upon Mitzrayim, until the Pharaoh finally gave in and told Moshe and Aharon to take their people and leave.

 

The Jewish people were in a hurry to leave Mitzrayim. There wasn't even enough time to let the dough rise, which took around two to three hours.

Why the rush?

Didn't they witness time and again that the Pharaoh changed his mind?  Would the Pharaoh really stop the Jewish people from leaving, after suffering 10 devasting plagues? Almost being wiped out on all levels of existence, wanting even more trouble?

The Pharaoh was completely broken, as he lost his son in the final plague, but....

Their hurry wasn't in vain, at the moment the Jewish people arrived at Yam Suf, they realized they were trapped, with the Egyptians coming closer and many of them were thinking of turning back to slavery in Mitzrayim as it seems better than being dead. But instead the moment of Exodus arrived, and there was the opportunity.

Did they not grasp the opportunity with both hands at that very moment, they would have delayed the experience, but they did take the opportunity.

In our lives, we should take advantage of every opportunity, studying Torah, spend time in Shul, giving Tzedakah, Chesed, an extra Mitzvah. When our redemption is there, we should grasp the moment, just like our ancestors did. As this is the final redemption.

Thoughts to ponder..

Let me tell you the story about a Jewish optician.

 

1930, a Jewish optician who lives in Berlin. Noticing the events taking place around him, he decides to emigrate to Israel. To inform his patients of his departure, he places a sign outside his office: " For all of you are nearsighted, there is a doctor around the corner. For all of you who are farsighted, follow me ."

 

While the story is poignant, it is also, of course, simplistic. How can we judge, from the safety of our own environment, the issues that must have confronted the Jewish community of Europe in the years leading up to World War 2? 

 

Would  we have believed, had we been there, that countries such as Germany, representing the height of civilization at the time,could possibly commit the unspeakable atrocities that were to come? 

 

Are we so certain that, ensconced comfortably in homes that had been ours for decades, we would have been able to pick up and leave?

 

And yet...the fact remains. Had we been more intuitive, had we listened to what was being said by the Nazis, had we mobilized in the fact of impending danger~ who knows how many would have been saved?

 

We must also ask ourselves : Are we better equipped today? Would we see the danger signs looming on the horizon of our own exiles in time to make a difference? Are some of those signs already appearing?

 

Are we sensitive not only to the open physical threats against us but also to the subliminal philosophical dangers that often lie beneath our radar screen?

 

Have we, without even noticing, begun to worship the society gods around us? 

 

We would do well to keep the image of the first Pesach table before us as we continue our travels. The lessons learned around it continue to inform our journey to this day.

 

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, Jerusalem

Parsha Beshalach

In this Pasha HaShem led the Jewish people via a longer route out of Mitzrayim to avoid a confrontation with the Philistines.

But before they set out on their journey, Moshe fulfills a centuries old promise, a vow that they made by ensuring to take the remains of Yosef and carry them out of Mitzrayim when they leave.

Throughout the whole journey the Jewish people are under a divinely cloud of Glory during daytime and at night time by a pillar of fire.

As they continue their journey, HaShem tells the Jewish people to backtrack towards Mitzrayim and He informs Moshe that the Pharaoh will pursue the Jewish people, however, this will ultimately lead to even further glorification of HaShem.

When the Pharaoh was informed that the Jewish people had left Mitzrayim, he again experiences the divinely predicted change of heart. The Pharaoh and his men set out to pursue the departing slaves to the banks of Yam Suf.

The Jewish people were trapped by the sea and on either side high cliffs, and behind them Pharaoh's men fast approching, they turn in despair to Moshe. 

Moshe said to the Jewish people : "Do not fear! " and he assures them that they are about to experience divine redemption as HaShem is fighting on behalf of them, Moshe told to be silent and to pray for their downfall. 

HaShem tells Moshe to say to the Jewish people to move towards the sea and that he, Moshe, has to raise his staff over the sea, which will causing the sea to split.

As Moshe said: 'HaShem will fight for you and you shall be silent " HaShem said to Moshe: " Why do you cry out to Me? Speak to the children of Israel and have them journey forth! "

When Moshe was engaging in a long prayer. HaShem  said to him: " My dear ones are about to drown in the sea and you are engaging in prayer? " Moshe asks HaShem what he should do and HaShem responded: " Speak to the children of Israel and have them journey forth. " Tell the people to arm themselves with faith and move forward into the sea.

When Moshe complies and raises his staff, the waters of Yam Suf miraculously part, allowing the Jewish people to cross safetly. HaShem closes the water upon the pursuing Egyptians and they drown in the sea.

 

And the Jewish people went on dry land in midst of the sea and the water was a wall for them, on the right and on their left.

 

Moshe and Miriam  called on the Jewish people mark their redemption from Mitzrayim with singing and dancing on the banks of Yam Suf. 

 

After a three- day journey, the Jewish people reach Marah, only to find out that the water was undrinkable bitter, and when the Jewish people complained, HaShem tells Moshe to throw a specific tree into the pool , another miracle occured, the water was drinkable.

As their journey continues, the people started to complain over the lack of food and starting to regret the fleshpots they left behind in Mitzrayim. HaShem respons was a daily ration of food. The miraculous  food which they called " manna "  will be provided by HaShem for next forty- years in the wildernis. HaShem issues the concerning  of the daily provision of the manna and the prohibition of gadering it on Shabbos. As on friday they can collect a dubbel portion, to prepare properly for Shabbos.

 

When the nation arrives at Refidim, they complained about the lack of water, HaShem tells Moshe to strike a spefic rock, and the water start flowing.

 

But then without warning Amelek attacks the Jewish people, and Moshe instructs Yehoshua to lead a strong oppostion in battle. Moshe himself goes to a higher grounds where in assistance of Aharon and Chur, and he  raises his arms in full view of the Jewish people and as long as Moshe's arms were raised, the nation prevailed. They came out victories from the battle. HaShem tells Moshe to record a mandate authorizing the everlasting struggle against the Amalekites, until HaShem erase their memory.

The Mitzvah to erase from our memory:

" And you shall wipe out the memory of  Amalek.."

Parsha Yisro

This summary is adapted from this weeks Parsha Covenant & Conversations essay

By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

 

Parshat Yitro records the revolutionary moment when G-d first enters into a mutually binding agreement with a nation, Bnei Yisrael, in a contract which we call a brit, a covenant.

 

Of course, Matan Torah is not the first brit in the Torah. G-d had already made one with all humanity through Noach, and another with Avraham. But those were not fully reciprocal. G-d did not ask for Noach’s agreement, nor for Avraham’s. The brit at Har Sinai was different. For the first time, G-d ensured the covenant was entirely mutual and fully accepted by Bnei Yisrael.

 

The point is important. G-d wants to rule by right, not might. He brought enslaved people to liberty, and He seeks the free worship of free human beings. The Sinai Covenant needed the people’s agreement.

 

What is interesting is the exact wording in which the Israelites give their consent. They do so three times, first before the Revelation at Har Sinai, and then twice afterwards, in the parsha of Mishpatim.

 

There is a subtle difference between the three recitations of Na’aseh Venishma. In two cases, the people say “We will do all that G-d says.” In the third, the double verb is used: na’aseh ve-nishma. “We will do, and we will hear (or obey, or understand).” Now notice that there is another difference. In the first two cases, there is a clear emphasis on the unity of the people. Both phrases are very striking. The first time, we are told that all the people answered as one. The second time, the people all responded with a single voice. In a book that emphasises how prone to disagreement the people were, such declarations of unanimity are significant and rare. But the third verse, which mentions na’aseh venishma, both doing and listening, contains no such statement. It simply says: They replied. This time there is no emphasis on the people speaking in unison.

 

Here, we have a biblical comment on one of the most striking features of all in Judaism: the difference between deed and creed, asiyah and shemiyah, and doing and understanding.

 

Judaism is about a community of action. It is about the way people interact in their dealings with one another. It is about bringing G-d into the shared spaces of our collective life. Just as we know G-d through what He does, so G-d asks us to bring Him into what we do. In the beginning was the deed. That is why Judaism is a religion of law, because law is the architecture of behaviour.

