ויאמרו בני ישראל אל-משה לאמר הן גוענו אבדנו כלנו אבדנו: כל הקרב הקרב אל-משכן יקוק ימות האם תמנו לגוע
The Children of Israel said to Moshe, saying: “Behold! We have perished, we’re lost; we’re all lost! Anyone who comes close to the Mishkan of Hashem will die! Will we stop perishing?”
After a series of devastating blows, the morale of the Jewish people had reached a new low. Many had died at this point, due to unwarranted complaints or all out acts of rebellion. Those that remained were scared for their lives. They came to Moshe essentially expressing their complete despair. While this is a tragic point in the history of the Jews, we can perhaps glean an inspiring message.
Continue reading “Korach 5782”
The benefits of a righteous wife
ועבדי כלב עקב היתה רוח אחרת עמו וימלא אחרי והביאתיו אל-הארץ אשר-בא שמה וזרעו יורשנה
My servant Kalev, since he had a different spirit with him, and he was completely after Me, I will bring him to the land to which he is coming, and his offspring will inherit it
Parshas Shelach tells of the tragic failure of the ten spies, and the people’s acceptance of their slanderous report. They were sent to scout out the land of Israel, and their assessment was that it was not conquerable, nor worthwhile. Yehoshua and Kalev were the only spies to defend the land, and insisted on following Hashem’s command to conquer it. Hashem responded by punishing the ten spies, and rewarding Yehoshua and Kalev. Hashem stresses that Kalev “had a different spirit with him”. What is this referring to? Furthermore, how was it that Yehoshua and Kalev maintained their faith? How did they not succumb to peer pressure? The spies had a point; the enemy occupying the land of Israel was fierce and mighty. Why wasn’t this a concern for Yehoshua and Kalev? True, we are told that Moshe prayed that Yehoshua not be influenced by the spies. However, Kalev got no such prayer. What made Kalev special, such that he didn’t need a prayer and was nevertheless successful?
Continue reading “Shelach 5782”
The proper attitude towards mitzvos
ויסעו מהר יקוק וגו’ זכרנו את-הדגה אשר-נאכל במצרים חנם וגו’ וישמע משה את-העם בכה למשפחתיו וגו’ ויאמר משה אל-יקוק למה הרעת לעבדך וגו’ האנכי הריתי את כל-העם הזה אם-אנכי ילדתיהו וגו’
[The people] journeyed from the Mountain of Hashem… “We remember the fish which we ate in Egypt for free”… Moshe heard the nation crying amongst their families…Moshe said to Hashem: “Why have You done evil to Your servant? … Did I bear this nation? Did I give birth to it?!”
Parshas Beha’alosecha is a depressing section of the Torah. It begins a series of sins that the Jews committed while they were in the desert. After the Torah describes three episodes of sins, Moshe abruptly starts complaining to Hashem. It appears like he was throwing in the towel, expressing his inability to deal with the people. This is quite surprising, for we know that when the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf, Moshe gave it his all to defend them. What’s different about these sins which were too much for Moshe to handle?
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The proper understanding of marriage
והשקה את-האשה את-מי המרים המאררים וגו’
You shall have the woman drink the cursed, bitter waters
The Torah describes what’s known as the Sotah ritual. If a married woman, due to her immoral behavior, becomes a presumed adulteress, she and her husband cannot live together until the matter is confirmed. If she indeed committed adultery, they have to divorce. If she is in fact innocent, they can resume married life as normal. How can they clear up this scandal? The Torah provides a unique avenue for her to prove her innocence. The woman, now known as a Sotah, is taken to the Temple. Various rituals are performed, and offerings brought. This includes writing down on a piece of parchment a set of curses which are to befall her if she is guilty. This parchment contains instances of the name of Hashem. It is then placed in a cup of bitter water, the writing dissolves, and she is to drink it. Miraculously, after the ceremony, it became clear to everyone if she was innocent or not.
Continue reading “Nasso 5782”
The wedding canopy of Mount Sinai
…ברוך אתה יקוק מקדש עמו ישראל על ידי חופה וקידושין
…Blessed are You, Hashem, Who sanctifies His nation of Israel, through Chuppah and Kiddushin
The blessing recited at every Jewish wedding, known as birkas erusin, ends with the idea that Hashem sanctifies His nation, through “Chuppah”, the wedding canopy, and “Kiddushin”, betrothal. How did Hashem sanctify us with Chuppah and Kiddushin? We could simply say that He sanctified us with the mitzvah of marriage through the process of Kiddushin, which is unique to Jews. However, some say that this is a reference to Mattan Torah, the National Revelation at Sinai, where we received the Torah. The verse says that תורה צוה לנו משה מורשה קהילת יעקב, Moshe commanded us the Torah, an inheritance of the congregation of Yaakov. Our Sages read the word מורשה, inheritance, homiletically to be מאורסה, betrothed. Meaning, the Sinaitic experience was one of a marriage between the Jewish people and Hashem.
Continue reading “Shavuos 5782”
Fire, water, desert
וידבר יקוק אל-משה במדבר סיני באהל מועד וגו’
Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting…
The Jewish people, ever since our inception at the Exodus from Egypt and the National Revelation at Mount Sinai, have been pursued by the enemies of Torah. Throughout the generations there were always new means created to try to extinguish the flame of our tradition. Our national memory recalls that these efforts have grown stronger and mightier, seemingly beyond the boundaries of nature. We all know it was not one Jew who gave up their life to preserve the Torah, but myriads. And yet, our enemies’ efforts to slaughter us have proven futile, as the Torah is just as present as ever.
Continue reading “Bamidbar 5782”