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פרשת שמיני

This week’s Parsha discusses the untimely death of Nadav and Avihu.

א. וַיִּקְחוּ בְנֵי אַהֲרֹן נָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא אִישׁ מַחְתָּתוֹ וַיִּתְּנוּ בָהֵן אֵשׁ וַיָּשִׂימוּ עָלֶיהָ קְטֹרֶת וַיַּקְרִיבוּ לִפְנֵי יְהֹוָה אֵשׁ זָרָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא צִוָּה אֹתָם:

ב. וַתֵּצֵא אֵשׁ מִלִּפְנֵי יְהֹוָה וַתֹּאכַל אוֹתָם וַיָּמֻתוּ לִפְנֵי יְהֹוָה:

1. And Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his pan, put fire in them, and placed incense upon it, and they brought before the Lord foreign fire, which He had not commanded them,

2. And fire went forth from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord

(Leviticus 10:1-2)

Rashi quotes many opinions as to what Nadav and Avihu actually did wrong: they entered the Mishkan intoxicated, they brought a strange fire, they did not consult with Aharon or Moshe etc.

But what exactly was the motivation behind Nadav and Avihu’s actions? They were Kohanim, leaders of the nation and the sons and nephews of Aharon and Moshe. Surely their actions did not contain any malicious intent!

The following verse  describes the two Kohanim as “those who are near to Me” - people who are close to God. Or as Rashi explains, God’s chosen ones.

יֹּאמֶר משֶׁה אֶל אַהֲרֹן הוּא אֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהֹוָה | לֵאמֹר בִּקְרֹבַי אֶקָּדֵשׁ וְעַל פְּנֵי כָל הָעָם אֶכָּבֵד וַיִּדֹּם אַהֲרֹן:Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, [when He said], ‘I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ ” And Aaron was silent.

(Leviticus 10:3)

This is a direct reference to Nadav and Avihu. In fact, it is how Moshe informs his brother of their death.

If in death Nadav and Avihu are described as close to God, what exactly was their aim when offering their “foreign fire”?

Torat Kohanim explains

כיון שראו אש חדשה עמדו להוסיף אהבה על אהבה

When they saw the new fire tried to add love to love

Nadav and Avihu’s intentions were pure. They were consumed by religious fervour and wanted to become as close to Hashem as possible. Their “אש זרה” was their way of expressing their love of Hashem.

However, the flaw was their zealousness was unrestrained. They crossed the boundaries and broke the rules in their efforts to release their feelings and passion. They excluded themselves from the nation by bringing a separate offering, even though they were supposed to represent the nation.


The story of Nadav and Avihu is parall to the story of Uzza the son of Avinadav in this week’s Haftarah. The Haftarah recounts how the Aron was moved from the house of Avinadav to Jerusalem - King David’s new capital. The Aron was transported on a carriage instead of being carried by Leviim - a mistake on King David’s part.

The ox that was pulling the carriage misstepped and Uzza touched the Aron to support it and was immediately killed.

(See Samuel II Chapter 6)

Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein asks if the fact that the Aron was transported by carriage was Kind David’s mistake, why was Uzza punished immediately for trying to support it? He explains there is a fundamental difference between Kind David and Uzza’s attitudes towards the Aron.

Both David and Uzza were insufficient in their Yirat Shamayim. David’s lack of Yirah is expressed in the perek

וַיִּרָא דָּוִד אֶת יְהֹוָה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא וַיֹּאמֶר אֵיךְ יָבוֹא אֵלַי אֲרוֹן יְהֹוָה:

And David was afraid of the Lord that day; and he said: ‘How can the ark of the Lord come to me?’

(Samuel II 6:9)

This verse implies because David’s fear was only expressed after Uzza’s death, he was lacking in Yirat Shamayim earlier. But why wasn’t David punished? David still approached the Aron with some sort of emotion. The later half of the chapter describes his happiness and how he danced before the Aron with all his strength.