 

When it comes, however, to belief, creed, doctrine, all the things that depend on shemiyah rather than asiyah, understanding rather than action: on this Judaism does not call for unanimity. Not because Judaism lacks beliefs. On the contrary, Judaism is what it is precisely because of our beliefs, most importantly the belief in monotheism, that there is, at least and at most, one G-d. Judaism has a robust set of beliefs, but it is not a community based on unanimity; instead, it is about the way we understand and interpret those beliefs. Judaism recognises that intellectually and temperamentally we are different. Judaism has had its rationalists and its mystics, its philosophers and poets, its naturalists and supernaturalists. Na’aseh, we act in the same way, but nishma, we understand each in our own way. That is the difference between the way we serve G-d collectively and the way we understand G-d individually.

 

It is fascinating that this well-known feature of Judaism is already being signalled in the Torah: in the difference between the way it speaks about na’aseh, “as one,” “with a single voice,” and nishma, with no special collective consensus.

 

Our acts, our na’aseh, are public. Our thoughts, our nishma, are private. That is how we come to serve God together, yet relate to Him individually, in the uniqueness of our being.

The Call of Matan Torah

The Revelation at Har Sinai, is among the most major defining events in our entire history, and that of the world is the Revelation at Har Sinai, where HaShem have given us the Matan Torah. The Torah reminds us constantly to remember this, it is preserved in our consciousness to tell our children.

Only guard yourself and protect your soul greatly, lest you forget the things that your eyes saw and lest you remove them from your heart all the days of your life, and make them known to your children and your children's children~ the day you stood before HaShem, you G-d, at Chorev."

 

What was the goal of the revelation, if it was simply to give us certain commandments and Moshe in the role of transmitting the rest of the  Torah's commandments, why could He not have done that with the ten commandments as well?

 

Moshe was HaShem's emissary and for him to communicate the Mitzvos from HaShem to the Jewish people, was only possible after HaShem had assigned Moshe this role. It was a confirmation of the fact that the Revelation took place at Har Sinai.

HaShem appeard to the Jewish people and they witnessed His communication with Moshe and his status as HaShem's emissary bij transmitting the Torah.

Rambam explains that the role of Har Sinai in providing the Jewish people a solid basis for their faith for all following generations. The Torah discribed that the people were in a state of trauma as a result of hearing HaShem speak to them directly, and therefore Moshe was approached and asked to speak to them. Moshe spoke to Jewish people:

אל תיראז, בי לבעבור נםות אתבם בא האלקים ~ Do not fear, for it was in order to test you that G-d came.

 

What was the nature of the text, the Revelation at Har Sinai?  Rambam explains:

"For it was in order to test you." As if to say, HaShem appeared to you in this manner so that you would be able to withstand any subsequent tests to your faith that may befall you in the End of Days, that your heart will not swerve and you will not err. "

The Revelation at Har Sinai at the basis of our faith can be understood at a deeper level. Chazal informs us that the Revelation was witnessed not only by the Jewish people of that generation but also by the souls of future generstions. Meaning relating to Har Sinai as the basis for our faith, doesn't only exists as a historical claim for the future generations to recognize this on a intellectual level, but also an event from a experiental level.

 

In truth the meaning goes beyond the Revelation, providing a basis for authentication of the Torah. One of the most crucial ideas is that the Torah doesn't merely represent HaShem's instructions how we are to lead our lives, but more on a basis for a relationship with Him.

 

Through performing the Mitzvos, we elevate ourselves, and ultimately the world as well to a state of G-dliness and attach ourselves to HaShem. We do not anticipate an encounter with HaShem on a daily basis, however, the Mitzvos that we fulfill takes on a deeper meaning when seen as an act that maintain and develop the connection that began with the Divine Revelation at Har Sinai.

The fact is that the encounter with HaShem at Har Sinai not only was the beginning of the relationship, to a certain degree it also enabled it. The Divine program of Mitzvos comes from a transcendant realm and calls for an elevated way of living in the physical world and being compatible with this program. The Ramchal: " The Jewish people heard the Commandments, included in which is the entire Torah, and it became attached to them. "

" And it became to attached to them" meaning that the experience of hearing  Aseres HaDibros directly from HaShem established the connection between the Torah and the Jewish people.

 

Our relationship with the Revelation at Har Sinai is not only a historical event, but rather our fundamental approach to Mitzvos as well as our connection with HaShem, which accompany us continually in our existence as HaShem's nation.

 

Distant from Har Sinai, we too, must decide whether or not listen to Matan Torah's eternal call, we must determine to what extent we will truly be part of our people's ongoing journey from Revelation to the End of Days.

Parsha Mishpatim

A wrong note in a perfect symphony. 

Torah laws are studied in order to live a Jewish way of life and this Parsha is dedicated to learning our laws, Mishpatim teaches the rules of Torah, like the law of slavery, concerning eved Ivri and ama Ivri  (male and female Hebrew servants )

While this Parsha is so powerlful, it is at the same time unsettling. How can the Torah condone slavery of any kind? Is it not so that HaShem fundamentally favors freedom for all mankind?

Were the Jewish people giving redemption from Mitzrayim only to become an enslaver?

And yet, the Torah states over and over again that slavery/ Exodus experience, is meant to create a nation sensitive to the vulnerability and pain of others.

Why does the Torah specifically opens the discussion servitude laws in this Parsha? And why does Mishpatim changes from the powerful drama of the Revelation into the solitude substance of Halacha?

The Torah approache seems to compare the penalty system, more often than not the criminal turns into an even better criminal than before. By directly applying the value of the thief's labor towards the remediation of the effect of his own crime, by punishing him with the loss of his freedom, by placing the thief into a functioning household meant to succesfully change their behavior, the Torah optimizes the chances for rehabilitation.

The succes of the eved Ivri remains dependent upon the goodwill of the family as well as on the eved Ivri. Now we can understand the laws of eved Ivri and ama Ivri, which has basically nothing to do with slavery.

The measures of society by care which it shows towards its citizens, by its trust and doing what necessary. The Torah changes from the drama of the Revelation to the concrete and practical obligations of Halacha, as with the laws of servitude.

 

Overwehelmingly and difficult topic  raises another issue of further discussion. Our tradition maintains both the divine origin and eternal relevance of the Torah. The Torah is HaShem's word and designed to be relevant to all times and places.

At the same time, we cannot deny that the Torah was revealed to a specific people of a specific time. HaShem spoke to the Jewish people witin context of their time as He laid out His eternal covenant.

When we look back, millenia later, where do we draw the line? Can the issue of context be raised without undermining the eternal nature of the Torah ? In major Halachic work, the Mishneh Torah refers to korbanot as edicts of HaShem which cannot be understood. Midrash states, that the karbanot were decreed because " You cannot take a people from one extreme to the other."

The Jewish people were involved in a culture and in a world, were communication with HaShem was only possible through sacrifical rites. HaShem mandates sacrifices within the Torah so that His people will be able to relate to Him.

The practice of studying and quoting passages out of context, is common these days, and not only among those who seek to attack the divine words of the Torah, but even among  those who claim to respect it. True Torah study means each phrase of the Torah must be analyzed with other sources in the written text and related Oral Law. Only a complete, comprehensive study of Torah reveals the dept and meaning of the Torah text.

Parsha Mishpatim returns towards the end back to the spiritual Revelation of Har Sinai. HaShem commands Moshe to go up mountain, together with Aharon and Aharon's two oldest son's Nadav and Avihu and seventy elders from among the nation. But before Moshe goes up the mountain, he informs the people of HaShem's instructions and laws and receives their approval, writes down HaShem's word, built a altar and twelve pillars- which represents the twelve tribes- at the foot of Har Sinai and instructs the youth from among the nation to offer sacrifice, reads the Book of Covenant to the nation and says, "Everything that G-d has spoken we will do and we wil hear, " and with these words he symbolically seals a covenant between HaShem and the Jewish people.

With different approaches to the events towards the end of Parsha Mishpatim. The Halachic precept says:

' Elilu v'eilu divrei Elokim chaim "  

" These and these are the words of the living G-d " applies within the interpretive realm.

