Matot-Masei 5780-2020

“Setting Our Priorities Straight”
(updated and revised from Parashiot Matot-Masei 5761-2001)

In parashat Matot we learn that the tribes of Reuben and Gad, [later joined by half of Menashe], request to remain on the eastern side of the Jordan. Moses is concerned that these tribes will not join in the battle to conquer the Holy Land. Reuben and Gad respond, “We will build pens for our livestock and cities for our small children,” and, of course, they will send troops. Moses, however, corrects them, telling them that concern for their children should come before their livestock. The value of human life is infinite, and must always come first, even in a materialistic generation such as the one in which we live.

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Shelach 5780-2020

“The Torah’s Definition of ‘Power”
(Revised and Updated from Parashat Shelach 5761-2001)

After the sin of the scouts, G-d wishes to destroy the Jewish people. Moses, however, argues with G-d that true “power” means not to destroy, but to forgive, to convert and to transfer from one strongly held attitude to another. G-d and Moses thus ascribe a new meaning to the concept of “power.”

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Vayikra 5780-2020

“Moses, a Leader with a Calling”
(Revised and updated from Vayikra 5761-2001)

Moses’ commitment to serve as G-d’s messenger was thorough and complete. It was therefore no accident that G-d spoke to him, or through him. It was not a happening and not a coincidence. It was the very essence of Moses’ life and the ultimate purpose of his being. It was his “calling.”

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Kee Tisah 5780-2020

“The Levites and the Golden Calf: Transcending One’s Own Nature”
(Updated and revised from Kee Tisah 5761-2001)

Although there appear to have been only 3000 “hard core” rebels among the people who worshiped the Golden Calf, only the tribe of Levi responded to Moses’ cry of “Whoever is to G-d, come to me!” This was due to the fact that, among the People of Israel who did not worship the Golden Calf, only the Levites reached an exalted level of personal self-abnegation. Consequently, only the Levites were singled out to become the servants of G-d for all time, who would be chosen to serve as the ministers in the Tabernacle, and ultimately, the Temple.

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Yitro 5780-2019

“Can the Torah Forbid Feelings that are Part of Normal Human Emotions?”
(Updated and revised from Yitro 5761-2001)

3,300 years ago, when xenophobia reigned supreme throughout the ancient world, the Torah admonished Jews not to reject sage advice simply because it emanates from a non-Jewish source. In fact, Jews are encouraged to look for good and healthy ideas anywhere in the world, Jewish and secular, and embrace those ideas with open arms.

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B’shalach 5780-2020

“Where is Nachshon the Son of Aminadov When We Need Him?”
(Updated and revised from B’shalach 5761-2001)

Nachson the son of Aminadav, the Prince of the tribe of Judah, was the first Israelite to enter the water and walk until the water reached his neck. It was only at that point that the sea split. If we are to change the “course of nature,” for the benefit of humankind, we need to find, and exercise, the profound faith of Nachshon.

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Shemot 5780-2020

“Developing Commitment to Judaism: A Lesson from an Egyptian Prince”
(updated and revised from Shemot 5760-1999)

“Give me four years to teach the children, and the seed I will have sown will never be uprooted.” Thus spoke the Communist leader, V.I. Lenin. Could it be that Moses’s formative rearing at the hands of his mother Jochebed and sister Miriam made the difference? It is highly probable that his early childhood experience, supplemented by his stepmother Bitya’s effective rearing, enabled Moses to develop an exalted sense of Jewish identity, making it possible for Moses to emerge as the greatest Jewish leader of all.

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Va’eira 5780-2019

“G-d Hardens Pharaoh's Heart:
Reconciling Omniscience with Free Will”
(revised and updated from Va’eira 5760-2000)

Our commentators struggle with G-d’s statement to Moses: “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart.” Does this imply that G-d has taken away Pharaoh’s free will? Among the host of responses offered by the commentators, is that Pharaoh hardened his own heart during the first 5 plagues, and was punished five times by G-d hardening Pharaoh’s heart during the last 5 plagues. Many of the responses given by the commentators to this issue are quite insightful and resourceful. They must be studied carefully in order to appreciate them fully.

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Devarim 5779-2019

“Judaism’s Unique View of Justice and the Judicial System”
(Revised and updated from Devarim 5760-2000)

In parashat Devarim, Moses delivers his valedictory admonition to the Jewish people. Knowing that the nation’s
security depends significantly on the efficacy of its legal system, Moses reminds the people again and again to be trustworthy in judgment. In this parasha, Moses lays out the foundation of Jewish jurisprudence, a legal system that was unparalleled in the ancient world. Summing it all up, the prophet Isaiah declares that “Zion shall be redeemed in justice, and that those who return to her shall be redeemed through righteousness.”

