Posts tagged Old Testament.
The roots of Zionism - אחרי מות -קדושים


I’m not sure if people understand this or not: Theodore Herzl was not the founder of Zionism. Zionism was founded after the exile from Israel 2000 years ago. Herzl organised the political aspect not the ideology.

Last year, I had the opportunity to hear a man from the Shomron council give a lecture. He asked the audience “Who was the first Zionist?”. 

The entire audience answered, “Herzl”. 

The man (whose name I cannot remember) pointed his finger at us and said “No. Avraham was the first Zionist. At the moment he agreed to Hashem’s command of Lech Lecha, he started Zionism”. 

It was this man, his lecture and his words, that inspired me, to be the Zionist I am today. He helped me realise that Zionism is not separate from Judaism - it is a part of it. Last year, one of my friends studied a subject that included learning texts from Yechezkel and Yirmiyahu. One of her assessments was an essay about the “Triangle” - the covenant between Hashem, His people and His land. 

Every religious Jew who davens 3 times a day, yearns to return to his homeland, to see Jerusalem rebuilt. When people say Zionism and Judaism are separate, they are incorrect. When people say Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism are two different things, they are incorrect. Zionism and Judaism are intrinsically connected - just like Jews are intrinsically connected to their homeland and their G-d. 

This connection, this Triangle, is seen through this week’s Parsha, Achrei Mot-Kedoshim. 

We are told 

 וְלֹא תָקִיא הָאָרֶץ אֶתְכֶם בְּטַמַּאֲכֶם אֹתָהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר קָאָה אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר לִפְנֵיכֶם:

And let the land not vomit you out for having defiled it, as it vomited out the nation that preceded you.

(Leviticus 18:28)

The Land of Israel has a different status to all other lands in the world. Israel has a low tolerance of immorality. If Jews do not follow the Torah and keep the Mitzvot in the Land of Israel, they will be “vomited out” and exiled. This is further explained by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in a Sicha that explains Rashi’s commentary on the first verse of Genesis. He explains that the moment Bnei Yisrael conquered the Land of Israel, it was given a different status, and the land itself, as well as its inhabitant, are held to a higher standard. If they do not adhere to this higher standard of Torah and Mitzvot, they will be expelled. 

Two perakim later we are told 

 וָאֹמַר לָכֶם אַתֶּם תִּירְשׁוּ אֶת אַדְמָתָם וַאֲנִי אֶתְּנֶנָּה לָכֶם לָרֶשֶׁת אֹתָהּ אֶרֶץ זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֲשֶׁר הִבְדַּלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם מִן הָעַמִּים

So I said to you, You shall possess their land, and I shall give it to you to possess it a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the Lord your God, Who has distinguished you from the peoples.

(Leviticus 20:24)

The juxtaposition of the two ideas in this verse, the possessing of the Land of Israel, and the fact that G-d has distinguished Israel “from the peoples” is significant. Jews are separated from other nations, through their fulfilment of the Torah and Mitzvot. Although the root ב.ד.ל is used here to denote separation, the root ק.ד.ש (from which the title of the Sidrah is derived) has the same connotation of separation, with the added meaning of ‘holy’. Only when Jews separate themselves through the practice of Torah and Mitzvot, are they holy and worthy of possessing the Land of Israel. 

Today, we are lucky enough to see this Triangle being implemented in the Land of Israel. This generation has seen Israel become the world centre of Torah learning for the first time since the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. We celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut - Israel’s independence, through the Chidon Hatanach - the Bible Quiz. Newscasters remind their audience to count the Omer and the public sale of Chametz on Pesach is illegal. 

 May we merit, to see this Triangle implemented in its most ideal form, with the coming of Mashiach, במהרה בימנו אמן סלה. 

פרשת ויקרא

This Shabbos is Rosh Chodesh Nisan and Parshat Hachodesh.

This week, we begin reading Sefer Vayikra, also known as Torat Kohanim.  The major theme of this week’s Parsha, is Korbanot to Hashem.

ב. דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם אָדָם כִּי יַקְרִיב מִכֶּם קָרְבָּן לַי־הֹוָ־ה מִן הַבְּהֵמָה מִן הַבָּקָר וּמִן הַצֹּאן תַּקְרִיבוּ אֶת קָרְבַּנְכֶם:

. Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When a man from [among] you brings a sacrifice to the Lord; from animals, from cattle or from the flock you shall bring your sacrifice.

