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The Book of Leviticus Chapter 5: 2-4 Unintentional sin, being careful and tattoos

Parshas Korach: The disgrace of Torah leaders

“If these die like the death of all men, and the destiny of all men is visited upon them, then it is not hashem who has sent me” (Numbers 16:29). 

Why does G-d have to change nature by destroying Korach and his group throught he land opening up from underneath him? Even if they all die in a natural way isn’t that proof that Moshe was right along? How are we supposed to understand this?

Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlit’a in Ta’am V’Da’as explains that Korach and his group’s disagreement with Moshe was based on their total denial of the entire Torah! How so? Anyone who denies the authenticity of Moshe is like they deny the entire Torah! After all, could it be that Moshe just made up G-d forbid different things here or did everything himself without G-d’s commanding him what to do?

The reality is that “nature” as we know it is dictated by the power of our holy Torah. If it is warranted, nature can be changed for whatever reason G-d decides to change it. This is reason that Korach and all the people had to die in this miraculous way to show that Torah has power over everything in this world!

The Divrei Chaim of Sanz, Rav Chaim Halberstam z”l explains that even had Korach been correct in his disagreement with Moshe, nonetheless he was liable for the death penalty because of his causing strife among the Jewish people in this fashion. Therefore, if he was punished in a natural way it would not have proved the essence of Moshe’s words against Korach. Even if he received the death penalty in a natural way there was a requirement for nature to be changed to show with absolute clarity that the Torah is true and they were false!

What an amazing lesson we learn here! How careful we have to be with how we treat the Torah leaders of our generation. They are the ones who deserve the utmost respect and should never be disgraced

Shabbat Shalom


The Book of Leviticus Chapter 4: 27 – 5:1 The sin offering and the repercussion for our actions

Parshas Shelach: Strengthening our performance of mitzvos

“It shall constitute tzitzis for you, that you may see it and remember all the commandments of Hashem and perform them; and not explore after your heart and after your eyes after which you stray” (Numbers 15:39).

This verse teaches us that when one looks at tzitzis (for men wearing them) they are a reminder of all the mitzvos. Here we have a physical act (looking at the fringes) which can have a tremendous spiritual impact on a person! What is the deeper meaning here?

Rav Moshe Sternbuch shlit’a in Taam V’Da’as learns from this verse how someone should approach trying to bring an estranged Jew closer to Judaism. The first thing one must teach them is how to draw close to G-d through the performance of the mitzvos. The Torah does not tell us to keep the mitzvos so that we will be righteous but it is the basis of our belief that this will help us in our struggle of going after our eyes and our heart!

This means that when our thoughts are pure we fulfill the verse of keeping all the mitzvos and becoming holy! We are in a constant battle against the evil inclination and fighting all the negative influences society bombards us with. Even so, by keeping the mitzvos, it strengthens us spiritually and helps us become holy people. Therefore when we want to bring someone closer to Torah, they don’t have to try and reach the highest levels at the beginning.

This is difficult to understand because the reality is when someone does a physical act, like eating, even though they make a blessing before and after, how does that transform them into becoming closer to G-d? Mitzvos are two-fold. On the one hand, they are a physical act but there are many spiritual aspects to it that has a positive affect on our soul. In fact, as the Chovas Halevavos (Duties of the Heart) in Chapter 10 of Shaar HaYichud (the Gate of G-d’s uniqueness) tells us the only reason we can have a spiritual connection to G-d at all is because He gave each of us a spiritual soul.

That soul gets strengthened and nourished spiritually through the mitzvos that we perform! We may not necessarily feel that but we get tremendous power from the mitzvos even if we don’t perform them kabbalistically! There are times we feel good about ourselves when we do mitzvos that help others. Whether it is an act of loving kindness by giving charity or just a listening ear, we definitely feel stronger and better when we know that we have helped someone else.

That feeling is the spiritual juice that keeps the soul going. We need to be consistent though in what we do so we can always be going in the right spiritual direction. When we go after our desires and our heart though we succumb to the physical world which can certainly affect us in a negative way.

May we merit the ability to continue and go in G-d’s way, doing what we need to do to reach our true potential.

Shabbat Shalom

Parshas Behaloscha: Did the Jews really miss Egypt?

“We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge; the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic” (Numbers 11:5)

Could it really be that the Jewish people were missing all this in Egypt, the place that destroyed them physically and spiritually? Do we really think that the greatest generation in the history of man that saw G-d face to face at Mount Sinai, saw all the plagues in Egypt and the miracles in the desert really remembered “the good times and food” in Egypt? What is the deeper explanation here?

The challenge for this generation was that G-d wanted them to work on their emunah i.e. their belief in Him and how He runs the world. This was done through the plagues where the Jewish people witnessed the utter destruction of the Egyptians and their country while they were left unscathed. At the same time, they saw and ate the manna that sustained them in the desert. Nonetheless, G-d wanted them to continue in the desert so they could flex these emunah muscles to reach even a higher spiritual level to be able to enter the land of Israel.

Through the sin of the spies, that generation was not allowed to enter the Promised land. At some level their belief in G-d was weak. How could the Jewish people not think that G-d would help them defeat the “giants” in the land and where is their reliance on Him for all their needs?

The reality is that if someone has food now and is being taken care of, they cannot think about the future of “what will be” because that is a lack of trust in G-d. This means they have to take each day as it comes. The problem is that although the manna came yesterday and the day before that and the day before that, who is to say that it will come tomorrow?