One day, HaShem will reveal to us exactly what really happened on those memorial days as the Jewish people stood at the foot of Har Sinai. Until then, we are meant learning by turning the Torah text as many times, to create as many possibilities.

The Rebbe dedicated on of his Slichos to the 12th annual gathering of Alumni of Machon Chana.

Shabbos Mevarchim Adar, at the reading of Parsha Mishpatim.

Parsha Teruma

In Parsha Teruma HaShem lays the next faundation of Jewish Tought at Har Sinai, as He turns His focus from law to sanctuary.

At the beginning of this Parsha HaShem tells Moshe to collect various materials  for the creation of the Mishkan, a portable sanctuary in the desert.

With the commandment " And they shall make for Me a holy place, and I will dwell within them "  with this HaShem makes plans for the contruction of the Mishkan.

Why does HaShem command  that the Mishkan is to be built ?

HaShem Who can be worshiped anywhere and at anytime. If HaShem is omnipresent, why does he need this one place? This is the oppersite of the truth.

There been so many approaches, some revolutionary, some suggested by our scholars, but still it is a struggle to unravel the mysteries in Judaism most everlasting and devouted symbols.

The crreation of the Mishkan is a divinely order in response to the sin of the egel hazahav. This possibility has been first suggested in the Midrash and later on adopted by numerous Sages and  scholars, including Rashi.

The Torah, introduces the Mishkan a full two and a half Parshios way before the narrative of the Golden calf. One other troubling issue raised concerning the Midrash approah to the Mishkan, if, the sin  of the golden calf was caused by the nation's lack of ability to relate to HaShem, then HaShem simply seems  to subsitude the Mishkan for the symbolism of the golden calf.  But in what way would this be benecial ?

 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explains this in  Building Builders 

 

Parsha Tetzaveh

Why is Moshe's name excluded from Parsha Tetzaveh?

The Torah creates, by all rights, that Moshe's name should appear, only to be excluded in the text on each occasion. For example " And the Lord said to Moshe speak to the children of Israel saying... unlike this familiar opening of the text, we find this opening "And you shall command the children of Israel ".

 

Could it be that excluding Moshe's name in Parsha Tetzaveh was of the dramatic encounter between Moshe and HaShem in the next Parsha Ki  Tissa? Or in the aftermath of the sin with the golden calf, when Moshe turns to the people and says " You have commited a grievious sin and now I will ascend to the Lord, perhaps I can atone for your sin."

Moshe then goes up Har Sinai where he confronts HaShem and declares, " I beseech you! The people have commited a grrievious sin and have create for themselves a god of gold. And now, if  You will forgive their sin and if not, erase me from your book which You have written! "  HaShem in respons to Moshe, " Whoever has sinned against Me, I shall erase from My book."

Your book You have written, Moshe is speaking about the Torah.

"If You will not forgive the Israelites, then count me out! Erase me from the enite Torah text! I no longer want to be part of Your unfolding divine plan.

HaShem makes clear to Moshe, that He has no intention of erasing Moshe from His book. But the word has been spoken, " the curse of a Sage ". Moshe has decreed his own fate and HaShem cannot ignore that decree. And therefore some of Moshe's name has to be erased.

HaShem, however, is emphatic and says, " Whoever has sinned against Me, I shall erase from My book." Moshe, inspite of all that has happened, you still miss the point. I will not accept intermediation or  substitude when it comes to personal responsability. You cannot atone for others. Those who have sinned must directly pay the price. We can understand  the connection between this event and the exclusion of Moshe's namen in  Parsha Tetzaveh.

 

The concept of Kahuna is introduced, as HaShem appointed Aharon as Kohen Gadol and his sons as Kohanim. They are to serve the people within the sanctuary and later on in Beis HaMikdash.

Why was Aharon chosen to be Kohen Gadol?  As we learned in previous studies, that Kohen Gadol was originally Moshe's to lose this  and he did loses this role during repeately having objections at the burning bush, this made HaShem angry and transfers the Kahuna from Moshe to Aharon.

 

Moshe reluctant accept the challenges of leadership, which would ultimately results in the limitations of this role. Moshe was never meant to serve permantly the role of Kohen Gadol. This role was temporarly and specific during the days of preparations for Aharon's inauguration into priesthood. 

During the seven- day period, Moshe performs the preparatory rituals relating to Aharon's son's. Therefore, he served only to usher his brother and his brothers son's into their role of priesthood. But the fundamental quedtion remains that Moshe was never meant to receive The Priesthood permanently. But why is Moshe denied this honor in favor of his brother?

 

The Ibn Ezra answer is simple and straightforward. Moshe' overwhelminly role as the leader, teacher and judge of the people, doesn't give him much time to perform the complex rituals of a Kohen Gadol.

 

The Maggid states that the role of the Kohen is to educate and to lead the people by example and be a role model for the nation. Moshe, towers over the people, often distant from their reality and that seems almost impossible to follow his example. HaShem, therefore, chooses Aharon a man of the people, an individual who relates to all, is to serve as the first Kohen Gadol. 

 

The Priestly garments,

 

HaShem outlines the garments in detail to be worn by Aharon as Kohen Gadol. After describing the garments to be worn by Aharon's son's, the Torah declares, 

And they shall be on Aharon and his son's when they enter the tent of meeting or when they approach the altar.. and they shall mot bear a sin and die, it shall be an eternal decree for him and his descendents after him."

 

Based on the Torah the bigdei kehuna  to be created " For glory and for splendor" and based on later Talmudic discussions, Rambam states in the Mishneh Torah, that he codifies the Law as prohibiting any imperfection at all in the Priestly garments, they must be new and beautiful, as the Torah states, " For glory and splendor." The service performed is null avoid and if any garment becomes soiled, they can't be cleaned or laundered, new garments must be worn.

 

Clothing is not only for protection against the cold, nor is it simply a fashion statement. It is  the first identifiable and essential symbol of  society. In our moral conscience, clothes sets us apart and the status we are reflecting in the way we dress ourselves. The fundamental purpose of clothes gives dignity. Therefore, the Kohenim is given garments " for glory and splendor. "

 

In Jewish tradition is one of the concepts which has fallen on hard times in many of our communities today is tznius and in particulier in fashion. When we raise the subject of tznius, it gives a feeling to young people of the old- world Shlelt and seems that this is not relevant anymore in todays world.

 

But nothing could be further from the truth, especially living  in a society where " everything goes " in dressing themselves. We need to reasses that issue of proper dressing ourselves and our children. When we dress, it mirrors our soul. We are emissaries in HaShem's world and therefore we should give it serious thought how to we are dressed every single day.

 

The drama in Jewish history coursing through the Torah, should never be far from our minds, as we study the Torah text. The Torah presents real stories, about real people who went through all sorts of emotions, weaknesses, failings but also the many successes and their strength.The heroes of the Torah are not divine, but their humanity makes them great and  enables us to learn from them. 

 

The partnership between Moshe and Aharon is perfect and powerful and so critical with the birth of the Jewish nation. Moshe and Aharon, so very different from each other, but in their succes they dependent upon their ability to compomise and to cooperate and even more importantly, their love and respect for each other. At the burning bush, when HaShem informs Moshe that his brother will his partner with him, and says,

"Behold, he is going out to meet you and when he sees you, he will rejoice in his heart."

HaShem feels the need to tell Moshe that Aharon will rejoice there meeting.

Only by recognizing the pitfalls and dangers in the  personal relationship of Moshe and Aharon, we can fully appreciate their shared mission. Their example sets a standard for all of us

Parsha Ki Tisa

HaShem presents Moshe with the two tablets, the ten Declarations. Meanwhile at the foot of Har Sinai, the Jewish people are getting restless with Moshe's absence. They turn to Aharon and they demand  him to rise up and make them gods who will go before them, for Moshe, who brought us out of Mitzrayim and we don't know what has become of him. Aharon then tells the people to give their golden earrings, wich he molded into the golden calf. He then says, " a festival for the Lord tomorrow." The Jewish people get up early the next morning to celebrate. Meanwhile HaShem informs Moshe, who was still on Har Sinai, of the sin  which has been perpetrated at the foot of Har Sinai. HaShem threatens the Jewish people with immediate extinction, but relenting only in response to Moshe's heartfeld pleas. Moshe goes down the mountain with the tablets, when he sees what is unfolding in the camp, he throws the tablets in anger, smashing them at the foot of Har Sinai. Moshe  burns the calf, grinds the remains into powder and sprinkeles it in water and forces the Jewish people to drink it and holds Aharon accountable for his involvement in the sin, and the Leviim, who didn't take part, to execute those most directly involved in this transgression.

