Balak 5777-2017

“Influencing the Will of G-d”

Balaam seems to be able to influence G-d’s will. Despite G-d’s initial decision not to allow him to go with Balak to curse the Jews, he is eventually allowed to go.

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Vayeishev 5775-2014

"Who Sold Joseph?"

The Biblical verses regarding the sale of Joseph conceal more than they reveal, leaving the answer to the question of who sold Joseph entirely ambiguous.

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Matot-Masei 5773-2013

“Pinchas Avenges the Midianites”

Why is the zealous Pinchas chosen to lead the people of Israel into battle against the Midianites?

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Matot 5771-2011

“Leadership and its Moral Responsibilities”

Parashat Matot underscores the complexity of Jewish leadership. It is from the episode in this parasha that our rabbis derive the important principle that leaders are to be held responsible for the wrongdoings of the people, for they have the power and authority to protest.

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Pinchas 5768-2008

"The Zealotry of Pinchas as seen through the Midrash"

The vast majority of the people of Israel rejected Pinchas for his act of zealotry when he stabbed Zimri and Cozbi as they performed an act of public harlotry. Pinchas' life of hardship is revealed to us through the extensive Midrash cited by the great scholar Eliyahu Kitov.

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Matot-Masei 5766-2006

"Taking a Stand Against the Banality of Evil"

In Parashat Matot, we learn that the Israelite soldiers are instructed to avenge the harlotry of Midianites that resulted in the deaths of 24,000 Israelites in a plague. Despite this exceptional instance, the Jewish soldiers are reluctant to kill the women and children until a Divine command is issued. Why a Divine command? To teach how concerned Judaism is that killing never ever becomes casual or mundane, and to assure that indifference to life never finds a home in the hearts of the Jewish people.

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Matot 5765-2005

"Love of G-d Trumps Lust for Life"

In parashat Matot, Moses is told to lead the people in battle to avenge the Midianites and afterwards he will be gathered unto his people. Moses not only does not hesitate, he responds with alacrity and joy, even though he knows that the fulfillment of this command will hasten his death. This diminutive verse reveals much about our leader, our master, Moses.

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Pinchas 5764-2004

"The Conundrum of Pinchas: Do His Actions Set an Unacceptable Precedent?"

In parashat Pinchas, the Al-mighty praises Pinchas, the son of Elazar and grandson of Aaron the High Priest, for fatally stabbing Zimri and Cozbi, who had committed a public act of harlotry as a challenge to Moses and the elders at the entrance to the Tent of Assembly. Does the fact that Pinchas is rewarded by G-d with an eternal covenant of priesthood set an unacceptable precedent?

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Matot-Masei 5763-2003

"The Massacre of the Midianites: Does Judaism Countenance Genocide?"

In parashat Matot, G-d tells Moses to mobilize the army of Israel and exact vengeance on the Midianites. The rabbis of old are troubled by this call. They explain that "genocide" was never countenanced by Jewish law, but rather that it was necessary to always first sue the enemy for peace and give them opportunity to flee if they refused to live in peace. Nevertheless, Jewish tradition teaches that one should not be overly compassionate, otherwise one will wind up being cruel at a time when compassion is appropriate.

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