In contrast to this, Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein explains Uzza. The Aron had remained in Uzza’s house for a while of time and it seems like he was desensitized to its holiness. He treated the Aron as if it was some piece of furniture that had to be moved.

David respected the Aron but Uzza was apathetic, he had neither love nor fear and therefore he was punished.

These two scenarios describe two different ways we must approach God - with Ahavah, love and with Yirah - fear. Nadav and Avihu’s love was unconstrained and actually led to a transgression of Hashem’s commandments. On the other hand, Uzza and (to some extent David) had a lack of fear which also resulted in punishment.

So how are we supposed to approach God? What is our Ahavah and Yirah supposed to look like?  


Rambam gives an example of Ahavat Hashem that seems somewhat extreme.

ג. וכיצד היא האהבה הראויה הוא שיאהב את ה’ אהבה גדולה יתירה עזה מאוד עד שתהא נפשו קשורה באהבת ה’ ונמצא שוגה בה תמיד כאלו חולה חולי האהבה שאין דעתו פנויה מאהבת אותה אשה והוא שוגה בה תמיד בין בשבתו בין בקומו בין בשעה שהוא אוכל ושותה יתר מזה תהיה אהבת ה’ בלב אוהביו שוגים בה תמיד כמו שצונו בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך והוא ששלמה אמר דרך משל כי חולת אהבה אני וכל שיר השירים משל הוא לענין זה:

What is the proper [degree] of love? That a person should love God with a very great and exceeding love until his soul is bound up in the love of God. Thus, he will always be obsessed with this love as if he is lovesick.

[A lovesick person’s] thoughts are never diverted from the love of that woman. He is always obsessed with her; when he sits down, when he gets up, when he eats and drinks. With an even greater [love], the love for God should be [implanted] in the hearts of those who love Him and are obsessed with Him at all times as we are commanded [Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love God…] with all your heart and with all soul.

(Rambam Hilchot Teshuva 10:3)

This is where the Yirah comes in. I read a blog post discussing this exact issue - Ahavat Hashem and Yirat Hashem. The author claims that Yirah is the boundary for Ahavah. Our love for Hashem is our religious motivation and the reason we try to get closer to him - just like Nadav and Avihu.

Our Yirah makes sure we express our love within a Halachic framework and that we don’t get carried away. It seems that while Nadav and Avihu had an incredible amount of Ahavat Hashem they were lacking in the Yirah department.

We need to make sure we have both. Not lacking either one like Uzza or Nadav and Avihu. As always the answer is not found in fanaticism or extremism but the difficult yet simple middle road.

Like Rambam says,

. הדרך הישרה היא מדה בינונית שבכל דעה ודעה מכל הדעות שיש לו לאדם והיא הדעה שהיא רחוקה משתי הקצוות ריחוק שוה ואינה קרובה לא לזו ולא לזו לפיכך צוו חכמים הראשונים שיהא אדם שם דעותיו תמיד ומשער אותם ומכוין אותם בדרך האמצעית כדי שיהא שלם בגופ

The straight path: This [involves discovering] the midpoint temperament of each and every trait that man possesses [within his personality.] This refers to the trait which is equidistant from either of the extremes, without being close to either of them.

Therefore, the early Sages instructed a man to evaluate his traits, to calculate them and to direct them along the middle path, so that he will be sound {of body}.

(Rambam Hilchot Deot 1:4)

פרשת ויצא

Sorry this is last week’s Dvar Torah. My internet wasn’t working last week so I couldn’t put it up then and I didn’t have the time to work on one this week. I’m sorry. 

After years of hiding from the wrath of his twin brother, Jacob finally feels safe to begin his journey home. Interestingly enough, this idea is juxtaposed with the birth of his first son from his favourite wife Rachel, Joseph.

