27 February 2016
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT KI-TISA
The Parasha begins with the laws of how to conduct a census. The Torah forbids us to be counted by means of a head-count. The census therefore required everyone to give a silver half-shekel. The obvious question is why the requirement of a half-shekel, why not simply obligate each person to contribute one shekel?
One answer is that it teaches us that a person, when on his own, cannot be considered whole. An individual, regardless of their abilities, is lacking in something. That something is “community.” Only when a person is part of their greater community can they be considered complete.
20 February 2016
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT TETZAVEH
The Parasha deals mainly with the duties of the Kohanim and the special garments that were made for them.
It is important to understand how the Kohanim achieved their status. Originally the first born (if a son) in every family was to be a Kohen. This all changed after the events of the “Golden Calf.” These were 3 responses to the worshipping of the golden calf. One group actively tried to stop the event. One group did not worship the golden calf, but did not go so far as to try and stop people from worshipping it. The third group, the largest of the three, participated in the worshipping of the golden calf. The firstborn were amongst this third group and therefore lost their status of Priesthood.
After this event, the first group who actively tried to stop the whole episode, were rewarded by becoming Kohanin.
13 February 2016
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT TERUMAH
The Parasha of Terumah deals mainly with laws relating to the building of the Mishkan. The Mishkan was the portable sanctuary that accompanied the Israelits during the forty years they spent in the desert.
One may question the purpose of the Mishkan. If Hashems presence fills the entire universe, what is the need for him to have a special dwelling – place? The answer is that the Mishkan should not be viewed as a dwelling – place for Hashem. Its purpose was for the benefit of mankind, not for G-d. For us as humans, it is easier to conceive of G-d within something concrete and therefore we were commanded to build the Mishkan.
06 February 2016
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT MISHPATIM
Many attacks, stemming from ignorance have been levelled against the phrase in the Torah “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” At face value this law seems to be barbaric. How can the Torah, given by a G-d of mercy, support such actions?
The Talmud (explanation of the Torah) explains with simple logic that this law is a law of monetary compensation.
It uses many methods to do this. One simple approach is understanding that different people react differently to physical illness. One person may subject to a blow which will cause him to lose his eyesight, whereas another person may die as a result of receiving the same blow. The end result would therefore be a loss of life verses a loss of sight, which is obviously not what the Torah envisages.
30 January 2016
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT YITRO
The Midrash states that when Hashem decided to give the Torah to Bnei Yisrael, the mountains in the desert all competed with each other for this honour. Each mountain put forward an argument in their favour. Hashem finally chose Har Sinai, a lowly site, for this singular and historic event. From here we learn the value that Torah gives to the qualities of modesty and humility.
Another interesting point to note is that the simple setting of a desert teaches us the value placed on inner qualities as opposed to the value placed on the exterior.
23 January 2016
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT BESHALACH
This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of Song as it contains the Song that the Israelites sang after they crossed the Red Sea.
There will always be those who will deny the existence of miracles. They will claim that these events are the results of natural phenomena such as earthquakes or low tides.
The Torah teaches us (according to Rashi), that at the time of the crossing of the Red Sea all the waters in the world split, in order for all to know that this was indeed a miracle.
16 January 2016
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT BO
The Parasha contains many laws regarding the Korban Pesach – the special sacrifice that took place during the times of the Beit Hamikdash (Temple). Today we have the custom of placing a shankbone on the Pesach Plate on the Seder night, to remind us of this mitzvah.
One of the interesting laws, regarding the Korban Pesach is that it had to be eaten in groups. The Torah specifically tells us that if one household was of insufficient numbers to consume the lamb, they had to join with another household for the eating of the sacrifice. From here we see the importance that the Torah places on the concept of not wasting.
09 January 2016
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAEIRA
The concept of Midah Kneged Midah (Measure for Measure) is seen in many places in the Torah.
When Jaacov came to his father for his blessing he pretended to be Eisav. Later in Jaacov’s life he too was deceived by Lavan his father in law when he found out that he married Leah instead of Rachel.
The Torah specifically states that when Joseph’s brothers threw him into a pit, they sat down and ate bread. The Torah states later, when the brothers went to Egypt to look for food, that they went to Egypt to buy bread.
We see the same concept in our Parasha. Pharoh always boasted that he could control nature. We see that many of the plagues (blood, wild beasts and pestilence) showed that Pharaoh had absolutely no control over nature whatsoever.
31 December 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT SHEMOT
This Shabbat we begin reading the second book in the Torah – the book of Shemot. Our Parasha this week deals with the enslavement, the birth of Moses and most importantly we learn about the character of Moses.
The Torah states that as a young man Moshe went out to his brethren and saw their burden. Rashi explains that Moshe directed his heart and mind to share the experiences of his fellow Jews. Although he himself enjoyed the privileges of a royal upbringing, he empathized with the plight of those Jews who were treated like slaves.
We see that Moshe did not only empathize with his fellow man, but also acted in support of the oppressed.
The quality of concern and commitment to others helped to make Moshe an outstanding leader of the Jewish People.
19 December 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAYIGASH
After Benjamin was accused of stealing Josephs goblet, Yehuda approached Joseph and implored that he be allowed in remain in Egypt as a slave instead of Benjamin. He explained to Joseph that their fathers love for Benjamin was so intense that if Benjamin did not return it could cause their father’s death.
At this point Joseph could no longer control his emotions and after he ordered the departure of everyone from the room except his brothers, he revealed himself to his brothers. After he told them who he was he quickly inquired if his father is really still alive.
He then went on to assure his brothers that he would not take revenge upon them for what they had done, as he believed that they were honestly sorry for what they had done. We learn a very important lesson of forgiveness from this episode in the Torah.
12 December 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT MIKETZ
The Parasha deals with Pharaoh’s dreams, Joseph’s release from prison, his divine interpretations and his appointment as second in command to King Pharaoh. The Parasha also contains Josephs meeting with his brothers.
When Joseph saw his brothers the Torah tells us that he immediately recognized them but that he made himself “strange unto them.” It is difficult to understand Joseph’s attitude.
One reason for his seemingly strange attitude towards his brothers was that when they bowed down to him they thought he was a ruler of Egypt. It would have been extremely humiliating for them had they known straight away that this was Joseph, the brother they had sold as a slave.
This Shabbat is rather unique as we read from three Sifrei Torah apart from being Shabbat and Chanukah, it is also Rosh Chodesh. We therefore read from 3 Torot, one for Shabbat, one for Chanukah and one for Rosh Chodesh.
27 November 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAYISHLACH
Last Shabbat Jacob dreams of a ladder reaching heaven. After his dream he receives a promise of protection from Hashem for his future safety and prosperity.
After spending some twenty years with Lavan he now returns home. He now has to face his brother Esau who wanted to kill him. When the messengers came back and told Jacob that Esau was coming towards him with 400 men, the Torah states that “Jacob was greatly afraid.”
The question is why was he afraid of Esau, especially after G-ds promise to him in last week’s Parasha? The answer is that he was not afraid of Esau. He was afraid that in the time he spent with Lavan, he had distanced himself from the values he had learnt from his parents Yitzchak and Rivka and was therefore not entitled to the promise that Hashem had given him.
20 November 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAYEITZEI
When Yaakov travels from Beer Sheva to Charan he has a dreamlike vision where he saw angels ascending and descending a ladder. The ladder was standing on earth with its top reaching the heavens. Hashem appears to him and promises him that the very land upon which he is resting will be given to him and to his descendants. Tradition teaches us that Solomon’s Temple was built at this very place. When Yaakov woke up he was inspired by this wonderful dream, and vowed that he would donate a tenth of whatever wealth Hashem would bestow on him to worthy causes. There are many different explanations associated with this dream. One of them compares the ladder to a person. Although one stands with both feet firmly on the ground, occupying ourselves with earthly matters, we should conduct our affairs in an upright and ethical manner, thereby infusing spirituality into our so-called mundane affairs.
14 November 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT TOLEDOT
Yitzchak and Rivkas’s sons, Yaacov and Eisav seemed relatively similar in nature to one another in their early years. Our Sages teach us that it was only after their Barmitzvah that it became apparent that they had very different personalities.
Eisav became a hunter, but not only in the literal sense. He was a deceptive person who was even able to fool his own father into believing that he was an upright person. Yaacov who was morally wholesome spent his time studying.
The rivalry between the brothers began before they were born. The famous commentator “Rashi” explains that Yaacov got his name from the word “Ekev” (meaning heel in Hebrew) because already at the time of their birth Yaacov was trying to prevent his brother from being the first born.
06 November 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT CHAYEI SARAH
The Parasha begins with the death of Sarah and Abraham purchasing a burial site for her. Initially Abraham was offered a burial plot for free but he refused to accept the offer. He insisted in purchasing the land at its full value, in the presence of witnesses, so that no unpleasantness could arise.
Abrahams desire to pay was exploited and he eventually paid a very high price. He did not bargain with the sellers and paid the full price. He understood not only the legal importance of the acquisition of the land, but also the spiritual significance of the transaction.
We can learn an important lesson from Abraham’s attitude, and that is that we need to peruse spiritual needs with all the means at our disposal.
30 October 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAYEIRA
The Parasha contains the well-known story of Avraham inviting three unknown individuals into his tent. These “visitors” were actually angels disguised as people. We learn that a major attribute of Avraham was Chesed – lovingkindness.
Our Sages teach us that to be a person who performs acts of chesed is definitely praiseworthy, but one has to strive to be a person of Ahavat Chesed. What is the difference?
A person who is an “Ahavat Chesed” is a person who not only does acts of chesed, but a person who loves and seeks to do acts of kindness. This is the individual who goes out of his way to find opportunities to help others because they are devoted to the cause of kindness.
This thought is emphasized by King David when he states that “the world is built through chesed.”
24 October 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT LECH-LECHA
The Parasha commences with Hashem commanding Avraham to leave the country of his birth and go to the land of Israel. He left with his wife Sarah, his nephew Lot and all their possessions. A severe famine in Israel compelled them to temporarily sojourn in Egypt before returning to Israel.
The Parasha also introduces us to the mitzvah of Brit Milah (circumcision). We are also taught the importance of Bikkur Cholim (visiting the sick) as Hashem visited Avraham after his Bris.
Our Rabbis teach us that the essence of the mitzvah is to attend to the needs of the ill person and to pray for their recovery.
17 October 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT NOACH
The Parasha introduces a new chapter in human history. Ten generations had passed since the creation of the world and only Noah is considered to be righteous in his generation. The Midrash states that it took Noah 120 years to build the Ark. Obviously Hashem could have provided him with an Ark overnight but the many years spent building the Ark was to give people the opportunity to repent. However, they jeered at Noah and ignored his warnings. After the waters of the flood subsided, Noah offered sacrifices of gratitude to Hashem for his survival.
10 October 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT BEREISHIT
The first eleven chapters in the Book of Bereishit give a detailed account of the creation of the world. Only in the twelfth chapter does the Torah begin with the history of the Jewish people, with the account of the lives of Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaacov, Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah.
If the purpose of the Torah was merely to trace the history of the Jewish people, it could have begun with the stories of Avraham and Sarah. However, Torah is not a history book, not the history of the Jews or the history of mankind. Torah begins by telling us the story of creation by one almighty G-d. Torah begins by introducing us to the concept of Emunah – belief in the existence of G-d. Judaism is based on this fundamental belief and therefore we are introduced to this in the very first sentence of the Torah.
25 September 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT HA’AZINU
This Shabbat we read the penultimate Sidrah of the Torah. Moshe commences his poetic discourse by giving thanks and admiration to Hashem for all he has bestowed on Israel despite their ingratitude and rebellious nature. At the same time Moshe does not hesitate to admonish the nation in the strongest of terms.
He compares his words to rain and dew, for just as rain and dew have the wonderful power to refresh vegetation, so does he hope his words will penetrate the hearts of the people to give birth to a new spiritual life.
04 September 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT KI TAVO
This Parasha begins with the Mitzvah of Bikkurim – the bringing of the first fruit. This Mitzvah applied during the times of the Beit Hamidkdash (Temple) and applied to the seven species for which the land of Israel was especially praised, namely wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. The ceremony of bringing the first fruit to the Temple was marked by great joy and was an expression of gratitude to Hashem for delivering us from slavery to freedom.
Once again the Torah reminds us of the plight of the destitute and reminds us that it is the obligation of those who have benefited from Hashems blessings to assist the needy.
29 August 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT KI TEITZEI
A variety of laws are mentioned in this week’s Parasha. We learn the mitzvah to bury someone at the earliest opportunity – on the day of death if possible, laws promoting safety such as to build a railing around a roof are also taught in this week’s Parasha. A person is not allowed to marry a member of Ammon or Moav.
The Torah provides us with seemingly strange reasons for this, “because they did not meet you with bread and water when you left Egypt, and because they hired Balaam to curse you.”
The second reason makes sense, but simply because of not providing us with food when we left Egypt seems harsh to say the least.
Our sages explain that when the Jews left Egypt and were in need of bread and water they provided an excuse – that they were not in a financial position to help. However, when it came to funding Balaam to curse the Jewish people there was no shortage of resources. When it came to spending a fortune for the purpose of obliterating the name of Israel, the plea of poverty did not exist. Such a race was declared unfit to become a part of Israel.
22 August 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT SHOFTIM
The word “Shoftim” means judges, and the Parasha contains laws that should govern all spheres of human activity. Many verses quoted from the Torah on this important topic, come from this week’s Torah reading. The Torah stresses that not only is it important to have a society based on justice but that justice needs to be administered in a just manner.
These moral and social codes should be the basis for all of society. We are also reminded to accept our fellowmen as equals regardless of their status in society.
The Parasha also contains important guidelines for caring for the environment. Man was given this world to enjoy, and at the same time to be responsible for ensuring that the worlds resources be safeguarded for future generations.
15 August 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT RE’EH
The Parasha begins with the concept of free will. As humans we have the ability to choose. Our choices come with consequences. Although Hasham knows in advance what our choices will be, the process of making that decision is totally in our domain.
Our Parasha also reminds us of the need to help those less fortunate than ourselves. The need for us to care for each other cannot be stressed enough. All forms of care, financial and emotional are core values within Judaism.
Shabbat and Sunday are Rosh Chodesh. We are now entering the month of Ellul, the month prior to Rosh Hashana. During Ellul we blow the shofar (not on Shabbat) in order to awaken ourselves to engage in Teshuvah (repentance) in preparation for Rosh Hashana.
08 August 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT EIKEV
The first paragraph of the Shema was read in last week’s Parasha and the second paragraph is read this Shabbat. A noticeable difference between the two paragraphs is that the first one is written in the singular and the second is written in the plural. Why the shift in emphasis?
Our Sages explain that the second paragraph refers to the observance of Mitzvot whereas the first one emphasizes the love of Hashem.
Observance of Mitzvot is so much easier and effective when performed by a group. Examples of this would be Tefillah (prayer) and learning Torah. While this can definitely be done by an individual, it takes on a different dimension when done together in a group.
01 August 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAETCHANAN – SHABBAT NACHAMU
The Parasha begins with Moshe pleading (Vaetchanan) with Hashem to allow him to enter the land of Israel. Although broken-hearted Moshe accepts G-ds judgement and continues to perform his duty of appointing a successor with complete devotion.
Moshe repeats the Ten Commandments and reminds the nation numerous times to keep the Mitzvot in the Torah. The first paragraph of the Shema is also found in this week’s Torah reading.
The Parasha of Vaetchanan is always read on the Shabbat after Tisha B’Av and the Shabbat is known as Shabbat Nachamu, the Shabbat of comfort. The name is derived from the Haftorah this Shabbat which begins with the words “Nachamu Nachamu Ami,” comfort, comfort my people.
25 July 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT DEVARIM – SHABBAT CHAZON
This Shabbat we begin the fifth book in the Torah, Sefer Devarim. It beings with the words “Eleh Hadevarim” (These are the words) and the whole book in essence is a summary of what is written in the first four previous books, in addition to Moses’ farewell message to the people of Israel. The first sentence emphasises that he spoke to “All” of Israel.
He did not focus his love and attention only upon certain groups such as those who were loyal or those who were wealthy but rather towards everyone. That is a mark of a true leader.
This Shabbat, the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av is called Shabbat Chazon. The Haftorah this Shabbat begins with the words Chazon (Vision). The Haftorah contains Isiah’s warning to the people of the forthcoming tragedies that will befall the Jewish people.
18 July 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT MATOT-MASEI
Parashat Matot discusses the laws pertaining to a person who has made a voluntary vow either pertaining to Hashem or his fellow man. The Gemara states that although one is permitted to make this voluntary vow, it is preferable for a person to refrain from this in case they are unable to carry it out.
In the Parasha of Masei, Moshe records the journey of the Israelites from the time they left Egypt until their arrival at Moav. In total, there were forty-two separate encampments during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The reason for the journey to be repeated here in such detail was not simply to serve as a memorial of historical events, but rather to remind us of the lessons learnt at each encampment.
11 July 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT PINCHAS
After Bilaam was unsuccessful at cursing the Jewish people, he thought of another plan. He enticed the Israelites to commit acts of immorality which would in turn kindle Hashems anger against the Jewish people. This plan worked. When Pinchas saw a flagrant public act of immorality, he acted swiftly and executed the evil-doers. Under normal circumstances, one is not allowed to take the law into one’s own hands. This however was an exception to the rule and Pinchas was praised for his actions. He was promised that the Kehunah (priesthood) would be retained by his descendants.
The Parasha also details laws of inheritance. Moshe was told that he was nearing the end of his days and he showed concern for the continued welfare of the people and asked that a successor be named.
04 July 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT BALAK
The Parasha details the events of Balak, King of Moav, sending deputations to the Prophet Bilaam to curse the Jewish people. Balak, having heard of the Israelites numerous victories in battle, sent messages to ask Bilaam to curse the Jewish people. At first he refused to accept the request, but later, motivated by greed and honour he agreed to Balaks request. The Torah tells us that not only did he agree to curse the people, but went about it with enthusiasm.
Our Rabbis compare “Bilaam the wicked” to “Abraham the righteous.” Both went about their daily routines with enthusiasm. Unfortunately Bilaams enthusiasm was misplaced. Abraham used his energy and skills to carry out the will of Hashem whereas Bilaam chose to use his energies for destructive purposes.
