Purim throughout Jewish history has been regarded as one of the most joyful holidays of the Jewish calendar. It is celebrated with wearing costumes, lavish Purim seudot and general merry making. However, there are other aspects of Purim which teach us important lessons concerning the Jewish people, their past, present and future.
Jacob's Ladder is one of the greatest spiritual visions in the Tanach. No wonder it has become a central theme for artists and poets throughout history. One can forget many Biblical passages but this image remains indelible in our memory.
When Eldad and Meidad started prophesying in the camp, Yehoshua called for their imprisonment while Moshe let them continue prophesying. Yehoshua's zeal could be understood as a declaration of loyalty to his teacher. His message to Moshe is clear: only you should be able to receive prophecy. In contrast to this idea, Moshe believes in a more democratic system: Whoever is worthy of seeing Hashem in this world should be encouraged to do so. Moshe ends off his remarks with a blessing that one day the entire people should be at such a level to see Hashem's visions. Moshe received his wish in the time of the prophet Yoel. Yoel speaks of a great disaster approaching Israel but he tells the people not to worry because "Hashem will be zealous for his land and have pity on his nation" (Yoel 2:18). Hashem then says "I will pour out my spirit upon every person. Your sons and daughters shall prophesy. Your elderly will see dreams, while the young shall see visions. I will even pour out my spirit upon to the slaves and maidservants in those days" (3:1-2). Yoel then explains this imagery. Just as a prophet sees visions of Hashem and tell this message to the people, so too all the people of this time will be able to see the signs of redemption unfold before them (3:3-4) and will announce them to the world (4:9). We live in times when Moshe's wish has come true again. Hashem has blessed his nation and the Land of Israel in front of our eyes. We who were born in the Diaspora have the opportunity to recognize this blessing and announce it to the world by making Aliya to the land that Hashem has blessed. Avraham Norin, Maleh Chever TORAH THOUGHTS as contributed by Aloh Naaleh members for publication in the Orthodox Union's 'Torah Insights', a weekly Torah publication on Parshat HaShavu'a
You may have noticed that Parshat Bamidbar (literally, in the desert) always precedes the holiday of Shavuot, when we received the Torah at Sinai. Many reasons have been offered to explain why HaShem gave us the Torah in the wilderness. Some commentators have pointed out that God chose the wilderness to teach us that Torah can be learned and practiced everywhere, even in the darkest times and places throughout Jewish history. Others have pointed out that to accept and understand the Torah, we need to rid ourselves of arrogance and hubris, and be as simple and open as the stark desert landscape.
This week's haftara has a message that is so timely today, it is as if it were just written. Yirmiyahu is requested by Hashem to purchase a tract of land, and the request to purchase this land is accompanied with a prophecy of conquest of the very same land by the Kasdim. Being a devoted believer in Hashem and his messages, Yirmiyahu goes ahead and purchases the land with a very detailed purchase procedure, witnesses, a deed, public announcement of the purchase, and then for safe keeping, places the purchase proof, today called "tabu" in Israel, into an earthen vessel of clay so it can remain for a long time as proof of purchase.
When Yaakov beholds the royal chariots that Yosef had sent to bring him to Egypt, he was overcome with fear as a result of the realization that the protracted Egyptian Exile would now begin. Yaakov is afraid of what will happen to his descendants in the coming years. The Almighty appears to Yaakov and tells him not to be afraid to descend to Egypt. The Almighty says "I will make you into a great nation." How does this ease Yaakov's fears? The Sforno explains as follows: Were they to stay in Canaan the Jews would not multiply; rather, they would assimilate and intermarry with the Canaanite peoples. In Egypt, however, as a result of the fact that the Egyptians would not eat the bread of slaves, nor would they interact with them, the Jews could continue to grow maintaining their distinct national identity. (From this perspective, Jewish spiritual life in Muslim countries was perhaps better than that which we can witness today in modern Western countries where the rate of intermarriage is so high). G-d then says to Yaakov (B'reishit 46:4): "I will descend with you into Egypt and I will surely bring you back up".
Eyes to See We live in a unique, unprecedented epoch in history. One has only to walk down the street in Israel to see the clear fulfillment of countless prophecies and statements of Chazal about the redemption.
One of the Torah's most enigmatic episodes appears in this week's sedra. Moshe is sent by the Almighty to redeem the Jewish People. However, as Moshe makes his way back from Midyan to Egypt, the Almighty attempts to kill him. The Torah dryly depicts the strange scene wherein Moshe's wife, Zippora, cuts the foreskin of her son and in so doing saves her husband's life (Sh'mot 4:24-25).
The parsha opens with the words "Tzav et Aharon v'et banav..." "Command Aharon and his sons-" concerning the Olah sacrifice. Rashi, citing Torat Kohanim, asks: Why does the Torah use the the term "tzav" (command) rather than "daber" (speak) or "emor" (say)? He answers that "tzav" demands alacrity ("zerizut") in the performance of a mitzva and it implies 1) immediacy, 2) future applicability, and 3) according to Rabbi Shimon, the additional element of financial loss. Since all mitzvot do, in fact, require alacrity, it is particularly urged in the case of this mitzva because of the potential financial loss that it involves.
"Increase in the Land" Yaakov blesses his grandchildren Efrayim and Menashe: "Let them carry my name, along with the name of my fathers, Avraham and Yitzchak. May they increase in the Land like fish".