ויהי כאשר ילדה רחל את יוסף ויאמר יעקב אל לבן שלחני ואלכה אל מקומי ולארצי

After Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Give me leave to go back to my own homeland”

(Genesis 30:25)

Rashi comments on this verse and explains

משנולד שטנו של עשו שנאמר והיה בית יעקב אש ובית יוסף להבה ובית  עשו  לקש אש בלא להבה אינו שולט למרחוק משנולד יוסף בטח יעקב בהקב’ה ורצה לשוב

Quoting the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 73:7) Rashi explains that Joseph is the inherent rival of Esau and it was only after his birth, that Jacob felt secure enough to return to his homeland. Furthermore, the House of Jacob is compared to a fire, the House of Joseph to a flame and the House of Esau to straw.

והיה בית יעקב אש ובית יוסף להבה ובית עשו לקש ודלקו בהם ואכלום ולא יהיה שריד לבית עשו כי ה’ דבר

The House of Jacob shall be fire, and the House of Joseph flame, and the House of Esau shall be straw; they shall burn it and devour it and so survivor shall be left of the House of Esau – for the Lord has spoken

(Obadiah 1:18)

 Malbim discusses the difference between a flame and a fire.

ואז יהיה בית יעקב לאש הבוער מקרוב ובית יוסף יהיה כלהבה הבוער מרחוק יותר מן האש

The House of Jacob will be like a fire that burns close and the House of Joseph will be like a flame that burns from afar even more than fire

(Malbim on Obadiah 1:18)

Fire without a flame has no effect when it’s far away; implying fire needs a flame in order to destroy. The flame is the concentrated essence of the fire. The flame can focus on specific targets while the fire cannot. Radak expands on this idea and contends the House of Jacob is dependent on the House of Joseph to destroy the House of Esau.

ורז’ל דרשו כל זכר יוסף לפי שאין זרעו של עשו נופל אלא ביד יוסף או ביד זרעו של יוסף

The Rabbis (OB’M) teach that Joseph is mentioned because Esau will only fall through Joseph or through Joseph’s descendants

(Radak on Obadiah 1:18)

The Da’at Mikra on Obadiah defines the House of Jacob as Judah and the House of Joseph as Joseph.  Judah and Joseph are emblematic of two opposing worldviews; Judah represents a path of insulation and isolation in order to protect his own way of life, while Joseph symbolizes integration into surrounding society in order to influence society for the better.

Judah’s isolation is illustrated in the aftermath of Joseph’s Sale, when he removes himself from his brothers’ community and decides to live by himself.

ויהי בעת ההיא וירד יהודה מאת אחיו ויט עד איש עדלמי ושמו חירה

About that time Judah left his brothers and camped near a certain Adullamite whose name was Hirah

(Genesis 38:1)

This is also seen when Judah breaks his promise and refuses to give his youngest son to Tamar as a husband. He follows his worldview of isolation, rather than keeping his word.

ותסר בגדי אלמנותה מעליה ותכס בצעיף ותתעלף ותשב פתח עינים אשר על דרך תמנתה כי ראתה כי גדל שלה והוא לו נתנה לו לאשה

So she took off her widow’s garb, covered her face with a veil, and, wrapping herself up, sat down at the entrance to Einaim which on the road to Timnah for she saw that Shelah was  grown up, yet she had not been given to him as wife

(Genesis 38:14)

In contrast to this Joseph integrates into Egyptian society and even becomes the ruler of the entire country under Pharaoh’s supervision. Despite his success in a foreign society amongst pagan ideals completely opposed to Judaism, Joseph maintains his relationship with God. Joseph’s worldview is demonstrated in a number of sources in Genesis.

ויהי ה’ את יוסף ויהי איש מצליח ויהי בבית אדוניו המצרי

The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he stayed in the house of his Egyptian master

(Genesis 39:2)

ויאמר פרעה אל יוסף ראה נתתי אתך על כל ארץ מצרים

Pharaoh further said to Joseph, “See, I put you in charge of all the land of Egypt”

(Genesis 41:41)

It is this difference between Judah and Joseph that explains why only a descendant of Joseph could destroy the House of Esau. In my opinion, when Obadiah refers to completely obliterating the House of Esau it can be understood metaphorically; destroying all ideologies and beliefs that contradict God and His Torah. Judah cannot destroy Esau alone as he does not interact with him at all, he lives in his own isolated Torah bubble. However, Joseph who does not cut himself off completely from Esau’s society can be a ‘light unto the nations’ and destroy Esau’s heretical beliefs by being a positive influence.