We all have skills and abilities, and must always use them to make the world a better place.
27 June 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT CHUKAT
There are two categories of laws in the Torah, Chukkim and Mishpatim. The Chukkim are laws, the meaning of which we cannot fathom, and Mishpatim are laws of which the reasons for which are more easily understood. All of the laws are divinely given and of equal importance. The ritual of the Parah Adumah, the red heifer, belongs to the category of Chukkim and is dealt with in detail in this week’s portion.
Briefly, a red heifer was slaughtered and its ashes were mixed with water and sprinkeled upon those who had come into contact with the dead.
The Talmud states that even King Solomon, the wisest of men was unable to understand this law.
The Parasha also mentions the death of Aaron, Moses brother. The Torah states that “Aaron shall be gathered unto his people.” This phrase is an illusion to the belief in “Techiyat Hameitim” the resurrection of the dead.
20 June 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT KORACH
In Pirkei Avot we are taught that “every controversy which is for the sake of Heaven will come to a good end, but one which is not for the sake of Heaven will not come to a good end.” The Mishna continues by citing examples of each. The example for the first is the controversy of Hillel and Shamai, the example given for the second is that of Korach and his followers.
Our Rabbis point out that when it comes to the controversy for the sake of heaven it mentions Hillel and Shamai who were two opponents. Why for the second does it not mention Korach and Moses? After all Korach was opposed to the leadership of Moses, yet it states Korach and his followers!
Korach was a trouble maker in the true sense of the word. Eventually the very same people who supported Korach – his followers, began to quarrel amongst themselves.
13 June 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT SH’LACH
The Parasha recounts the mission of the spies, their report and the consequences.
The famous commentator Rashi, points out that G-d did not see it necessary to send the spies. This was a request made by the people.
Twelve spies, a representative from each tribe spent forty days in the land of Canaan. When they returned, only two had positive feedback.
As a result of the negative report from ten of the spies the nation became panic stricken and rebellious.
The nation was punished for not having faith in Hashems ability to take them safely into the land of Israel.
They were to spend 40 years in the wilderness before a “new generation” would merit entering the land of Israel.
Tradition teaches us that the day the spies gave their negative report was the 9th of AV, a day that would become a day of mourning for the Jewish people. The destruction of both Temples many years later occurred on this day.
05 June 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT BEHA’ALOTCHA
The Torah tells us that Hashem commanded Moshe to instruct Aaron to light the Menorah on a daily basis. Then the Torah tells “And Aaron did so.”
This is a rather strange statement, as every time Moshe told Aaron to do something the Torah does not say that Aaron did as he was told to do!
Our Rabbis teach us a very important lesson that we can learn from this. The lighting of the Menorah was something that was done with regularity; in fact it was a daily routine. When a person does something with regularity there is the chance of losing enthusiasm.
Aaron did this task with enthusiasm every day and that is why the Torah mentions specifically that he did what he was told to do.
30 May 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT NASSO
Our Parasha this week records the Birkat Kohanim – the priestly blessing. A close look at the Hebrew text reveals that the command to bless the people starts in the plural and then changes to the singular. We are taught that the reason for this is that what Israel needs most of all is unity.
The idea is seen in many places in the Torah. When the Israelites left Egypt they were attacked by Amalek in a place called Refidim. Our Sages point out that the Hebrew root of Refidim is “Hafrada” meaning separate, on the other hand when the people came to Mt Sinai they were united hence they merited to receive the Torah.
23 May 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT BAMIDBAR
This Shabbat we begin reading the fourth book of the Torah – Sefer Bamidbar. The word Midbar in Hebrew means wilderness. It should not have taken more than a few weeks to cover the distance from Egypt to the land of Israel, yet it took forty years before the Israelites reached their promised land. This was not G-ds intention.
Unfortunately the conduct of the people testified that they were not yet ready to act as an independent nation. (Story of the spies later in the book of Bamidbar). They showed a lack of discipline by their constant grumbling and quarrelling soon after their departure from Egypt, thereby showing their lack of faith and trust in Hashem.
16 May 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT BEHAR-BECHUKOTAI
The Parasha of Behar deals mainly with the laws of Shemittah, the Sabbatical year. “Six years shalt thou sow thy field … but in the seventh year … solemn rest for the land.” One lesson we learn from this practice is that all our earthly possessions, our land, our money, are ultimately under Hashems dominion. Whatever we own, is given to us as a temporary possession.
By leaving the land fallow in the seventh year, we realize that ultimate sustenance comes from Hashem.
The number seven reappears frequently in Jewish life. Pharaoh dreamed of seven fat and lean cows. Joshua circled Jericho seven times and after a wedding a Chatan and Kallah celebrate a week of Sheva Berachot.
09 May 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT EMOR
There are two main themes in this week’s Torah reading. Firstly we are told about laws concerning Kohanim (Priests) and the Kohein Gadol (High Priest), and secondly laws pertaining to the five festivals mentioned in the Torah, namely Pesach, Shavuot, Succot, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
As a result of the privileged status of the Kohein certain laws apply to them. The Kohanim are instructed to “bless” the community on festivals. Special laws with regards to marriages and mourning practices also apply to Kohanim.
The observance of the various festivals during the year is not merely to commemorate historical events.
The theme and mood of the festival need to also permeate our lives for example, in a few weeks’ time we celebrate Shavuot – the receiving of the Torah on Mt Sinai. In addition to remembering the event in history, we also need to “relive” the experience by accepting the Torah, afresh and for ourselves, every year.
01 May 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT ACHREI MOT-KEDOSHIM
The Torah reading this Shabbat contains the well-known words “… Speak to the children of Israel and say unto them, “Ye shall be holy for I the Lord your G-d am holy.”
The verse teaches us about the sanctity of humanity. One of the ways in which holiness can be achieved is by protecting the dignity and honour of ones fellow man. This is done by practising loving kindness and promoting mutual respect between people.
The mitzvah of honouring parents is also repeated. It is placed side by side with the mitzvah of Shabbat to teach us that if the request of a parent to a child goes against the laws of Torah, then Hashem’s Laws are the one to be adhered to and not the request of the parents.
25 April 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT TAZRIA-METZORA
This week’s Torah reading speaks about a disease called Tzaraat. Our Sages, in the Gemara Erechin, teach that this disease, similar to leprosy, was punishment for those who had committed the sin of Lashon Hara, slander.
A disparaging remark, a nasty comment about someone can linger on and haunt the victim for years. In our modern “facebook” society these remarks can reach thousands of people, across continents, within seconds. Lashon Hara is not only limited to what we say but also includes what we write and also extends to our body language. Lashon Hara can demolish a reputation that took a lifetime to create within a minute.
In the same way that we need to be careful what comes into our mouths (laws of Kashrut) we also need to be equally careful of the words that come out of our mouths.
18 April 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT SHEMINI
Our Sages teach us that after sin of the golden calf, Aaron prays continuously for forgiveness.
He exemplified the concept of Hakarat Hachet (recognition of sin).
The Rambam teaches us in Hilchot Teshuva (laws of repentance) that the first step towards repentance is the acknowledgement that a person has done wrong. Another quality of Aaron was that he was humble. He was at first reluctant to accept the appointment to be the Kohein Gadol (High Priest). A third quality of Aaron was his desire to “make peace” between people. The Mishna teaches us that we should all strive to be like Aaron “loving peace and perusing peace.”
It is because Aaron embodied all these characteristics that he was chosen as the first Kohein Gadol – high priest of the Jewish people.
28 March 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT TZAV (Shabbat Hagadol)
TIn the temple, the light of the Menorah was kept burning day and night. This was the responsibility of the High Priest.
Today, as a result of this command, we have the custom of having a single light burning constantly in the Shul in front of the Ark. It is called the Ner Tamid, the “perpetual light.”
The temple Menorah had seven lamps, (not to be confused with the Channukiah of Channukah) which served as a constant reminder of Hashems presence in our world.
This Shabbat is also known as Shabbat Hagadol (the great Shabbat).
The Shabbat before Pesach is called Shabbat Hagadol. The Israelites left Egypt on a Thursday, and on the Shabbat before, the 10th of Nissan, they set aside a lamb for the Pesach Sacrifice. The lamb was sacred to the Egyptians.
When the Egyptians saw this, they wanted to rise and take revenge but they were stricken with all kinds of bodily suffering and could do no harm to the Israelites.
So on account of the miracles which were done on that day, the Sabbath before Pesach is known as Shabbat Hagadol.
21 March 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAYIKRA (Shabbat Hachodesh)
This Shabbat we begin the third book of the Torah, Sefer Vayikra. The Parasha mentions some of the Korbanot (sacrifices) offered by individuals during Temple times. The concept of sacrifices is difficult for us to understand. The Hebrew word for sacrifice (Korban) has its roots in the word (Karov) meaning “near.” The purpose of sacrifices was a means to bring us closer to Hashem, through the process of the sacrifice. Today, because we do not have a Temple (and therefore no sacrifices) our prayers need to fulfil this role. Our prayers are supposed to provide us with a spiritual link to Hashem. Reading the words from a Siddur is a step in obtaining this goal but “prayer” in the true sense of the word is a far more demanding process which takes years to achieve.
This Shabbat is rather unique in for as we remove three Sifrei Torah from the Ark. The first is for the regular Parasha. We take out a second Torah because Shabbat is also Rosh Chodesh Nissan. We read from a third Torah because this Shabbat is also Shabbat Hachodesh.
The Sages of Israel decreed that on the Shabbat before the first of Nissan, or on Rosh Chodesh itself if it occurs on Shabbat, we should read the chapter beginning with the words ‘this month shall be for you the head of the months, it is the first for you of the months of the year’ (Shmot 12). This reading is in addition to the usual weekly sidra.
It is because of the importance of the month of Nissan (Nissan counted as the first month of the year in the Torah) that our Sages decreed that we should add a special section of topical interest to the usual reading from the Torah.
14 March 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAYAKHEL-PEKUDEI
The first Parasha read this week, Vayakhel, begins by emphasizing the holiness of Shabbat, one of the mainstays of the Jewish religion. The basis for the observance of Shabbat is the verse in the Torah, “and He rested on the seventh day from all his work which He made.” A question often asked is why did Hashem find it necessary to rest? A brief answer to the question is that obviously the all-powerful G-d did not become tired after creation. On the 7th day, after the world had been completed Hashem set time aside to admire his creations. We humans are also required to set aside time to view life in its totality, to remove ourselves from everyday earthly concerns. This is one understanding of why we observe Shabbat.
This Shabbat is also called Shabbat Parah, and two Torot are read from this Shabbat. During Temple times, everyone had to prepare themselves for the Korban Pesach (Pesach sacrifice), and therefore this public reading, relating to the preparations required was always read approximately three weeks before Pesach.
Although we no longer have a temple, we continually remind ourselves of temple practices so that one day “please G-d soon” when temple services resume; we will be knowledgeable regarding its ceremonies.
07 March 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT KI TISA
The story of the Eigel Hazahav is found in this week’s Parasha. After the miraculous exodus from Egypt, how could the people suddenly turn to the worship of a golden calf? This question is even more difficult to answer when one remembers they had just accepted the Torah at Mt Sinai. The story of the golden calf was not a simple matter of wrong-doing as it seems.
Moses had been on Mt Sinai for forty days and forty nights. Unfortunately the people miscalculated his return by one day. They thought he would return on the 40th day and Moses had planned to return only after he spent a complete 40 days on Mt Sinai.
When he did not appear, they panicked and made a visible object which they could worship. Aharon, Moses’s brother tried to stall the process but was unsuccessful in his endeavours.
A small group tried to stop the worshiping of the golden calf. A second group did not participate in the worshiping of the calf and the third group, the majority of the nation worshipped the golden calf.
28 February 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT TETZAVEH
The Parasha deals mainly with duties of the Kohanim (Priests) and the instructions of how to make the priestly garments. One of their tasks was to keep the lamps of the menorah burning continuously in the Sanctuary. The term “Torah Ohr,” the Torah is like a light or a fire, is a common phrase associated with the greatness of Torah. Like a flame, Torah illuminates the path Jews are to follow. Without it, our lives remain spiritually darkened. Megillat Esther read on Purim also makes reference to the “light of Torah.”
This Shabbat is also known as Shabbat Zachor.
The Shabbat preceding Purim is called Shabbat Zachor. It is a positive Torah Mitzvah to read this publicly. (The Shabbat to Remember – Zachor being the Hebrew word for Remember), and two Torot are taken from the Ark instead of the usual one.
In the first the regular Sedra of the week is read, and in the second the portion reminding us of the deeds of Amalek from the Sedra of Ki Tetze. The Haftorah also deals with Amalek.
Amalek was the first nation to attack the Children of Israel after they had crossed the Red Sea, and since Haman was a descendant of Amalek we read this portion on the Shabbat before Purim. It is a positive Mitzvah (commandment) in the Torah to obliterate the memory of Amalek. We are obliged to educate our children in each generation about the deeds of Amalek. For the purpose of fulfilling this commandment the Sages have prescribed the public reading of this passage. (The first Amalek was a grandson of Esau).
20 February 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT TERUMAH
The Parasha details the preparation and construction of the Mishkan the portable sanctuary that accompanied the Jews in the wilderness.
In a very profound comment, the Sforno explains that ideally no “Temple” should have been needed by the people after the revelation at Sinai since the nation had risen to such a high level of spirituality. However, as a result of the sin of the Golden Calf, it became necessary for there to be a “special” place for Hashems presence.
The laws of Shabbat are derived from the building of the Mishkan. The Torah relates that the building of the Mishkan did not take place on Shabbat.
Hence, all activities that were required for the building of the Mishkan are the very same activities that we are forbidden to do on Shabbat. In total 39 different activities were needed to build the Mishkan, and so we have 39 categories of forbidden activities on Shabbat.
14 February 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT MISHPATIM
The Gemara states in the name of Rabbi Chaninah (the Deputy High Priest) that we must “pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear thereof, men would swallow each other alive.” One of the failings of society is the tendency of the “powerful” to take advantage of those who are vulnerable. Although it is forbidden to abuse anyone, the Torah frames this prohibition specifically with reference to the downtrodden in society, because they are the most vulnerable to such mistreatment. The Torah uses the strongest language when stating G-ds response to abusive conduct when it states “If you are to cause him pain … I shall surely hear his outcry … My wrath shall blaze.”
We are also commanded not to take interest when lending money to those in need. This is another example of how we need to show compassion towards the needy.
07 February 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT YITRO
In last week’s Parasha we read of the deliverance of the Jewish people from physical bondage. There was however a higher purpose for the exodus, and that was to secure their spiritual freedom. This came about with the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai. Amidst clouds of smoke, lightening, thunder and fire and the sounding of the shofar, the nation received its complete freedom.
A famous comment by Rashi connected to this event is worth remembering. The Torah states that the nation “encamped there.” The verb is in the singular, in contrast to other encampments where the verb used is in the plural. This teaches us that in order for the people to rise to its highest calling, the receiving of the Torah it must be unified. We are only able to attain greatness as a people when we are all united in our pursuits of the values of the Torah.
31 January 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT BESHALACH
The Parasha begins by telling us that when the Israelites left Egypt, Hashem did not lead them to Israel by the direct route, in case they encountered hostile armies there and come to regret their departure.
The Talmud gives a second reason for delaying the journey. The Israelites, who spent 210 years in Egyptian slavery, were not yet capable of being their own masters. They had to “shake off” their slave mentality in order to be able to appreciate their freedom.
The Parasha also contains the “Shira” – song of praise that was sung by the Israelites after they had crossed the red sea.
Although they praised G-d for their redemption, we are also aware that many Egyptians died in the sea. It is for this reason that we only recite full Hallel on the first two days of Pesach, and half Hallel for the rest of the Festival.
24 January 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT BO
After the seven plagues mentioned in last week’s Parasha had smitten the Egyptians, Pharaoh (against the advice of his own leaders) still refused to allow the Jews to leave Egypt unconditionally. After the plague of darkness he offered to allow all the Israelites to leave, provided that the flocks and herds were left behind as surety that they would return. Moses rejected this stipulation and as a result was banned from the royal palace.
We are also taught some laws of the Korban Pesach (Peasch Sacrifice). One of the laws is that “if a household be too little for a lamb,’ then they would be required to join with their neighbour. The concept of “BAL TASHCHIT” to always avoid wasting, is important in Judaism and something that we always need to be aware of.
17 January 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAERA
The Parasha contains the first seven plagues inflicted on the Egyptians. Although Moshe was the leader, and should have theoretically initiated all the plagues he did not: for example, the first plague, when the water turned to blood, was initiated by Aaron Moshes brother. We learn from this an important lesson of Hakarat Hatov, appreciation. The water saved Moshe when he was a baby. It was therefore inappropriate for him to be involved with this plague.
The question is asked as to why there was not one powerful plague that would have caused the Egyptians to allow Jews to leave Egypt. The answer is that it had to be made clear, that it was not a once off accident of nature that caused the Jewish freedom, but a well-planned Heavenly-caused series of events that led to the redemption of the Jewish people.
10 January 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT SHEMOT
In the beginning of the Parasha we read that “A new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” Whether or not this was a different king to the one who knew Joseph, or the same person who had a change of heart, is a debate amongst the commentators. However, shortly after this “new king” came to power, all the descendants of Joseph were enslaved.
The new king managed to get the support of his fellow Egyptians by using scare tactics. He told them that he was fearful that the Israelites might join with enemy forces outside Egypt and then the Egyptians would have to deal with two enemies, one from the outside and one from within. He attempted to reduce the Jewish population, but this proved to be futile.
The Parasha continues to describe the birth of Moses and his subsequent rise as a leader of the Jewish people. One of the reasons that he was given this role is because of his ability to empathize with the burdens of his fellow man.
Moshe was not only aware of the difficulties of the Jewish people, but made every effort to help them, even risking his own safety.
02 January 2015
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAYECHI
Vayechi is the last Parasha in the book of Bereishit. Jacob reached the age of 147, and the end of his days was approaching. He sent for his son Joseph and made him promise that he would bury him in Canaan and not in Egypt.
The reason for this was that Jacob wanted to remind his family that the land of Israel was their real home, not Egypt.
Sometime later, Joseph hears that his father is ill, and he visited him with his two sons Ephrayim and Menashe who are then blessed by their grandfather Jacob.