(Leviticus 1:2)

Sefer Vayikra, and this week’s Parsha in particular, seem to have little relevance to our lives today. After all, how can we offer Korbanot, if we have no Beit Hamikdash? What’s the use of even learning it?

Today, we’re living on the cusp of the Geulah, during the times of חבלי משיח-the birth pangs of Mashiach. Every day in davening we say

אני מאמין באמונה שלמה בביאת המשיח, ואף-על-פי שיתמהמה - עם כל זה אחכה לו בכל יום שיבוא

I believe with perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah. How long it takes, I will await His coming every day.

(Maimonides 13 Principles of Faith)

Mashiach CAN come today, and we have to be prepared. The Final Redemption will include the building of the Third Beit Hamikdash and the re-institution of the Temple services. While today we pray, during the times of Mashiach, we will offer Korbanot, once more. Therefore, we must study the laws of the Korbanot and service in the Beit Hamikdash. Learning Torat Kohanim, is one of the ways we can prepare ourselves for the Geulah.

The first verse of this week’s Parsha is

א. וַיִּקְרָא אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיְדַבֵּר יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֵלָיו מֵאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לֵאמֹר:

1. And He called to Moses, and the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying,

(Leviticus 1:1)

In the Torah scroll, the word וַיִּקְרָא is written with a small Aleph. The famous explanation, is that it demonstrates Moshe’s humility. However, the Zohar offers an alternative view. The Aleph, is viewed as an imperfection. Hashem’s calling to Moshe was imperfect, because it took place in the Mishkan in a foreign land. From this we can see, that true perfection, is only found in the Land of Israel.

This theme, permeates the entire Sefer Vayikra. The generation of the Midbar was on a very high spiritual level. The lowly maidservant saw G-d at the Splitting of the Sea, the generation received the Torah directly from Hashem on Har Sinai, their cloths grew with them and they even ate heavenly good, Manna. 

But, this little Aleph at the beginning of Sefer Vayikra teaches us, that no matter how good it was in the desert from a spiritual standpoint, something was lacking. True perfection can only be achieved in the Land of G-d.

This message too, has a direct significance to us. Even though our physical and spiritual lives seem completely healthy and perfect, outside the Land of Israel - something is missing. Perfection cannot be achieved. The little Aleph reminds us of our goal - serving Hashem in His Chosen Land, the Land of Israel.

May we all be zoche to commemorate Pesach in two weeks time, with the Korban Pesach in the Beit Hamikdash in Yerushalayim - במהרה בימינו אמן

Purim Song


עוד תטעי כרמים, בהרי שומרון; נטעו נוטעים, וחללו

Again shalt thou plant vinyeards upon the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall have the use thereof


Jeremiah 31:4

(In honour of Tu B’shvat. Today, you can go to Samaria and see the prophecy as reality)


Happy Tu B’shvat!

Posters made by myself and the lovely vshavubanim

פרשת בשלח

I’m sorry this Dvar Torah isn’t going to be as ‘deep’ or as long as usual. I’ve started school again and my schedule is WAY busier than before. However, this week I’m starting a shiur with my new chavruta (the lovely vshavubanim - if you don’t follow her, you should!) and we’ll be writing a joint Dvar Torah every week.

The main feature of this week’s Sidrah is שירת הים - the song that Moses sang when the Israelites finished crossing the Red Sea during the Exodus.

This first sentence of this song is

א. אָז יָשִׁיר מֹשֶׁה וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשִּׁירָה הַזֹּאת לַי־הֹוָ־ה וַיֹּאמְרוּ לֵאמֹר אָשִׁירָה לַי־הֹוָ־ה כִּי גָאֹה גָּאָה סוּס וְרֹכְבוֹ רָמָה בַיָּם:

1. Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and they spoke, saying, I will sing to the Lord, for very exalted is He; a horse and its rider He cast into the sea.

It is interesting to note that the word יָשִׁיר is written in the future tense and means ‘he will sing’. It is said that Moses will and the Messiah will sing another song, once the Redemption arrives.

This is significant to us, especially in the days that we are living in.