The contrast between fire and a flame is also seen in the Book of Isaiah.

והיה אור ישראל לאש וקדושו ללהבה

The Light of Israel will be a fire and its Holy One a flame

(Isaiah 10:17)

Midrashei Chazal explain

דבר אחר והיה אור ישראל לאש זה מרדכי וקדושו ללהבה זו אסתר

Alternatively, the Light of Israel will be a fire refers to Mordechai and its Holy One a flame refers to Esther

(Midrashei Chazal on Isaiah 10:17)

Mordechai and Esther follow the same pattern in the comparison between fire and flame. Morderchai , like the fire and Judah, remained outside the palace for the most of Purim narrative, fasting and focusing on the Jewish community. In contrast to this, Esther was married to Ahasuereus and tried to change the decree against the Jews from the inside. She was part of the upper echelons of Persian society, Morderchai was outside of it.

These sources demonstrate the need for the flame to exist. Without the flame, the fire is useless. Esau will not be defeated by fire alone. Ahasuereus’ and Haman’s decree weren’t nullified by Mordechai, Esther is the heroine of the Purim story. Joseph’s weapon, the flame – God and His Torah will eradicate all theological falsehoods in this world. Joseph, unlike Judah has the ability to spread the word of God, the flame of Torah throughout the world. Joseph will be a light unto the nations and destroy the House of Esau.

We like Joseph and Esther should have the strength to withstand the values that our superficial society bombards us with on a daily basis. We should strive to emulate Joseph and be a light unto the nations, a positive influence, and through the flame of Torah influence society for the better. We should reveal more Godliness into the world, help people discover the Ultimate Truth and hasten the arrival of Mashiach.

Amen.

Parshat Chayei Sarah

In this week’s Parsha as Eliezer describes his master’s instructions to Rebecca’s family he quotes Abraham as saying

ויאמר אלי ה’ אשר התהלכתי לפניו ישלח מלאכו אתך והצליח דרכך ולקחת אשה לבני משפחתי ומבית אבי

And he said to me, 'The Lord, before Whom I walked, will send His angel with you and make your way prosper, and you shall take a wife for my son from my family and from my father’s house

(Genesis 24:40)

This is not the first time in Genesis that the word התהלך  has been used to describe the relationship between Abraham and God. In addition to this, the same term has been used to describe other people’s relationship to God.

I’ll be honest, as I’m writing this I have no idea what meaning I expect to find in the similarities and differences of the sources and what lessons can be extrapolated from this. Nevertheless,here’s a comparison!

Musaf Rashi refers us to Rashi’s commentary on Parshat Noah which discusses the difference between Abraham and Noah.

Noah’s relationship is described as as

את האלוקים התהלך נח

Noah walked with God

(Genesis 6:9)

Here, Rashi comments and says

נח היה צריך סעד לתמכו אבל אברהם היה מתחזק ומהלך בצדקו מאליו

Noah needed God’s help to support him in his righteousness but Abraham strengthened himself and walked in his righteousness by himself.

The Bereishit Rabbah (30:10) explains the difference between Abraham and Noah through the analogy of a young child and an older child. Just like a father tells the smaller child to walk with him, so too Noah walked alongside God as he needed His support. In contrast to this, Abraham as the older child can be more independent and can follow his Father’s instructions without having to walk next to him.  

While we understand that Abraham was stronger in his religious convictions than Noah, what does התהלך לפניו  really mean?

In Parshat Lech Lecha the same term is used when God speaks to Abraham but in this case, it’s a command.