Jacob promised Joseph that his two sons would be included among the tribes and have equal status with other tribes.
It has become the custom on Friday night to bless our children after reciting kiddush. The blessing for sons refers to Ephrayim and Menashe, and for the girls the blessing refers to Sarah, Rivkah, Rachael and Leah.
When Jacob blessed the tribes, he did so individually mentioning each tribes special attributes and characteristics and a full prophecy about the future of each tribe.
06 December 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAYISHLACH
After staying with Lavan for twenty years, Yaakov returns to his homeland, Canaan. This was 34 years after he had received the blessings from his father, as he had also spent 14 years studying in the academy of Shem and Eber.
He had to finally encounter his brother Esau on his return home. Yaakov prepared for the conformation in three ways. He readied himself for battle; he immersed himself in prayer and sent a lavish gift to appease his brother. This approach has become the model for the Jewish people in times of adversity.
A significant lesson we learn from this is that a person should not rely on miracles. In addition to praying to Hashem, we need to take practical measure to overcome our difficulties.
29 November 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAYETZEI
In order to avoid the furious revenge of his brother, Ya’acov flees from Be’er- Sheva to Haran. Not having any shelter, Yaakov took a few stones and prepared a sleeping place when it was dark. As he fell asleep he had a dream. There was a ladder stretching from the ground all the way up to heaven, upon which angels of Hashem were going up and down. G-d stood beside him promising protection, success and fame. When Ya’acov wakes up from his dream he exclaims with awe: “Surely the Lord is in this place.” After being inspired by this wonderful dream he vowed that when he returned safely to his father’s house, he would offer a tenth of all his possessions to Hashem. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein stated that a Jew should not only tithe a 10th of his possessions, but also his time, by contributing time to the service of worthy causes. There are many different interpretations of Ya’acov’s dream. The ladder can be compared to a person with both feet firmly on earth. A person occupies himself with earthly matters. If a person conducts their earthly matters in an upright and honest fashion, those seemingly earthly matters allow a person to attain great spiritual heights.
22 November 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT TOLDOT
In this week’s Parasha we read of the birth of Jacob and Esau, twin brothers with totally different natures. The boys were born 20 years after Yitzchak and Rivka were married. The Torah describes Esau as a man of the field, engaged in hunting wild birds and animals. Jacob is described as a quiet man, sitting in his tent studying. Esau who was born before his brother was therefore entitled to the birthright, the privilege to be the leader of the family when his father died. Jacob took Esau’s birthright away from him. At first reading it would seem that Jacob acted dishonorably. A deeper study of the events reveals that Esau actually despised the birthright. It was valueless in his eyes and he sold the birthright in a legitimate transaction. After the blessings were bestowed upon Jacob, Esau plotted to kill his brother as soon as their father died. To prevent this Rivka instructed Jacob to leave home and to stay with her brother Lavan.
15 November 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT CHAYEI SARA
The Parasha begins with the Torah recording the death of Sarah. Avraham purchases a burial place for his wife and eulogizes her. The burial site was a unique place. Adam and Eve had been buried there and later it was to be the burial site of Abraham, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. Our sages teach us that in terms of prophecy Sarah was even greater than her husband Avraham. She always aided and assisted him with his devotion to Chesed (acts of loving kindness). After Sarah’s death Abraham wanted to ensure the continuation of his lineage by seeing that his son Isaac was appropriately married. He sends his servant Eliezer to find a bride for his son exclusively from the members of his own extended family. The Parasha ends with the death of Avraham who was buried by his sons.
08 November 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT VAYEIRA
In this week’s Parasha we find further evidence of the remarkable qualities possessed by Avraham. Tradition teaches us that on the third day after his circumcision, he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day, looking out for wayfarers to offer them his hospitality. We learn further that G-d appeared to Abraham at this time when he was still suffering from the painful effects of his circumcision. From this act of G-d we learn the Mitzvah of Bikkur Cholim, the duty to visit the sick. We also learn that when Abraham saw three men approaching his tent he RAN to meet them. From the story we learn the concept that a person should always do a mitzvah at the earliest opportunity. Later in the Parasha when Abraham learns of G-d’s intention to destroy Sodom and Gemorrah, he intercedes and pleads on their behalf. Sodom is remembered as the prototype of wickedness, yet Avraham still interceded on their behalf as he believed that even the citizens of this wicked city should be given one more chance to repent. We should all learn from Abraham’s attitude towards the people of Sodom to always give individuals an opportunity to repent and become better people.
24 October 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT NOAH
Before the flood began it is written in the Torah “Now the earth had become corrupt before G-d”. The famous commentator, the Abarbanel, explains this verse in a very unique way. He states that the words “before G-d” are superfluous, as the Torah could have simply stated that “the earth had become corrupt”. He goes on to explain that their actions were only considered corrupt in G-d’s eyes, not in their eyes. They were going about business as usual without thinking that they were doing anything wrong. When a person does not even concede to having sinned then there is no chance of them improving their ways because they see themselves as good people. In the laws of repentance The Rambam teaches us that the first step towards Teshuva (repentance) is an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. The generation of the flood did not see themselves as doing wrong and therefore there was no possibility for them to change their ways for the better. It was for this reason that Hashem brought about the flood.
05 September 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHA KI’TEITZE
One of the many Mitzvot in this week’s Parasha is the obligation of returning lost articles to their rightful owner. The Torah explains in great detail the importance of this commandment, and reminds us that even the property of our enemy must be respected and returned to them. The concept of “finders a keeper “is foreign to Judaism and only if a person has gone to great lengths in trying to locate the owner may the finder keep it himself. We are also reminded that all business dealings must be extremely ethical. A person may not even be in possession of faulty scales and weights.
The Torah commands us to build a railing around a roof. This law is to promote safety and has many applications, such as having a fence around a pool. The source for the practice of burials taking place as soon as possible is also found in this week’s Torah reading.
22 August 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHA RE’EH
The Parasha is a continuation of Moshe’s speech he gave to the children of Israel before he died. There are a number of laws in this week’s Torah reading which show concern for human welfare. The Torah states “If there be among you a needy man……. you shall surely lend him sufficient for his need. “We are reminded again to care for one another. Giving a person a loan is considered superior to charity. The reason for this is that if a person finds themselves temporarily in strained circumstances, they would be too proud to accept charity. He will, however, agree to take a loan to tide him over his difficulty. Our Rabbis teach us that both loans and charity benefit not only the recipient, but also the donor. The practice of good deeds such as these affords the donor a moral uplift and also develops good character. The nation was also warned not to imitate the hideous rites of the Canaanites, such as sacrificing living children to their gods. The laws of kashrut are reviewed and the Parasha ends with additional laws pertaining to the three Pilgrim festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Succot.
16 August 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHA EIKEV
The Mezuza contains the first two paragraphs of the Shema. The first paragraph was in last week’s Parasha, and the second paragraph of the Shema is found in this week’s Parasha. When we compare these two paragraphs, we notice a major distinction between them. The first portion is written in the singular whereas the second is written in the plural. Our sages explain that the first part of the Shema deals mainly with the love of Hashem. This emotional attachment is best achieved by every individual on their own level. The second section refers to the observance of mitzvot which are accomplished most effectively when performed in a group. An example of this would be prayer, which takes on an added importance if performed with a minyan.
25 July 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHA MASEI
The Parasha begins with a summary of the entire route followed by the Israelites from the time they left Egypt until they were ready to enter the Promised Land. In total there were 42 encampments during this time. Our Rabbis teach us that these 42 encampments allude to the mystical Name of Hashem containing 42 letters. It may seem strange for the Torah to mention every single stage of the journey. The Midrash teaches us that the enumeration of each stage was meant not only to serve as a memorial of historical events, but also to teach us that each stage of the journey served its own unique purpose. The Parasha of Masei concludes the third book of the Torah, the book of Bamidbar.
Unfortunately, the situation in Israel is still a matter of serious concern to us all with the safety of so many people at risk. Let us all make a special effort this Shabbat to pray for peace in Israel and the entire world.
18 July 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHA MATOT
The Parasha begins by telling us that if a person makes a vow, whether in a positive form (e.g. vowing of voluntary contribution) or a negative one(e.g. vowing to abstain from certain activities) , the vow is binding upon that person. The Gemara teaches us that although a person is permitted to make such vows, it should only be practised by individuals who feel that they have enough self-control to comply with this, for it is far better not to make the vow, than to make it and not carry it out. The Parasha also contains laws pertaining to the kashering of utensils, for example, if a pot was mistakenly used for cooking milk foods and it was a fleishik (meat) pot. These laws are complicated and it is always best to speak to your Rabbi . The method used for kashering depends on a number of factors that all have to be considered. Before deciding on if the vessel can indeed be koshered one would need to know what types of foods were mixed, i.e. solids or liquids and when they were mixed the quantities involved. This is only one of a number of considerations that need to be taken into account before deciding if a vessel can be koshered and what method is to be used. There are basically two types of methods used when koshering vessels, one is by the use of boiling hot water and the other by using a flame e.g. a blowtorch.
04 July 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BALAK
Balak , King of Moav, viewed with dismay the victory of the Jewish people over the Emorites. He forms an alliance with his former enemies, the Midianites. Balak sends a delegation to Bilam, a well-known sorcerer to curse the Jewish people. Bilam asks the delegation to stay with him overnight so that he could consult with Hashem as to whether he could comply with their request. During the night Hashem warns him not to go with the men, so he sends them away. Thinking that a more tempting invitation would prove effective, Balak sends a second delegation, larger and more prestigious than the first one in order to obtain Bilams cooperation. Motivated by personal greed Bilam agrees. The story ends with Bilam being unable to curse the Jewish people and in fact the words that come out of his mouth are a blessing for the Jewish people.
This past week has been a painful week for Jews throughout the world as a result of the three Israeli boys kidnapped some three weeks ago found dead. There are no words that can adequately express our anguish and sadness to the families and friends of these boys. It is our duty to continue to pray for peace through- out the world with the hope that these terrible and cowardly acts should cease.
28 June 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT CHUKAT
There are two categories of laws in the Torah, Chukkim and Mishpatim. Mishpatim are laws that we follow, and the reasons for these laws are relatively easy to understand. Eating matza on Pesach is a good example of this law. The Jews left Egypt in a hurry, their bread did not have time to rise and therefore we eat matza at this time of the year in remembrance of that event. There are however some laws in the Torah whose reasons are beyond our intellectual ability. An example of this type of law, known as a chok is to be found in this week’s portion. In the times of the Temple a person who became spiritually impure by coming into contact with the dead, became purified through a process referred to as the Parah Aduma, the red heifer. A red heifer was slaughtered and its ashes were mixed in water and sprinkled upon those who had come in contact with the dead. The Talmud states that even the wisest of men, King Solomon could not understand the meaning of this ritual.
This Shabbat is also Rosh Chodesh and we read from two Sifrei Torah. The first Torah is the regular Parasha and we read the Rosh Chodesh Torah reading from the second Torah. Since it is Rosh Chodesh we also recite Hallel.
20 June 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT KORACH
In this week’s Parasha we read about the revolt against Moshe and Aharon led by Korach. This was a most tragic episode in Jewish history. What was especially saddening was the fact that Korach attracted such a large and prestigious following. What was Korach’s appeal to the populace? He adopted a deceptively attractive argument. He told the people that since they were all members of a holy nation , the positions of leadership should be shared by all and not only by Moses and his brother Aharon. This argument may sound very appealing, but it is highly misleading. Korach’s motives in leading the rebellion were hardly pure. He did not want to strengthen the nation but rather to strengthen his own position. Korach was a cousin to Moshe and he felt that he was not given his rightful share of leadership. In order to attract a following, he appealed to the egos of the masses. Constructive arguments always add value, however the actions of Korach were destructive as they were only meant to benefit himself.
31 May 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT NASSO
The priestly blessing made up of three parts is contained in the Torah reading for this Shabbat. The kohanim do not have special powers to bless people – blessing come from Hashem. It is the kohanim who are to be seen as the conduits in bringing Hashem’s blessings to the Jewish people.
The first part of the blessing is a blessing for material prosperity.Although material blessings are secondary to spiritual blessings, we are nevertheless taught that “if there is no flour there is no Torah”.
The next part of the blessing is for spiritual success. Our Sages understand this as a blessing to be granted knowledge of the Torah and the ability to utilise this wisdom.
The last part ends with a blessing for peace, since material and spiritual prosperity is worthless if there is no peace.
24 May 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BAMIDBAR
With this week’s Parasha we start the fourth book of the Torah. During the second year after the exodus from Egypt, Moses and Aaron were commanded by Hashem to take a tribe by tribe census of all males above the age of 20. The original plan was to leave Egypt and go directly to Israel and therefore the census was needed to prepare for a military campaign to enter the land of Israel. During their travels in the wilderness the 12 tribes were divided into four groupings. The tribes were led by the tribe of Yehuda and travelled in a particular formation. The tribes were arranged in the shape of a quadrilateral, with the portable sanctuary, the Mishkan, in the centre.
The tribe of Levi was distinct from other tribes because of their loyalty in the incident of the Golden Calf (they did not worship the golden calf) and therefore they were not counted together with the rest of the tribes. Special laws were to apply to the tribe of Levi while the Jews wondered in the desert for 40 years.
17 May 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BECHUKOTAI
On Saturday night and Sunday we celebrate Lag BaOmer (The 33rd day of the Omer). The “Omer” is the period between Pesach and Shavuot. This seven week period is also known as the period of Sefirah. During a part of Sefirah we observe laws of mourning e.g. no weddings may take place.
The reason for observing laws of mourning, is to remember the death of Rabbi Akiva’s students who died in a plague during this time. On Lag BaOmer the laws of mourning are suspended.
One reason for suspending the laws of mourning on this day is due to the fact that the plague ended on this day. Another reason for celebration is that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai revealed the secret wisdom of Torah (known as the Zohar) to his disciples on this day. It was also the day he died, however it was Rabbi Shimon’s desire that the day of his death be marked by rejoicing since it was on this day he revealed the secrets of Torah.
10 May 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BEHAR
The Parasha essentially deals with the laws of Shemita, the Sabbatical year. The Torah states clearly that for six years a farmer may work his fields and in the seventh year the fields could not be sowed. The number seven appears in Jewish life with great frequency. Pharaoh dreamed of seven fat and seven lean cows. Joshua circled the walls of Jericho seven times. When celebrating a wedding we recite seven blessings, called Sheva Berachot. After a funeral, a direct mourner observes a week of Shiva. We also read in the book of Bereishit, that Hashem created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. In the same way as we are required to work for six days in the week and rest on the seventh, Shabbat, we are required to work our fields for six years and let them lie fallow during the seventh. Shabbat and the laws of Shemita share a common thread. We acknowledge that Hashem created the world and that our success does not depend on our efforts alone but that ultimately our successes in life depend on Hashem’s blessings. When a person observes the laws of Shemita, he places his trust in G-d to provide him with sustenance.
03 May 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT EMOR
Our Parasha this week begins with laws pertaining to Kohanim. Although there were many more laws pertaining to Kohanim during the time of the Temple, there are still many laws that apply to Kohanim today. During the Musaf service of the Festival’s mentioned in the Torah, (Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) it is the duty of the Kohanim to go up to the Ark to perform Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing. When we read from the Torah, if there is a Kohen in Shul, he will automatically receive the first aliyah. When it comes to marriages, there are also special laws that apply to Kohanim. There are also special laws that Kohanim have to observe when attending the cemetery. The main building at the cemetery, known as the Ohel, is out of bounds for Kohanim unless they are attending the funeral of immediate family e.g. a parent. There are also special laws that apply to a Bat Kohen, the daughter of a Kohen. When a Bat Kohen gives birth to a firstborn son, the baby will not require a Pidyon Haben, the redemption ceremony for a firstborn son.
During the times of the Temple, there were additional laws that applied only to the High Priest, known as the Kohen Gadol. Today there is no high Priest, and all Kohanim observe the same laws. These are just some of the laws that Kohanim observe today. The reason for these laws relates to the special role that they played during Temple times, and although we no longer have a Temple, many of these laws are still in place today.
26 April 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT KEDOSHIM
The Parshah of Kedoshim begins with the statement: “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your G d, am holy.” This is followed by dozens of mitzvot through which we sanctify ourselves and relates to the holiness of G d.These include: the prohibition against idolatry, the mitzvah of charity, the principle of equality before the law, Shabbat, sexual morality, honesty in business, honour and awe of one’s parents, and the sacredness of life.
Also in Kedoshim is the statement which the great sage Rabbi Akiva called a cardinal principle of Torah, and of which Hillel said, “This is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary”—“Love your fellow as yourself.”.
12 April 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT ACHAREI MOT
The Shabbat before Pesach is known as Shabbat Hagadol. Before the Jews left Egypt, they were given a special commandment to observe on the 10th of Nissan. This was five days before they were to leave Egypt and happened to be on a Shabbat. They had to start preparing for the Pesach offering on this day. This law only applied in the year that they left Egypt. Each person took a lamb and the Egyptians who used to worship the lamb were unable to stop the Israelites. As a result of this miracle the Shabbat before Pesach, regardless or not if it fell on the 10th of Nissan, became known as Shabbat Hagadol, the great Shabbat. A special Haftara is read on this Shabbat, which speaks of the future redemption of the world, and since Pesach reminds us of the redemption from Egypt it is appropriate to connect these two themes on this Shabbat.
04 April 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT METZORA
With less than two weeks before Pesach, we are all preparing for the festival in earnest. We all know that we need to remove chametz from our homes in preparation for the festival of Pesach. The removal of the physical chametz from our homes is relatively simple when compared to the removal of chametz from within ourselves. What is the concept of removing chametz from within ourselves? The only difference between bread and matza is that bread is given time to rise whereas matza is made very quickly and hence it is flat. The bread is compared to arrogance and matza is compared to humility. In preparing ourselves for Pesach we are not only required to remove physical chametz from our homes but to remove it from within ourselves. In other words we also need to look inward and make every effort not to be arrogant. This is indeed a very difficult task. One can hire help to prepare the house for Pesach, but only we ourselves can improve our character traits.
