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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.

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.

Our Parsha is most relevant and important, especially now, when the world questions our rights to Eretz Yisrael. In Shmot 6:8, Hashem promises to bring us to the land He promised to our forefathers, V'heiveiti etchem el haaretz asher nasati et yadi lateit ota l'Avraham, l'Yitzhak ulYaakov v'natati ota lachem morasha ani Hashem. "I will bring you to the land which I promised to give to Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov and I will give it to you as an inheritance, I am Hashem." There seems to be a contradiction between "V'Natati" and "Morasha". Natati implies a gift, while Morasha implies an inheritance. A gift is something you give to one who is worthy and who has earned it. An inheritance is something which one receives automatically handed down from generation to generation. There was much discussion in Talmud Bavli (BB117) and Yerushalmi (BB8:2), as to whom and how the land was divided. (TorahTemima Bamidbar 26:53). In any case, all agree that Eretz Yisrael was given to Am Yisrael as a Morasha, an inheritance. Why then is the term V'Natati (given) implying a deserved gift in the same pasuk.

When Moshe Rabeinu's appeal to enter the Land of Israel is denied he explains to the People preparing to enter the Land that G-d's decision was "for your sakes" (D'varim 3 26). The Midrash (Tanchuma Va'etchanan 6) tells us that G-d presented Moshe with a choice: he could choose to have G-d cancel the decree that he would die in the desert, but in that case the Jewish People would not survive. Moshe's reply was "better that Moshe and a thousand like him should die than that a single Jew should be lost to Israel".

The Mechilta describes the scenario and dialogue that took place among the tribes prior to the splitting of the sea. Bnei Yisrael were standing by the shores of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army literally breathing down their necks. Suddenly, they began to argue about who should go into the water first. Each tribe vied for the opportunity to be the first to enter. During the negotiations, Nachshon ben Aminadav, of the Tribe of Yehuda, jumped into the threatening waters. Each time we say Hallel, we pay tribute to Yehuda's decisiveness and alacrity in taking the first plunge for which he merited being

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.

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).

I take this to mean that no matter how far away, geographically, spiritually or generationally, a Jew may have wandered, he will ultimately experience stirrings of Jewish identity and Jewish nationalism, so that in spite of all the distance and alienation, a sense of basic Jewish unity can take root.