The issue possibly is that they may have thought that all their merit had been used up and they were no longer worthy of such miracles. The spies themselves did not doubt that G-d could destroy the nations in the land of Egypt. They were afraid that their spiritual “luck” had run out and they were no longer under G-d’s Divine protection.

We learn this out from our forefather Yaakov. He tells G-d to provide for him and take care of his needs. G-d assures him that He will but Yaakov asks a second time. The commentaries tell us that the reason for this is because he felt if he does something wrong, he will no longer be under G-d’s Divine protection. In other words, when we do the right thing, all things being equal our needs should be taken care of.

The problem is that we do things we shouldn’t and therefore there are ramifications for our actions and we don’t merit the same Divine help. We must realize that we cannot rest on our laurels and have to be constantly striving in Torah and mitzvos, never letting our guard down against the evil inclination. That way, we are always growing spiritually trying to reach higher and higher levels to reconnect ourselves to G-d and His Torah.

Shabbat Shalom

Parshas Naso: What is with the Nazirite vow?

“And the L-rd spoke to Moshe, saying ‘Speak tot he children of Israel and say to them, ‘When either man or woman shall pronounce a special vow of a nazir to separate themselves to the L-rd, he shall abstain from wine and strong drink, nor shall he drink any liquor of grapes nor eat moist grapes or dried” (Numbers 6: 1-5).

The Talmud Sotah 2a tells us that whoever witnesses a suspected woman in her disgrace should withhold himself from wine. We see that there is a direct connection to seeing a sotah (someone who was forbidden by her husband to be a lone with another man) in her disgrace and making a nazirite vow. There are other things that are stronger than wine that intoxicates so why does the Torah single out wine?

Rav Moshe Feinstein z”l in Drash Moshe explains that when a person forbids upon themselves wine it is not because of its potency to make someone drunk as we see that it is forbidden to eat grapes as well even though they do not intoxicate. Not only that if there are intoxicating things that are not made from grapes then they are permitted! The intention is that when a person sees a woman disgraced in this way, it diminishes the sanctity of the Jewish people!

This means when there is a lack of holiness among the Jewish people and everything seems to go to pot then a person has to take on something extra so that they will increase the Jewish people’s sanctity in the world. They would then need to make further fences around the Torah to insure that Jewish people are reaching higher spiritual levels and are able to pass that on to the next generation.

The reality is that we should not have to separate ourselves from things that are forbidden to us to reach a higher spiritual reality. We should be able to live in this world, serve G-d properly the way He wants us to and continue living inspiring lives. If it were only that easy.

The evil inclination tries to trap us all the time so we have to be ever vigilant to fight against its clutches. Making further fences around the Torah to guard ourselves is certainly a good idea as long as it is within the parameters of Torah. There are some who have tried to make inroads by doing things that are taken from other cultures which from the Torah perspective is not only wrong but it looks strange as well.

The only way a person can make these changes is with the agreement of the Torah giants of the generation. Through their guidance and leadership we will surely know how to act and what the guidelines should be. It is of extreme importance that everyone has a rabbi that they can go to for guidance when they have questions. Too many people try to figure it out on their own or think they know better or worse yet go to those that are not qualified to guide them.

May we only do G-d’s will at the highest level which will help us reach our true spiritual potential.

Shabbat Shalom

Parshas Bamidbar: Every individual is important!

“And the L-rd spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai in the Tent of Meeting, on the first day of the second month in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt saying, ‘Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel after their families by the houses of their fathers by the number of names, every male by their polls” (Numbers 1:1-2). 

What is the purpose of counting the people? Is the Torah just interested in telling us how many people there were and why is it done more than once? Each person counted means that they are significant in and of themselves. This means that although we may think our actions don’t matter and we are essentially an infinitesimally small spec of cosmic dust, we can’t imagine how far our actions go.

Rav Chaim of Volozhin z”l in his epic work Nefesh HaChaim explains that this could not be further from the truth. If we would only understand how far actions reach in a physical and spiritually way, we would live our lives totally different! For example, if someone speaks lashon hara against someone else and does not ask for their forgiveness, there is a spiritual imprint this makes on the world and will not disappear until the appropriate action is taken.

Everything we do has spiritual and physical repercussions. If a woman smokes crack when she is pregnant and the child comes out deformed, it is not the child’s fault but there is a reality and there are repercussions for our actions. At the same time, if a person is with someone they are forbidden to be with and they have a child, that child is called a mamzer (a bastard child) and is not allowed to marry anyone except from the same union or a convert. Is it the child’s fault? No, but there are also spiritual repercussions for our actions.

Not only that but our actions we do today and can have far reaching repercussions generations later. We see this by the story of Ruth where Ruth converts and generations later king David comes out of her while Orpah, generations later has a descendant named Goliath. We see from the two different paths that each one took that their offspring fought a vicious battle generations later!

Who we marry has repercussions for the future as well as our kids and what direction they go in. We may not see this at the beginning but throughout time what we do affects them and their kids as well for all future generations! Pretty scary to say the least.

As we get ready for the Shavous holiday we have to remember that we want to renew our commitment to Torah and continue in the proper path, not just for our sake but for that of our spouses and children as well. We have to always be on guard and watch ourselves and take our spirituality seriously!

May we merit to renew our commitment to Torah and become the great people we can!

Shabbat Shalom and a meaningful Shavous