29 March 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT TAZRIA
The laws of lashon hara are alluded to in this week’s Parasha. One of the greatest powers given to mankind is the power of speech. It has the power to heal and it has the power to destroy. The Chafetz Chaim in his famous book on the topic of lashon hara explains that one of the reasons for the destruction of the Temple was due to the fact that so many people disregarded this commandment. He continues to explain that this is the source of much hatred, disputes, and even bloodshed. It has caused the dissolution of numerous friendships, the termination of countless marriages, and has generated immeasurable suffering.
This week is also a special Shabbat known as Shabbat Hachodesh.
Due to the importance of the month of Nissan, the month of freedom, our sages decreed that we should read a special section from the Torah at this time of the year to honour this month more than any other. Two Sifrei Torah are taken from the ark instead of the usual one. Although Rosh Hashanah is in the month of Tishrei, the Torah always refers to Nissan as the first month of the year.
21 March 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT SHEMINI
The laws of kashrut are to be found in this week’s Parasha. In order for an animal to be kosher, it needs to have split hooves and chew the cud. Furthermore it needs to be slaughtered by a qualified shochet and a process of kashering needs to take place in order to remove excess blood. Fish need to have fins and scales. Fish do not require any special method of slaughter. The laws pertaining to kosher birds such as chickens are more complicated as the Torah does not give specific signs that qualify the bird to be kosher. We have a tradition as to which birds are kosher. The Torah does however mention certain birds that are not considered to be kosher birds.
This Shabbat is also known as Shabbat Parah .A second Torah is removed from the Aron Kodesh (ark). During Temple times a person had to be spiritually pure in order participate in the special sacrifice for Pesach, the Korban Pesach. As we are now approaching the Festival of Pesach, the laws regarding spiritual purity are read from the Torah so that people can prepare themselves for participating in the sacrifice. Although we do not have a Temple today, we nevertheless still read this portion from the Torah to remind ourselves of these laws.
15 March 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYIKRA
The Shabbat before Purim is called Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat of remembering.
On this Shabbat we read a portion from the Torah that recalls the story of Amalek. Amalek was the first nation to attack the children of Israel after they had crossed the Red Sea and since Haman was a direct descendant of Amalek it is appropriate to read this portion from the Torah on the Shabbat before Purim.It is a positive commandment written in the Torah to read this passage publicly. Two Torot are taken from the ark instead of the usual one. In the first the regular Parasha is read and in the second Torah we read the portion dealing with Amalek.
Haman and Amalek shared similar character traits. After the exodus from Egypt, Amalek regarded the splitting of the Red Sea as a mere co-incidence. In the story of Purim, Haman also saw his change of fortune as a co-incidence. As Jews, we understand that in both of these events Hashem played a pivotal role in saving the Jewish people. In modern times many events that take place may be seen as mere coincidences. It is our duty to look beyond that which meets the eye, for very often we fail to see Hashem’s hand in these events.
A quick reminder of the four mitzvot that we are required to observe on Purim. We need to hear the reading of the Megillah on Saturday night and Sunday morning. There is the requirement to give charity on Purim. On Purim we have a festive meal on the day of Purim and we also exchange gifts of ready to eat foods.
08 March 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYIKRA
The Parasha this week deals with the laws of sacrifices. Today, since we have no Temple, we no longer have sacrifices. Tefilla, prayer is our substitute for sacrifices. Rabbi Donin, in his book ,To pray as a Jew, gives us some insight as to what prayer is all about. A person needs to learn the Siddur in order to fully appreciate its contribution to Jewish life. The Siddur is a testimony of the aspirations and hopes of the Jewish people throughout time. It is a reminder of laughter, celebration and rejoicing, as well as of sorrow and grief. The Siddur provides insights into daily Jewish living, as well as into all the special occasions and festivals in the Jewish calendar. The Siddur is study as well as prayer. It is moral instruction and ethical guidance as well as pleas for personal needs. Our Rabbis refer to prayer as Avodah Shebelev, work of the heart. Reading the words of the Siddur without understanding them does not allow us to fully appreciate the ideas contained therein.
Rabbi Donin states that we live in an age when it is not fashionable to pray. Sometimes we pray because we believe it is our duty to do so. Sometimes we pray because we have a sincere desire to reach out to G-d. It is at times like this that our prayers are most meaningful. We should always make a concerted effort to personalise our prayers. When we do this our prayers will become far more meaningful for us.
01 March 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT PEKUDEI
This Parasha is the last in the book Shemot. After the erection of the Miskan, the Torah tells us that Moshe blessed the people. The construction of the Mishkan took approximately 4 months. Moshe did not give his blessing at the beginning of the holy work, for beginnings are easy. It is the ability to maintain enthusiasm to complete a task that is difficult and therefore worthy of a blessing.
The types of work that were required for the construction of the Mishkan, are forbidden on Shabbat since they built it during the week and did not build the Mishkan on Shabbat. Writing or painting is not permitted on Shabbat or Yom Tov since one of the requirements for building the Mishkan was the requirement to dye certain items used in the Mishkan.
22 February 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYAKHEL
The holiness of Shabbat is emphasized in the very beginning of the Torah reading. These sentences are most probably the most confusing for so many people. It really boils down to the understanding of one word in the Torah – the word being “Melacha” which is loosely translated as “work”.
The Torah forbids “Melacha” on Shabbat. Believe it or not, “work” is not prohibited on Shabbat – you may work on Shabbat. A person is allowed to walk for an hour to Shul on Shabbat – this is surely work!
What is prohibited on Shabbat is certain types of processes – some do not even involve work. Turning on the sprinklers to water your garden is prohibited on Shabbat. The word that the Torah uses for prohibited activities on Shabbat (and Yom Tov) is Melacha. There is no English equivalent for melacha, so the word work has been used in all translations.
It is melacha that is prohibited and not work.Watch this space next week for a brief introduction as to what this word – Melacha – really means.
15 February 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT KI TISA
The story of the “Golden-Calf” is read this Shabbat. Moshe had been on Mt. Sinai for forty days and forty nights and the people, fearing that he should have returned, made an object that they could worship. They made an image of a golden calf out of their golden jewelry. They then proceeded to bring offerings to this idol, around which they sang and danced. Moshe descended from the mountain and broke the Ten Commandments. Moshe had in fact not “overstayed” his stay on Mt. Sinai. The people miscalculated his return by one day.
After Hashem declared his intention to destroy the nation, Moshe pleaded with Hashem to be merciful and not to give the Egyptians the opportunity to gloat over their misfortune. Moshe felt so strongly about the nation being forgiven that he requested his name to be removed from the Torah if Hashem would not give the people a chance to repent.
Hashem’s forgiveness came on the Tenth of Tishrei – Yom Kippur, a day always to be associated with forgiveness for future generations.
08 February 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT TETZAVEH
Aharon, his sons Nadav, Avihu, Elazar and Itamar were chosen by Hashem to serve as Kohanim (Priests). One of their tasks was to keep the lamps of the mernorah burning continuously. The menorah represents Hashems presence in the world. The oil for the lamps was provided by the members of the general community.
While officiating in the Temple the Kohanim had to wear special garments. The Kohein Gadol (High priest) wore different garments from the other regular Kohanim.
Each of the garments had a special spiritual significance.
One of the garments was a robe which was made of turquoise wool.
The colour was chosen as it is reminds us of heaven and Hashem’s heavenly throne.
31 January 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT TERUMAH
This Shabbat is also Rosh Chodesh Adar. In addition to the regular weekly Torah reading, we read from a second Torah. The second Torah contains the Torah reading that we read on every Rosh Chodesh. The month of Adar is always associated with the festivities of Purim and hence we have the dictum “when the month of Adar begins our joy increases”. This year is a leap year in the Jewish calendar and there are two “Adars” in the calendar. Purim is celebrated in the second Adar.
The Parasha deals mainly with the construction of the portable Sanctuary. An important topic of the Parasha is the value of giving. The real translation of “Teruma” is uplift. When a person makes a contribution in the right spirit, they should experience uplift.
26 January 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT MISHPATIM
Candle Lighting: 6:15 p.m.
Shabbat Ends: 7:36 p.m.
According to tradition the laws in this week’s Parasha were given on the same day as the Ten Commandments, the Sixth of Sivan and the following day. It is important to learn the laws of Torah as well as their underlying principles and reasoning so that we can apply them to all situations.
Laws of damages are also found in this week’s Parasha. The requirements to pay for a victim’s loss of earnings and medical expenses are explained at length in the Gemara (Oral Law). The basis for these laws is found in Mishpatim.
There will always be those who are in need of financial assistance. We are commanded to grant interest-free loans in order to prevent people from becoming dependent on charity.
18 January 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT YITRO
On the first day of the month of Sivan, Bnei Yisrael arrived in the wilderness of Sinai. This was seven weeks after they left Egypt. On the sixth of Sivan, thunder and lightning erupted and a dense cloud descended on the mountain. The call of the Shofar was heard and Moshe brought the people to the foot of the mountain. What followed was a supreme moment in world history. The voice of Hashem was heard as the Ten Commandments were given. These laws are the foundation of moral conduct.
Before the laws were given, the people agreed to observe these laws and also to study their meaning. The order, to observe and study is very important. Personal involvement is critical to understand Torah. Therefore the “observance” comes first. We then study the deeper meanings of what we are doing.
11 January 2014
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BESHALACH
The Torah reading begins with Hashem telling us that when he took Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt he did not take us on the quickest route to Israel. The reason for this was that if they took this route they would have encountered the Philistines, who would have most certainly attacked us. This would have caused tremendous stress on the newly freed slaves, to the point where they would have considered returning to Egypt. To avoid this they were taken through the Sinai Desert.
This Shabbat is also known as Shabbat Shira, the Shabbat of song. The reason for this is that we read the song (Shira) that was sung by the children of Israel after they miraculously crossed the Red Sea to safety. This part of the Torah reading is included in the Schacharit service every day throughout the year, and we also stand when the Shira is read during the Torah reading.
14 December 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYECHI
At the age of one hundred and forty seven, Yaacov sent for Joseph and made him promise that he would be buried in Canaan, the resting place of his father’s. Sometime later, Joseph was informed that his father was ill and he visited him with his two sons Ephrayim and Menashe. Yaacov informs Joseph that his two sons would be elevated to the status of Yaacov’s own children and therefore be counted amongst the tribes of Israel.
When Yaacov blesses Ephrayim and Menashe he blesses the younger one Ephrayim first. When Joseph tries to explain this to his father, he is told that although Ephrayim is younger he will surpass his elder brother in status.
Yaacov proceeds to call all his sons to his bedside. He speaks to each of them and blesses them. The blessings are full of prophecy about the future of each tribe and their special attributes and characteristics.
07 December 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYIGASH
At the conclusion of last week’s portion, Benjamin was caught with Joseph’s goblet. Joseph had ruled that Benjamin would have to remain in Egypt as a slave while the rest of the brothers could return to their father.
Our Parasha begins with Yehuda risking his life to intercede. In an emotional speech he offers himself as a slave instead of his brothers. Joseph reveals himself to his brothers. His first question is to enquire about the wellbeing of his father. Twenty two years had passed since Joseph was sold into slavery. His brothers are obviously worried that they will suffer serious repercussions for their previous conduct. Joseph comforts his brothers by telling them that their selling him was all part of G-Ds plan.
30 November 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT MIKETZ
Two years after the chief butler was freed from prison, Pharaoh dreamt two unusual dreams. In one, he saw seven lean cows devouring seven well -fed cows, yet the lean cows remained lean. In the other, he saw seven thin ears of grain swallowing seven full ears of grain and still remaining lean. None of his advisors were able to explain this to Pharaoh. It was then that the chief butler recalled Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams.
A chain of events lead to Joseph becoming the second in command in the land of Egypt. This ultimately led to the saving of Yaacov and his entire family when there was a famine in Canaan years later and the family was forced to go to Egypt to look for food.
26 November 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYISHLACH
After Yaacov received the blessings from his father he was forced to flee from his home in order to protect himself from his brother Eisav. Thirty-four years have now passed and Yaacov was returning home. Eisav advanced towards him with an army of four hundred soldiers. The Torah tells us that Yaacov prepared for the encounter in three different ways. He prepared a gift to appease his brother, he prayed to Hashem for assistance and finally he prepared for war.
When problems arise, we should always first try to solve them peacefully. We also pray for Hashem’s assistance and lastly we have to prepare for war. This is how we should deal with these types of situations to this very day.
Eight years after Joseph was born Rachel gives birth to a second son Binyamin, the last of Yaacov’s twelve sons.
09 November 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYEITZEI
In his journey from Beersheva to Charan, Ya‘acov reached the mountain of Moria and slept there overnight. In a dream, he saw angels ascending and descending a ladder.
The ladder was standing on the earth with its top reaching the heavens. There are many interpretations of the dream. One interpretation is that the dream alludes to the receiving of the Torah on Mt Sinai, since the numerical value (in Hebrew) for ladder and Sinai are the same. Tradition also teaches us that this was the site where the temple was going to be built in future years.
The Parasha also contains the episode of Lavan substituting Leah for Rachel before Rachel’s marriage to Ya’acov. Rachel, not wanting to publically embarrass her sister made sure that the wedding went ahead without Ya’acov being aware of what had transpired.
02 November 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT TOLDOT
In this week’s portion we learn of the birth of Ya’acov and Eisav. Their different personalities emerged at a very young age. The Torah describes Eisav as a hunter and Ya’acov as a “wholesome man”. Ya’acov, the younger was a scholar who sat and studied while Ya’acov the hunter developed into a very deceptive individual. He is seen as the prototype of deception in the Torah. To the outside world, even his own father he came across as a caring and refined person, yet his motives were purely for self-gain. He was happy to sell his birthright to his brother, but wanted to kill him when he found out that the blessings from his father were actually given to his brother.
The Torah emphasizes the values of authenticity and sincerity many times. We need to be upright and sincere in all our dealings.
26 October 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT CHAYEI SARAH
Sarah dies at the age of 127 and Avraham buries her in Kiryat-Arba. (The City of Four). The city got its name because four illustrious couples would be buried there Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah. After Sarah’s death, Avraham sends his servant Eliezer to find a wife for his son Isaac. He sends Eliezer back to his home town and there he meets Rebecca. The encounter with Rebecca, her acts of chesed in helping this stranger in the city, convinces Eliezer that Hashem has directed him to the person destined to be Isaacs’s wife. The Parasha ends with the death Avraham.
19 October 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYEIRA
The Parasha begins by relating what Avraham did on the third day after his circumcision. To spare Avraham the physical strain of caring for visitors, Hashem brought a heat wave so that people would not travel on that day. Avraham however longed for visitors and Hashem in response sent three angels, disguised as people, to visit him. Avraham was delighted and ran to meet them. The Torah relates this story to show what was so uniquely special about Avraham, the forefather of the Jewish people.
The Story of Sdom and Amorah is also read this Shabbat in Shul. Hashem informed Avraham of his intention to destroy both cities. When he heard this he entered into a long argument with Hashem, trying to persuade G-d to spare the city.
12 September 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT LECH LECHA
The Parasha begins with the Divine call to Avram to leave his home town of Charan and to proceed to another land which Hashem would show him. Avram commences his journey toward the land of Israel with his wife and nephew. Many people who followed Avrams teachings went with them. At Schem, Hashem appeared to Avram and affirmed his promise to him that the land of Israel would one day be the domain of his descendants.
The Parasha also contains the law of Brit Milah (circumcision). Hashem commanded Avraham to circumcise himself and all the other male members of his household. Since then every male is circumcised when he is eight days old. Brit Milah is a sign of the covenant between Hashem, Avraham and his descendants.
31 August 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT NITZAVIM / VAYELECH.
On the day that Moses was to die, he assembled the entire nation (the Torah emphasizes man, woman and child) to renew the covenant between themselves and Hashem. This covenant applied not only to those present on that day, but also to all future generations.
The Parasha according to the Ramban, also alludes to the Messianic era when Hashem will shower his benevolence upon us when we have all repented and accepted upon ourselves the laws of Torah.
Moshe also reminds the people that the Torah, its lifestyle and laws are accessible to all who make an effort to embrace them. “For it is not hidden from you and it is not distance……rather the matter is very near to you”.
24 August 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT KI TAVO.
The Parasha begins with the Mitzvah of Bikkurim, the requirement of bringing the first produce of ones crops (of the Seven Species) to Jerusalem. There was a tremendous fan-fare associated with this process. The Mishna tells us that as Jews from the outlying areas made their journey to Jerusalem, the leaders of the cities on the way would come out and greet them. When they arrived at the Temple, the donor would then recite a prayer of thanksgiving, recalling how Hashem had delivered his ancestors from Egypt and brought a new generation to the land of Israel.
Other laws contained in the Parasha include the prohibition of misleading the blind, acting unjustly towards the stranger, orphan and widow. The Torah also mentions the law of not taking a bribe to give false testimony.
17 August 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT KI TEITZEI.
This week’s Torah reading contains many Halachot (Laws).
The law requiring burial as soon as possible after a person dies is mentioned in our Parasha. Postponing a funeral (unless we are waiting for immediate family) is considered disrespectful towards the deceased.
We are commanded to promote safety. Examples of this would be securing a fence pool net if we have a pool.We are also commanded to make sure that if we have pets, they need to be fenced in.
The mitzvah of Tzitit is also in this weeks Parasha.
Honesty in business is mentioned many times in the Torah. Businessmen must be extremely scrupulous in their trading and may not even possess faulty scales and weights, as these may be used in error, resulting in the customer being cheated..
10 August 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT SHOFTIM.
The word Shoftim means judges, and our parasha begins with some laws pertaining to the pursuit of Justice. The importance of a fair and honest legal system is mentioned many places in the Torah. The Gemara mentions that justice is one of the 3 pillars upon which the world “stands”.
The Torah reading also contains the law that when the nation was to enter the promised land of Israel they would be required to appoint a king for themselves. There was a special requirement for a king to write a Sefer Torah for himself and keep it with him at all times.The deeper understanding of this is that this would remind the king to maintain the values of Torah with him at all times, and consult the Torah for guidance.
03 August 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT RE’EH.
Our Parasha states: “If there be among you a needy man, one of thy brethren, within any of thy gates, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thy hand from thy needy brother, but thou shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need.”
“For destitute people will not cease to exist within the land.”
The Torah, in the strongest language, urges us to care for the less fortunate in our community.
The mitzvah of Tzedakah is written in many places in the Torah.the Gemara teaches that charity does not only benefit the recipient, but also the donor.
