Friday, June 27, 2014

Parshat Chukat

פרשת חקת

Numbers: (19:1-22:1)

In Parashat Chukat, we encounter an end of an era, the ends of three of the leaders of Israel: Moses, Aharon and Miriam.

The Parsha opens with the laws of פרה אדמה (the Red Heifer), a special and rare kind of animal that is described as a perfect red cow without any blemish and upon which never came a yoke: G-d instructs Moses and Aaron,

דבר אל בני ישראל ויקחו אליך פרה אדמה תמימה אשר אין בה מום אשר לא עלה עליה על

Speak to the Children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish, upon which never came a yoke(19:2).

After the red heifer is slaughtered outside the camp before Elazar the priest, the skin of the cow, her flesh, and her blood, is burned. Her ashes are used to purify a person who has been made impure by contact with a dead body. What is interesting about this ritual is that the same way that the ashes of the red heifer can purify the impure it can also make the pure impure, as in the case of he that gathers the ashes. Of whom it written, And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the evening (19:10).

After forty years of wandering in the desert, the Children of Israel arrive at the wilderness of Zin. Miriam, the older sister of Moses and Aaron, dies in a place called Kadesh.

Rashi comments that Miriams death comes immediately after the portion of the Red Heifer in order to teach us that the same way the sacrifices can bring כפרה (atonement) so too, the deaths of the righteous can bring atonement.

Soon after the death of Miriam, the Children of Israel encounter a lack of water and, once again, they quarrel with Moses, saying:

ולמה הבאתם את קהל ה אל המדברהזה למות שם אנחנו ובעירנו

Why did you bring the congregation of G-d into this desert to die with our livestock? (20:4)

The מפרשים or commentators notice that the name מרים (Miriam) contains the word מים or water. Rashi explains that because of Miriams merit, during the forty years in the desert, the Children of Israel had a well that provided water for them. After Miriams death, however, the well was removed.

To address the lack of water, G-d instructs Moses to speak to the rock that will give forth its water, as it is written:

ודברתם אל הסלע לעיניהם ונתן מימיו והוצאת להם מים מן הסלע והשקית את העדה ואת בעירם

And speak to the rock before their eyes to bring forth its water; so you shall bring water out of the rock for them and you shall give drink to the congregation and their cattle (20:8).

Moses then becomes angry with the Children of Israel and calls them rebels, as it written:

שמעו נא המרים המן הסלע הזה נוציא לכם מים

Listen you rebels! Can we extract water from this rock for you? (20:10)

Instead of speaking to the rock Moses famously strikes the rock, twice, causing water to gush out in full force.

Moses and Aaron are then told that neither of them will enter The Promised Land:

יען אשר לא האמנתם בי להקדישני לעיני בני ישראל

Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me in the children of Israels eyes(20:12)

Aaron dies on Mount Hor and the children of Israel mourn him for thirty days. Moses and the children of Israel conquer the lands of Sichon, king of the Amorites and Og, the king of Bashan, after the two nations denied the Children of Israel to to pass through their land.

וידבר ה אל משה ואהרן לאמר

G-d spoke to Moses and Aaron saying...(19:1)

In this Parsha, we see the power of speech and of words. The Parsha opens with G-d speaking to Moses and Aaron and in the next verse, G-d commands Moses to speak to the Children of Israel. In chapter 20, verse 7, G-d speaks to Moses again:

וידבר ה אל משה

G-d spoke to Moses

In 20:8, G-d tells Moses and Aharon to speak to the rock, as it is written:

ודברתם אל הסלע

In 21:5, the people speak out against G-d and Moses:

וידבר העם באלהים ובמשה

And the people spoke against God, and against Moses.

Moses was punished with a rather harsh punishment for striking the rock instead of speaking to it. His punishment, however, provides an important lesson in leadership. A leader must know when to use his staff (force) and when his staff should remain mute and he should try to communicate and negotiate with words.

Moses seems to have had difficulty with speech since we first met him in the book of Exodus when he tells G-d that he can not be a leader for,

לא איש דברים אנכי גם מתמול גם משלשם כי כבד פה וכבד לשון אנכי

I am not a man of words not since yesterday, not since the day before; for I have a heavy mouth and a heavy tongue(Exodus, 4:10).

