Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Parshat Lech Lecha

פרשת לך לך
Bereishit: (12:1-17:27)
This weeks Parasha, Parashat לך לך (Lech Lecha) is the beginning of the life story of Abram, the first patriarch of the Jewish people. The Parasha records the many promises of bounty and blessing that G-d makes to Abram and to his descendants, but the Parasha also harbors echoes of the years of enslavement that we as a people will undergo later in Egypt.
The Parasha begins with Gods commandment and promise to Abram:
לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך 
Go for yourself from your land, from your relatives, and from your fathers house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation; I will bless you, and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you. (12:1-12:3)
Abram does as God commands, and takes Sarai, his wife, and Lot, his brothers son and with all their wealth, they leave Haran. (Abram is 75 years old when they leave Haran)
They arrive at Canaan, where God appears to Abram and says, To your offspring I will give this land (12:7)
There is a severe famine in the land and Abram descends to Egypt to settle there. As Abram is about to enter Egypt, he notes how beautiful his wife Sarai is, and he tells her to tell the Egyptians that she is his sister and not his wife, so that they will allow Abram to live and not kill him in order to take Sarai. However, Pharaohs officials see Sarai, praise her to Pharaoh and take her to Pharaos house. Abram is rewarded heavily with sheep, cattle, donkeys, slaves and maidservants, female donkeys and camels. G-d afflicts Pharaoh with great plagues over the matter of Sarai, causing Pharaoh to summon Abram and demand,
What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she is your wife? Why did you say, she is my sister so that I would take her as my wife? Now, here is your wife; take her and go! (12:18- 12:19)
Abram then goes up from Egypt, he with his wife and all that was his and Lot and many gifts that Pharoh gave him including his daughter, Hagar to be their maidservant. Abram and Lot are unable to dwell together because their possessions are too abundant and there is quarreling between the herdsman of Abram and those of Lot. Abraham proposes that the two separate, saying, if you go left then I will go right, and if you go right, then I will go left.(13:8-13:9). As a result, Abram dwells in the land of the Canaan while Lot settles as far as Sodom. After Lot parts, G-d speaks to Abram, telling him,
Raise now your eyes and look out from where you are: northward, southward, eastward, and westward. For all the land that you see, to you I will give it, and to your descendants forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth so that if one can count the dust on the earth, then your offspring, too, can be counted (13:14-13:16).
Then the king of Sodom, along with the king of Gomorrah, and the king of Admah, the king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela engage in battle against the king of Elam, king of Goiim, king of Shinar, and king of Ellasar, four kings against five. The side of Sodom and Gomorrah and the five kings are defeated, and they seize all the wealth of Sodom and Gomorrah. including Lot and his possessions.
A fugitive reports to Abram that his nephew Lot was captured. Abram arms his 318 disciples, and moves to retrieve Lot. The numerical value of Avrams servant Eliezer is equal to 318. Abram and his servants deploy against them at night, and strike them down. Abram brings back all the possessions, his kinsman Lot, and the woman and the people.
Afterwards, the king of Sodom offers Abram, Give me the people and take the possessions for yourself (14:21). 
Abram responds to the king of Sodom, I lift up my hand to Hashem, God, the Most High, Maker of heaven and earth, if so much as a thread to shoe strap; or if I shall take from anything of yours! So you shall not say, It is I who made Abram rich. Far from me! (14:22-23).
After these events, G-d reassures Abram that he will bear descendants that will inherit his wealth, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am a shield for you; your reward is very great (15:1) and instructing him, Gaze, now, toward the Heavens, and count the stars if you are able to count them! So shall your offspring be! (15:5-15:6). However, G-d also tells him that Know with certainty that your offspring shall be aliens in a land not their own- and they will serve them, and they will oppress them- four hundred years. But also the nation that they will serve, I shall judge, and afterwards they will leave with great wealth (15:13-15:14).
Now Abrams wife, Sarai had no children but she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar. Because she had no children of her own, Sara said to Abram, See now, Hashem has restrained me from bearing; consort, now, with my maidservant, perhaps I will be built up through her. (16:2) Sarai gives Hagar as a wife to Abram and Hagar soon conceives and begins to despise Sarai. Abram tells Sarai to do as she feels fit with Hagar and when Sarai deals harshly with her, Hagar flees. 
However, an Angel of G-d finds Hagar by a spring of water in the desert and asks her, Where are you coming from and where are you going? 
Hagar responds, I am running away from Sarai, my mistress. (15: 8) 
The angel tells Hagar to return to Sarai and to submit to her mistress and that G-d will greatly increase her offspring and they will not be countable. He tells her that she will have a son, and that she should name him Ishmael for Hashem has heard your prayer (16:11). Abram is 86 when Hagar gives birth to Ishmael.
When Abram is 99 years old, G-d appears to him and says, I will set My covenant between Me and you, and I will increase you most exceedingly... (17:2). G-d then changes Abrams name to Abraham for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you most exceedingly fruitful, and make nations of you, and kings shall descend from you. (17:5-17:76) The sign of the covenant between G-d and Abraham is that every male shall be circumcised, as it is written,
You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. At the age of eight days every male among you shall be circumcised, throughout your generations...Thus My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. An uncircumcised male who will not circumcise the flesh of his foreskin- that soul shall be cut off from its people; he has invalidated My covenant (17:11-17: 14)
G-d also changes Sarais name, from Sarai to to Sarah, telling Abram, As for Sarai your wife- do not call her name Sarai, for Sarah is her name. I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son through her, I will bless her and she shall give rise to nations, kings of peoples will rise from her (17:15-17:16).
Abraham laughs, thinking Shall a child be born to a hundred-year old man? And shall Sarah- a ninety-year old woman- give birth?(17:17-17:19)
G-d tells him, Nonetheless, your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; and I will fulfill my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him...He will beget twelve princes and I will make him into a great nation. But I will maintain My covenant through Isaac who Sarah will bear to you by this time next year (17:19-17:21)
The Parasha ends with Abrams circumcision at age 99, On that very day was Abraham circumcised with Ishmael his son, and all the people of his household, born in his household and purchased for money from a stranger, were circumcised with him (17:26-17:27).