The practice of acts of kindness develops in the donor the desire to do good and is ultimately a spiritually uplifting experience.
This coming week we start blowing the Shofar. It is a reminder to do Teshuva (to repent.)
One of the mitzvoth mentioned in the Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur service is this very mitzvah-the giving of charity.
27 July 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT EIKEV.
The second paragraph of the Shema is found in this week’s portion. The first paragraph was read last week. There is a distinct difference between them.
The first portion is written in the singular and the second in the plural. (It is these 2 paragraphs that are written for the Mezuzah)
Our sages explain that the second section refers to the observance of mitzvot which are accomplished most effectively when performed by a group. These would include mitzvoth such as Tefillah (praying.) Although they can be performed by an individual, they take on an added importance if performed en masse. On the other hand, the love of Hashem, an emotional attachment to G-d is to be achieved best by every individual.
In Moshe’s speech to the people he tells them that in the near future they will be entering the land of Israel. He speaks of a prosperous land and mentions the seven varieties of fruit for which the land is praised for.
He reminds them that at a time of prosperity there is a risk of ingratitude-forgetting all that Hashem has done for them.
We are commanded to always be appreciative of the good that is done for us.
13 July 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT DEVARIM.
This Shabbat we begin to read the last of the Five books of Moses-the Book of Devarim. The entire book of Devarim is made up of a number of speeches Moshe gave to Bnei Yisrael before his death. In his speeches he reviews all the laws that had been given to them.
In addition a number of mitzvot (commandments) are mentioned for the first time.
This Parasha is always read on the Shabbat prior to Tisha B’Av ( with no exception)
The Shabbat is also known as Shabbat Chazon. The reason for this is that on this Shabbat we always recite a special Haftorah from the Book of Yeshayahu, and begins with the words Chazon Yeshayahu-the vision of the Prophet Yeshayahu.
The Haftorah is sung to the same tune as Eicha which is read on the night of Tisha B’Av and is read in order to warn all generations of the moral and social transgressions that led to the downfall of the Jewish State.
29 June 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT MATOT-MASEI.
The tribes of Reuven and Gad approached Moshe and asked for permission to settle in Gilad and not to enter the land of Israel with the other tribes. Moshe was disappointed by their request, “Will your brethren go to war across the Jordan while you remain untouched here.”
Their wish was granted after they explained that they would help fight to conquer the land and that their reason for wanting to remain on the east side of the Jordan was not to abandon the rest of the tribes, but as a result of their abundant flocks, much more than those of the other tribes.
Monday 8 July is Rosh Chodesh Av. This is the beginning of the 9 days of mourning before
Tisha B’ Av. In addition to the laws of the 3 weeks, we do not partake of meat and wine except on Shabbat.
29 June 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT PINCHAS.
The parasha commences with Hashem praising Pinchas for putting an end to a devastating plague that claimed the lives of 24 000 people. A prominent member of the community was publicly involved in an act of immorality. Pinchas, who was motivated by guarding Hashem’s honour, killed those responsible for this public act of immorality.
The parasha also contains the episode of Tzlelafchad who died leaving 5 daughters but no sons. The question was whether the daughters could receive their father’s inheritance.
The parasha also contains the laws regarding the special sacrifices that took place on Festivals and Rosh Chodesh.
22 June 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BALAK.
Balak, King of Moav forms an alliance with his former enemy the Midianites to attack the Jewish people. Balak then sends emissaries to the prophet Balak requesting the prophet to curse the Israelites. At first he refuses. However after a second delegation tempts him with promises of wealth and prestige he agrees.
Although the events in the Torah occurred thousands of years ago, human nature has not changed much during this period. Far too many individuals are willing “to do the wrong thing” for promises of money and honour.
Balak failed in his attempt to curse the Israelites. A core belief in Judaism is that ultimately good will triumph over evil.
15 June 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT CHUKAT.
After the death of Miriam the Torah records that there was no water for the nation. One commentator (Alshich) states that the reason for this was because the people did not mourn her death as they did when Aron and Moses died.
G-d then commands Moses to take the staff that he had used to perform the miracles in Egypt, gather the people and speak to “the rock”. This “rock” was used in the desert as a source of miraculous waters in the past. Most struck the rock twice with the staff.
According to one explanation Moses did speak to a rock but to the wrong one. He reasoned that speaking to the correct rock would have been sufficient but since this was a different one he would have to strike it in addition to speaking to it.
As a result of this Moshe was not allowed to lead the people into the land of Israel.
08 June 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT KORACH.
The main theme in this week’s Parasha is the Rebellion of Korach against the leadership of Moses. This was a tragic episode in Jewish history bearing in mind that this generation had witnessed events such as the splitting of the Red Sea and the giving of the Torah on Mt Sinai.
Korach manages to attract a large and prestigious following by using a deceptively attractive argument. He told the nation that if the entire nation was considered holy why were Moses and Aaron the sole leaders of the people? Leaders should have been chosen democratically.
Korach’s motives were entirely different. He was a cousin of Moses and was aggrieved that he was not given a more important role in leading the nation. His protests were for personal gain and not for the benefit of the masses.
01 June 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT SHELACH.
The Parasha get its name from the main story contained in this week’s Torah reading, the Story of the Spies. Twelve spies, a representative from each tribe is sent to spy out the land of Israel. The majority (10) of them return with a negative report. As a result of this occurrence the children of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years before eventually entering the land of Israel.
On the surface the spies did nothing wrong in describing what they had seen. However if one studies the verses carefully one will see that they did not only report facts. They also interpreted what they had seen. It was these interpretations that caused the hysteria amongst the nation.
25 May 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BEHA’ALOTCHA.
The Parasha begins with the laws of the Menorah. (Not to be confused with the Channukiah used on Channukah). The Menora, made out of gold, was lit each day.Since the time of the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans this practice has ceased to exist. The Ner Tamid, the eternal light by the Ark in Shul reminds us of the Menorah which stood in Temple times.The flames of the Menorah represented man’s need to strive to reach higher levels of spirituality.
The eternal flames of the Menorah also represent Hashem’s constant involvement in our lives.
We are also reminded about the prohibition of speaking Lashon Hara, after Miriam, Moshe’s sister defamed her brother.
18 May 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT NASSO.
The Parasha contains the Priestly blessing recited by the Kohanim on the Shalosh Regalim and the Yamim Noraim. The Birkat Kohanim starts in the plural and then changes to the singular. The reason for this is that what we need most is unity and therefore we are blessed as one unit. The first part of the blessing states: “May Hashem bless you and safeguard you”
If G-D has blessed us why must we still be guarded?
The well-known commentator Rashi explains that it is not sufficient to be merely blessed;
The blessing needs to be guarded from evil. This part of the Birkat Kohanim refers to a person’s material needs.
The second part of the blessing is of a spiritual nature. We ask that Hashem should bless us to be able to comprehend the wisdom of Torah.
The third part of the blessing ends with the word “Shalom” peace. Peace is not only the absence of war. Peace is a state of being that creates a sense of holiness in the world.
11 May 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BAMIDBAR.
This Shabbat we begin reading the book of Bamidbar, the fourth of the five books of the Torah. This Parasha is always read on the Shabbat before Shavuot. The name of this book, Bamidbar means desert and is derived from the fact that Hashem gave the Torah to the Jewish people in the wilderness of Sinai.
There are many lessons to be learnt from the fact that Torah was given in such simple surroundings. One lesson to be learnt is the importance of humility. We should always make a concerted effort to be humble and not let our achievements make us arrogant. Moses the greatest leader and prophet of the Jewish people is described as being a humble individual.
The Parasha also contains a census of the Jewish people. It is clearly evident from the way the census was held that every individual had a special place in the heart of Moshe and Aaron.
Judaism teaches us that each person is also unique and special in the eyes of G-d and we are supposed to nurture our own special relationship with our creator.
04 May 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BEHAR/BECHUKOTAI.
The Parasha begins with the laws of Shemittah, the Sabbatical year. The concept of Shemittah, allowing ones field to lie fallow every seven years, demonstrates man’s belief that ultimate success is in Hashems hands. Obviously man has to work hard, but the final outcome is not dependent on our efforts, rather on Hashems blessing.
We are also taught the importance of preventing poverty. The highest level of charity according to the Rambam is to assist a person with employment before they join the ranks of the poor.
The second parasha we read this Shabbat, Bechukotai is known as the “Parasha of admonition.”
Hashem gave us the Torah on Mt Sinai and Bnei Yisrael accepted the Laws of Torah. The concept of free choice is also embedded in Torah. However, there are consequences for our actions and these are detailed in this week’s Torah reading.
27 April 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT EMOR.
This week’s Torah reading contains many laws of Kehunah (priesthood). Many mistakenly believe that the Kohanim are one of the “tribes” of Israel. This is incorrect. The group of Kohanim received their status as a result of the events surrounding the golden calf. There were three responses to the worshipping of the golden calf. One small group, led by Aaron (Moses brother) tried to stop the people from worshipping the golden calf. A second group did participate in the event, but did not go so far as to try and stop others from participating. The third group was those who worshipped the golden calf.
The group led by Aaron was rewarded for their efforts and became known as the Kohanim. There is an important lesson to be learnt from this. Aaron was totally unsuccessful in his attempt to prevent the episode of the golden calf. Nevertheless he was rewarded for his efforts. Sometimes it is not the final outcome that counts but also a person’s endeavor to do the right thing.
20 April 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT ACHAREI MOT-KEDOSHIM.
The Torah reading for this week (which is also read on Yom Kippur) deals with laws of forbidden sexual relationships.
The Jewish marriage ceremony is called Kiddushin, from the word Kadosh meaning holy. We see from the outset, that Jewish marriage is founded in holiness. Philosophically, marriage is not only a bond between husband and wife. Judaism believes that there is a third partner – Hashem is part of every marriage. The purpose of the Chuppa ceremony is not only to sanctify the relationship between man and woman, but also to infuse G-ds presence into the marriage.
The second parasha Kedoshim reminds us that the purpose of Mitzvot is to elevate us
spiritually. The well-known dictum “And you shall love your neighbour as yourself” is also found in this week’s Torah reading.
13 April 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT TAZRIA-METZORAH.
This week we read two parshiyot, Tazria and Metzorah. The Parasha of Tazria and Metzorah deal with the punishment given to those who speak Lashon Hara, one of the most difficult of all the Mitzvot to observe. So serious is this prohibition that our sages teach that one who speaks Lashon Hara is burdened with the other person’s sins. Some may deem this to be an unfair punishment for an apparently minor misdeed.
Surely, making a negative comment about someone is less damaging than physically assaulting them. The truth is quite the opposite. Very often, physical pain subsides after a short time, whereas the emotional pain suffered as the result of Lashon Hara lingers on and on. A reputation that takes many years to establish can be destroyed in minutes.
We should all make a concerted effort to be more vigilant with our speech in order to observe the mitzvah of not hurting our fellowman by speaking Lashon Hara.
06 April 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT SHEMINI
Aaron, Moses brother was appointed as the first Cohen Gadol (High priest)
Rashi remarks that he was humble of spirit
and reluctant to accept the appointment. He was then told that, because he was so modest he was chosen to be the High Priest.
Aaron was not only known for his humility but also for his love for his fellow man. In ethics of the Fathers we read: “Hillel said, be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow man and drawing them near to the Torah.”
How did Aaron pursue peace? Our sages tell us that Aaron went out of his way to promote goodwill between man and man by reducing antagonisms between people.
The Parasha also contains the laws of Kashrut, which species can and cannot be eaten.
23 March 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT TZAV
The festival of Pesach has a special place in the hearts of every Jew. Long before Pesach we begin to make the house “Pesachdik” and although a lot of work is involved in preparing for Pesach, in particular for the Sedarim, it is work done with love and enthusiasm.
To benefit from the Haggadah we need to engage in some of the deeper philosophical ideas associated with this Chag.
The Haggadah begins with shame (we were slaves to Pharoah in Egypt) and ends with joy – redemption. Prior to the exodus who would have believed that the Israelites – a landless people – would outlive the great Egyptian Empire.
Egypt became famous for its buildings, pyramids and monuments. These buildings have lasted for centuries and can be viewed to this very day. However, the civilization which built them has ceased to exist.
Moses, the leader of the Jewish people at the time of the exodus, set the tone for future Jewish leadership.
A society needs far more than buildings in order to endure and prosper. Education is the key to survival. When the Jews left Egypt, Moses spoke of the need to educate our children about our heritage. This was done on three separate occasions. Moses understood that only freedom linked to education would stand the test of time.
True “Jewish Education” comprises many components. One component is setting a personal example for our children. Pesach provides an ideal opportunity for us to teach our children about our heritage.
This can be achieved by preparing a meaningful Seder and, of course, by going with our families to Shul over Yom Tov.
16 March 2013
The Parasha of Vayikra deals in detail with the laws of Korbanot (sacrifices). The Hebrew word for sacrifices has its root in the word “near”. The purpose of sacrifices was a means of approaching Hashem, getting close to G-d. The concept of sacrifices is difficult to understand. We do not have a Temple and have never seen this practice, which makes it even more difficult to relate to.
Today prayer services take the place of sacrifices. There were three main sacrifices every day and this is why we have three daily services, Shacharit, Mincha and Maariv.
Our Teffilot should address two basic concepts. They testify as an acknowledgement to Hashems mastery of the world and allow us to form a personal bond with Hashem.
09 March 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYAKEL-PEKUDEI
This week two Parshiyot are read, the Parasha of Vayakel and Pekudei.
The first Parasha begins with a reminder of the laws of Shabbat. The Torah uses the term “Melacha” when referring to the activities that are prohibited on Shabbat. Unfortunately this word has (for centuries) been translated as work since there is no English word for “Melacha”. This has led to tremendous confusion. One may move boxes from one side of a room to another on Shabbat, or walk one hour to Shul and this is not considered work. However one may not switch on a light on Shabbat.
The reason is that work in the “normal sense” of the word is permitted on Shabbat. What is forbidden is “Melacha”. The 39 categories of Melacha prohibited on Shabbat get their origin from the 39 types of “work” that was required to build the Mishkan.(Portable Sanctuary in the desert).
Apart from two Parshiyot we also read from a Second Torah this Shabbat. This Torah reading is known as “Shabbat Hachodesh”. This reading deals with the importance of the month of Nissan. Since Pesach is in the month of Nissan this portion is always read approximately 2 weeks before Pesach.
02 March 2013
This week’s Parasha contains the story of The Golden Calf. The Sin of the Golden Calf was one of mass idol worship. There are three situations when a Jew is obligated to give his life rather than violate the laws of the Torah. One such example is in the case of idol worship. What makes the situation even more difficult to comprehend is the fact that this happened after the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea.
One explanation of this event is that the people misunderstood Moses. He told them that he would be returning from the mountain in 40 days. They included the day that he left and when they thought 40 days had elapsed it was in fact only the 39th day. Without a leader they built the Golden Calf as an intermediary between themselves and G-d. By the time Moshe had descended the mountain, a frenzy had erupted amongst the masses and there was no possibility of containing them.
16 February 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT TERUMAH
The Parasha begins with Hashem commanding Moshe to build a Mishkan (portable sanctuary) symbolizing his presence among the people. The people
were asked to voluntarily supply the materials needed for its construction. We may ask why this was necessary. Doesn’t Hashems Divine Presence permeate every particle of space in the Universe? What was the need for a special dwelling place?
The purpose of the Mishkan was not to provide G-d with a dwelling place on earth. The Mishkan was a gesture to man to provide man with a concrete site, so that we can begin to better comprehend Hashems presence in this world.
09 February 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT MISHPATIM
The Parasha deals with laws of compensation when a person has caused damage to another. The Gemara teaches that if a person wants to become religiously devout, they should be careful to observe the laws of damages. This is to refute a common misconception that ’religion’ is confined to rituals only.
Some of the laws contained in the parasha are penalties for bodily injury, and laws pertaining to custodians of other people’s property who have been negligent in safeguarding that this was given to them for safekeeping.
02 February 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT YITRO
This weeks Parasha recalls the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt Sinai.
A fundamental principle of Judaism is that Hashem did not have “a private meeting” with Moses but rather that the entire nation heard Hashem say the words of the commandments. These words have become the foundation of moral principles for all time.
One of the few mitzvot mentioned in the Torah that have a reward is that of honouring parents. (Another is the giving of charity). The Gemara in kiddushimstates as follows:
“The Sages taught that whenever a man honours his parents it is as if he had brought down the Divine Presence to dwell with them and honoured G-d himself”.
26 January 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BESHALACH
The following article was recently given to me. Some may agree with its contents some may not. I do however believe that it provides some “food for thought”. I hope you enjoy reading it and wish you all Shabbat Shalom and an enjoyable weekend.
I am told that the contents of this speech was recited by Ben Stein on CBS Sunday morning Commentary
I don’t like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don’t think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can’t find it in the Constitution and I don’t like it being shoved down my throat.Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren’t allowed to worship God ? I guess that’s a sign that I’m getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.
In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it’s not funny, it’s intended to get you thinking.In light of recent events… terrorist attacks, school shootings, etc. I think it started when Madeleine Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn’t want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK. Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide).
We said an expert should know what he’s talking about. And we said okay. Now we’re asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.’ Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send ‘jokes’ through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.
Are you laughing yet? Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it. Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us. Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not, then just discard it. No one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don’t sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.
My best regards, honestly and respectfully, Ben Stein.
12 January 2013
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAEIRA
The Sedra of Vaera- the second Parasha in the book of Shemot contains a renewed promise of redemption to Moses. It also contains the first seven plagues inflicted on the land of Egypt.
The plagues, their content and order, were carefully planned. Pharaoh boasted that he could control nature. He idolized himself claiming that he was in control of the Nile, a major source of economic sustenance for Egypt. The first plague of Dam (blood) came to demonstrate that he had no control over the Nile. The plague of Kinim (lice) which afflicts the body showed Pharaoh that he was not even master over his own body.
Pharaoh had commanded that the male babies of the Israelites had to be thrown into the Nile. The same river that he had utilized for the destruction of the Israelites was used to punish the Egyptians. Water is the source of life; by withdrawing water from the Egyptians they were going to suffer the same fate as the Israelite babies thrown into the Nile.
This Shabbat is also Rosh Chodesh Shevat.