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Pinchas 5779-2019

“The Daughters of Zelophehad: Legitimate Feminist Claims”
(Revised and updated from Pinchas 5760-2000)

Distinguishing between legitimate and non-legitimate claims has become a challenging issue, especially when “political correctness” is mixed into the brew. In parashat Pinchas, we encounter the revolutionary claim of the daughters of Zelophehad who win the right to inherit their father’s ancestral land in Israel. Along with other issues concerning women that are found in the Torah, the case of Zelophehad’s daughters underscores that Judaism was always ahead of other civilizations in establishing fair and equitable parameters for Jewish women.

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Chukat 5779-2019

“Can Death Be Sweet?”
(Revised and updated from Chukat 5761-2001)

In parashat Chukat we learn of the death of Aaron, one of the Jewish people’s most beloved figures. According to the Midrash, Aaron had the privilege of leaving the physical world knowing that his children were following in his footsteps, and committed to serving the Jewish people. Aaron truly has a “sweet demise.”

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Bamidbar 5779-2019

“The Trials of Being a Public Figure”
(Revised and updated from Bamidbar 5760-2000)

In parashat Bamidbar, the Torah declares: “These are the offspring of Aaron and Moses,” but only the offspring of Aaron are listed. From this textual nuance we learn that those who are not blessed with biological children can still be spiritual parents, like Moses was to Aaron’s children. It also underscores the great challenge facing public figures who must try to balance their own lives with the needs of the community.

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Kee Tisah 5779-2019

“The ‘Vengeful’ G-d”
(Revised and updated from Kee Tisah 5760-2000)

The last of the so-called “13 Attributes of G-d’s Mercy” is that G-d does not entirely cleanse sinners, and that He may be vengeful. If we are expected to imitate G-d, then perhaps we too should be vengeful?

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Yitro 5779-2019

“An Encounter with Jethro and the Non-Jewish World”
(Revised and updated from Yitro 5760-2000)

3,300 years ago, when xenophobia reigned supreme throughout the ancient world, the Torah admonished Jews not to reject sage advice simply because it emanates from a non-Jewish source. In fact, Jews are encouraged to look for good, healthy and valid ideas anywhere in the world, Jewish and secular, and embrace those ideas with open arms.

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Bo 5779-2019

"Nothing Stands in the Way of Teshuva!"

Nothing stands in the way of Teshuva. Even wicked Pharaoh can repent.

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Vayeilech-Yom Kippur 5779-2018

“And Moses Went...”

When Moses went to the Jewish people on the final day of his life, he gave them a most profound spiritual gift.

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Va’etchanan 5778-2018

According to tradition, Moses offered up no fewer than 515 prayers to be allowed to enter the Promised Land–-all to no avail. Yet, his continuing petition, even after his fate was definitively sealed, teaches that mortals must never give up hope and never despair. The mercy of the L-rd endures forever.

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Devarim 5778-2018

“The Final Rebuke"

During the last five weeks of Moses’ life, he delivers a subtle rebuke to the People of Israel, to prepare them for a successful entry into the Promised Land.

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Korach 5778-2018

“Where Did Korach Go Wrong?”

Korach, who was reputed to be a very wise man, failed to understand that the leadership role that Moses played was not based on power, but was derived from being a devoted mentor and a master teacher.

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Bamidbar-Shavuot 5778-2018

“Counting a Very Special People"

The counting of the Children of Israel in ancient times did not seek to identify the skills or aptitudes of those who were counted. It was a survey of those who had a genuine connection to G-d. On the festival of Shavuot we all seek to assert our special relationship with the Al-mighty.

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Emor 5778-2018

“The Great Moses Seems Not to Know the Answer”

In four major cases in the Torah, Moses seems to be unable to respond to the issues, and must wait to receive the proper answer from Heaven.

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Tetzaveh 5778-2018

“The Brothers: Moses and Aaron”

The Book of Exodus not only introduces the concept of brotherhood, but provides an extraordinary paradigm of brotherhood through the special relationship of Moses and Aaron.

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Bo 5778-2018

“Deceptions at the Behest of G-d”

The Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt is looked upon by all as a universal paradigm of the struggle for freedom from oppression. Yet it is punctuated by several instances of deception on the part of the Israelites and, it was all done at the behest of the Al-mighty G-d.

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Va’eira 5778-2018

“Participating in the Communal Pain”

The names of the sons of Levi reflect the fact that the tribe of Levi felt the communal pain for all the tribes of Israel, even though they themselves were not personally afflicted.

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0 Comments8 Minutes