Friday, June 20, 2014

Parshat KORACH- "The World Was Created For Me"

פרשת קרח

Numbers: (16:1-18:32)

In this stormy Parsha, Parsha Korah, we see the dark potential of humanity: jealousy and the greedy pursuit of honor. Korah, a cousin of Moses from the tribe of Levi, along with Datan and Abiram and 250 leaders accuses Moses of nepotism:

ויקהלו על משה ועל אהרון ויאמרו אלהם רב לכם כי כל העדה כלם קדשים ובתוכם הומדוע תתנשאו על קהל ה

And they gathered against Moses and Aharon and say, You have taken too much for yourself but you are not the only holy ones for all the congregation are holy, and G-d is among them so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of G-d?(16:3).

Korah declares that the leadership should not be in one persons hands, that everyone in the congregation is equally holy and worthy of leadership. In reaction to Korahs complaints, Moses orders Korah and his congregation to bring incense before G-d:

And it will be that the man that G-d chooses, he is the holy one (16:7).

Moses further defends himself to G-d by saying that he did not even take anything from the congregation, not even a donkey. To prove that Korah and his congregation were wrong, G-d punishes them with an unnatural death. The ground beneath them splits, opens up and swallows Korah, his men, their houses and all their possessions.

The Midrash says that G-d punished themmidah kineged midah, or measure for measure. They opened their mouth against G-d and against Moses so He opened up the mouth of the land to swallow them, as it written:

The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them...(16:32).

G-d sends forth a fire to consume the men who were bringing the incense. He then orders Elazar the priest, son of Aaron, to gather their fire pans and hammer them into sheets to overlay the altar as a sign and reminder for the rest of the Children of Israel.

G-d then tells Moses to speak to the Children of Israel and take a staff from each tribe and to write the name of the tribal leader on the staff of his tribe. The staffs were all to be left in the Tent of Meeting and the man that G-d chooses, his staff will bloom. Moses places the staffs before G-d and returns the next day and behold, the staff of Aaron blossomed for the house of Levi, a blossom came froth, and bloomed buds and bore almonds (17:23).

G-d commands Moses to to place Aarons staff before the Ark of Testimony as a symbol to the rebellious people so that they stop their complaint and so they will not die.

The Parsha also discusses the gifts of the priesthood: terumah, bikkurim (the first fruits) and firstborn among various sacrifices. G-d tells Aaron:

You will have no inheritance in their land...I am your inheritance and portion among the Children of Israel (18:20).

בקר וידע ה את אשר לו

[In the] morning , G-d will make known who is [worthy to be] His... (16:5)

Why did Moses have them wait until the morning? Why was the argument not settled on the spot?

The Or HaChaim explains that G-d gives us time and the opportunity to repent and to teach us that we should not make hasty decisions but rather one should take time to think through ones course of action.

Another explanation is that the result of G-ds choice will be as clear as the morning.

Exerted from "parsha to go app".

Shabbat shalom umevorach 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Parshat Shelach-"Don't Be A Spy"

פרשת שלח

Numbers: (13:1-15:41)

The main story in Parashat Shelach is the story of the מרגלים or spies that Moses sends to tour the land of Canaan. Chazal say that this story is the greatest tragedy that happened to the Children of Israel in the desert, even greater than the sin of the Golden Calf.

The Parsha begins with G-ds commandment to Moses to send the spies, as it is written:

שלח לך אנשים ויתרו את ארץ כנען...

Send for yourself men, that they may spy out the land of Canaan... (13:2).

Rashi explains why this Parsha is presented after the previous episode of Miriams speaking about Moses to Aaron in order to show us that the spies saw that she was punished for speaking badly about her brother and they did not learn from her punishment.

Moses sends twelve spies from the desert of Paran, each the head of a tribe of Israel. Moses gives the men specific instructions. He tells them:

See what the land is and the nation that lives on it; whether they are strong or weak, if they are few or many. And how is the land in which they live, is it good or bad? And how are the cities in which they live, are they open or are they fortified? And how is the land; is it fertile or is it poor, does it have trees, or not? Strengthen yourselves and take some fruit of the land(13: 18-20).