14 December 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT MIKEITZ
The Sedra of Mikeitz deals with Pharaoh’s dreams, Josephs release from prison, his divine interpretations and his appointment as grand vizier of Egypt. In the Parasha we also read of the epic meeting between Joseph and his brothers.
After Joseph interpreted the butlers and bakers dreams he asked the butler to make mention of him to Pharaoh when he is released from prison. The midrash observes that because Joseph placed his reliance on the butlers favours and not Hashem, two more years were added to his time in prison.
It is difficult to understand how at first Joseph reacted to seeing his brothers. Why did a pious person such as Joseph not reveal himself to his brothers’ as soon as they came and bowed down to him? One answer is that Joseph wanted to test whether there had been any improvement in his brothers’ moral conduct since the time they sold him as a slave. During the course of their conversations it became clear to Joseph that his brothers had indeed improved
08 December 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYEISHEV
This week we begin reading the story of Joseph and his brothers. The Torah tells us that the hatred between Joseph and his brothers began before Jacob gave his son a coat of many colours.
The hatred began as a result of Joseph speaking badly about his brothers. Joseph’s dreams and the fact that he was spoilt by his father added to the already difficult relationship he had with his brothers.
When Joseph’s brothers were away tending their father’s flock in Shechem Jacob sent Joseph to his brothers to see how they were faring. They conspired to kill him and threw his body into a pit. Reuven, the eldest of the brothers convinced them not to kill Joseph. Joseph was sold and resold many times as a slave and eventually landed in Egypt.
On Saturday night we celebrate Channukah. When we recite the blessings, we make reference to miracles that happened in the past and present. We often think that miracles only occurred in the past.
The truth is that miracles happen in the present as well – all we have to do is to be more sensitive to our surroundings in order to acknowledge the good that is happening in our times.
01 December 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYISHLACH
This week’s Parasha contains many topics, among them, Jacobs fear of Esau – the wrestling with the angel, Jacob meeting Esau and the story of Dinah and Shechem.
After staying with Lavan for twenty years, Jacob decided to return home to Canaan. He knew that he would encounter Esau on his journey home. He sent messages with gifts to appease his brothers, prayed to Hashem for his safety and also prepared for war if all else failed.
A significant lesson can be learnt from this episode in Jacob’s life. Although he believed firmly in his faith, he did not rely on miracles alone. G-d says to men: “I shall bless you in whatever you do. You must make the effort and I will help you.”
24 November 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYEITZEI
When Esau finds out that his brother Jacob received the blessings from their father, he vows to kill his brother. Yaacov is forced to flee for his life and goes to Lavan, the brother of Rivka.
During his journey to Lavan, Jacob has a vision at Moriah. Jacob dreams of a ladder reaching heavenward with angels ascending and descending upon it. There are many interpretations of this dream. Since the Hebrew word for ladder and Sinai have the same numerical value, some Sages attribute this dream to the future giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
The Parasha also tells of the marriage between Jacob and Rachel. Before the marriage, Lavan substitutes Leah for Rachel, since it was the custom for the elder daughter to marry first. Although Rachel was aware of this, she remained silent at the wedding in order to avoid publicly embarrassing her sister.
17 November 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT TOLDOT
After twenty years of marriage, Yitzchak and Rivka are blessed with children.
Esav, the elder, and Yaacov, the younger of the twins, were already different in their mother’s womb. Esav was a man of the field, a hunter, and his brother was a scholar who studied Torah. Each parent had a favourite son. Yitzchak showed affection towards Esav and Rivka preferred Yaacov.
Esav became the eternal symbol of evil and cruelty and Yaacov, the symbol of piety. Esav worshipped idols and developed a deceptive nature, whereas Yaacov was morally wholesome.
After Jacob receives the blessing for the first born, Esav vows to kill his brother. When their mother hears this, she sends Jacob to her brother Lavan, in order to secure her son’s safety.
10 November 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT CHAYEI SARAH
Sarah died in Hebron at the age of one hundred and twenty seven. After lengthy negotiations, Avraham buys land from Ephron as a permanent burial place for Sarah. Avraham, now at an advanced age, is anxious to see his son Yitzchak married. He calls his loyal servant Eliezer to assist him in this task. The woman to marry Yitzchak had to be a person who was exemplary in fulfilling the mitzvah of chesed – loving kindness. Rivkah’s nature ensured that she was the right person to marry Yitzchak.
We can learn a lot by studying Rivkah’s home environment. She did not grow up in a family that epitomised morals and ethics. Quite the contrary, her family members had a reputation for dishonesty.
Nevertheless, Rivkah grew up to be an example of the values that Torah stands for. Although a person’s background does often pose challenges, all too often we tend to blame our background instead of taking responsibility for the person we are.
03 November 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYEIRA
The Parasha begins with Avraham sitting at the entrance of his tent, hoping to greet visitors and thereby performing the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim.
The three “visitors” who arrived were actually angels sent by Hashem.
One informed Avraham that his wife Sarah would give birth in a year’s time. The second healed Avraham from his bris and the third told Avraham of the destruction of Sodom.
The midrash teaches us that “one angel does not perform two missions” and therefore there was the requirement for 3 angels.
When the guests arrived Avraham promised them some bread, yet went on to prepare a scrumptious meal for them. The Gemara derives from this episode the following dictum: “The righteous say little and do much”.
27 October 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT LECH LECHA
This week’s Torah reading highlights the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. By bringing Abraham to Israel and promising that the land would become the heritage of his family, Hashem established the eternal bond between the Jewish people and Israel. Avraham was called an “ivri” which means “the other side”. This alludes to the fact that he came to Israel from the other side of the Euphrates.
Tradition teaches us that Avraham had to prove his greatness by passing ten tests of faith. The first trial is the one in the opening verses of our Parasha, when he is commanded to leave the familiar surroundings of his birthplace and move to Israel.
20 October 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT NOACH
The first sentence of this week’s Parasha states as follows “These are the offspring of Noah, Noah was righteous in his generation”. The sentence begins by telling us of Noah’s children and then before stating their names, deviates from the topic and states that Noah was righteous. Only later on does the Torah name Noahs children’s names.
Our sages are puzzled by the strange construction of this verse and offer a variety of explanations. One explanation is that we need to understand Noah’s character first, and then we can better understand his offspring. Simply put ones primary offspring is oneself. The more we invest in making ourselves better people the greater the chance of our children following these examples.
13 October 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BEREISHIT
This Shabbat we commence the Torah reading from the beginning of the book of Bereishit. The Torah does not begin with the first law given to Jewry as a nation, but rather with a narrative of the creation of the world. The reason for this is to establish that Hashem is the Sovereign of the universe.
The process of creation is beyond human comprehension. The Ramban notes that the secret of creation is a deep mystery that was transmitted by G-d to Moses and that those “who are privileged to be entrusted with this hidden knowledge are not permitted to reveal it”. There are many lessons to be learnt from the story of Creation. Man sinned but G-d allowed him the opportunity to repent – the concept of teshuva (repentance) can be found in the very first parasha in the Torah.
06 October 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT CHOL HAMOED SUKKOT
This Shabbat we do not read a Parasha as it is Shabbat Chol Hamoed Sukkot. Whenever it is Shabbat Chol Hamoed (Sukkot or Pesach) the regular weekly Parasha is suspended, and the Torah reading relates to the Yom Tov.
Sunday night and Monday is Shemini Atzeret. This is a separate festival from Sukkot, and although we still eat in the Sukka, the blessing of “Leisheiv Basukka” is not said.
In Israel Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are combined and celebrated together. In the diaspora Simchat Torah is celebrated the following day- Monday night and Tuesday.
On Simchat Torah we do NOT eat in the Sukka.
Our annual Simchat Torah party will take place on Monday night. Everyone is invited to come with their family & friends and enjoy the evening with us.
29 September 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT HA’AZINU
This week’s Parasha contains the “song” in which Moses expresses recognition of the total harmony of creation. It also contains phrases thanking Hashem for his blessings bestowed upon the people despite the fact that there were times when the nation did not show their gratitude to Hashem.
Moses is concerned about the moral welfare of the people and tells them to take the eternal teachings of Torah to heart in order to reach higher levels of spirituality. He compares the teachings of Torah to rain and dew. In the same way as rain and dew have the power to refresh, so too the words and values of Torah should penetrate our hearts in order to revive our spiritual life.
Sunday night is Sukkot and I look forward to seeing you all in Shul and in the Sukkah after the service , for our sukkot brocha.
22 September 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAYELECH
This Shabbat is called Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of repentance.
The reason for this is because the haftorah, taken from the book of Hoshea, begins with the words “Return O Israel”.
It has become a widespread custom for Rabbis to speak on the topic of repentance on this Shabbat. In general Shabbat is a time when one should spend time studying the Torah and one should be especially careful this Shabbat to study Torah and not engage in Lashon Hara (slander).
May the New Year be a year of life, peace and good health for us all.
15 September 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT NITZAVIM
In the book Chayei Adam, there is a wonderful introduction to the laws of Rosh Hashana. Here are some of the ideas contained in this work.
The Author begins by telling us that as a result of Hashem’s love for his people, the doors of repentance are open to us at all times. However, the month prior to Rosh Hashana, the month of Ellul, has a special association with Teshuva. After the sin of the golden calf, Moses ascended Mount Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Ellul. Here he stayed for 40 days (until Yom Kippur) and this is when the final forgiveness was given to the Jewish people. Ever since then, these days are times of mercy for the Jewish people.
Every day in Ellul (except for Shabbat and the day prior to Rosh Hashana) we blow the Shofar at Schacharit. In the words of the Prophet Amos “Is it possible to blow the Shofar in the city and the nation won’t tremble?”.
It has therefore become the custom to participate in the mitzvot of repentance, prayer and charity in Ellul with added enthusiasm.
The last day in Ellul is a particularly important day in the Jewish calendar. If a person has not yet asked for forgiveness from their fellow man, this is a most opportune time to do it. It is also correct to visit the graves of the righteous and to pray that we should be granted a good year in their merit.
Wishing you all Shana Tova – a happy and prosperous New Year.
08 September 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT KI TAVO
The Parasha begins with the laws of Bikkurim – the first fruits. During the time when the Temple stood, farmers in Israel would take the first ripened fruits to the Temple and present them to the Cohen. This was accompanied with a declaration of gratitude to Hashem.
A very fundamental belief in Judaism is also alluded to in this week’s Torah reading. Judaism teaches us that when a person is born, he is born free of sin. When a person dies, a person should leave this world free of sin, as we were when we came into it. We are not angels, we all make mistakes. The challenge that we all face is to lead our lives in such a way as to minimize our wrongdoings.
01 September 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT KI TEITZEI
The Parasha details laws concerning concern for the property of another.
The Torah states: “You shall not see the ox of your brother … cast off, and hide yourself from them; you shall surely return them to your brother.”
To protect someone from financial loss is not simply commendable, but one is obligated not to ignore the opportunity of helping one’s fellow man.
The Torah again reminds us of the transgression of adultery together with various laws pertaining to marriage and divorce. The laws of Lashon Hara (slander) are also mentioned in our Parasha. Honesty is also a fundamental value in Judaism and we are reminded to always be scrupulous in our business dealings.
25 August 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT SHOFTIM
The well-known phrase “Justice, justice you shall pursue” is found in this week’s Parasha. This means that justice needs to be pursued in a fair manner according to the laws of the courts and that individuals may not take the law into their own hands. Laws against bribery and corruption are also taught in this week’s Torah reading. The Torah repeats the prohibition against all forms of superstition and “magic” practiced by the soothsayer.
Judaism has very strong views regarding the need to preserve our environment. Malicious destruction of nature is strictly forbidden. We have to do everything in our power to maintain and preserve our environment. These laws are also found in our Torah reading this Shabbat.
18 August 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT RE’EH
The Parasha contains a number of laws which were to regulate the life of the nation once they had reached the Land of Israel.
We again find laws regarding the necessity to help those who are in need of financial assistance. The Torah tells us “For destitute people will not cease to exist” and therefore the need to help the less fortunate will always exist.
Shabbat (and Sunday) is also Rosh Chodesh and we read from two Sifrei Torah on Shabbat. The month before Rosh Hashana is the month of Ellul and from Sunday we begin blowing the shofar, as we do throughout the month of Ellul. The blowing of the shofat at Schacharit is aimed at reminding us to observe the mitzvah of Teshuva (repentance and introspection). The Shofar is not blown on Shabbat and the day prior to Rosh Hashana.
11 August 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT EIKEV
The Parasha begins with a reminder of the importance of observing mitzvot. The commentator, Rashi, draws our attention to a very important aspect regarding our attitude towards keeping commandments.
He explains that although in G-d’s eyes all commandments are of equal value and importance, we sometimes categorise the mitzvot into “more important” and “less important” ones.
For example we may feel that eating meals in a Sukkah during Succot is less important than hearing the shofar blown on Rosh Hashana.
Rashi explains that when a person begins to disregard the so called “less important” mitzvoth in their eyes, they will soon begin to disregard the so called “more important” mitzvot.
The second paragraph of the Shema is also read in this week’s Torah reading. The passage deals with the requirement to perform the commandments with total dedication. The Shema is recited twice a day, once during the Schacharit and once during the Maariv service.
04 August 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT VAETCHANAN
The Shabbat after Tisha B’Av is called Shabbat Nachamu – the Shabbat of Comfort. The Shabbat gets its name from the opening words of the Haftarah: “Console, console my People.”
This Haftara, taken from the book of Jeremiah, is the first of the ‘Seven Consolation Haftarot’ which are read from the Prophet Jeremiah on the seven Sabbaths which follow Tisha B’Av.
This week’s portion also contains the reading of the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments, evenly divided between laws between man and man, and laws between man and Hashem, remind us of the importance of observing both categories. It is customary to stand during the reading of this part of the Torah.
The Parasha also contains the first paragraph of the Shema. The most central law to Jewish belief and observance is the commandment to believe in one God. This law, and many others such as the mitzvah of tefilin and mezuzah, are contained in the Shema.
21 July 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT MATOT-MASEI
This Shabbat we read two parshiyot. The first Parasha discusses laws pertaining to one who has vowed voluntary service, either for Hashem or his fellow man.
Although making vows is permitted, it is not recommended, as it states in Kohelet “It is better for one not to vow at all than for him to vow and then not fulfill”.
The second Parasha records the itinerary of Bnei Yisrael, through the wilderness from the time they left Egypt, to their arrival at the plains of Moav. In all, the Israelites encamped forty two times during their years of wandering in the wilderness. Our Sages record that the 42 places mentioned allude to the mystical forty two letter name of Hashem.
14 July 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT PINCHAS
In last week’s Parsha Balaam was forced to bless Israel against his will. He still wanted to curse them harm, so he advised Balak to have their women entice the Israelites to commit acts of immorality and idol-worship. This would kindle Hashems anger and render them liable to destruction. His plan worked & many thousands died as a result of a plague, and our people almost reached the verge of destruction.
Zimri sinned publicly in front of Moses & the nation with a Midianite woman named Kozbi. At this point Pinchas, grandson of Aaron the High Priest killed both of them publicly. Pinchas felt that it was his duty to defend Hashems honour & to sanctify Hashems name in public. Although this type of action,taking the law into ones own hands is not allowed in Judaism, this was seen as an exception to the rule.
Pinchas was rewarded by Hashem for his action,and the plague stopped.
07 July 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BALAK
Balak, King of Moav hires the prophet Bilaam to curse the Jewish people. The Moabites relied on the strong Amorite Kings Sihon and Oy for protection. In the previous Parasha Israel sent emissaries to the Amorite King asking for permission to pass through their land on these on the way to the land of Israel. Sihon refused and went to war against the Israelites and was defeated. Balak, although not threatened by the Jews, felt that in order to protect himself he would hire Bilaam to curse the Jewish people.
Bilaam at first refused, but later agreed to go ahead with this plan. His attempts were futile and instead of cursing the Jewish people – blessings were uttered by him.
30 June 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT CHUKKAT
In a previous Sidrah, we see that there are two categories of laws in the Torah: Chukkim and Mishpatim.
Chukkim are laws, the meaning of which we cannot fathom: but as they are Divinely given, we observe them with the same reverence and respect as we observe the Mishpatim, the reasons for which are more easily recommend to our intelligence.
The Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) belongs to the Chukkim group. This sacrifice was used to purify those who had become ritually defiled through contact with the dead-a law that only applied during the times of the Temple.
The law of the Red Heifer is the most mysterious one in the Scriptures. The Talmud states that even King Solomon, in his great wisdom, could not penetrate to the depths of the meaning of his rite.
It is told of a Roman aristocrat, well versed in the Bible, that he asked Rabbi Johanan Ben Zakkai to explain the strange law of the Red Heifer to him.
Rabbi Johanan argued by analogy: “just as a person afflicted with melancholy or spiritual depression is cured of his illness by taking certain medicines, in the same manner the ashes of the Red Heifer, prepared in the prescribed way and dissolved in water, can drive away the unclean spirit.”
The Roman was satisfied with the answer, but not so Rabbi Johanan’s pupils. They asked their teacher: “What answer can you give us? “Thereupon Rabbi Johanan said: “The dead man does not make a person impure, neither do the ashes, dissolved in water, make pure: the law concerning the Red Heifer is a heavenly decree, hence mortals have no right to question.”
We can account for the more puzzling laws in this manner…………………
23 June 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT KORACH
The main topic in this week’s Parasha is Korach’s rebellion against Moses’ leadership of the people of Israel.
It is uncertain when this event took place. The Ramban is of the opinion
that this event occurred after the incident of the spies, when the people were resentful of the decree that the nation would spend 40 years in the wilderness and that everyone over the age of 20 would die in the Wilderness and not enter the land of Israel.
Korach was Moses cousin. In order to attract a popular following in the attempt to discredit Moses, he posed himself as the champion of the masses. Korach felt that he was not given a high enough position with regard to certain priestly functions in the Tabernacle.
The Midrash teaches us that during the rebellion of Korach, the manna from heaven was suspended. When there is dissention amongst us, then Hashem’s presence is removed.
16 June 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT SHELACH
The Parasha begins with the story of the meraglim (spies) who were sent to spy out the land of Israel. Although Hashem had promised the children of Israel safe entry into the Promised Land, they nevertheless felt the need to send spies to see for themselves, the possibility of conquering the land.