(לך לך מארצך וממולדתך ומבית אביך (יב : א
Go from your land, from your birthplace, and from your fathers House. (12:1)
The question is, why the repetition? If G-d would have said, from your land or from your birthplace, it would suffice!
The answer is that G-d was alluding to not only a physical journey but to a spiritual journey.
Therefore, מארצך or from your land means from your evil inclination. 
וממולדתך or from your birthplace means from the the bad attributes that are innate in man.
ומבית אביך or from your fathers house means from the habits that you learned in your fathers house.

You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. Thus My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant (17:11-17:13)
The covenant that God makes with Abram is the most important covenant- A covenant that lasts forever.
In last weeks Parsha Noah, God makes a covenant with Noah through the rainbow in the sky. The rainbow is an external covenant.
Here with Abram, God makes an eternal and everlasting covenant- the circumcision of the foreskin of all males in the household. The circumcision is a much stronger and binding covenant because any nation can claim the rainbow to be their sign of covenant, but only the Jewish people can truly hold the true everlasting covenant with Hashem.


One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene,he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonged to him, and the other to the Lord.

When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of foot - prints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.

This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it. "Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."

The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you." 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Parshat Noach


"Tzadik in His Times"

  G‑d instructs Noah the only righteous man in a world consumed by violence and corruption to build an ark, coated within and without with pitch. A great deluge, says G‑d, will wipe out all life from the face of the earth; but the ark will float upon the water, sheltering Noah and his family, and two members (male and female) of each animal species.
       Rain falls for 40 and nights, and the waters churn for 150 days more before calming and beginning to recede. The ark settles on Mount Ararat, and from its window Noah dispatches a raven, and then a series of doves, “to see if the waters were abated from the face of the earth.” When the ground dries completely—exactly one solar year (365 days) after the onset of the Flood—G‑d commands Noah to exit the teivah and repopulate the earth.
         Noah builds an altar and offers sacrifices to G‑d. G‑d swears never again to destroy all of mankind because of their deeds, and sets the rainbow as a testimony of His new covenant with man. G‑d also commands Noah regarding the sacredness of life: murder is deemed a capital offense, and while man is permitted to eat the meat of animals, he is forbidden to eat flesh or blood taken from a living animal.
         Noah plants a vineyard and becomes drunk on its produce. Two of Noah’s sons, Shem and Yafet, are blessed for covering up their father’s nakedness, while his third son, Cham, is punished for taking advantage of his debasement.
The descendants of Noah remain a single people, with a single language and culture, for ten generations. Then they defy their Creator by building a great tower to symbolize their own invincibility; G‑d confuses their language so that “one does not comprehend the tongue of the other,” causing them to abandon their project and disperse across the face of the earth, splitting into seventy nations.
            The Parshah of Noach concludes with a chronology of the ten generations from Noah to Abraham, and the latter’s journey from his birthplace of Ur Casdim to Charan, on the way to the land of Cnan.

In its mouth:
Rashi comments that the dove said It is better to eat bitter food from G-d than a sweet food from the hand of the human being for a person always should rely on the mercy of G-d and not a mortal human being.
As it says in Psalms 146:2:
Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man in whom there is no salvation.
Another explanation: In its mouth is a reference to prayer, because only through praying genuinely to G-d can we hope to be saved.
צהר תעשה לתבה
Make an opening for daylight in the ark(6:16)
Rashi notes that some believe that צהר means a window and some believe צהר is a precious, luminescent stone.
Another explanation is that the צהר or window is only symbolic and is meant to teach us a lesson in perspective, to teach us to try and view the events and situations in our lives from both sides of the window.

Something to think about?!?!?!?!?!
Even if the entire world considers you a Tzadik you should nevertheless think of yourself as if you were sinful (Niddah 30b).

Monday, October 13, 2014



G‑d creates the world in six days. On the first day He makes darkness and light. On the second day He forms the heavens, dividing the “upper waters” from the “lower waters.” On the third day He sets the boundaries of land and sea, and calls forth trees and greenery from the earth. On the fourth day He fixes the position of the sun, moon and
stars as timekeepers and illuminators of the earth. Fish, birds and reptiles are created on the fifth day; land animals, and then the human being, on the sixth. G‑d ceases work on the seventh day, and sanctifies it as a day of rest.
G‑d forms the human body from the dust of the earth, and blows into his
nostrils a “living soul.” Originally Man is a single person, but deciding
that “it is not good that man be alone,” G‑d takes a "side" from the man,
forms it into a woman, and marries them to each other.
Adam and Eve are placed in the Garden of Eden, and commanded not to eat from the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.” The serpent persuades Eve to violate the command, and she shares the forbidden fruit with her husband. Because of their sin, it is decreed that man will experience death,
returning to the soil from which he was formed, and that all gain will come only through struggle and hardship. Man is banished from the Garden.
Eve gives birth to two sons, Cain and Abel. Cain quarrels with Abel and murders him, and becomes a
rootless wanderer. A third son, Seth, is born to Adam; Seth’s eighth-generation descendant, Noah, is the
only righteous man in a corrupt world.

בראשית ברא אלקים את השמים והארץ 
In the beginning G-d created the heaven and earth (1:1)
Why does the Torah start with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, ב, and not the first letter, א?
According to the קבלה or Kabbalah, before G-d created the world, all the the letters came up to G-d and begged Him to chose them to create the world. When G-d choose the letter ב, the א stood shamefully and when G-d approached her and asked her Why did you not ask to be chosen? She replied that she did not want to interfere with G-ds decision. G-d said to her, Becouse you belittled yourself, I will glorify you that you will contain my Essence, as it says in the first of the Ten commandments, which begin with the letter א, 
שמות כ:ב) אנוכי ה אלקיך)
I am Hashem, your G-d (Excodus 20:2)
This is also to teach us that though we might start learning the Torah with the letter ב, the second letter, we should always strive to reach greater heights in our study of the Torah to achieve the level of the first letter, א.
Another explanation is that the numerical value of the letter ב, which is 2, teaches us that G-d created the word with מידת הדין (Midat Hadin is G-ds quality of judgement) and מידת הרחמים (Midat Harachamim is G-ds quality of compassion) for one can not exist without the other.
Finally, the use of the letter ב teaches us that we always have a second chance at connecting with the Torah and with G-d; if we fall or stumble, we should always remember that the Torah begins with the second letter, and not the first.