The men return after touring the land for forty days and report to Moses, Aaron and to the entire congregation. They report that although the land indeed flows with milk and honey and this is its fruit...the nation that lives there is mighty and the cities are greatly fortified... (13: 28).

They tell the people that they will not be able to go up against the nation for they are more powerful than we are (13: 31) and that they also saw giants, and we were like grasshoppers in their eyes (13:33). Of the twelve spies, Caleb and Joshua do not participate in the negative report.

When the Children of Israel hear the report of the spies, the people raise their voices and cry that night. (The Midrash says that that night was the 9th of Av, the date of the future destructions of the first and second temples. G-d told the Children of Israel that because they cried for no reason now, G-d will give them a reason to cry in the future.) The people even say to one another let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt (14:4).

Moses asks G-d to forgive the people and G-d says I have forgiven them (14:20). However, G-d says because they tested Him so many times, they will spend forty years in the desert, corresponding to the forty days that the spies spent touring the land of Israel. Except for Caleb and Joshua, the entire generation, from age 20 and up, will die in the desert and will not enter the Promised Land .

The Parsha also discusses the sacrifices that the Children of Israel will bring when they enter the land and mentions the mitzvah of separating a portion of the dough when making bread.

The Parsha ends with the commandment of tzizit, as it is written,

...ועשו להם ציצית על כנפי בגדיהם לדרתם...ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם אשר אתם זנים אחריהם. (טו:לח-לט

...To make for themselves tzizit on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations...and you will not seek after your own hearts and your own eyes, which you go astray (15:38-39).

Rashi notes that the commandment And you will not seek after your own hearts is similar to the wording used from spying the land (13:25). The heart and the eyes are the spies of the body: the eye sees, the heart covets, and the body does the sin.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Parshat Behalotcha- "Don't Give Up Hope"

דבר אל אהרון ואמרת אליו בהעלתך את הנרות אל מול המנורה יאירו שבעת הנרות

Speak to Aaron, and say to him: When you light the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the Menorah. And Aaron did so... (8:2-3).

The Hebrew word for to light is להדליק. The word בהעלותך is a transitive verb, meaning when you elevate. The Torah chooses the latter wording in order to express that a person must always strive to be ascending in holiness. In addition, If the candles, that were only wax, were elevated to a level of קדושה, holiness, how much more so should we, as human beings, made in the image of G-d, strive similarly to rise in holiness.

בהעלותך is therefore a code for life, reminding us that even when we face challenges, we must elevate ourselves and rise to the occasion.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe comments that this is a lesson in pedagogy: one should try to help the learner develop and grow, remaining with him/her until he/she is self-sufficient and can glow independently.

Aaron merited to perform this mitzvah because he elevated himself at the time of the death of his children, Nadav and Avihu (as it is written, in Leviticus 13:3:

Why is this commandment to light the Menorah, placed next to the prior chapter, from Parashat Naso, regarding the princes?

Rashi comments that Aaron saw the princes bringing their offerings and was embarassed that neither he nor his tribe joined them in the dedication of the Tabernacle. Therefore G-d gave him the task of lighting the Menorah.

Rashi also explains that Aaron was required to light the candle by holding the flame to the wick until the flame rises by itself.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe comments that this is a lesson in pedagogy: one should try to help the learner develop and grow, remaining with him/her until he/she is self-sufficient and can glow independently.

Aaron merited to perform this mitzvah because he elevated himself at the time of the death of his children, Nadav and Avihu (as it is written, in Leviticus 13:3:

וידום אהרון

And Aaron was silent

Aaron had to light the candles for the strange fire that his children offered before G-d and for which they were killed (Leviticus 10:1).

Also, why does the Torah begin the Parsha with this commandment?