Twelve spies went on the mission, a representative from each tribe. The outcome was disastrous, with only two returning with a positive report. The result
of this event was that the people were punished for following the ten spies opinion that the land was too well fortified and that they would be unable to conquer the land. The nation had to spend forty years in the desert. Joshua and Caleb were the only two who were supportive of Moshe.
The Parasha also contains the third paragraph of the Shema.This paragraph also contains the laws of tzitit. This mitzvah, we are told, should be a vehicle to remember all the mitzot in the Torah. The paragraph also contains the mitzvah to remember the exodus from Egypt. The Parasha ends with the concept of “remember and perform”
It is not sufficient to merely remember the mitzvot-they need to be applied to our daily lives.
09 June 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BEHA’ALOTCHA
The Menorah was a seven branched candelabra that was beaten out of a single piece of gold. The menorah symbolized Hashems presence in the world and was lit at all times. The design of the menorah carried a very significant message.
The menorah began with the central base and branched outwards. Our motives in life should come from an inner desire to be good and should not be dependent on other influences of society.
We are also taught about Pesach Sheini (the second Pesach). Those who were unable to participate in the Pesach sacrifice due to being in contact with the dead or too far away, were given an opportunity one month later, on the 14th of Iyar to bring the Korban Pesach(Pesach sacrifice).
02 June 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT NASO
The tribe of Levi was the last to be counted in the census mentioned in the beginning of the book of Bamidbar. They were grouped according to the families of the three sons of Levi-Gershon, Kehat and Merari.
The family of Kehat was given a special status. Although all the members of the tribe of Levi were involved in transporting the mishkan (portable sanctuary) in the desert, the descendants of Kehat were charged with transporting the holiest components of the mishkan.
The Parasha also reminds us to not commit the sin of theft. Stealing,we are taught, is not only a sin against man, but also against G-D, as it opposes the very foundation of a civilized society.
26 May 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BAMIDBAR
The Book of Bamidbar focuses on the years of Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness. The Parsha begins with G-D commanding Moses and Aaron to conduct a census and count the males above the age of 20, tribe by tribe.
Why did Hashem give us the Torah in the desert? The desert is a metaphor for humility: one must realize that in life, no matter how much success we have achieved, we should always strive to be humble.
Rashi the great commentator states that the Jews were counted to indicate that G-D loves them. Just as one constantly counts those things that are precious to him, so G-D constantly counts his people.Counting also demonstrates the importance of each individual.
19 May 2012
SNIPPETS FROM PARSHAT BEHAR-BECHUKOTAI
When it comes to transactions between parties, complete trust and confidence should always prevail. A man’s word should be his bond. This is however regarded as almost Utopian, and as a result the Torah takes a more pragmatic attitude and cautions against the practice of relying on ones word in concluding a deal. This can leave the door open to wrongdoing.
The Sages, by interpreting the intent of the Torah introduced legal forms of acquisition (in addition to Torah requirements) in order to remove ambiguity. Very briefly, these fall into two categories, namely movable objects and land.
Next week Sunday is Yom Yerushalayim, Jerusalem Day.
This day celebrates the unification of East and West Jerusalem 45 years ago during the Six Day war in 1967.
11 May 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE EMOR
The Parasha begins with laws that pertain to Kohanim. Many people believe that the kohanim were one of the tribes. This is incorrect. The “Kohanim Story” came about as a result of the sin of the golden calf.
Originally the Kohanim (Priests with special duties during temple times) were the first born sons. The first born sons were automatically given this status. However, when Moses descended Mt.Sinai he saw the nation worshipping the golden calf including the first born sons. As a result of this the first born sons lost their status of Kehunah (priesthood)
There were in fact three different groups that arose during the event of the golden calf. Aaron and his family tried to stop the event, one group did not go as far as to try and stop it, they simply did not participate and the third group worshipped the golden calf.
Today we have the three groups mirrored in what we call Kohanim, Levi’im and Israelites.
The Kohanim are descendants of the group who tried to stop the event, the Leviim who did not participate, and the Israelites-those who worshipped the golden calf.
Today Kohanim are accorded certain honours, such as the first Aliyah when the Torah is read and “duchening” (giving the priestly blessing) on festivals.
Kohanim also have special laws with regard to marriage.
05 May 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE ACHAREI MOT – KEDOSHIM
The well-known saying “Love your neighbour as yourself” is found in this week’s Torah reading. Torah is teaching us the need to respect our fellow man. To respect our fellow man does not mean that we always need to share similar views and opinions. What we need to do is to show tolerance towards opinions that are different from ours. (Obviously views that can lead to harm of any nature is a different issue).
The Parasha also reminds us to respect our parents. Some manifestations of this law would be, not sitting in parents’ regular places and not contradicting them in an abrupt or disrespectful manner.
28 April 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE TAZRIA-METZORA
This week the Torah reading deals with the sin of Lashon Hara – Slander.
Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, generally known as the Chafetz Chayim was renowned for his scholarship and piety. He was a prolific writer. His book on the laws of Lashon Hara is amongst his most well known works. In the introduction to his book he writes that Lashon Hara is the source of much hatred, disputes and even bloodshed. Slander has resulted in people losing their incomes and has generated immeasurable suffering. He quotes the Gemara, where it states that it was this transgression, more than any other, that was responsible for the destruction of the Temple and the subsequent exile of the Jewish people.
We should all study these laws, and hopefully, gradually be able to reverse this bad habit of speaking Lashon Hara.
21 April 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE SHEMINI
This Shabbat we read Parashat Shemini. From this Shabbat until Rosh Hashana we also read a chapter from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) each week. This takes place during the mincha service on Shabbat afternoon. There are six chapters in Pirkei Avot and after six Shabbatot have passed, we begin reading from chapter one again.
One of the ideas contained in the chapter for this Shabbat is taught by Shimon Hatzadik – Shimon the Righteous. He said that the world “stands on three things” – the Torah, the service of G-d and upon acts of loving- kindness.
Torah refers to the study of Torah. Service of G-d refers to prayer. Acts of loving – kindness (gemilut chassadim) refers to all acts of benevolence between people.
31 March 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH TZAV
The Shabbat before Pesach is always called Shabbat Hagadol.
When the Jews left Egypt they left on a Thursday. On the tenth of Nissan, which happened to be a Shabbat in that year, the Jews were commanded to set aside a lamb for the Pesach Sacrifice.
When the Egyptians saw this, they wanted to rise and take revenge but they were stricken with illness and could do no harm to the Israelities. So on account of the miracles which were done on that day, the Shabbat before Pesach is known as Shabbat Hagadol.
This Shabbat is always called Shabbat Hagadol even if it does not fall on the tenth of Nissan.
24 March 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH VAYIKRA
The parasha deals in detail with the five principal sacrifices which could be offered by individuals.
Today, because we are sadly without a Beit Hamikdash (Temple), we are not able to offer sacrifices.
However we do have the opportunity of another method to express our gratitude to Hashem and that is through Tefilla (prayer). Prayer is not supposed to be the mere reading out of a siddur. Prayer acknowledges Hashem’s dominion of the world and also allows and encourages us to develop a personal relationship with G-d.
This Shabbat is also Rosh Chodesh Nissan and Shabbat Hachodesh. The first Torah is used for the regular Parasha, the second for Rosh Chodesh (beginning of the new month) and the third for Shabbat Hachodesh. The Torah reading from the third Torah serves as a public reminder that Pesach was approaching and arrangements had to be made for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem – a focal point of Pesach celebrations during the time of the Temple.
17 March 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH VAYAKHEL-PEKUDEI
This week we read two Parshiyot – namely Vayakhel and Pekudei
The Parasha begins with details of Hashem’s commands relating to the building of the Tabernacle and its contents. The laws of Shabbat, in particular the emphasis on the holiness of Shabbat, are also mentioned in the Parasha.
This Shabbat is also known as Shabbat Parah and two torot are removed from the ark. The reading from the second Torah is related to the preparations for Pesach. During the times of the Beit Hamikdash (Temple), the focus of Pesach celebrations was the Korban Pesach – Pesach sacrifice. In order for people to participate in this event, all had to be “spiritually pure”.
The reading from the second Torah is a public reminder to be prepared for this occasion.
10 March 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH KI-TISA
The Parasha contains the unfortunate incident of the “Golden Calf”. Moshe went up to Mt. Sinai on the 7th of Sivan and said that he would return after 40 days. The people thought that the day of his ascent counted as the first day, whereas Moses did not include this day in his calculation. As a result of this, the people expected Moses one day earlier than he was scheduled to arrive. On the day they expected Moses (and he did not arrive), they built and worshipped the Golden Calf. Aaron tried his best to convince the people otherwise but was unfortunately unsuccessful. Moses pleaded with Hashem to forgive the nation – which he did on the 10th of Tishrei – Yom Kippur. This day became a day of forgiveness for future generations.
03 March 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH TETZAVEH
The Parsha of Tetzaveh deals most exclusively with laws pertaining to Kohanim, their garments, their selection and the services they rendered.
This Shabbat is also referred to as Shabbat Zachor- the “Shabbat of Remembering. ”Two Torot are removed from the Ark and we read a special portion about the tribe of Amalek from the second Torah.
The portion is always read the Shabbat before Purim. Haman was a direct descendant from the tribe of Amalek – the tribe who attacked the Jews after the parting of the Red Sea, and it is for this reason that we read this portion on the Shabbat before Purim. The importance of hearing the Torah reading for “Zachor” surpasses even the Torah reading for Yom Kippur.
24 February 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH TERUMAH
The Parasha begins with Hashem commanding Moses to build the Mishkan, a temporary portable Temple, which would accompany the children of Israel during their wanderings in the desert. The truth is that G-ds presence permeates every single space in the universe. Why was it necessary to build a special place, a concrete site for G-d’s presence?
The truth is that even though it is true that Hashems omnipresence exists everywhere, the human intellect relates better to something concrete. It is for this reason that the mishkan and later the temple, were built as a gesture to man, to be aware of Hashem’s role in the world.
18 February 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH MISHPATIM
The Parasha lists many laws basic to the preservation of a civilized society.
The Parasha also contains a verse which has often been used to criticize Judaism. The Torah states “… an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand…”. It is very clear from many Talmudic explanations that this verse is clearly speaking of monetary compensation. The Torah was very clear in its thinking. A hand has no specific value, for it depends upon circumstances. An artist who loses the use of his hand is obviously a lot worse off than a person who does not use his hand to make a living in the same way (e.g. lawyer).
The Parasha also emphasises the importance of assisting the poor with a loan.
11 February 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT YITRO
The focal point of this week’s parasha is the preparation for the covenant at Sinai, the revelation and receiving of the Ten Commandments.
We are taught that at Mt. Sinai Hashem raised the entire Jewish nation to the level of prophecy, so that they could personally witness and vouch for this event. The first five utterances relate to obligations between man and G-d, and the other five relate to interpersonal commandments between man and his fellow man. This demonstrates that both categories are equally essential to a Torah-oriented lifestyle.
Though addressed to the entire nation of Israel, the Ten Commandments are phrased in the singular. Our Rabbis teach us that this comes to emphasise the significance of each individual. The study and observance of Torah is not only a national obligation, but the responsibility of every Jew.
04 February 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT BESHALACH
The Parasha contains many well-known events in Jewish history, among them the crossing of the Red Sea, the splitting of the Red Sea, the “Shira” (song that was sung after the crossing), the manna and the battle of Amalek.
The Shabbat is often called Shabbat Shira – the Shabbat of Song – due to the fact that we read the song that was sung by the Israelites after they crossed the Red Sea in this week’s Torah reading. This song is part of the Schacharit service every day of the year.
It commences with the words “These are the words that Moshe and the children of Israel sang”.
Our Rabbis teach us that Moshe emphasized the spiritual nature of the victory while the rest emphasized the physical magnitude of the miracle. (The drowning of the Egyptians etc.)
A group of people can witness the same event. Some will see it on a superficial, physical level, while those who are sensitive to Hashem’s presence will see it very differently.
27 January 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT BO
After the Egyptians had been afflicted with eight plagues Pharaoh agreed to allow the “important” people in the community to go and worship their G-d.
Moses responded that this was not the intention. “With our youngsters… and our elders… sons and daughters…shall we go?”
In Hashem’s eyes we are all equal. In fact Judaism teaches us (and the Rambam explains these laws in great detail) that the widow and orphan – the downtrodden in society have to be treated with extra sensitivity due to their difficult circumstances.
20 January 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT VA’ERA
Following his disappointing encounter with Pharaoh, Moses reports back to G-D, describing the worsening fate of the Jews and questions Him as to why He has not yet redeemed them. G-D responds by rebuking Moses on one hand, but simultaneously reassuring him that the redemption is at hand.
The plagues that afflicted the Egyptians were carefully chosen.
Pharaoh always boasted: “The Nile is mine, and I am my own maker.” He claimed that he could control nature and was master over his own life. He thus idolized himself.
The content and order of the plagues were, therefore, in accordance with his sins, to show Pharaoh that he was utterly wrong. The Plagues of Dam (blood) and Tzefarde’a (frogs) came to show him that he had no control over the Nile, which was worshipped as the source of Egyptian livelihood. Then came the plague of Kinim (lice) which afflicts the body, to show Pharaoh that he could not be the master even over his own body to free it from this discomfort.
We also learn the important lesson of showing gratitude
from this Parasha. Moses did not initiate the first two plagues (blood and frogs).He owed his life to the Nile-he was saved by it when hidden as a baby. A person should always appreciate and remember when someone has done them a favour.
14 January 2012
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT SHEMOT
Shemot is the first Sedra in the second of the Five Books of the Torah.
The Parasha deals with the settling of the children of Israel in Egypt, their enslavement, the birth of Moshe,and Hashem choosing him to lead the Jews out of Egyptian slavery.
Moshe was chosen to lead the Jews out of slavery and to receive the Torah on Mount Sinai for many reasons.
He was humble and indeed an exceptional leader.
The Torah records that when he grew up he “saw their burdens”. He did not look to find their flaws; rather he looked at their situation with compassion.
The Torah documents Moshes work-he was a shepherd.
The Midrash teaches us that a person who has the capacity to show pity towards a helpless animal will surely show compassion for an entire nation.
24 December 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT MIKETZ
The Parsha of Miketz deals with Pharaohs dreams, Josephs release from prison, his divine interpretations, his appointment as viceroy of Egypt and his meeting with his brothers.
We read: “And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he was the one who sold to all the people of the land” Our sages comment that although he was the governor, he did not delegate the distribution to any of his employees: he himself carried out this task in order that no one should be wronged. He also sought to emphasize by his conduct how much a person should toil to spare human beings the agony of hunger. It is stated in the Midrash that, during the period of the famine, Joseph ate his bread very late in the day, only after he had finished serving the last person.
17 December 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT VAYEISHEV
The Parasha this week starts with the life story of Joseph. We read that Joseph brought an “evil report about his brothers to his father.” His intention was probably that his father should reprimand them in order to pr
event them from further sin. Little did he realize what grave consequences his action would cause, firstly by provoking his brothers furious anger, and secondly the sin of slander, which caused his father to grieve over the faults of his children.
Many articles have been written suggesting reasons why Jacob favoured his son Joseph. Any parent understands that this type of action can lead to jealousy.
Joseph lost his mother as a young child. Jacob wanted to compensate for this loss and subsequently began to pay more attention to Joseph. The other brothers did not understand Jacobs’s action in the same light.
Next week we start lighting Channukah candles on Tuesday night. I hope you enjoy reading the Channukah newsletter and I take the opportunity of wishing you all a happy Channukah.
09 December 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT VAYISHLACH
Many years (34) had passed since Yaacov received the birthright from his father.
He fled home as a result of Eisavs anger and now the time had come for Yaacov to journey home.
Fearful for his family’s safety, he sent messengers to his brother with gifts, in order to appease him. The Zohar teaches us that Yaacov took the initiative to reconcile with his brother while his father Yitzchak was still alive because of Eisavs respect for his father. In addition to trying to appease his brother with gifts, the Torah also records that he prayed to Hashem for assistance and prepared for battle.
Our Sages see in this episode general guidance for us in times of need. We have to make a threefold plan – prayer, gifts and preparation for battle.
03 December 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT VAYETZEI
Our Parasha begins with the well-known story of Jacob leaving Beer-Sheba. On his way to Haran he has a dream. He dreams of a ladder firmly rooted in the ground with its top reaching the heavens and angels are ascending and descending upon the ladder.
Jacob’s dream, which according to tradition took place at Mount Moriah, the future place of the Temple, symbolized the future of the Jewish people and mans ability to connect with G-d.
The ladder alludes to the receiving of the Torah at Sinai. (The Hebrew word for ladder and Sinai has the same numerical value). Moses and his brother are “the angels” and the ladder, the bridge from heaven to earth. The ladder symbolizes what man’s constant striving should be – getting closer to the values of Torah.
26 November 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT TOLDOT
The Parasha begins with Yitzchak praying to Hashem to grant Rivka children and the subsequent birth of Esau and Jacob. Esau became the eternal symbol of evil and cruelty, while Jacob became the symbol of goodness.
The Torah tells us that Esau became a hunter. He was not only a hunter in the literal sense of trapping animals, but would trick people – even his own father – into believing he was a pious person. The Parasha continues with the events that eventually led to Jacob acquiring the birthright from his brother.
Rivka played a crucial role in making sure that Jacob would receive the blessings from her husband. Rivka knew through prophecy that Jacob was destined to be the one to continue the legacy of Abraham and Isaac and was therefore willing to assist Jacob in acquiring the blessings.
18 November 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT CHAYEI SARAH
The Parasha begins with the death of Sarah at the age of 127 in Kiryat Arba (lit. the city of four). Rashi explains that the place got its name prophetically because four illustrious couples would be buried there – Adam and Eve, Avraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca and Jacob and Leah.
After the burial, Avraham turned to finding a wife for Isaac. Isaac married Rebecca.
Interestingly the Torah records the birth of Rebecca before the death of Sarah in line with the tradition that a righteous person is not taken from the world until his or her successor has been born.
The Parasha ends with the death of Avraham and his burial by his sons Yitzchak and Yishmael.
12 November 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT VAYERA
Parashat Vayera begins with Avraham inviting three guests into his home. This event took place three days after his circumcision therefore highlighting Avrahams observance of the mitzvah of hospitality to strangers. The three people were angels disguised as human beings. From this event we also learn the importance of Bikkur Cholim – visiting the sick as Hashem visited Avraham after his Brit Milah.