ויהי אברםבן תשעים שנה ותשע שנים וירא ה’ אל אברם ויאמר אליו אני אל שדי התהלך לפני והיה תמים

And Abram was ninety nine years old and God appeared to Abram. And God said to him, I am the Almighty God, walk before Me and be perfect

(Genesis 17:1)

Rashi comments on the word התהלך  and explains it to mean to cling to the service of God.

This term is used in reference to two more people in Genesis, Enoch and Joseph.  Within the short space of two verses, Enoch is described as

ויתהלך חנוך את האלהים

And Enoch walked with God

(Genesis 5:22,24)

Rashi explains that Enoch was a righteous man but had a weak mind and could have easily been persuaded to return to evil. In order to prevent this, God shortened his days so that he would remain a righteous person.  In the Midrash Enoch is described as פעמים צדיק פעמים רשע  sometimes righteous, sometimes evil (Bereishit Rabbah 25:1).

In contrast to this, in Jacob’s final blessing to his sons, he blessed Joseph saying

האלהים אשר התהלכו אבתי לפניו אברהם ויצחק האלהים הרעה אתי מעודי עד היום הזה

God, before Whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, God Who sustained me as long as I am alive, until this day

(Genesis 48:15)

Sforno comments on the words  האלהים אשר התהלכו אבתי and explains it to mean that God should do good for Joseph and fulfil his blessing in the merit of Abraham and Isaac, who walked before God.

The different times this phrase is used demonstrates different levels of commitments to God. Enoch, is at the lowest level as he sometimes does evil and would be very easily persuaded to return to his former ways, Noah is a level higher but needs God’s direct support to ensure he remains on the correct path and Abraham is on the highest level. Abraham not only fulfils God’s command and cleaves to his service of God, but he has strong religious convictions and is not influenced by the pagan forces surrounding him.  

In this comparison, Joseph’s blessing appears to be irrelevant. It is not. Joseph’s blessing affirms Abraham’s high level as it is Abraham’s merit that will be invoked for Joseph. Furthermore, in modern times we as a nation can identify with Joseph. We are surrounded by foreign forces who worship different ideas to us; we are different yet we are expected to stand strong and remain Jewish. We are not supposed to be like Enoch who is easily influenced or Noah who is compared to a young child. As descendants of Abraham who have internalized his ‘spiritual DNA’ we aim to resist temptation and cling to God in spite of opposing external influences. In this sense, we are also like Joseph who remained firm in his religious convictions despite the depravity of Egypt.

While we may struggle to battle ideas that are foreign to ours and face a fight externally on a global scale and internally with our evil inclination, we remember Joseph’s blessing which invokes the merit of Abraham and the example of Abraham himself.

May we merit to replicate Abraham and Joseph’s examples and bring משיח במהרב בימינו אמן 

Parshat Nitzavim

 

The first Aliyah of this week’s Parsha discusses the consequences of not following the laws of God. The culmination of these numerous consequences is the exile of our people from the Land of Israel. One of the most interesting verses in the Sedra demonstrates the difference between sins committed privately, and those committed publicly.

                                                                                                                                           

הנסתרות לה אלוקינו והנגלות לנו ולבנינו עד עולם לעשות את כל דברי התורה הזאת

The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God, but the revealed things apply to us and to our children forever; that we must fulfill all the words of this Torah

(Deuteronomy 29:28)

In the Torah, the word ולבנינו  is written strangely, with many dots appearing above the word. Rashi explains that if there are sins committed publicly and the community does not discipline the offenders, the entire community will be punished by God.