To teach us that in order to overcome the cravings and loshon hara that come later in the Parsha, the only way we can elevate ourselves is by lighting the candles, i.e. by learning the Torah, which is compared to light.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"Parshat Naso"

Know Yourself

"And they shall confess their sin that they committed." (Numbers 5:7)
The Torah teaches us here that the mistakes we make in life, the sins that we commit, are normal as long as we are aware of the poison within our souls. Many people sin but justify their actions and say that they are right. There are also many individuals who know that they are wrong when they sin and are striving to reach perfection however; it is very difficult because the evil inclination doesn't allow ourselves to do a soul search because the evil inclination keeps us busy with the physicality around us and we don't have time to change. Since we don't have time to search our soul and change we therefore unfortunately fail the test again. The Parsha teaches us that if we really want to elevate ourselves, if we really want to be transformed and become better, more spiritual individuals, we have to go through the process of change honestly without justifying ones actions. As embarrassing as it may be, we must focus not only the sin we committed but ask ourselves, what led me to fall this low? Who caused me to react this way? How can I prevent this from happening? Once we answer these questions we become aware of the evil inclination and are ready for battle. Know yourself...get to know both the positive and negative character traits about yourself and start the process to get closer to Hashem.
Teshuva Process:
Admit the sin
Regret the sin
Try not to do it again

Shabbat Shalom '')

'Torah for Your Table", By Rebetzin Esther Jungreis

Friday, May 23, 2014

"Don't Waste Time"

פרשת במדבר

Numbers: (1:1-4:20)

We begin to read the fourth book of the Torah, the book of במדבר or Bamidbar. The name of the book literally means in the wilderness but is also known as חומש הפיקודים or (Chumash Hapekudim) or theBook of Numbers, for the counting of the Children of Israel in the desert.

The book of Bamidbar is a retelling of the forty-year journey that the Children of Israel took in the desert before entering the Promised Land. The Parsha begins with G-d commanding Moses to take a census of the children of Israel

וידבר ה אל משה.. במדבר סיני באהל מועד.... לאמר שאו את ראש כל עדת בני ישראל.... מבן עשרים שנה ומעלה כל יצא צבא בישראל תפקדו אתם לצבאתם

G-d spoke to Moses in the Sinai desert in the Tent of Meeting..saying, Take a census of all the congregation ofthe people of Israel, every male,...from twenty years old and older all those eligible to fit to join the army of Israel\\\'(1:1-4).

The tribe of Levi was not included in this census, as it is written:

אך את מטה לוי לא תפקד ואת ראשם לא תשא בתוך בני ישראל

However,you shall not count the tribe of Levi and you shall not their head count among the children of Israel (1:49). The Levites were appointed to carry the Tabernacle and all its vessels.

Rashi asks: Why was it necessary to conduct this census? Didnt G-d count them when they went out of Egypt (Exodus, 12:37) and after the sin of the golden calf and again after the building of the Tabernacle?

Rashi explains that the reason for this counting is because the Children of Israel are precious to G-d and one wants to count what is precious to him. This teaches us that we shouldn't lose faith in ourselves because Hashem loves us so dearly that He counts us since we are soprecious  to Him and He knows we have so much to accomplish in our lives.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

"Getting Ready for Shavuot"

Man is like a tree of the field.”
An army surrounds an enemy city.  It searches for materials with which to beseech the city.  The torah instructs them “Do not cut down the fruit trees for man is like a tree of the field.”  (Sefer Devarim)
It’s not clear why man being like a tree of the field is a reason for not cutting down fruit trees.
Ibn Ezra explains that the Torah really means to say that man is sustained from the tree of the field.  In other words, the Torah tells the army: as you surround this city, don’t destroy its resources for when you defeat the enemy you will be sustained by those very same resources!
Perhaps in some way we can understand the phrase literally.  In Loshon haKodesh, man and humans are referred to as אדם which means dirt or earth.  This is a curious choice of a word.  Isn’t it a big insult to be described as dirt?  Also, asks Maharal "Why aren’t other creatures called אדם - they also come from dirt?"
He answers that אדמה represents potential.  Right now there is dirt, but within that dirt lies the potential for seeds, plants, flowers and trees.  This is why man more than anything else is called אדם- man is the ultimate potential.
His calling is to realize that potential, to turn dirt into blossoming fruit trees!  This is the meaning of “Man is like a tree of the field”, when his potential is being realized.
Just like a fruit tree possesses branches and trees, so too man must develop branches and fruit.  This refers to his offspring but also to his actions and deeds- how much he touches the lives of others and enhances them.
-Afikei Torah Staff