Tag Archives: parshah

Parshat Bamidbar | Shavuot – Unity Despite Individuality

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It has been one year and one month since the exodus from Egypt.  The Jewish people, divided by tribe into clusters Har Sinaiaround a central point, have just completed erecting the Tabernacle as the nucleus of the encampment. Each tribe is now assigned a flag that highlights that tribe’s unique abilities and strengths.

The timing of the designation of the flags begs a question. Why did God wait until now to instruct the various tribes to carry flags?  The Jews had been separated and organized by tribe as soon as they left Egypt, over a year ago. It would seem fitting for them to display their tribal flags from the very start! Continue reading Parshat Bamidbar | Shavuot – Unity Despite Individuality

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Parshat Bechukotai – Traveling with the Torah

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In this week’s parshah, we discover what we will receive if we fulfill tpathwayhe mitzvot properly and the consequences if we do not.  The Torah delineates all of the blessings that will be showered down upon us for following the directions of God and all of the terrible curses that await us if we don’t fulfill our responsibilities.

The Torah uses an interesting terminology when it introduces the potential blessings.  It states, “Im bechukotai teleichu” – if you travel with my laws, then you will receive these blessings.  Why does the Torah use such an unusual phrase to express the idea of fulfilling the laws of God?  Why doesn’t it simply say, “if you follow my laws?”  What message is the Torah trying to convey? Continue reading Parshat Bechukotai – Traveling with the Torah

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Parshat Tazriah – Partnering with the Creator

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mikvahIn the beginning of this week’s Parshah, the Torah states that after a woman gives birth she becomes tamei, ritually impure. If she gave birth to a son, she waits for seven days, at which point she immerses in a mikvah, a ritual pool. Thirty-three days later – a total of forty days after the birth – she brings an offering in the Temple and fully regains her spiritually-pure status. If a woman gives birth to a baby girl, however, the first period lasts for fourteen days and the second period lasts for sixty-six – a total of eighty days after the birth. One might think that there is something ‘wrong’ with an infant girl that causes her mother to become ritually impure for forty days longer than a baby boy would! Continue reading Parshat Tazriah – Partnering with the Creator

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Parshat Tzav – The Persistence of the Altar’s Fire

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 alterDuring the days of the ancient Jewish kingdom in Israel, the focal point of the nation was the Temple.  The Temple was a place where the glory of God was revealed on a daily basis; our Rabbis teach us that ten ongoing miracles took place there.  One of those miracles was that regardless of how much it may have rained, the rain was never successful in extinguishing the fire that was always present on the altar.

Rabbi Chaim Ickovits (Volozhin, 1749 –1821) points out that this miracle is puzzling, since God is omnipotent.  Why would He choose to cause rain to fall on the altar and then prevent the rain from extinguishing the fire, instead of not allowing it to rain in the area of the altar in the first place? Continue reading Parshat Tzav – The Persistence of the Altar’s Fire

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Parshat Tzav – In the Wake of the Brooklyn Tragedy: Hugging our Children

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One of the karbanot, offerings, brought in the Temple was the Korban Todah – the Thanksgiving Offering.  If a person was in a dangerous situation and managed to survive, he would travel to the Temple in Jerusalem and bring such an offering.  Nowadays, when one survives a situation in which his life was in danger, he or she resassoon funeral 1cites a special blessing called Birchat HaGomel in place of the Thanksgiving Offering.

We have all heard of the tragedy this past week in Brooklyn, in which a fire broke out in the middle of the night, leaving seven children from the Sassoon family dead and their mother and the eighth child in critical condition.  It is beyond belief and the pain is tremendous.  Losing one child is a colossal tragedy in and of itself; losing seven in one shot?  Unimaginable. Continue reading Parshat Tzav – In the Wake of the Brooklyn Tragedy: Hugging our Children

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Parshat Pekudei – Our Moral Compass

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tabernacleWe have spent the past few weeks following the conversation between God and Moses as to how to build the Tabernacle, its vessels, and the priestly clothing.  This week, the Torah tells us that Moses appointed Betzalel to lead the building project.  Throughout the parshah, as the Torah describes the actual construction of the Tabernacle, it continually states, “such and such was done as God commanded Moses.”  Why, while discussing the topic of the Tabernacle, does the Torah stress that everything was done, “as God commanded Moses,” more than any other part of the Torah? Continue reading Parshat Pekudei – Our Moral Compass

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Parshat Terumah – The Duality of the Ark

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In reading through the verses describing the aron, the Ark, we find a running theme of duality.  The Ark was comprised of a box made from cedar wood, sandwiched between and inner and outer gold box – arktwo layers of gold.  There were two cherubs attached to the cover of the Ark.  There were two tablets placed within the Ark.  What is the meaning of this theme?

Throughout Jewish writings, the Ark clearly is symbolic of the Torah.  The lesson of the duality is that Torah observance requires joining with others.  Judaism is not meant to be practiced in isolation.  We are supposed to be part of a community. Continue reading Parshat Terumah – The Duality of the Ark

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Parshat Yitro – Catalyst for Conversion

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splitting of the red seaThe very first conversion to Judaism takes place in this week’s parshah.  The Torah relates that Yitro (Jethro), the father-in-law of Moses, traveled from Midyan to join the Jewish people.  The Talmud explains that there were two events that prompted him to convert.  The first catalyst was hearing of the miraculous splitting of the Yam Suf, the Red Sea.  The second was hearing about the war with the nation of Amalek that took place at the end of last week’s parshah.

It is understandable that the account of the escape of the Jews from the pursuing Egyptians through the splitting of the Red Sea would aid in one’s decision to join the Jewish people.  Why, however, would hearing about the war with Amalek convince Yitro that he should convert to Judaism?  If the Talmud would identify the miraculous Jewish victory over Amalek that occurred at that time as the impetus, it would be understandable; however, the Talmud states clearly that it was the war itself, not the victory, which was the second catalyst. Continue reading Parshat Yitro – Catalyst for Conversion

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Parshat Beshalach – Unity Regardless of Commonality

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egyptian chariotOnly five days after the Jewish people were dramatically emancipated from the cruel Egyptian slavery, Pharaoh had a sudden change of heart and regretted sending the Jews away.  Intending to force them to return and to subjugate them to slavery once more, he gathered his men and chased after the nascent nation.  Having tasted a mere five days of freedom, the Jewish people found an Egyptian army bearing down upon them and almost overtaking them.

The Torah, in describing how the unified, single-minded, and focused army was bearing down upon and overtaking the Jews, seems to use erroneous grammar.  It states that “Egypt nasayah (journeyed, singular form) after them,” as opposed to, “the Egyptians nasa’u (journeyed, plural form) after them.”  Why this apparently mistaken verbiage? Continue reading Parshat Beshalach – Unity Regardless of Commonality

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Parshat Va’eira – Striving for Greatness

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egyptian slavery2

We find ourselves at the climax of the past number of parshiyot.  Over the past few weeks, we read about God’s promise to give the Jewish people the Land of Canaan, the rivalry between Joseph and his brothers that brought the entire family to Egypt, and the ensuing slavery that the Jews endured under Pharaoh’s cruel rule.  We are holding at the turning point in the story.  The background narrative of the Jewish heroes, Moses and Aaron, has been developed.  family treeThe highpoint of the redemption is about to begin.  But wait!  The Torah interrupts the story just as the narrative is reaching its climax with seemingly mundane, unrelated details: the genealogy of Moses and Aaron.  Why interrupt the storyline at its most suspenseful moment with this unnecessary information? Continue reading Parshat Va’eira – Striving for Greatness

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