 

The next morning Moshe goes back up Har Sinai in a attempt to secure atonement for the nation's sin. HaShem  tells Moshe of his intent to punish the surviving  perpetrators and want to strike each of these individuals down. HaShem, however, commands  Moshe  to lead the people to Canaan, but  His presence will not be any longer with the them.In His place, an angel, will lead the nation to its victory. When the people hear of HaShem's decision, the respond with mourning. With HaShem's presence no longer with them, Moshe sets up his own tent outside the Jewish encampment.

 

Moshe beseeches HaShem  to return his presence to the Jewish people and ask for understanding  of His ways. HaShem tells Moshe that He will reconcile with tbe nation but that Moshe only will be granted and indirect vision of the essence of Him.

 

HaShem commands Moshe to carve a second set of tablets to replace the first ones. On the new tablets HaShem's Will and once again the Ten Declarations. After carving the new tablets, Moshe goes down Har Sinai where he experiences, as HaShem had promised, an indirect encounter with the divine presence. Moshe again asksed and received reassurances that HaShem will continue the journey with His nation. HaShem commands Moshe the avoidance of idolatry upon entering Canaan and issues and additional  commandments, including the observance of the yearly festivals.

 

At HaShem's command, Moshe remains on Har Sinai for another forty days and fourty nights, to record and renew the covenant between HaShem and the Jewish people. At the end of the fourty day period, Moshe comes down from the mountain with a second set of tablets, his face supernaturally radiant from the encounter with HaShem.

 

Kofer Nefesh

HaShem commands Moshe to take an complete count of Jewish males, twenty years and older, through individual danation of a half shekel each. In dedication towards the communal offerings within the Mishkan. 

 

Each of the collected half shekel will serve as a Kofer Nefesh for each of the contributing Jewish men. By counting in this mannerr, the Torah continues that Moshe will enable the nation to avoid a plague.

 

The roost of this commandment reflects the desire of Holy One Blessed Be He, that the contribution in Jewish tradition is not a passive phenomenon. Simply " being there" does not earn you a place among the numbered Jewish people. In order to be counted as a member of the Jewish community, you must actively do something that " counts."

 

Careful that you don't want to give yourself an ayin hara! We do not count people directly these days, sometimes we are a little bit uncomfortable blithely speaking about good news, we always have this inbuilt fear when things are going too well. Although its understandable, given that within our tradition upon the potential dangers of an ayin hara, this mysterious force within our tradition, however maybe we misding the point..

 

The ultimate purpose of Jewish ritual and emunah is to shape the way we think and act. There is an ethical lesson embedded in our tradition, which we should not ignore.

To avoid an ayin hara we must not only superstitiously seek ways to escape its wrath, we must actively refrain from behavior that gives rise to this " Force " in the first place.

 

By judging ourselves and each other through standards more meaningful, by seeking harmony rather than bitterness among  those around us, we deny ayin hara the possibilty of developing.

Jewish thought and our overall spiritual health will keep ayin hara at bay and to do justly, in true love loyality, is to walk humbly with HaShem.

Parsha Vayakhel

Moshe gathers the nation in order to hear HaShem's commandments regarding the construction of the Mishkan.

Suddendly, however, Moshe declares the following commandment regarding Shabbos,

"Six days work may be done and the seventh day shall be a holy for you, a Shabbat, a day of complete rest for G-d, whoever does melacha ( work ) on that day shall be put to death. You shall kindle no fire in any of your dwelllings on the Shabbat day."

As it was clear at the beginning  of Parsha Vayakhel to gather the nation and give the construction of the Mishkan. So why does he abruptly changes to the commandments of Shabbos ?  While Shabbos is very important, why must it been mentioned, out of context, in this historical moment?

Apparently, Shabbos and the Mishkan are not isolated, in Parsha Ki Tisa, on Har Sinai, HaShem follows His commandments to Moshe regarding the construction of the Mishkan with the warning " However, you must observe My Shabbos " and introduces a serie of rules concerning  Shabbos. In  Vayikra, Shabbos and the Mishkan are again connected without further explanation, " My Shabbat you shall observe and My Sanctuary you shall revere- I am the Lord."

This repeated pairing of both Shabbos and the Mishkan, intentionally serves as a serie of Halachic observations. Rashi expresses the most immediate Halachic lesson learned, " Moshe introduced the commandments regarding the work of the Mishkan with the warning concerning Shabbos, that the work within the Mishkan does not to overthrow Shabbos.

Shabbos and the Mishkan represent two different realms of sanctification within Judaism,  sanctification of time, Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and the holidays, the Sanctification of  space, the Mishkan, Beis HaMikdash, Eretz Yisrael and Yerushalayim. Through observance of HaShem's Laws, we are challenged with the holiness in each domain.

The first mitzvah granted  the nation Kiddush HaChodesh, also sanctifucation of time.

What is the secret of Shabbos ? What is the ultimate purpose of this holy day? 

The answer lies witin the Laws which defines this day. Approaching Shabbos through Law is difficult to maintain. The Torah  does not clearly determent the term melacha, it refers to the Shabbos prohibitions. Melacha is defined as " work " and logically  the claim that work is prohibited on the day of rest.

Throughout the week our lives are controlled by our surroundings, like work, school and other responsubilities, technology and overwheminly being constant in contact, we feel out of control, time and energy. And then there is Shabbos.... a striking healthy balance between the mundane and the holy.

Shabbos teaches us how to recclaim our life in perspective.

Parsha Pekudei

On Jewish Character.

 

By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

 

Pekudei has sometimes been called “The Accountant’s Parsha” because that is how it begins, with the audited accounts of the money and materials donated to the Mishkan. It is the Torah’s way of teaching us the need for financial transparency.

But beneath the sometimes-dry surface lie two extraordinary stories, one told in last week’s parsha, the other the week before, teaching us something deep about Jewish nature that is still true today.

The first has to do with the Mishkan itself. God told Moshe to ask people to make contributions. From gold and silver to wood and precious stones. What was remarkable was the willingness with which they gave. They reached a point where they brought too much. Moshe had to tell them to stop! This is a new side of Bnei Yisrael. A generous and giving group, in contrast to the Bnei Yisrael we have become accustomed to seeing: argumentative, quarrelsome, and ungrateful. 

 

One parsha earlier, in Ki Tissa, we read a very different story. The people were anxious. Moshe had been up the mountain for a long time. Was he still alive? Had some accident happened to him? If so, how would the people receive the Divine word telling them what to do and where to go? Hence, their demand for an oracle, an object through which Divine instruction could be heard.

According to the most favoured explanation, Aharon realised that he could not stop the people directly by refusing their request, so he adopted a stalling manoeuvre. He asked them to donate their gold jewellery towards the project, with the intention of slowing them down, trusting that if the work could be delayed, Moshe would reappear.

 

The Midrash explains that Aharon assumed this would create arguments within families and the project would be delayed. Instead, immediately thereafter, without a pause, Bnei Yisrael demonstrated that same generosity. 

 

Now, these two projects could not be less alike. One, the Mishkan, was holy. The other, the Golden Calf, was close to being an idol. Building the Mishkan was a supreme mitzvah; making the Calf was a terrible sin. Yet their response was the same in both cases. Jews may not always make the right choices in what they give to, but they always give.

 

In the twelfth century, The Rambam, speaking about tzedakah, said, “We have never seen or heard about a Jewish community that does not have a charity fund.”  (see Laws of Gifts to the Poor, 9:3)

 

The idea that a Jewish community could exist without a network of charitable provisions was almost inconceivable. A disposition to donate is written into Jewish genes; it’s part of our inherited DNA. It is one of the signs of being a child of Avraham, so much so that if someone does not give tzedakah, there are “grounds to suspect his lineage.” Whether this is nature or nurture or both, to be Jewish is to give.

