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Parshas Va’era: Was Lot good at all?

The Book of Leviticus Chapter 7: 2-7 Testifying in court and standing up for Torah

The Book of Leviticus Chapter 6: 21-7:1 Doing teshuvah, kashering utensils and kashering ourselves

Parshas Ve’eschanan: Never give up hope

“But Hashem became angry with me because of you, and He did not listen to me; Hashem said to me, “It is too much for you! Do not continue to speak to Me further about this matter” (Deuteronomy 3:26).”

Rashi explains, “So that is should not be said, ‘How harsh is the teacher and how humble and pleading is the disciple.'” This is hard to understand because the rabbis tell us that even if a sharp sword is hanging over a person’s head he should not despair of prayer? What is the deeper meaning of this?

Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlit’a in Ta’am V’da’as explains that when Moshe saw Rabbi Akiva’s flesh weighed in the market place he said, “Is this the Torah and is its reward?” G-d replied, “Be silent. This is what arose before Me in My thoughts. The Shelah expalins that originally it arose in G-d’s thoughts to create the world with the attribute of strict judgment alone, but when He saw that it could not survive He added the attribute of mercy. The Shelah further explains that G-d still deals with the supremely righteous with the attibute of strict justice.

G-d therefore told Moshe, “This is what arose before Me in My thoughts,” and Moshe was treated with strict justice and not allowed to contiue praying. Lesser mortals though may plea endlessly to G-d and hope for His mercy. This is a tremendous lesson which we can all learn from. Our lives are exteremely busy, filled with all kinds of trials and tribulations, none of which are easy. As much as we try and navigate, there are always new things that stand in our path.

G-d gives us the ability to draw close to Him and regardless of what is going on in our every day life, we have the ability to continually pray for whatever salvation we need. We may not get answered immediately and may have to endure things we think we are not capable of handling but at the same time, prayer is never wasted and can help us knowing that we have someone to turn to who can truly help us.

This is extremely comforting even in the most difficult of circumstances. May we merit to always have this close connection to our Creator and serve Him in the best way possible.

Shabbat Shalom


Parshas Pinchas: How to educate our children

“And to the children of Israel you shal speak, saying ‘If a man will die and he has no son, you shall cause his inheritance to pass over to his daughter” (Numbers 27:8).

The Talmud Bava Batra 116a explains this verse to mean that if a person doesn’t have a son to inherit  he brings about G-d’s anger. Not only that but they will lose their inheritance as well! How can a person be punished if he doesn’t have a son since this is not in their control!

Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlit’a in Ta’am Da’as explains that word l’yorshav (his inheritance) does not mean that he will lose his physical inheritance ie money or property but rather it means if he doesn’t leave over the proper path for his children to go in.  There is an obligation for a parent to give his children the best spiritual education possible so that they will go in the path of their forefathers.

For generations in America and other places, parents have given their children a basic Jewish education to fulfill their obligation. The problem is that the people teaching their children do not believe in the Torah and its precepts and what is given over is a very diluted version! The end result is rampant assimilation and intermarriage. Wouldn’t this bring about G-d’s ire? After all, if He gave us instructions for living, how could we possibly give it lip service?

At the same time, the older generation had a strong connection to Judaism through their parents and grand parents and wanted their children to also have these strong feelings as well. The problem is that it is impossible to pass down a feeling! A Judaism without Torah and mitzvos is like having a body without a soul. It is the heart of what Judaism is all about and through lack of education and understanding we are losing thousands each year!

That being the case what can we do about it? We have an obligation to try and reach out and bring back our wayward brethren by showing the meaning and richness of our heritage. This has nothing to do with kabbalah but we can show its depth and understanding that gives us more reason of why we do what we do. At the end of the day, all the commandments are a decree by G-d, but the more we learn and practice what we are being taught, won’t that give Judaism a fair chance to survive?

This is what the verse here is telling us. We need to give our kids the best chance to succeed spiritually and connect to their priceless heritage. The only to do so is by giving them a quality Jewish education. Although there is no guarantee even with the best education that they will continue on that path but if settle for mediocrity at best then there is no chance at all!

May we merit to educate our children and ourselves to the best of our ability so we can see a continuation to future generations of Jews who follow their tradition!

Shabbat Shalom

Parshas Chukkas: All the Torah is a chok

“Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharn saying, ‘This is the decree of the Torah, which Hashem has commanded saying, Speak tot he children of Israel and they shall take to you a completely red cow which is without blemish and upon which a yoke has not come” (Numbers 19:1-3).

The red heifer is the quintessential idea of what a chok is. A chok is a law that doesn’t make any rational sense. In this context, the kohen took the ashes and put them on an impure person which made him pure but at the same time it made the kohen impure. Why would G-d seemingly give commands to His people that don’t make any rational sense? After all, if He wants us to abide by His law, shouldn’t we be able to understand them?

The reality is that even though there are many laws in the Torah that do make sense, the vast majority do not. One thing we always have to keep in mind is that the Torah is a G-d given book that was transmitted to Moshe Rabbenu who passed it down to the Jewish people. Obviously G-d knows what is best for the Jewish people and therefore we still have to keep the law even if it is not entirely clear what is behind the particular mitzvah.

Many may look at this as a pure leap of faith but in truth the Torah is so deep on so many levels, how is it possible for a person to plum its depths? That does not mean we don’t have to try and understand it to the best of our ability but we must understand that we have limited knowledge. This is why we have to constantly be learning and reviewing so we can perform the mitzvos that we do at the highest level!

This is a lifetime of work but the more we delve into the richness of the Torah and its timely message, the more it will enhance the mitzvos that we perform. This will in fact change our lives because we want to grow spiritually as much as possible. Even if a person works most of the day, there are still many mitzvos we can do that help transform us into the great people we can be.

We don’t want to be discouraged by the fact that there is so much to learn and we have to change our mentiality to the ways of the Torah! It is not how much of ourselves that we put into Torah but how much Torah we put into ourselves. Torah is supposed to change us and there are guidelines of how to do this. We have to stay in those parameters that allow us to maximize what we will get out of it.

At the same time, if we realized that all the mitzvos are really a Divine decree, how could a person sin in the first place? We would not be looking for leniencies and would do the will of G-d because He said so! There are so many undeducated Jews in the world that have no idea what the Torah means and how it affects there lives.

They will claim until they understand what this mitzvah is about…at their own level with a clear understanding then they will keep it. This is untrue because a person could always be looking for the reasons for the mitzvos when the reality is that every answer they receive does not satisfy them. This gives them the ability to say that it doesn’t make sense to them and they therefore don’t have to keep it!

For a believing Jew, whether they understand the mitzvos at a deeper level or not they still have to keep the commandments of the king. May we always be inspired to keep G-d’s commandments at the highlest level and live inspired lives!

Shabbat Shalom

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