 

אבל הנגלות, לנו ולבנינו לבער הרע מקרבנו, ואם לא נעשה דין יענשו את הרבים. נקוד על לנו ולבנינו, לדרוש, שאף על הנגלות לא ענש את הרבים עד שעברו את הירדן משקבלו עליהם את השבועה בהר גרזים ובהר עיבל ונעשו ערבים זה לזה:בהם

 However, “the revealed things apply to us and to our children” [that is, we are responsible for detecting the sins committed openly in our community, and] to eradicate any evil among us. And if we do not execute judgment upon these [open transgressions, over which we do have control,], then the whole community will be punished [because they would be remiss in their responsibility]. There is a dot placed over [each letter of] the words לָנוּ וּלְבָנֵינוּ here, to teach us homiletically that even for open sins [which were not brought to judgment, God] did not punish the whole community-until Israel crossed the Jordan. For then, they accepted upon themselves the oath at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, and thereby [formally] became responsible for one another (Sanh. 43b). [When dots are placed over letters of the Torah, this denotes an exclusion of some sort. In our context, our Rabbis teach us that the exclusion refers to the period prior to the crossing of the Jordan.]

(Rashi on Deuteronomy 29:28)

 Further, he explains that the dots placed above each letter of the word indicate that God did not punish the entire people for open sins until they crossed the Jordan river. It was only at Mt. Grizim and Mt. Abel that the people agreed to all formally be responsible for each other.

Unfortunately, throughout history, these consequences became a reality. We sinned, we were warned to repent, we did not repent, our Temple was destroyed and we were exiled from our land. This did not happen only once, but twice! This also excludes the number of times we lost our independence in our own land and were forced to live under the rule of foreign nations.

However, in the past one hundred years we have been privileged to see the other side of the coin. Prophecies of the future when the Jewish people will return to Israel are also written in this week’s Parsha.

וְשָׁב יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶת שְׁבוּתְךָ וְרִחֲמֶךָ וְשָׁב וְקִבֶּצְךָ מִכָּל הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר הֱפִיצְךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ שָׁמָּה :

. אִם יִהְיֶה נִדַּחֲךָ בִּקְצֵה הַשָּׁמָיִם מִשָּׁם יְקַבֶּצְךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וּמִשָּׁם יִקָּחֶךָ

וֶהֱבִיאֲךָ יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יָרְשׁוּ אֲבֹתֶיךָ וִירִשְׁתָּהּ וְהֵיטִבְךָ וְהִרְבְּךָ מֵאֲבֹתֶיךָ:

then, the Lord, your God, will bring back your exiles, and He will have mercy upon you. He will once again gather you from all the nations, where the Lord, your God, had dispersed you. Even if your exiles are at the end of the heavens, the Lord, your God, will gather you from there, and He will take you from there. And the Lord, your God, will bring you to the land which your forefathers possessed, and you [too] will take possession of it, and He will do good to you, and He will make you more numerous than your forefathers.

(Deuteronomy 30:3-5)

In the past generation, we figuratively crossed the Jordan and became responsible for one another. While this may be difficult, we may not agree and our society may seem fractured beyond repair, it is a better alternative than exile. This sentiment is eloquently expressed by A.B Yehoshua.

עלינו לחיות את האינטראקציה בין דתיים לחילוניים במלואה, היות ובמדינת ישראל, איננו משוחררים זה מזה כמו בגולה, בה יכול כל יהודי לבשל את תבשיל היהדות המתאים לו, בלי להתחשב בשני. פה בבית, אנחנו יושבים כולנו, כמו כל עם במין אולפן של פופוליטיקה, קשורים זה בזה, תובעים זה מזה, אחראים זה לזה ומכריעים זה עבור זה. זוהי ריבונות וגם אם יש לה טעם קשה, מסובך ומלא אכזבות, האמינו לי עבור מי שחי אלפיים שנה בגלות, יש לה טעם נפלא ומתוק”. (א.ב. יהושע, מתוך ראיון לכתב עת תואר, האוניברסיטה העברית, נובמבר 1998).

"We should fully live the interaction between religious people and seculars, since in the state of Israel, we’re not separated from each other, as we were in exile, where every Jew could live Judaism the way he sees it, without taking into account what the other thinks. Here, at home, we sit all together, like a whole nation in a talk-show studio, who are tied to each other, demanding from each other, responsible to each other, and making choices one for the other. This is our independence, and even if sometimes it tastes hard, complicated, and full of disappointments, believe me, for a person who lived 2000 years in exile, its taste is sweet and wonderful." (A. B. Yehoshua)

It appears that for better or for worse, for good or for bad we are all responsible for each other.

כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה

All of Israel are responsible for each other

(Shevuot 39a)

Unfortunately, things that are supposed to unite us as a nation are unfortunately used as an excuse to divide us. Some people eat this Hechsher but not that Hechsher, some people won’t listen to this Rav and anybody who wears this type of Kippah or hat must be an apikoires. While this may all be said and done in the name of the Torah, the discord it brings to the Jewish people is in no way valid.

While Yair Lapid may be a secular Jew a few weeks ago in Knesset he correctly asserted that the Torah is intended to unite us, not divide us. This is especially relevant just before Rosh Hashannah.

All our Rosh Hashannah prayers are written in the plural and we daven as entire community, all together. This is because we have greater power as a united force to create positive decrees in heaven.  May this year result in an everlasting unity of Am Yisrael and when we daven on the Yamim Noraim we are all inscribed in the Book of Life.

כתיבה וחתימה טובה 

zavatchalavudvash:

וַיֵּשֶׁב יַעֲקֹב בְּאֶרֶץ מְגוּרֵי אָבִיו בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן:

Jacob dwelt in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan.

(Genesis 37:1)

The first verse of this week’s Parsha uses two words to denote living arrangements - וַיֵּשֶׁב - and he dwelt, and

Other ideas in this week’s Parsha…

Couldn’t include these in the DT, but I thought I’d write them here to share with you.

ט. כִּי מֵרֹאשׁ צֻרִים אֶרְאֶנּוּ וּמִגְּבָעוֹת אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ הֶן עָם לְבָדָד יִשְׁכֹּן וּבַגּוֹיִם לֹא יִתְחַשָּׁב:

For from their beginning, I see them as mountain peaks, and I behold them as hills; it is a nation that will dwell alone, and will not be reckoned among the nations.

(Numbers 23:9)

Israel has and always will be a nation that is different, separate. We are called a גוי קדוש for a reason. Being Holy, means being distinguished, separate. In fact the word קדוש has those  very connotations. We have to stop trying to be like everybody else. We have to stop trying to please everybody. We have to stop being apologetic for our religion and our beliefs. Being separate is what defines us and we MUST be proud of that and start acting thusly.

יז. אֶרְאֶנּוּ וְלֹא עַתָּה אֲשׁוּרֶנּוּ וְלֹא קָרוֹב דָּרַךְ כּוֹכָב מִיַּעֲקֹב וְקָם שֵׁבֶט מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל:

17. I see it, but not now; I behold it, but not soon. A star has gone forth from Jacob, and a staff will arise from Israel

(Numbers 24:17)


Also, this references Mashiach. Thought y’all should know.

We should merit to see the coming of Mashiach speedily in our days - especially as 17 Tammuz is this weekend. 

The roots of Zionism - אחרי מות -קדושים

defenderofisrael:

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. 

Sorry I couldn’t write an orignial.

Parshat Tetzaveh

co-written with the lovely vshavubahim

This week’s Parsha, Parshat Tetzaveh begins with Hashem telling Aharon and his sons, the priests of Israel about the commandment of lighting the Menorah. G-d tells them that it is

חוקת עולם לדורות

an eternal decree for generations.

This phrase the concept of eternity, and of remembrance in the Parsha.

Throughout the Parsha, the message of remembrance is seen. This Parsha revolves around the role of the priests, and a large portion of it discusses the clothes that they would wear. O

ne of the items of clothing that the High Priest would wear was the Eiphod - the apron. On the shoulder straps of the Eiphod were two precious stones, on which were engraved the names of the 12 tribes of Israel.

Another vestment worn by the High Priest was the Choshen Mishpat, the breastplate of “judgement”. The face of the breastplate had 12 gemstones upon it. On each stone was engraved the name of the tribes of Israel.