 

There is a fascinating feature of the geography of the land of Israel. It contains two seas: the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee is full of life. The Dead Sea, as its name implies, is not. Yet they are fed by the same river, the Jordan. The key difference is that the Sea of Galilee receives water and gives water. The Dead Sea receives but does not give. To receive but not to give is, in Jewish geography as well as Jewish psychology, simply not life.

 

So it was in the time of Moshe. So it is today. In virtually every country in which Jews live, their charitable giving is out of all proportion to their numbers. In Judaism, to live is to give.

 

 

Parsha Vayikra

The historical developement of Korbanot is the Torah, starts with the offering to HaShem brought by Kayin, the eldest son of Adam and Chava, and followed by his brother Hevel. In Bereishis 3 we can read HaShem's selective acceptance of the offerings and in particularly when He turns to Hevel and his offerings, but to the offerings of Kayin He did not turn.

HaShem does not accept or reject korbanot or any ritual observance. He bases His judgement on motives and actions. The Torah is not very clear why, but it could be something in Hevel's behavior which moves HaShem to accept his offering, while Kayin's merits a Divine rejection. Kayin was clearly unable to appreciate the ramification of  this rejection. Instead of behavior change, he lashes out against his brother, with a very tragic outcome.

 

There is another continuing patern in the Torah with the offerings of Kayin and Hevel. From this point to the birth of the Jewish nation, the Exodus from Mitzrayim, all korbanot in the Torah are man- initiated events.They were driven by desire to communicate with HaShem, and on their own accord they developed a sacrifical rite.

 

Noach, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov each brought voluntarily offerings to HaShem, at not any point did He demand any of these sacrifices. There are two exceptions: 

1. During the Bris bein Habetarim, the Covenant between the Pieces, were HaShem commanded Avraham to sacrifice a serie of animals and diivded each of the animals in two. Passing through the Pieces, HaShem then revealed to Avraham the prophecy of the Israelites eventual descent into unity and their unltimate redemption.

2. This was during Avraham's most dramatic test, Akeidas Yitzchak, HaShem commanded the patriarch to rais his son as an offering on Har Moriah. This offering didn't take place, as Avraham was stopped at the last moment by a angel. The true purpose of the Akeida is a ongoing discussion, but one aspect of the event remains unchallenged. The only offering on Har Moriah occured after Yitzchak was spared. At his own initiative Avraham offers a ram in place of his son.

As we can see, once again the korbanot offered is not commanded by HaShem.

 

But this changes, a century later on the eve of the Exodus from Mitzrayim. As the Egyptians braced themselves for the final devastating plague, the Israelites leave upon HaShem command their homes. And in separate family meals, they participate in HaShem's ever first commanded sacrifice recorded in the Torah " The Korban Pesach. "  With the birth of the Jewish nation, the divinely sacrifice rite is born. Beginning with this event, korbanot became a important part of Jewish tradition.

But why did this change from  man- initiative to HaShem commanded rituals?

 

Rambam gives a rational approah to korbanot in Jewish Law. Many phenomena in the Torah are based on the principle that abrupt change in human behavior is impossible.

" Man simply  can't change from one extreme to the other "

HaShem cannot expect the  Jewish people, in their idolatrous surroundings making a complete turnaround to sacrifical rite in their newfound faith.

Because the Jewish people were drawn to idolatrous practices  in Mitzrayim and on a regular basis sacrificed to pagan gods, HaShem declared  " Let them offer their sacrifices before Me at all times in the Sanctuary and that will separate themselves from idolarty. "

 

The human soul must sumit to the fire of HaShem and allow itself to be ruled by its light and warmth and  in moment of shegaga the perpetrator is not conscions of or does not care or worry about it....it is just this lack of attention, this carelessness as to whether his actions are in accordance with the demand of Law, and here in lies the sinfulness of his mistake.

The Torah mandates a korban as part of shogeig's correction and with atonement there is a way back with more constant awareness of HaShem in their lives.

Which is worse, active rebellion or a absence of caring?

Nothing is more painful than the ones who were once close, now simply no longer care. Any emotion, even a bitter one, is better than having no emotional connection at al

The Torah teaches us that a lapse in our relationship with HaShem and His Laws must be adressed, as the break grows into carelesness, is an absence of caring.

G-dly fire 🔥 Vayikra

The human soul must sumit to the fire of HaShem and allow itself to be ruled by its light and warmth and  in moment of shegaga the perpetrator is not conscions of or does not care or worry about it....it is just this lack of attention, this carelessness as to whether his actions are in accordance with the demand of Law, and here in lies the sinfulness of his mistake.

 

Powerful insight by the Rebbe

 

Before G‑d communicated the laws of sacrifices to Moses, He called to him. Our rabbis explain that this calling was not directly associated with communicating a message. Instead, it was a sign of closeness and love. G‑d wanted to make a point of showing how dear the Jewish people are to Him.

 

In our relations with our fellow man, we should mirror these ways of G‑d. We should always attune ourselves to appreciating how every one of our colleagues “declares G‑d’s praise,” and should work with ourselves and our colleagues to accentuate and increase that praise.

 

The Torah reading itself focuses on the sacrifices offered in the Sanctuary in the desert, and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Hebrew term for sacrifice is korban which has the root karov, meaning “close.” The sacrifices were a medium through which closeness and intimacy were established between G‑d and man, and in a larger sense, between Him and every aspect of the world at large.

 

On the altar was a burning G‑dly fire—flames that miraculously descended from heaven. This is paralleled by the G‑dly fire which each of us possesses within his heart. Offering an animal on that altar and having it consumed by this G‑dly fire parallels our efforts to add the fire of spirituality into our everyday material experience.

Read more 

 

Among the sacrifices mentioned in this Torah reading is the conditional guilt-offering. A sin-offering is brought when one definitely knows that he has committed an inadvertent sin. A conditional guilt-offering, however, is brought when one is in doubt whether in fact he committed a transgression. Significantly, the conditional guilt-offering is many times more expensive than the sin-offering.

 

The reason a conditional guilt-offering costs more than a sin-offering was not merely to inspire sincere teshuvah, but also because a conditional guilt-offering must atone for a greater blemish.

 

In general, sacrifices atone for sins committed unintentionally, for even a commandment violated unknowingly requires atonement. Although the person did not intentionally sin, the fact that his unconscious thoughts led to such behavior is an indication that he is spiritually lacking. For if he was not lacking, he would not have sinned, even unintentionally, as it is written: “No evil shall befall the righteous.”

 

When a person knows he has committed a sin unwittingly, he realizes that he is in need of spiritual improvement; the transgression makes him aware of an inner involvement with evil. But when a person is not definitely aware that he has sinned, his positive self-image can remain intact, and he may not appreciate the need for change. This shows an even deeper connection with evil, for the person does not even realize something is amiss.

 

When a person knows he has unwittingly committed a transgression, his fundamental nature remains good; the deed runs contrary to his true self. For this reason, he is conscious that he has transgressed G‑d’s will. He senses the evil within his act, and realizes that this is not who he really is. When, however, a person does not realize that he has committed a transgression, this is a sign that the sin does not disturb him; it does not run contrary to his tendencies. For this reason, he does not even notice the sin. This is truly a severe internal blemish.

 

When a person does not know whether or not he has committed a sin, he must bring a conditional guilt-offering—a sacrifice which is much more expensive than a sin-offering. For the conditional guilt-offering must correct the deeper spiritual insensitivity that prevents him from being aware of his faults.

Read more

 

 

 

Parsha Tzav

When HaShem instructs Moshe to prepare his brother, Aharon, for the priesthood, he underlines the significance of the moment.

Tzav, Do not hesitate, Moshe. Not a moment should be lost. The time has come to take the next step in the developement in launchig the priesthood.Aharon and his descendents will represent the people in My sanctified worship. The singular participation wil bring the hopes and strivings of the nation before Me and their teachings will convey to the people My dreams for them. Move quicky and urgently, Moshe, to inaugurate a priestly role that will extent the generations. "

 

The opening of this Parsha may indicate potential loss on Moshe's part rather than on Aharon underlining the value of attending to perform an ultimately impossible task, the endeavor to see the world through someone else's eyes.

