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Showing posts from March, 2017

Birth and Rebirth - Parshat Ki Tisa and Parashat Parah - March 17, 2017

In a section near the end of this week’s parasha – Parashat Ki Tisa – the Torah presents some of the mitzvot related to the chaggim – the Jewish festivals. Particular attention in the section is given to the holiday of Pesach. This section concludes with two mitzvot – all first fruits are to be brought to the Temple to be given to the kohen and the commandment not to cook milk together with meat. At first glance, the connection between the beginning and the end of this section is not obvious. Pesach and the prohibition to mix milk and meat seem unrelated.

In a very novel and interesting approach, Rabbenu Ovadiah Seforno identifies a theme that runs through the section. Seforno explains that the mitzvot in this section are aimed to reorient a person’s concept of the true source of success. Hashem is the source of our material success and well-being. There are two moments in which a person is particularly susceptible to forgetting this idea.

Celebrating a spring festival – Pesach – is a…

Unity - Parashat Tetzaveh and Purim - March 10, 2017

We know that Megilat Esther is the record of the miraculous saving of the Jewish People that occurred in Shushan and in the surrounding areas of King Achashverosh’s reign. One of the culminating themes in the megila is the unity within the Jewish People that was forged as a result of this miracle.

This unity expressed itself in a number of ways. One of the expressions was the re-acceptance of the Torah that occurred in that generation – kiyemu ve’kibelu. This re-acceptance included a unified acceptance of the mitzvah of Purim that was legislated by the Anshei Kinesset HaGedola – the Men of Great Assembly. Another expression of this unity is the emphasis on forging brotherhood within the Jewish People – we read the megila in big groups, we give money to the poor and we give food gifts to our fellow Jews. Clearly, unity is a fundamental theme of Purim.

Given this focus on unity, there is a striking difference between Purim and all other holidays – a difference that seems to emphasize part…

The Impact of the Mishkan II - Parashat Terumah - March 3, 2017

The parshiyot of this and next week, Parashat Terumah and Parashat Tetzave, introduce Hashem’s command regarding the plans for the mishkan and its vessels, including the clothing were worn by the kohanim.

One of the vessels that Hashem commands to be built is the menorah – the candelabra. The description of the plans for the menorah are described this week and the description of its service is described next week.

In Parashat Tetzave, next week, the Torah says, “and you will take to yourself pure olive oil pressed to be lit to raise an everlasting candle.” The phrase, “to yourself” (אליך) is seemingly extraneous.

Certainly all of the mitzvot are for us – Hashem commanded them to the Jewish people, not to angels. Certainly the mitzvot are for our benefit and for the benefit of mankind. In this light, “to yourself” is difficult – this quality would seem to apply equally to all of the mitzvot! What is the message of bnei yisrael taking oil to themselves?

Our chachamim present a number …

Fostering Belief in Hashem - Parashat Mishpatim - February 24, 2017

The set of parshiyot that we are currently in the middle of present the development of b’nei yisrael as a nation. Beginning with their experience as bystanders to the plagues and through the salvation at the Red Sea and the revelation at Har Sinai, b’nei yisrael were exposed to a clear perception of the existence of Hashem and of His relationship with the Jewish People. However, we will soon be exposed to a crisis in the relationship between bnei yisrael and Hashem in the experience at the Golden Calf.

One of my teachers, Rav Yitzchak Mirsky, he should live and be well, asks: How could bnei yisrael see all of the miracles of Hashem with their own eyes and not believe in Hashem?

In truth, we do see another case in Tanach of people seeing Hashem’s miracles and not believing in Hashem.

In the time of Eliyahu haNavi, the Jewish people were split into two political entities, two kingdoms – the kingdom of Judah which was comprised of the tribes of Yehudah and Binyamin and the kingdom of Is…