A Jewish proverb states

מעשה אבות סימן לבנים

The actions of fathers are a sign for their children

Essentially, this means that the actions and events that took place in the lives of our ancestors, will be paralleled in our own lives.

The culmination of the Exodus was the Revelation at Mt. Sinai and the Israelites’ entrance to the Land of Israel.

This will parallel to our own Redemption.

It is our duty to ensure, we learn and study as much Torah as possible and enter our eternal Homeland - make Aliyah. As we, the Jews, do this collectively, we fulfil the prophecies of the Redemption and are for sure, on the path to the Redemption.

Shabbat Shalom.

פרשת וארא

This week’s Parsha begins with G-d telling Moses that He has heard the cries of His people and He will redeem them. In addition to this, at this point, G-d tells Moses that He will give the Land of Israel to the Israelites as their “inheritance” (also translated as “heritage”).

וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נָשָׂאתִי אֶת יָדִי לָתֵת אֹתָהּ לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב וְנָתַתִּי אֹתָהּ לָכֶם מוֹרָשָׁה אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה

I will bring you to the land, concerning which I raised My hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you as a heritage; I am the Lord.’

(Exodus 6:8)

The only other time the word מוֹרָשָׁה is used in the Five Books of Moses is as a description of the Torah, just before the Israelites were to enter the Land of Israel.

. תּוֹרָה צִוָּה לָנוּ מֹשֶׁה מוֹרָשָׁה קְהִלַּת יַעֲקֹב:

The Torah that Moses commanded us is a legacy for the congregation of Jacob.

(Deuteronomy 33:4)

Rashi comments on this phrase and simply writes

אחזנוה ולא נעזבנה

We have taken hold of it, and we will not forsake it!

(Rashi on Deuteronomy 33:4)

Rasi’s commentary is written in relation to the actual Torah; however, as the word מוֹרָשָׁה is used only once previously in the Torah, a גזרה שווה (a parallel) between the two phrases exists and Rashi’s commentary on Deuteronomy can also explain the verse in Exodus. Therefore we learn, that  once we

"have taken hold of [the land of Israel] we will not forsake it".

We cannot give away or divide the Land of Israel, our “heritage” and “inheritance” which G-d Himself gave to us. In recent years, we’ve seen how the ‘land for peace’ strategy works - it doesn’t!

The גזרה שווה, the parallel, teaches us another lesson. Just as the Land of Israel is our “inheritance” so is the Torah. The Torah is meant to be kept in its entirety.  There are many Mitzvot that can be only completed in the Land of Israel. We’re supposed to observe our “inheritance” in the Land of Israel, which is also our “inheritance!” However, if we do not observe the Torah in the Land of Israel - the Land of Israel, we will no longer be worthy to live there.

ארץ ישראל בלי תורה היא כגוף בלי נשמה

The Land of Israel without the Torah, is like a body without a soul

The word מוֹרָשָׁה  has the root י.ר.ש. This root can can mean inherit, but in some contexts, it can also mean dispossess or remove. If we do not observe the Torah in the Land of Israel, we will be removed from the Land of Israel and we will dispossess her.

With the help of G-d, we will all soon make Aliyah and live in the Land of Israel, our inheritance whilst observing the laws of the Torah - also our inheritance. We are lucky to be living in the 21st century, where Israel is once again the centre of all Torah learning - for the first time since the Destruction of the Temple. There are thousands of Shules and Batei Midrash all over our tiny country and the words of Torah are always in the air.  However, we must remember that although the Land of Israel is our inheritance, we must hold on to her and never forsake her or divide her.

Have a good Shabbos and a hearty Mazel Tov, to one of my favourite cousins and her new son.

פרשת שמות

There were three stages of the Israelites’ exile in Egypt: גרות-being a foreigner, עבדות-slavery, and עינוי-affliction. As we saw in the previous weeks’ Parshiot, the Israelites only intended to temporarily live in the Land of Egypt (ג.ו.ר) and remain foreigners in the land. However, they began to feel comfortable there, settled there (ש.ו.ב)and felt bound to the land (א.ח.ז.).

The first stage of exile, גרות, didn’t last very long as the Israelites soon adapted to their new environment. It was this feeling of routine that led to the second stage of the Israelites’ exile- עבדות. However, the Israelite’s slavery wasn’t JUST slavery, it is described as “back breaking” and “harsh”.