 

The world are a product of our own experiences, our own perspective and our personal likings. None of us perceives an absolute truth because we all are looking through a subjective light.

 

What we should hope for and even work towards is that our own world remain as close as possible to the real world.

 

The critical events unfolding in Parsha Tzav are experienced very differently by Aharon and Moshe. Perhaps the ability of the two brothers dissimilar from each other, to work together was founded on respect for each other's world.

 

After HaShem instructed Moshe urgently to make everything ready for the inauguration of Aharon and his sons and are told to stay in the Mishkan area for seven days, during this time Moshe officially anoints them into priesthood.

The question raised by  Tzav which is about different kinds of sacrifices. The question is not  " Why was korbanot needed? But more so, " How did Judaism survived without it ?

Accourding to Rabbi Jonanthan Sacks we never abandon the past, we are still refering to the sacrfice in our prayers. The sages did realize that sacrifices are more symbolic and a proceess of mind, heart, and deed which good be expessed in other ways as well.

When we encounter the will of HaShem through Torah study, serving HaShem  through prayer and mitzvos, making sacrifices through tzedakah, Ahavas Yisroel  and chesed.

There is no achievement too small, or sacrifices too big in tzdakah, chesed, tefilia, teshuvah, Torah study and fasting which reminds us that we are one, that we are a unity.

Parsha Shemini

Finally, the day has arrived, and Elisheva is eagerly waiting for this exciting moment, as her husband Aharon together with their sons approaching the Mishkan.

 

Aharon, the hight priest enters with his sons the the Holy Sanctury , but not long after the incomprehensible happens, the two oldest sons Nadav and Avihu where struck and killed by heavenly fire.

 

Immediately following the sudden and devasting deaths of Nadav and Avihu, Moshe says to Aharon : Of this did HaShem speak when He said  " I will be sanctified among those who are nearest to me, and before the entire nation shall I be glorified."

And Aharon was silent.

 

What was the meaning of Moshe's reaction, " Of this did HaShem speak when He said..?

 

Did Moshe mention an earlier Divine prediction of Nadav and Avihu's death? If so, what is the source of the prediction?  Was the tragic and violent death of Aharon's two sons somehow preordained even before their sin?  Is Moshe's response to the death of Aharon's two sons designed to adress his brothers pain?  If so, in what way are Moshe's words comforting?  What is the significance of Aharon's silence ?

 

Aharon's reaction to Moshe was:        " Vayidom Aharon " - Be silent. To remain silent and to accept this terrible loss, requiers emunah. Emunah is an absolute certainty that goes beyond faith. Aharon didn't complain, why HaShem had to punish him like this, nor did he blame HaShem, this is emunah.

 

Rashi agrees on a Talmudic Midrash which foresaw of Nadav and Avihu's fate in the Divine proclamation. Recorded in Shemos, which predict the inauguration of the sanctuary service : "And I will make Myself known there to the people of Israel  and I will be sanctified in My Glory. "

 

Moshe did understand the unusual phase" and I will be sanctified in My Glory." Which means: and I will be sanctified through those who glorify Me. Moshe interprets HaShem's words as a prediction : the inauguration of the sanctuary service will be sanctified by the ultimate sacrifice of those individuals " closest to HaShem."

 

The Rashbam, who prefers the path of pshat, and strongly objects : " The aggadic explanation that Moshe consoled Aharon by pointing to a Divine prediction that HaShem would be sanctified through those who glorify Him...could we possibly believe that HaShem would announce to Moshe: Create for me a Mishkan and on that very day the greatest among you will die? Rashbam implies, that this is dangerously close to the concept of human sacrifice, which the Torah clearly defines as ahorrent to HaShem.

 

Our world grows increasingly and uncomfortably silent. We are distracted by modern technology,  often its only lapses in conversation disturb us that we feel we have to say something, anything, just to fill the void. The calmness of being alone by choice, disappears as we turn up the volume in our homes or elsewhere. How far have we traveled from the wildernis solitude in which our nation was born and which shaped our lives. Have we forgotten that silence is something to be most effective, the most meaningful communication of all?

 

Paying a Shiva call, while entering the room, the floor surrounded by mourners, for seven days. For forty- five minutes, no one says a word. The mourners don't feel like talking and accourding to law no visitor speaks first. The silence was broken only when a visitor approached the mourner and receit traditionally : "May  G-d comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. "

 

The message through silence could not be clearer: We are with you, as best as we can do, in your sorrow and pain. There is no need to talk, we just sit silently with you.

 

Perhaps Aharon 's silence after the sudden and violent death of his children does not indicate a acceptance of Moshe words, but a rejection.

 

Aharon silence response: " Moshe, there are times when words do not suffice, when they are, in fact, hurtful. I reject your attempt to explain the incomprehensible. No words of comfort will consol my  pain. I am willing to accept HaShem's  justice, but I will never fully understand. For me, while I am facing this overwelming loss there is only one meaningful  response,  "Silence. "

Vayidom Aharon.

 

Sometimes silence is the most profound communication of all.

Parsha Tazria

Purity and impurity, in varies shapes and sizes, its on the end of Parsha Shemini that the Torah opens with ritual impurity and purity, the mystifiying  realm of tuma and tahara. In Parsha Tazria it pays attention  of diagnosis and treatment of tuma brought by the plague of tzora'as, a biblical leprosy.

 

 

Almost all of Parshas Tazria and most of Parshas Metzora are concerned with the intricate laws of tzora'as. Tzora'as afflicted people as a consequence of having spoken lashon hara. This is hinted to in Parshas Ki Tetze, where the Torah warns us to be careful with respect to the laws of tzora'as and immediately to remember Miriam's punishment in the desert for speaking lashon hara about her brother Moshe, Miriam was immediately afflicted with tzora'as and forced to leave the encampment for seven days.

 

It seems hard to understand that the Torah chose to reprimand us not to speak about the faults and shortcomings of others by reminding us of Miriam's sin.

 

During the entire time Miriam was afflicted, the nation did not travel. The whole nation waited for her as a consequence of the merit she accrued by waiting to see what would happen to her three-month-old brother Moshe, when she placed him into the Nile in a basket ( Sotah 9b).What benefit was it to Miriam to have the entire Jewish people delayed for her sake? Did that waiting not highlight the cause of her banishment? Would it not have been better for Miriam if the nation had proceeded, unaware of her sin?

 

The answer is that Miriam did not sin. Her intentions in speaking about Moshe were completely well-intentioned, without any malice. She meant no harm to her beloved brother; nor did she cause Moshe any harm, or even ill-feeling. Despite this, she was stricken with tzora'as. Her disease was not a punishment, but rather a natural result of lashon hara. Because she had not sinned, Moshe did not pray for forgiveness for Miriam - only that she be healed.

 

The command to remember Miriam does not deminish her, for she committed no intentional sin. But we do learn from that act of remembrance the devastating effect of lashon hara, even when spoken unintentionally and without malice. Just as it makes no difference if one swallows poison intentionally or unintentionally, so too, lashon hara devastates us, even when spoken without deliberate malice.

 

To highlight the inherent devastation shaped by lashon hara, it had to be clear that Miriam didn't sin and that her intentions were in fact pure. Miriam showed her love for Moshe when she waited anxiously to see what would happen to him. The waiting of the nation for her was a reminder of her earlier waiting and, at the same time, the proof that she had acted without malice towards Moshe.  Maimonides  (Tzora'as 16:10):

 

Concerning this the Torah warns us to be careful with tzora'as and to remember what HaShem did to Miriam : "Contemplate what happened to Miriam the Prophetess when she spoke against her brother who was younger than her, whom she brought up on her lap and for whom she endangered herself when she saved him from the sea and whom she had no intention to harm. She mistaken only in comparing him to the other prophets, and Moshe didn't care about what she said because he was a very humble person - and still Miriam was immediately punished with tzora'as."

 

 

There were two aspects of the Mishkan which atoned for lashon hara. The Talmud (Zevachim 88b) relates that both the incense and the me'il (the garment of the Kohen Gadol from which bells and pomegranate-like ornaments hung) atoned for lashon hara.