The Torah mentions the words “hurry” and “ran” numerous times in order to emphasize Avrahams desire to show hospitality. It was not sufficient to merely invite the people to his home, it was also very important that their stay be as comfortable as possible.
The birth of Yitzchak is also read in our Parasha. The work Yitzchak is derived from the Hebrew word Tzchok meaning laughter. One explanation for this is that Sarah said that all who heard of this great event would take part in her joy.
05 November 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT LECH LECHA
The Parasha begins with Hashem’s call to Abraham and Sarah to sever their ties with their past and to start life over again. At the ages of 75 and 65 they left their hometown and relatives for the land of Israel. Our Sages teach us that this was the first of ten trials that Abraham endured.
A basic tenant in Judaism is that Hashem knows all that will happen in the future.
This being the case, how was this a test for Avraham since Hashem already knew what the outcome would be? This question does not only apply to the event in this parasha but in all cases where we have to make a choice.
Each of us does have a free choice and we must find the wisdom to choose correctly – this is our challenge. The fact that Hashem knows the outcome is not related to the process we must go through in making our decisions.
29 October 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAT NOACH
Ten generations passed from Adam to Noach and mankind had stumbled into a downward spiral. At first the transgressions were covert, but as time passed the world had become openly corrupt with robbery being seen as acceptable conduct.
When a person sins in private, he does so because he still has a sense of right and wrong. However, when people get into the habit of doing wrong, they gradually lose shame and begin to act like this in public and dysfunctional behavior is seen as the norm. The generation of Noach had deteriorated so much that Hashem found it necessary to destroy mankind (except for Noach and a few members of his family) and for the world to start afresh.
19 October 2011
SNIPPETS FROM SIMCHAT TORAH
On Simchat Torah we end the annual reading of the Torah and commence immediately with BERESHIT-the beginning of the TORAH.
Why do we place so much emphasis on starting the Torah as soon as we have finished reading the TORAH?
There are many answers to this question: one way of understanding this is that for a JEW there is no “break”
or “holiday” when it comes to leading a Torah lifestyle.
It accompanies us at all times and in all places-Shul,work,etc
- Wednesday night and Thursday is Shemini Atzeret
- YISKOR on Thursday 20 October
- Thursday night and Friday is Simchat Torah
- Shul services commence with Mincha at 5:45pm followed by Maariv.
12 October 2011
The Jews in the wilderness dwelled in Sukkot (temporary dwelling-booths) throughout their stay in the desert after the Exodus from Egypt.
Why then do we celebrate this Yom Tov specifically five days after Yom Kippur?
What is the special connection between Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and the festival of Sukkot?
The ten days of repentance are supposed to be a time of spiritual growth for each of us. In a certain sense it is a personal exodus
We therefore try to connect our personal exodus with that of the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt.
07 October 2011
In the first chapter of the Hilchot Teshuva (Laws of Repentance) the Rambam explains the process of repentance. Firstly there is an acknowledgement of the sin, then asking forgiveness, followed by an understanding not to repeat what you have done wrong.
The Rambam emphasizes the fact that if you have done something wrong to another person, you cannot ask Hashem for forgiveness without first approaching the person concerned and requesting forgiveness in a meaningful and sincere manner. So important is this law that if the person died during the year without having been asked for forgiveness, there is the requirement to go to the grave of the person concerned and pray for forgiveness at the grave.
With Yom Kippur approaching let us all make a meaningful attempt to ask for forgiveness from any individual we have wronged and at the same time be forgiving of others when requested to do so.
24 September 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH NITZAVIM VAYELECH
In preparing for Rosh Hashana we should all do a lot of soul searching.
After all Rosh Hashana is Yom Hadin – The Day of Judgment. It is important to acknowledge our faults and to work hard at improving these negative character traits.
The Rambam considers the process of Teshuvah (repentance) to be one of the 613 Commandments. However, we are also reminded not to feel too inadequate either. Furthermore we must acknowledge whatever good we have done. When we do this, it allows us to feel empowered and positive about ourselves, thereby making it easier to travel the road of repentance.
We are reminded of this concept in this week’s portion when the Torah states: “For this Commandment… is not hidden and is not distant… the matter is near to you… to perform it.”
16 September 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH KI TAVO
This Parasha contains the mitzvah of maaser. The Torah reminds us that a tenth of one’s crop should be reserved every third year for the poor and needy. Once again, the Torah calls to our attention, the plight of the destitute and tells us that it is our obligation to help them. (This should not be confused with the general mitzvah of Tzedaka). When helping the less fortunate we should always remember that the reason that we are in a position to help, is a direct result of Hashem’s blessing. In other words we are not giving away our possessions, but rather sharing what Hashem has given us, with others.
09 September 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH KI TEITZEI
This week’s portion contains many laws on a variety of subjects. One subject is the importance of Hashavat Aveida – returning a lost object to its rightful owner. The Talmud explains in great detail, the lengths a person must go to in locating the owner. The story is told of a person who once forgot his umbrella while visiting a yeshiva in Kelm. Thirteen years later he returned to the yeshiva and found the umbrella in the exact spot he had left it!
To promote safety, the Torah instructs us to build a railing around one’s roof. This law would also be applied to pool fences, nets, etc. We also learn about the importance of paying workers on time.
The Torah stresses the importance of honesty in all business transactions. A person may not have faulty scales and weights in order to cheat their customers.
03 September 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH SHOFTIM
Shoftim means “judges” and this Parasha states the formula for righteous judgment which should govern all spheres of human activity. The ideas contained in the Parasha are the foundation of all moral and social codes found in civilized societies today.
The lessons of honesty, sincerity and justice are vital to the peace and happiness of all.We are told that it is our obligation as human beings to accept our fellow men as equals. Judges may not show favouritism of any sort to any individual, rich or poor. They shall not accept bribery because “bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous”.
27 August 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH RE’EH
In this week’s portion Moses explains a number of religious, civil and social laws which were to regulate the life of the nation once they entered the Promised Land.
The people were warned not to imitate the hideous rites of the Canaanites, such as sacrificing living children to their gods. The Parasha also reviews the laws of kashrut.
We also learn about the laws of shemitta. Every seventh year the land is to remain fallow. We are again reminded of the importance of charity and Hashem’s reward for those who are charitable.
The Parasha ends with a summary of the three pilgrim festivals – Pesach, Shavuot and Succot.
20 August 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH EIKEV
Continuing his address to the nation, Moses encourages the people to observe the mitzvoth of the Torah. He reminds us that “man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”
Moshe teaches us that apart from normal sustenance, there are Divine forces which sustain man in his progress through life. Each of us has a “neshema” as well as a body. The needs of spiritual life should never be neglected.
The second paragraph of the Shema is also found in our Parasha. Amongst the matters discussed in this passage is the mitzvah of tefillin and mezuzah.
12 August 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH VA’ETCHANAN
The Parasha of Va’etchanan contains two well known parts of the Torah, the Ten Commandments and the first paragraph of the Shema.
The Ten Commandments contains the blueprint for a healthy society. When a society loses core values such as respect for parents and respect for human life (regardless of individual opinions) we are indeed doomed to failure.
The Shema contains fundamental values in Judaism. There is no comparison between a person observing mitzvot out of love and one who does so out of fear. We are constantly reminded to observe Torah out of love. Only when we do things out of love will we make every effort to accomplish our goals.
06 August 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH DEVARIM
Parashat Devarim is the first Parasha in the last book of the Torah. The fifth book of the Torah is devoted to a number of speeches made by Moshe to the people of Israel before he died. It is interesting to note that Moshe’s main speeches were given after his achievements – and not at the time he was appointed as the leader of the people
This coming week (on Tuesday 9 August) we commemorate the destruction of both Temples – the Fast of Tisha B’Av
The first Temple (built by King Solomon) was destroyed by the Babylonians on this day, in the year 586 BCE. Many hundreds of years later, the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans (70 AD), also on the 9th of Av
All that remains of the Temple today is a portion of the outer wall of the second Temple, today known as the Kotel or Wailing Wall, which has assumed tremendous importance to Jews all over the world.
The Shabbat before the 9th of Av is called Shabbat Chazon (Saturday 6 August).
The Haftorah on this day – from the book of Yeshayahu begins with the words Chazon Yeshayahu (The vision of Yeshayahu) and hence the Shabbat received its special name – Shabbat Chazon. The Haftorah is said in the mournful chant used for Megillat Eicha.
30 July 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH MASEI
The Parasha of MASEI summarises the route taken by the children of Israel from the Exodus until they were about to enter the land of Israel. In all, the Israelites encamped in forty two separate places during their forty years of wandering.
The forty two places allude to the mystical 42 Letter Name of Hashem. Although one should never talk during the Torah reading (and indeed throughout the davening) a special effort should be made not to talk while we read of these 42 journeys.
The Torah also delineates the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael. According to “Rashis” commentary, the reason for this is because certain mitzvoth are only obligatory in Israel and therefore we need to know its borders.
The Parasha also concludes the 4th book of the TORAH- the book of BAMIDBAR.
23 July 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH MATOT
The Parsha begins with the laws of NEDARIM -commonly translated as vows – and the process by which they may be annulled.
The motive of a vow is often to gain additional strength in performing or refraining from a particular task.
The war against the MIDIANITES is also recorded in our Parasha. There was a particular reason why Moshe had to wage this war before he died. His father-in-law, YITRO, was a Midianite. Had Moses not made the war against the Midianites, he might have been accused of favouring them.
This teaches us that people in positions of authority must be extra careful to avoid suspicion of any kind, thus setting a bad example to others.
16 July 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH PINCHAS
A detailed description of sacrifices is given in this weeks Parasha. Both weekday and festival sacrifices are mentioned in this weeks Parasha.
Today we no longer have sacrifices, since we no longer have a temple. TEFILLAH-prayer, has taken the place of Sacrifices. Since there were 3 sacrifices every day, we now have 3 services every day namely Maariv,Schacharit and Mincha. The times of these services also corresponds to the times of the sacrifices.
On Shabbat and Chaggim we have an additional service MUSAF,as a result of the additional sacrifice that was held during temple times.
Praying should not only be reading the prayers from a Siddur.Davening is also a time of meditation, a time when we can share our innermost feelings with Hashem.
The Rabbis in the Talmud have stressed on many occasions the importance of adding in our own personal prayers in order to make this time of davening more meaningful.
08 July 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH BALAK
After BALAK King of Moav witnessed the Israelites victory over the Emorites he formed an alliance with his former enemies, the Midianites.
BALAK then sent messengers to Bilam,a noted sorcerer to curse the Jewish people. Bilam asked the delegation to stay with him overnight in order for him to consult with Hashem. During the night he was warned by Hashem not to go with the men, so he sent them away.Balak then sent a second delegation, offering Bilam honors and rewards if he would cooperate. This time Bilam agreed.
The Torah teaches us that not only did Bilam agree – but he even attempted this task with great enthusiasm.
Our Sages compare Bilam to Abraham. Abraham carried out Hashems wishes with enthusiasm whereas Bilam tried to disobey Hashems wishes-also with enthusiasm.
Like many qualities, enthusiasm, if properly directed, can be of great value. If however we direct our energies in the wrong way there can be disastrous consequences.
01 July 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH CHUKKAT
Forty years after the exodus from Egypt, Moshe’s sister Miriam died. At her death, the well of water that had miraculously accompanied the Israelites, ceased to flow.
Once again the people began to murmur against Moshe for the lack of water.
Hashem told Moshe and his brother Aaron to speak to a specific rock and enough water would flow forth from it to satisfy the people.
However, Moshe was so angered by the people’s disrespect that he impatiently struck the rock instead of speaking to it.
As a result of this event Moshe and Aaron were told that they would not be allowed to enter the holy land.
24 June 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH KORACH
The Torah records a number of occasions when people complained about specific problems such as a lack of food or water. On one occasion they even stated that they needed a “god” to take the place of Moses (story of the golden calf).
In this week’s portion we read of an outright rebellion to overthrow Moses and Aaron as the leaders of the nation.
The rebellion was led by Korach who was a cousin to Moses and Aaron. The Ramban teaches us that the timing of this event was very important. After the episode of the spies, the people were resentful of having to spend 40 years in the wilderness. As a direct result of their current state of mind, it was a most opportune time to attempt to overthrow Moshes leadership.
17 June 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH SHELACH
The Parasha contains the story of the 12 spies who were sent to the land of Israel to survey the Land. Lacking in perfect faith the Jews insisted on sending the spies even though Hashem had promised them the land. Unfortunately, the spies’ reports were so disheartening that it dealt a severe blow to the nation’s faith in Hashem.
The Midrash explains the reason why this event is recorded straight after the Torah documents Miriam’s criticism of Moses. Although the spies witnessed the terrible consequences of Miriam’s gossip, they did not apply the lesson to their own lives and had no hesitation from slandering the Holy Land. It is not sufficient to learn the lessons of Torah. One needs to internalize the message in order to become a better human being.
10 June 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH BAHA’ALOTCHA
Shortly after the Exodus from Egypt, the Jews began complaining to Moses. They complained about the manna and went so far as to say that they preferred Egyptian slavery to their present circumstances.
The truth is that there was no shortage of food, and the people were actually able to gather it effortlessly. (On Fridays they even received a double portion so that they would not have to go out and collect it on Shabbat).
A very important lesson can be learnt from this episode in the Torah. Sometimes people look to find reason to complain, regardless of their circumstances.
If we want to improve society at large, then one area that needs urgent attention is precisely this need to always find reasons to be dissatisfied.
We need to focus on all the blessings Hashem has bestowed upon us, focus on the good within people and not focus on people’s faults.
03 June 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH NASSO
The prohibition of theft is again written in our Parasha (it is also written in the book of Vayikra).
It is forbidden to deprive someone else of anything that is rightfully theirs.
Sometimes we rationalize our actions by saying that if we take from the wealthy they won’t miss it. This is contrary to the laws of Torah.
Related to this mitzvah is being honest to our employees. We cannot pay them less than the agreed amount and argue that “they should be happy that they have a job.”
Whether the item stolen is of great value or trivial makes no difference, stealing is contrary to the laws of Torah.
27 May 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH BAMIDBAR
This week we start the fourth book in the Torah – the book of Bamidbar.
The word midbar means desert or wilderness and the book was given this name as it highlights the fact that the laws of Torah were given in this humble, simple setting. When a leader of a nation wishes to make a momentous announcement to his people, he usually does so from an impressive setting. Yet, Hashem revealed his Torah in a barren desolate desert.
One reason for this is to teach us the importance of humility. Another reason is to teach us of the inner beauty of Torah. It is not the setting that gives Torah prestige but rather the inherent values of Torah that give it its value.
20 May 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH BECHUKOTAI
On Saturday night and Sunday we celebrate Lag BaOmer (The 33rd day of the Omer). The “Omer” is the period between Pesach and Shavuot. This seven week period is also known as the period of Sefirah. During a part of Sefirah we observe laws of mourning e.g. no weddings may take place.
The reason for observing laws of mourning, is to remember the death of Rabbi Akiva’s students who died in a plague during this time. On Lag BaOmer the laws of mourning are suspended.
One reason for suspending the laws of mourning on this day is due to the fact that the plague ended on this day. Another reason for celebration is that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai revealed the secret wisdom of Torah (known as the Zohar) to his disciples on this day. It was also the day he died, however it was Rabbi Shimon’s desire that the day of his death be marked by rejoicing since it was on this day he revealed the secrets of Torah.
Today, at Miron, the burial place of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the occasion is marked by rejoicing and the lighting of torches, whose flames can be seen at great distances.
13 May 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH BEHAR
The Parasha deals mainly with the laws relating to Shemittah, the sabbatical year.
These laws only apply in the land of Israel when the temple stood. Very briefly, we are commanded that the land be allowed to rest during the seventh year, just as man should rest on the seventh day – shabbat.
We see from this that Eretz Yisrael is uniquely charged with holiness.
Adam, we are taught, was created in Eretz Yisrael on the site where the temple stood. When Hashem chose Abraham, he was also commanded to leave his birthplace for the land of Israel. Today every time we pray the Amidah, we too face the land of Israel.
06 May 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH EMOR
The Parasha opens with the words: “And Hashem said to Moshe, speak to the priests, the sons of Aharon and say to them.”
Rashi notes the apparent superfluity, speak and say. Surely speaking to Aharons sons would be sufficient. Why repeat the command with the words “and say to them.”?
The Gemara explains that the first part of the verse refers to adults whereas the second part refers to children being taught by their parents.
A fundamental educational rule is to teach for example. We cannot and should not even consider a reality in which the adult instructs their children to do something they themselves do not practice. Hence Torah teaches us to first instruct adults. When an adult has internalized the concept, he is ready to pass it on to the child.
30 April 2011
SNIPPETS FROM THE PARASHAH KEDOSHIM
The Parasha begins with the words: And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, “Speak to all the Congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them you shall be holy for I the Lord your G-d am holy”.
The Rambam (Maimonides) in his Sefer HaMitzvot (Book which explains the 613 Mitzvot) explains that this commandment is not to be counted as one of the 613 Mitzvot. He explains that certain ideas in Torah are so all-encompassing, involve a mode of behaviour affecting our entire approach to life, that they are not to be counted as a singular Mitzvah.
Being holy, he explains is a global instruction to be applied to every commandment.
“What is being holy?” (This could be a topic for a book!). Briefly speaking “being holy” is the way we approach every aspect of our lives – to live a life which encapsulates the values of Torah, such as honesty, integrity and tolerance to name just a few.
16 April 2011
SNIPPETS FROM PARASHAT ACHAREI MOT
The Shabbat before Pesach (regardless of the Parasha read that Shabbat) is called Hagadol – the great Shabbat. There are a variety of reasons for this.
One reason is that in the year the Israelites left Egypt, the Shabbat before was the tenth of Nissan. On that Shabbat they were given their first Mitzvah, a mitzvah which applied only to that Shabbat but not to future generations. The mitzvah related to the preparing the lamb for the Pesach offering for that particular year.
The special Haftorah read this coming Shabbat announces the future redemption of the world. (The messiah). This is closely related to the story of the exodus, the first redemption of the Jewish people.