Mattot: Split in Half
The centrality of the land of Israel is a basic tenet of Jewish thought. Our Sages note that mitzvot performed outside the land of Israel are little more than practice (see Rashi, Devarim 11:18)—not unlike spring training, which is necessary to get in shape for the regular season, but has no independent meaning. In asserting this rather radical claim, our Sages refer not to those mitzvot which are dependent on the...Continue Reading »
Pinchas: Who is Next?
Success and great leadership go hand in hand. That is why organizations, sports teams and even countries can continue to excel or flounder year after year. The players may come and go, but the culture of excellence exuded by the management permeates the team. Tragically, many who have the potential for great leadership lack the skills (or sadly, might we say, the ruthlessness) needed to actually reach the top, whereas those who are excellent at...Continue Reading »
Erachin 16: Where's The Fire!
Which would you prefer? That those who gossip about you do so behind your back and thus, you may never hear about it? Or that the gossip be said to your face, even in the presence of others? One might argue that ignorance is bliss, and that it is best that we not hear what others have to say about us. Yet only with “in-your-face" lashon hara is it possible to “have it out” with those who think ill...Continue Reading »
Erachin 15: To Speak or Not to Speak
“What is lashon hara?” (Erachin 15b). This is a most reasonable question—had it been asked at the beginning of a discussion on the laws of lashon hara. However, this question appears after more than a page of Talmudic discussion regarding the prohibition of lashon hara. Why the wait? Furthermore, the answer to this question is rather opaque, to say the least. “Rava says...Continue Reading »
Balak: Fearless Leadership
Bilaam, the heathen prophet, recognized that the strength of the Jewish people was in their high level of modesty. “How goodly are your tents, Yaakov!” he exclaimed, noting the respect for privacy that pervaded the Jewish encampment in the desert. Yet so soon after his beautiful words, the Jewish people tried to prove him wrong. “Israel was staying in Shittim when the people began to behave immorally with Moabite women” (...Continue Reading »