 

The Gemara explains that the me'il atoned for the lashon hara spoken publicly, and incense for "hidden" lashon hara. The latter is difficult to understand, since we learn of the ability to atone for the lashon hara from its use to stop the plague that broke out when the people blamed Moshe and Aharon for the deaths of Korach and his man.This lashon hara was public. 

 

The Talmud is referring to two aspects of the damage caused by lashon hara. According to this understanding, public lashon hara refers to the harm done to another person when spoken to.  Hidden lashon hara refers to the spiritual damage to the speaker of the lashon hara himself, the destruction of his soul.

 

What is that spiritual destruction, which is manifested by tzora'as? It is the power of speech that distinguishes humans from all other creatures. Speech enables us to fulfill our purpose. Through speech we attaches ourselves to HaShem by learning and teaching of Torah, through speech we communicate with HaShem in prayer; through speech we make known our thoughts, which in turn leads to action, as it says (Devarim. 30:14), "for this Mitzvah is close to you in your mouth and heart to do it" and finally, it is speech that enables us to communicate with others to unite in the communal service of  HaShem.

 

 

In Covenant & Coversation by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Z"L Parsha Tazria

 

Othello, Wikileaks and Mildewed  Walls

 

Parsha Metzora

Nega and Oneg

 

HaShem created the world with words, and He gave power to create or destroy  relationships with words

.

The power of speech, we learn from our Rabbi everything about lashon hara, but next to nothing about lashon Tov. It is a sin to talk badly about another Jew, but a mitzvah to speak well or highly about your fellow Jew. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Z"L gives an example of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, who used to give individualised praise to each of his five students.

 

Rabbi Dimi stated that Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai's praise was in contradiction with the Talmud. Rabbi Dimi explaines, that no one should ever talk in praise of their neighbors, as praise could lead to criticism.

 

Rashi's understanding on this subject is the nature of the praise, whether its accurate, authentic or exaggerated. If is the first two it is permitted, if it is latter, its forbidden.

 

Rambam has a totally differnt view, that whoever speaks well of his neighbor in presence of his enemies is guilty of secondary lashon hara, as they will provoke him to speak badly about him which is lashon hara. But if is done in the presence of friends it is permitted.

 

Words do matter, in Judaism we believe in free speech, but talking about someone in a  certain way is forbidden. Speech has a poweful effect and Torah forbids even to listen to lashon hara and is a serious transgression.

 

In Hayom Yom the Rebbe  explaines the effect of negative speech has in a story about the Baal Shem Tov;

 

Once, two men had a quarrel while in the Baal Shem Tov’s synagogue, and one man shouted that he would tear the other fellow to pieces like a fish.

 

“In response, the Baal Shem Tov told his pupils to hold hands and stand near him with their eyes closed. Then he placed his holy hands on the shoulders of the two disciples next to him. Suddenly the disciples began shouting in great terror: They had seen that fellow actually dismembering his disputant."

 

This incident shows us the effect it has, either in physical or on spiritual level and based on the unstanding of the power of negative speech and the impact is has on others.

 

We can imaging the effects positive speech and our words has if spoken with consciousness and compassion.

 

Our Sages telling us to judge our fellow Jew favorably, and understand the shortcomings of others and find a way to praise another one.

 

The spiritual effect lashon Tov has on others enables the good qualities, which are often hidden.

 

Lashon hara diminishes us, while lashon Tov helps us to grow.

 

 

Parsha principles by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Z"L,

Lashon Hara: When you hear a rumour, in am or pm, know that you must not believe ‘em.

 

Lashon Tov: With phrases positive and so bright, they speak of kindness and bring delight.

 

Recovered Metzora: Once confined, for being unkind, now

newly cleansed in body, soul, and mind.

 

The Mikvah: Take a person in a state that needs mending, with water’s touch feel purity ascending.

Parsha Acharei Mot

In Parsha Acharei Mot : The service of the High Priest on the day of Atonement.

The communal vidui, recited by the Kohen Gadol over the se'ir hamishtaleiach, central feature of this Yom Kippur Temple ritual.

 

" And Aharon shall place his two hands upon the living he- goat and he shall confess upon all of the inguities of the children of Israel and all their rebellious sins in all of their sins, and he shall place them upon the head of the he-goat and he shall send it into the wildernis. "

 

What is the implication of the confession by the Kohen Gadol over the " sent goat " on behalf of the entire nation ?

What is the role of this communal confession in atonement divinely granted on Yom Kippur? Are confessions and teshuvah not private? A personal process which is best experienced individually rather than communally?

How can we understand vidui and the phenomenon of confession and shed further light on the mysterious ritual of the se'ir hamishtaieach and the concept of teshuvah?

Although teshuvah is translated as repentance, the correct interpretation is ' return '. Repentance is a step in the proces of teshuvah, meaning recognition of past trangressions, remorse over the transgressions and commitment to future change. The proper experience of teshuvah results the behavioral change when we return to HaShem and to our path.

Rambam's approach to confession and its place in Jewish law, opens his review of the laws of teshuvah with the following halacha:

With regard to all precepts in the Torah, whether positive commandments or negative ones, when a person transgresses one of them, either willfully or unknowingly, when he does teshuvah and returns from his sin, it is his duty to confess before HaShem and this confession is an affirmative precept.

 

Why does Rambam depict teshuvah in obligatory terms, " when he does teshuvah? Confession would only be a means to and end, as a first step on the path towards the mitzvah of full teshuvah. Why, then , does Rambam list confession itself as a mitzvah ?

Based on Rambam's words, he believes that confession is a obligation, he does not consider teshuvah to be a mitzvah. Return to HaShem is in Maimonides a self- understood view rather than a commanded action. But no member of community in Israel would choose to ramain immersed in a sin but rather make a restart in life through teshuvah, a gift of HaShem to correct our transgressions.

 

Since the se'ir hamishtaleiach brings acquittal for all the sins mentioned in the Torah, those who commited with premediation and those unintentionally, those who know their transgressions and those which do not, are all granted acquittal by the means of se'ir hamishtaleiach.

 

Holy People, Holy Land

By Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Z"L

Acharei Mot describes the service of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. It was a dramatic and highly charged ritual during which he cast lots on two identical goats, one of which was offered as a sacrifice while the other was sent into the wilderness to die, the so-called “scapegoat.” The entry of the High Priest into the Holy of Holies marked the spiritual high-point of the Jewish year.

 

The parsha also outlines the prohibition against eating blood, and the laws of forbidden sexual relations, both of them aspects of the life of purity God asks of the Jewish people.

Parsha kedoshim

You shall not be judgemental!

 

Some years ago, I heard Rabbi Manis Friedman tell a story about a man who overheard his friend telling his wife on the phone, “Drop dead!”

 

“How can you speak that way to your wife?!” he demanded. The friend smiled and said, “She just asked me if her new dress was gorgeous, and I answered, ‘Yes, drop-dead.’ ”

 

Hearing only half a conversation and drawing conclusions can be dangerous. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard stories about others that I didn’t want to believe, and indeed, upon investigation, they turned out to be either significant distortions or complete fabrications. I’m sure we’ve all had similar experiences.

 

In the portion of Kedoshim, we read the words, Betzedek tishpot amitecha,1 “You shall judge your fellow with righteousness. Rashi, the foremost Biblical commentator, first provides the simple analysis, which is that judges must rule righteously, without being swayed by any other considerations. In fact, the full title of a beth din, a Jewish court, is not only beth din, a “house of law,” but beth din tzedek, a “house of just law.” The law must be just, fair, and objective—otherwise the court itself is not doing justice.

 

But then Rashi adds a second interpretation, relevant not only for the judiciary but for all of us. “Another explanation is: Judge your fellow favorably” (i.e., give the benefit of the doubt).

 

The moral imperative to judge people favorably by giving them the benefit of the doubt is discussed in the Talmud,2 Ethics of the Fathers,3 and many other Jewish sources.

 

wondered what the connection might be to Kedoshim, a Torah portion dealing with the overall directive to be holy. And it occurred to me that perhaps it might be because, in fact, all of us are holy, but too often, people are misjudged and condemned before we have all the facts at our disposal. There are so many stories expressing this theme that we could go on forever, but let me share a few.