בצלם אלקים
In the image of G-d.
The word בצלם contains the word צל, the Hebrew word for shadow. From this we can learn that G-d always follows us and watches over us like our shadow.
Even though when times may seem dark and hard to see Hashem, He is standing right beside you.

“On the day G-d created man, He made him in the likeness of G-d ... and He named them Adam."
-Bereishit 5:1-2
Adam’s soul was a composite of the souls of all his descendants-all of mankind. The Hebrew term for a human  is adam.
Kabba writes that adam is an acronym for the names of three central figures: Adam, King David and Moshiach. The Baal Shem Tov derives from this that there is a spark of the soul of Moshiach within every single Jew. Thus he concludes that it is incumbent upon every individual Jew to perfect and prepare that part of the spiritual stature of Moshiach to which his soul is related.
By virtue of his bond with every Jew, because there is a part of him within every Jew, Moshiach is able to redeem the entire Jewish people.
Conversely, every Jew is able to effect and hasten the actual manifestation of Moshiach. This is accomplished by means of Torah and mitzvot. For Torah and mitzvot effect a purification of the world, gradually diminishing its impurity until “I shall remove the spirit of impurity (altogether) from the earth” (Zechariah 13:2). This will be with the coming of Moshiach, for he will reveal goodness and holiness in the world until “The earth shall be full with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the sea!” (Isaiah 11:9)

The earth was unformed and empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep; and the spirit of G-d hovered over the face of the water.”
-Bereishit 1:2
The Midrash (Bereishit Rabba 2:4) reads this verse as a prophetic allusion to Jewish history. The terms “unformed,” “empty,” “darkness” and “deep” refer to the four empires which oppressed, persecuted and exiled the Jewish nation. The phrase “the spirit of G-d hovered...” refers to Moshiach, the ultimate redeemer, as it is said: “The spirit of G-d will rest upon him” (Isaiah 11:2).
The principle of Moshiach thus is found in the very beginning of the Torah, at the very beginning of creation. In later passages of the Torah it is mentioned again, in some cases quite explicitly. Maimonides rules, therefore, that “Anyone who does not believe in [Moshiach], or whoever does not look forward to his coming, denies not only the [words of] the other prophets but [also those] of the Torah and of Moses” (Hilchot Melachim 11:1).
The Messianic era has two stages. Of the first it is said: “One is not to presume that anything of the ways of the world will be set aside, or that there will be any innovations in the order of creation. The world will continue according to its norms... The essential difference will be [our deliverance from] subjugation to foreign powers” (Ibid. 12:1-2).
In the second stage, however, the norms and the natural order of the world will change. It will be a time of wondrous miracles such as the resurrection of the dead and the fulfillment of all the other prophecies of ultimate bliss in the Messianic era.
The fact that the Torah refers to the principle of Moshiach at the very beginning of creation, even before the creation of man (thus also long before the giving of the Torah), teaches us an important lesson:
The concept of Moshiach includes everything that is related to him, not only the basic principle of the initial redemption of Israel, but also all the details of theultimate wonders and miracles.
The belief in Moshiach and the anticipation of his coming, therefore, must include awareness and knowledge of all the details of the Messianic era. First and foremost we must believe in, hope for, and look forward to the time when “Israel will enjoy relief from the wicked tyranny that does not leave them to occupy themselves with Torah and mitzvot properly, so that they will find rest and grow in wisdom” (Hilchot Teshuvah 9:2)-“they will be free for Torah and its wisdom, without anyone to oppress and disturb them” (Hilchot Melachim 12:4).
Even so, we must also keep in mind the later stage which transcends the first one. Practically speaking, this means the following:
As we “live with Moshiach,” our service of G-d must be even now not only on the level of the first stage with its “normative order” marked merely by the removal of external impediments, but also on the level of the final stage which is marked by innovations. In other words, our service must transcend the calculations and restrictions of mundane boundaries.
When we act as if Moshiach were here already, we effect that the “as if” will become a fact of reality with the actual redemption and its bliss.
The ultimate goal of the world’s creation, the Messianic era, is firmly established in the very origin of the world: “last in deed, but first in thought.” The very beginning of the Torah indicates the final purpose towards which all our aspirations must be devoted. This alone, already, infuses us with the ability to attain that goal.
(Exerted from chabbad.org and parsha to go app)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Parshat Nitzavim: Survival for Your Body & Soul