After describing both of these items, G-d says

ונשא את שמותם לזכרון”

And he will carry their names for remembrance


Rashi explains that the word לזכרון-for remembrance, means that G-d will see the names of His people and will remember their righteousness.

While this represents the role of the High Priest as a representative and ambassador for Bnei Yisrael, it also teaches us, the importance of commemoration and remembrance.

This idea of commemoration and remembrance is particularly significant to this Shabbat, the Shabbat before Purim, as it is Parshat Zachor. Every year on the Shabbat before Purim, a second Torah scroll is taken out of the ark, and the read the section where we are told to always remember what Amalek did to us, after the Exodus of Egypt.

זָכוֹר, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לְךָ עֲמָלֵק, בַּדֶּרֶךְ, בְּצֵאתְכֶם מִמִּצְרָיִם. אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ, וַיְזַנֵּב בְּךָ כָּל-הַנֶּחֱשָׁלִים אַחֲרֶיךָ, וְאַתָּה, עָיֵף וְיָגֵעַ וְלֹא יָרֵא אֱלֹהִים. וְהָיָה בְּהָנִיחַ ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְךָ מִכָּל-אֹיְבֶיךָ מִסָּבִיב, בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ – תִּמְחֶה אֶת-זֵכֶר עֲמָלֵק, מִתַּחַת הַשָּׁמָיִם; לֹא תִּשְׁכָּח

Remember what Amalek did to you, on your way out of Egypt. how he happened upon you on the way and cut off all the stragglers at your rear, when you were faint and weary, and he did not fear God. [Therefore,] it will be, when the Lord your God grants you respite from all your enemies around [you] in the land which the Lord, your God, gives to you as an inheritance to possess, that you shall obliterate the remembrance of Amalek from beneath the heavens. You shall not forget!


This portion is read the Shabbat before Purim, as Haman - who also tried to obliterate all of Jewry, was a direct descendant of Amalek.

Commemeration is an important part of Judaism. There are numerous days on the Jewish calendar to commemorate different events. For example, Yom Hashoah - to remember the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaus and Yom Hazikaron - to remember fallen soldiers and victims of terror, just to name two.

However, days of commemoration are not limited to modern Jewish dates. There are three types of Mitzvot in the Torah.

1. Mishpatim - civil laws

2. Chukim - laws we do not understand the logic or reasoning behind

3. Edut - commemorative laws.

Celebrating Pesach is a commemoration of the Exodus, celebrating Purim is commemoration of the Jews’ deliverance from the hands of Haman and Ahasuerus, celebrating Shavuot, is a commemoration of the Revelation at Mt. Sinai.

Furthermore, the Torah also writes

פוקד און אבות על שלשים…

He remembers the sins for fathers for three of four generations…

(Exodus 20:5)

and

וְעֹשֶׂה חֶסֶד לַאֲלָפִים לְאֹהֲבַי וּלְשֹׁמְרֵי מִצְוֹתָי:

and [I] perform loving kindness to thousands [of generations], to those who love Me and to those who keep My commandments.

(Exodus: 20:6)

G-d, is a benevolent G-d, who “remembers” His creatures positive actions for much longer, than He “remembers” their negative actions.

As we read Parshat Tetzaveh and Zachor in Shule tomorrow, and celebrate the festival of Purim next week, let’s remember the nature of commemoration in Judaism.

Let’s look at the past, and learn from history.

Take a lesson from the Purim story, and countless other incidents where nations tried to destory us.

Take a lesson from our holy ancestors and Sages, to see how we can conduct ourselves.

Only when we learn from our past mistakes, the Torah and our ancestor’s actions, can we truly act in the way that we’re commanded.

Only when we do this, can we be redeemed and Mashiach will come speedily in our days.

Amen.

When You Believe - Hebrew

In honour of yesterday’s Parsha.

Note: When the subtitles read ‘Mashiach, Mashiach, Mashiach’, it is an error, and should actually read ‘Ashira, Ashira, Ashira!’