וַיַּעֲבִדוּ מִצְרַיִם אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּפָרֶךְ:

So the Egyptians enslaved the children of Israel with back breaking labour.

(Exodus 1:1)

The only other time the root פ.ר.כ appears in Tanakh, is in the word פרוכת - the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the Sanctuary in the Tabernacle. From this we can see, that the wordבְּפָרֶךְ contains a connotation of separation. The second stage of exile, עבדות separated the Israelites from other Egyptian citizens, making them slaves with no civil or political rights. The Israelites were isolated. 

It is interesting to notice, that the separation and isolation of the Israelites occurred once the Israelites were settled and comfortable in Egypt. The Israelites had forgotten the first stage of their exile גרות and needed to be reminded that they were still foreigners. This isolation, this בְּפָרֶךְ- reminded the Israelites that they were different, they had their own homeland, and they were foreigners in Egypt.

This concept of isolation and being different, is one of the defining characteristics of the Jewish people throughout the millennium. After the Israelites are redeemed from Egypt, G-d tells them through Moses

וְאַתֶּם תִּהְיוּ לִי מַמְלֶכֶת כֹּהֲנִים וְגוֹי קָדוֹשׁ

And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation.’

(Exodus 19:6)

The root ק.ד.ש also has a connotation of isolation and separation. For example, Shabbat, is the holiest day of the week and it is ‘set aside’ and ‘different’ to all the other days of the week. The Jewish people, the “holy nation” are also set aside and different.

Menachem Begin would hold a Parsha Shiur at his house every Shabbat. At one such Shiur, he talked about the identity of the Jewish people and the very fact that we are separate, that we are different. He explained that the reason that the Jews are separate is not because there is only one Jewish state in the world or because Hebrew is the official language of one country in the world but because we are something unique a  “nation-faith” –. This means that we are not just a nation – the Jewish People, but also a religion – Judaism. One cannot be a member of Am Yisrael without being Jewish, and one cannot be Jewish without being part of Am Yisrael. The two MUST go together. If we assimilate, if we forget our religion, if we forget that we are foreigners in a foreign land, if we become comfortable in a foreign land; we cease to be different and we cease to exist.

The back breaking Egyptian slavery was not just to remind us that we’re different…but happened BECAUSE we are different. The Egyptians enslaved the Israelites BECAUSE they were foreigners, and because, as foreigners they had no rights. The actual root of the עבדות, was the גרות, and the mistaken notion that foreigners have no rights.

In contrast to the Egyptian way of thinking, the Torah’s laws ALWAYS protect the rights of strangers. 24 times throughout the Torah, whenever the Torah discusses a person’s rights, the stranger, the foreigner, is given special protection.

The measure of justice in a country, is not measured by the rights attained by the rich, native, well-connected people, but by the justice given to the unprotected stranger. One of the basic ideas of Jewish law is complete equality of the native and the stranger.

R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote in his commentary on this phrase

In Jewish Law, the homeland does not grant human rights; rather, human rights grant the homeland! Jewish law does not distinguish between human rights and citizens’ rights. 

R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch unfortunately died long before the re-establishment of the State of Israel; but as Jews, we can be proud to say, how relevant a description, his words are to the Jewish state.

In the one Jewish state in the world, anyone can receive Israeli citizenship, anyone with Israeli citizenship can run for Parliament, be a Supreme Court Judge, receive a tertiary education etc! 20% of Israeli’s population is Arab, and they are represented in our governmental, legal, military, law enforcement, education and medical systems!

In a neighbourhood where abuse of human rights, civil rights and political rights is rampant, Israel a safe haven and a “light unto the nations”.

As Jews in Israel, we must remember our own history. Our own abuse, exile, and discrimination. We must be a “light unto the nations” and remain a proud upholder of human, civil and political rights for all - as Jewish Law requires us.

However, as Jews in the Diaspora, we must remember that we are different, we are separate. We must not become overly comfortable in our host countries, and remember that we have an eternal homeland that is waiting for us. 

פרשת ויחי

This week’s Parsha begins with a summary of the end of Jacob’s life, and then continues with a final request from Jacob - not to be buried in Egypt.