         How does this weeks parsha effect us in our days today? The learning of the parsha is not only the study of our past, our present, our future, but most importantly it is the WORD of GOD. If you learn to properly delve into the parsha you will understand what Hashem is trying to tell us, His precious children to be aware of, to work on and succeed to be better individuals. This parsha in particular always gives illumination and enables you to react to challenges on a sophisticated level.
Parshat Nitzavim always coincides with Rosh Hashana and gives us guidance as to how we can prepare ourselves for the special days of the High Holidays, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The parsha begins with the words, "Atem nitzavim hayom kulchem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem"- " You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your God," (29:9). In gematriya (numerical value) these words are equal to "La'Amod L'slechot"- " To stand before God and seek forgiveness." during the entire year we are so busy and occupied with the materialistic world that we tend to forget to our spiritual needs and closeness to Hashem. However, now Hashems' day of judgment is upon us and we are commanded to stand still, probe are souls, examine our hearts, and give an accounting of our lives to Hashem. The passuk continues saying the various groups of the population: the elders, the officers, the men, the small children, the women. The passuk already mentioned "all of you," so why would the Torah find it important to mention each group separately even though it is obvious about who the passuk is speaking about? We learn that every word in the Torah has a meaning and significance as to why it is written so the Torah is coming to teach us that we are responsible for one another. Our destiny is intertwined. The Jewish people are like one  body, and if just one joint is injured, the entire body is in pain; if one limb is amputated, the entire body is disabled. So too, it shows the importance of a single person in the Jewish nation. If one of us is missing, we are all diminished; if someone in the Jewish world is in pain we too, feel the pain in some way. The way we pray is in plural, r'fa'einue- heal us; shema kolenu- hear our voices etc. This lesson is very important to us today because we are the generation that is destined to go through the birth pangs of Mashiach. Chazal teach us that one way to protect ourselves during this difficult time is to unify ourselves, to forgive and to empathize with the our brother and sisters in the Jewish nation. If we can do that then we can be sure that Hashem will forgive us for our sins.
           There is another interesting understanding to "Atem netzavim"- "you are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your God." In last weeks parsha, parshat Ki Tavo it discussed all the terrible and painful calamities that would befall Bnei Yisrael, and they were scared. The Midrash teaches us, that they turned colors. Moshe calmed them down with the powerful opening words of our parsha: "Atem nitzavim hayom kulchem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem... You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your God." In those words are to be found the secret of our miraculous survival. No matter what the Jewish nation went through in all centuries, various countries we must always see ourselves standing before Hashem. That is the secret of our miraculous survival. Mentioned above, we understood that "Atem nitzavim..." has the same gematriya (numerical value) of the words "La'amod Le'slichot", which teaches us that all we need to do is come near to Hashem with our heart and mind and verbalize our feelings towards Hashem, our father, our king. All a person needs to do is to do teshuva.

Derived from "Torah for Your Table" by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis.

פרק ל פסוקים טו-יט) ראה נתתי לפניך היום את החיים ואת הטוב ואת המות ואת הרע...ובחרת) בחיים למען תחיה אתה וזרעך

See, I have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil... and you shall choose life, so that you will live, you and your offspring. (30:15-19)

Why was it necessary to write And you shall choose life? Isnt it expected that a person should choose life?

The answer is, that even when the choice between good and evil, blessing and curse is clear, it may not be the easiest choice. Sometimes, pressure from others and even from ourselves, makes us forget where our real priorities should lie. This verse in Parsha Nitzavim, like Moses encouragement of Joshua before entering the Land, are meant to strengthen us, reminding us you shall choose life...to love Hashem, your G-d, to listen to His voice and to cleave to him, for He is your life and the length of your days...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ki Tavo- What Will You Achieve?