 

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Mendel Lipskar, tells the story of his early days in Johannesburg back in the ’70s. He was a young, new rabbi in a synagogue frequented mainly by older people who were rather set in their ways. At some point during his first Yom Kippur there, a young man walked into the shul looking very out of place. He was wearing jeans and sandals, sporting long, frizzy hair—the consummate hippie. Rabbi Lipskar asked the gabbai to give the unexpected visitor the honor of opening the Holy Ark during the service. The gabbai was horrified. Who was this young man who was dressed so inappropriately? To give him such an honor was, to his mind, unthinkable. But the rabbi insisted, and the gabbai acceded, albeit most reluctantly. To make a long story short, that Yom Kippur experience was the beginning of a spiritual journey for the young visitor. Today the former hippie is a respected sofer (ritual scribe) in a large American city.

 

My son, Michoel, is a shliach in Kauai, the lushest of the Hawaiian Islands. Not infrequently, sunbathers come into the shul straight off the beach and need to be given not only a tallit, but robes or clothes as well. But the important thing is that they are always welcome.

 

I recently came across a letter to someone who complained to the Rebbe about a fellow who had been called into shul as the tenth man to help make the minyan. The complainant was outraged that the man sat in the back of the sanctuary reading the newspaper throughout the service.

 

The Rebbe suggested that he should appreciate how special it is that even a Jew who obviously cannot read Hebrew or participate in the service still comes in and gives up his time to help make the minyan.

 

It’s all about perspective and giving people the benefit of the doubt.

 

Over 200 years ago, the holy Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev became famous for the lengths he would go to consider others favorably. Of the many stories that highlight his benevolent, non-judgmental attitude, one of my favorites is of his encounter with a young man outside shul on the holiest day of Yom Kippur. This strapping young man was eating publicly, in brazen violation of the fast.

 

Rabbi Levi Yitzchak said, “I’m sorry to see that you’re obviously not feeling well, and you had to break your fast. I wish you better.”

 

“I’m fine, Rabbi. I couldn’t be healthier,” replied the young man.

 

“Well then, perhaps you forgot that today is Yom Kippur?”

 

“Who doesn’t know that today is Yom Kippur, Rabbi?!”

 

And are you also aware that Yom Kippur is a fast day, and we are not permitted to eat today?”

 

“Of course, I know! Which Jew doesn’t know that, Rabbi?!”

 

Hearing this, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak looked heavenward and exclaimed, “Master of the Universe, see how righteous are your people, Israel. I have given this young man so many opportunities, but he absolutely refuses to tell a lie!”

 

All are innately holy, but how we judge them may make all the difference. I know it’s not easy, but if we look at others favorably, then we ourselves will be behaving in a holy way, and this will bring out that innate holiness inside them.

 

Moreover, our rabbis taught: One who judges his friend favorably will himself be judged by G‑d favorably.

 

Rabbi Yossy Goldman.

Chabad.org

Parsha Emor

The Jewish approach to leadership, is opposed to many other forms of leadership. In Judaism there are three categories of leadership: The Melech, The Sanhedrin and the Kohanim, all categories has a practical role as well as a religious role. Each category has its own unique purpose, which enebles the Jewish people to connect with HaShem, to fulfill our purpose and  path to follow. The Melech serves  as a representation and manifestion of HaShem in this world in a transparent way to reveal HaShem in this world.

The Sanhedrin is responsible to uphold Jewish morals in society and making sure that we live up to our purpose and to live accourding to Torah.

 

The Kohanim is in charge with helping the Jewish people to uplift the level of observance  and to connect with HaShem. The Kohanim is also responsible for our spiritual well being, which is only through avodah in beis HaMikdash., avodah strengthen  the connection with HaShem and the Jewish people and with the world. The Kohen's role is to connect the lower with the higher, the physical to the spiritual, the finite to the infinite. This is achieved in the Beis HaMikdash, also in the Mishkan, which is the ultimate place of connection with HaShem.

 

Emor deals with two kinds of holiness: of people and of time.

 

Chapter 21 relates to holy people: priests, and above them, the High Priest. Their close contact with the Sanctuary means that they must live with certain restrictions: on contact with the dead and whom they may marry.

 

Chapter 22 recaps similar laws relating to ordinary Israelites when they seek to enter the Sanctuary, as well as defects in animals that bar them from being offered as sacrifices.

 

Chapter 23 is about holy time, the festivals of the year. Chapter 24 speaks about the Menorah, lit daily, and the show bread, renewed weekly, and ends with a story – one of the only two narratives in Leviticus – about the fate of a man who blasphemed in the course of a fight.

 

Covenant & Conversation by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks Z"L

 

The Duality  of Jewish Time.

 

Alongside the holiness of place and person is the holiness of time, and this is something Emor charts in its deceptively simple list of chaggim and holy days. Time plays an enormous part in Judaism. The first thing God declared holy was a day, Shabbat, after Creation. In fact, the first mitzvah given to the Jewish people as a whole, just before they left Egypt together, was the command to sanctify time by determining and applying the Jewish calendar in Parsha Emor, family edition

 

Parsha Behar

 

This Parsha opens, as HaShem is building on the festival cycle as described in Parsha Emor, and tells the nation to count a continuing cycle of forty-nine years, and with each seventh year is desisgned as Shmita and each fiftieth year as Yofel. During Shmita, all agriculture activities are prohibited and the land to be untouched. All that grows naturally this year is designated as ownerless and available to all, man and animals alike.

 

During Yofel, the agriculture restrictions of Shmita aplies and futher and far reached edicts are added. All Hebrew servants, including those who have chosen to stay in servitude beyond their six- year term, must be set free. All sold land must be returned to the orginal owner.

 

Among the laws of Shmita and Yofel, there are some other edicts, including: 

1. The prohibitions of financial and verbal oppression.

2. The regulations which concerns the redemption of the land before Yofel by the orginal owner or a close family member.

3. The Prohibition of usury.

4. The laws of the eved Ivri and eved Cana'ani.

 

The laws of Shmita still has an effect to this day. Most halachic authorities of the rabbibic obligation that exits in the Eretz Yisroel in our time. There are various methods which the state of Israel deals with regulations and fascinating examples of the continuing applying of Torah laws. The laws of Yofel, were suspended with the nation's first exile from Eretz Yisroel, and will be reinstated only with the nation's return to the land after the redemption with the coming of the Moshiach.

 

Sefiras HaOmer

 

The mitzvah commands us to count 49 days from the second day of Pesach until the day before Shavuos, as we are counting down to Matan Torah as we preparing for the acceptance of the Torah. In truth we are not counting down to Matan Torah, but building towards it, at one day at the time. The halachic importance of counting the Omer every day, is building steps and each step is a foundation we built on the previous ones. We don't receive Matan Torah after forty- nine days, Shavuos and Matan Torah are not tied to a specific day, the sixth of Sivan, it is a result of the 49 days that we count. The fiftieth day, the day of Shavuos and Matan Torah, we bring into existence and its also why Shavuos means " weeks " .

Why is the counting of the Omer forty- nine days? Nothing in Torah is random and based on the ideas of Maharal, we live in a three- dimensional world and there are six sides of a three- dimensional cube, but six doesn't result in three- dimensional, the concept of seven, however, refers to which connects all the pieces together in a single unit. Maharal explaines that seven is the number of the natural, the physical and natural components of this world are of seven: the seven days of the week, seven colors in  the spectrum of light. Seven also represents the physical to the spiritual, like with Shabbos. The eight refers to and transcending the physical and this is why a bris is performed on the eighth day. The miracles of Chanukah lasted eight days and why the miracles occured through shemen, a word rooted from Shemonah.

 

This is why Sefrias HaOmer is a seven- week process of seven days, a process of building from the physical to the spiritual, from the finite to the infinite. A Journey from six, to seven to eight, we built level by level towards the infinte. We count seven weeks of seven days a total of forty- nine days, which complete our physical building process and resulting in fiftieth ,the first day of the eighth week, the ultimate eighth level Shavuos.

Photo, Rabbisacks.org -Parsha Behar