וַיִּקְרְבוּ יְמֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לָמוּת וַיִּקְרָא לִבְנוֹ לְיוֹסֵף וַיֹּאמֶר לוֹ אִם נָא מָצָאתִי חֵן בְּעֵינֶיךָ שִׂים נָא יָדְךָ תַּחַת יְרֵכִי וְעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת אַל נָא תִקְבְּרֵנִי בְּמִצְרָיִם:

When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have now found favour in your eyes, now place your hand beneath my thigh, and you shall deal with me with loving-kindness and truth; do not bury me now in Egypt.

(Genesis 47:29)

According to Kabballah, one of then Ten Sephirot is חסד - loving kindness. The trait of חסד is characterised as a continuous, never ending flow. It is for this reason, that the word חסד is related to the word אשד , which means overflow, or “devoting oneself entirely.

אמת -  truth, can be understood as the counter-weight of חסד .Truth is absolute and does not change - it can always be found and is a constant. When there is an abundance of חסד , it is easy to lose sight of what is essential, the truth - אמת. Therefore, חסד and  אמת make the perfect couple.

It is for this reason, the Jacob specified to Joseph that he should

וְעָשִׂיתָ עִמָּדִי חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת

deal with me with loving-kindness and truth

Jacob realised that the Joseph would want to bury him in a grand ceremony, with finery and splendour - typical of the overflowing trait of חסד. However, Jacob did not want Joseph to lose sight of  אמת- the truth. Jacob did not desire a grand ceremony in Egypt (חֶסֶד), he wanted to be buried in the Land of Israel (אמת). (Interestingly enough, Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel is known as עיר האמת - the City of Truth).

This request required a solemn oath as Pharaoh and the Egyptians would not have been happy, had Jacob and his family emigrated from Egypt. Even so, the transfer and burial of Jacob’s remains from Egypt to the Land of Israel gave the impression that Joseph’s family did not consider themselves Egyptians, and were still attached to their last land of residence.

This is in fact the very reason that Jacob wanted to be buried in the Land of Israel! As I mentioned in last week’s Dvar Torah, the Israelites began to feel an attachment to Egypt and regard it as “their land”. They had forgotten that their stay in Egypt was temporary, an exile - and not their homeland. 

וַיֵּאָחֲזוּ בָהּ

(Genesis 47:27)

Jacob’s request to be buried in Israel, was almost a form of rebuke and a warning to his descendants. He was saying that although they desired to live in Egypt, he didn’t even want to be buried there! For this reason too, Jacob’s request is recorded in the Torah using the name Israel rather than Jacob. The name Israel, has the connotation of being the bearer of national destiny and the name Jacob, is a more private, personal name.

In the next chapter, Jacob talks about the Land of Israel and uses the expression

אֲחֻזַּת עוֹלָם:

an everlasting inheritance.

(Genesis 48:4)

The commitment and responsibility that Jacob’s descendants began to feel towards Egypt, Jacob still felt towards the Land of Israel - even though he was not residing there.

R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch comments on this phrase and says

Although for centuries now the Land has not been in our possession, it is our everlasting inheritance. We are attached to it, it holds us, even though it is not under our control.

Although much has changed politically since R’ Samson Raphael Hirsch wrote his commentary on Parshat Vayechi, his message is sill relevant.

Although the State of Israel has been established and there is a Jewish government for the first time since the Destruction of the Second Temple - many of us are still bound and attached to our host countries in the Diaspora.

Today, our eternal homeland, our everlasting inheritance is in Jewish hands. We have the opportunity to make Aliyah, to live in the country with a capital that is the ‘City of Truth’. Although we do have a connection to our host countries in the Diaspora -we must remember that we have much stronger connection to the Land of Israel. We are bound to her. She is our eternal inheritance!

Like said earlier this week

We have this land, and we have it to live in. It’s not okay to say from America, Australia, England, that it is our Land and that it belongs to us - we just don’t live there. How strong are these convictions if we aren’t living in the Land? How can we expect the rest of the world to see Israel as our Land, if we are not here, building our lives in this country, for this country? The best way, the only way to show the world that this is our country, and that there is nothing that any one can do to take it away from us, is through Yishuv Ha’aretz - Settling the Land.

We have our country, and we have the love for our country. Now we have to prove it - and the only way to do that is for us, Am Yisrael, to come home.

Shabbat Shalom!