Deuteronomy: (26:1-29:8)פרשת כי תבוא.                      

The title of Parsha Ki Tavo, כי תבוא,translates into English as When you will come. The Parsha opens with the commandment, for when the people come into the Land, to bring to G-d their bikurim, the first of their fruits from the land. Each person is commanded to place the first fruit in a basket and bring the basket to the altar of G-d and recite, before the priest,Aramean sought to destroy my father and he went down to Egypt and lived there with a small number of people and there he became a great, mighty and numerous nation. And the Egyptians treated us cruelly and afflicted us, and they imposed hard labor on us. So we cried out to the L-rd, G-d of our fathers, and the L-rd heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And the Lord took us out from Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, with great awe, and with signs and wonders. And He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground which you, L-rd, have given to me. (26:5-10).

We are also commanded to give a tithe of our produce to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be satisfied (26:12).

Moses then commands the people to, when they cross over the Jordan, set up great, plastered stones and write on the stones the words of the Torah. He also commands the people to proclaim the blessings and the curses on the tops of Mount Grizim and Mount Ebal, respectively. The tribes of Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin were positioned on Mount Grizim and the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali were positioned on Mount Ebal while the elders of the Levite tribe and the Holy Ark were positioned between the two mountains. The Levites were to face the mountain alternately and proclaim the blessings and the curses in a loud voice (27:14) to each of which the tribes were to answer Amen.

The Torah then tells of the many rewards and blessings that one will receive if he/she listens to G-ds word and obeys His commandments. For example, Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shalt you be in the field (28:3), and Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out (28:6). The L-rd will open unto you His good treasure the heaven to give the rain of your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. And the L-rd will make you the head, and not the tail; and you shalt be above only, and you shall not be beneath (28:12-13). On the other hand, one who does not heed G-ds word and neglects His commandments will be punished with disease, drought and misfortune.

The Parsha concludes with Moses preparing the people for the renewal of the covenant that we will read in next weeks Parsha Nitzavim. Moses tells the people here that although they saw great wonders and miracles in Egypt and in the desert, G-d did not give you a heart to know, or eyes to see, or ears to hear until this day (29:3).

(והיה כי תבוא אל הארץ אשר ה נותן לך נחלה (כו: א

When you enter the land that the Lord your G-d is giving you as a heritage (26:1)

Although the word והיה or in the phrasewhen you come is understood as a point in the future, the word והיה can also be read as part of a conditional phrase, if you come. This is to teach us that our settling in Israel is conditional; only if we observe G-d s commandments can we settle in the land but if we disobey G-d, then:

ונספחתם מעל האדמה אשר אתה בא שמה לרשתה

...you will be uprooted from the land that you are about to to enter and possess(28:63).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Parsha Ki Titzeh

פרשת כי תצא(21:10-25:19

In Parsha Ki Teitzei, Moses continues the list of social laws that we began reading last week. Here, he lists seventy-four mitzvot that relate to all aspects of human life, including debtors laws, the treatment of property and various family matters.

The Parsha opens with the laws of the beautiful female captive. It begins,

כי תצא למלחמה על איבך ונתנו ה אלקיך בידך וראית בשביה אשת יפת תאר וחשקת בה ולקחת לך לאשה

When you go out to war against your enemies, and the L-rd your G-d gives them into your hands...and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you have a desire for her, you may take her for yourself as wife. Then you shall bring her to your house and she shall shave her head and cut her nails. And she shall remove her captives garment and remain in your house and bewail her father and her mother a full month; after that you may be intimate with her and she will be your wife (21:11-13).

Following the law of the beautiful captive, we read the law of inheritance rights. This law states that it is forbidden to give precedence to the son of a favorite wife, as it is written,

לא יוכל לבכר את בן האהובה על פני בן השנואה הבכר

He may not prefer the son of the loved one over the son of the hated one the firstborn(21:16).

We also read of the wayward and rebellious son who does not obey his father and his mother and they chasten him, and he does not listen to them (21:18). As it is written,

ורגמהו כל אנשי עירו באבנים ומת ובערתה הרע מקרבך וכל ישראל ישמעו ויראו

And all the men of his city will stone him to death so you shall purge the evil from within you and all the children of Israel shall listen and fear(21:21).

חזל, Our rabbis teach us that the law of a the wayward son comes immediately after the law of the beautiful captive in order to teach us that if a man marries a beautiful captive, he will likely end up with a wayward and rebellious son.

The Parasha continues to discuss such varied mitzvot as the dignity of the dead, השבת אבדה -returning lost items, שילוח הקן -sending off the mother bird before taking her eggs, כלאים- forbidden hybrids, sexual crimes and restrictions, and divorce and marriage. For example, while it is forbidden to marry Ammonites and Moabites but Egyptians and Edomites who convert to Judaism are accepted after three generations.

The Parsha ends with a very important message that we customarily read on the shabbat before the holiday of Purim,

זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים (כה:יז

Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you were coming out of Egypt.(25:17)


תמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמים לא תשכח (כה:יט

You shall obliterate the memory of Amalek from beneath the sky; do not forget(25:19).

וראיתה בשביה אשת יפת תאר וחשקתה בה ולקחת לך לאשה (כא:יא

...and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you have a desire for her, you may take her for yourself as a wife(21:11).

The beautiful woman is a representative of the יצר הרע or evil inclination, which appears beautiful and seductive. The word תאר or appearance can also be read as deriving from the Hebrew word to describe. Like the captive woman, the beauty of the evil inclination is an external one that can be described but we can defeat the יצר הרע (evil inclination) by looking at our inner beauty, our connection to G-d.

The קבלה (Kabbalah) explains this principle:

וחשקתה בה ולקחת

and you have a desire for her, you make take her for yourself

By examining the instructions that are given in the rest of the verse. Just as in the instance of a man who desires the captive woman, if a person desires to be connected to G-d and the שכינה (Shechinah), the G-dly presence, he/she has to take several steps first. For example, just as the verse instructs,

והבאתה אל תוך ביתך

you will bring her into your house,

a person has to bring the שכינה (Shechinah) into his house by orienting his thoughts and feelings to be לשם שמים or for the sake of heaven, and then:

וגלחה את ראשה ועשתה את צפרניה

And she will shave her head and cut her nails (21:12).

The hair and the nails are external things in our body. The Torah wants us to dwell on our inner נשמה (soul) and not to dwell on the superficial. Another explanation is that our hair and our nails are representative of the material items that captivate our attention and our time but we must try to focus on the internal to see the beauty of the שכינה Shechinah, the G-dly presence.

(לא תזרע כרמך כלאים (כב:ט

Do not plant in your vineyard a mixed variety of species (22:9).

The הרב חידא (The Chida) says that a person should not mix מצוות or mitzvot (commandments) and עבירות (sins) together. For example, a person should not speak לשון הרע (slanderous speech) after he/she gives צדקה (charity), or study Torah but not honor his/her parents.

The word כלאים mixed variety of species contains the Hebrew word כלא, a prison. From this we can learn that we should not let our נשמה become imprisoned in and mixed with the daily preoccupations of the physical body. Instead, we should remember that our bodies are only vessels for the pure soul within.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Parshat Shoftim- "The Time Has Come"

We read this Parsha of שופטים (Shoftim) in the month of אלול (Elul), which is known as the month of תשובה (repentance) before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. חזל (Our rabbis) said that during this month, G-d descends from the seventh heaven to the first heaven to be close to us. During this month we should prepare ourselves to be judged by the real Judge on יום כפור (Yom Kippur), or The Day of Atonement .

שפטים ושטרים תתן לך בכל שעריך

Judges and officers shall you appoint for yourself in all your gates...(Deuteronomy 16: 18).

תתן לך: Appoint for yourself: Appoint your conscience. A person should always judge himself first and his conscience should follow him in every step he takes.

בכל שעריך: The Siftei Kohen explains that our body is like a city with seven gates: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and the mouth. A person should appoint internal judges to examine everything you hear, see and let out of your mouth.