Beha'alotcha: It's Good to Complain

One of the causes for disappointment with the generation that left Egypt was their constant complaining.  Each week, as we study Sefer Bamidbar, we witness another complaint, often more than one per week. Whether it's the food, the drinks, the leaders, the religious obligations, the long journey, or the dangers lurking, there is always something to complain about. The lesson some derive from this is the destructiveness of...
Continue Reading »

Shavuot: A New Holiday

The shalosh regalim of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot are a celebration of great historic events coupled with the recognition of G-d's role in our agricultural success. Even if the land of Israel experiences drought and the like, the knowledge that G-d controls nature is quite comforting. These three pilgrim festivals, with their deep ties to the land, resonate differently in the land of Israel than they do in the Diaspora. Hence it is not...
Continue Reading »

Bamidbar: What's in a Name?

Sefer Bamidbar opens with names and numbers, a theme that continues throughout the book; hence its name, Chumash pekudim, the book of counting. Apparently, names are much more than mere identifiers.  A name represents the essence of a person. How did the Jewish people survive all these centuries?  "In the merit of not changing our names were we redeemed from Egypt", the midrash claims.At first glance, it seems quite strange...
Continue Reading »

Emor: Religious Secularism

Two of the most dangerous threats to society are religious fanaticism and rampant secularism. The dangers of the former have received more attention in recent years, as people literally fear for their physical safety. Furthermore, violently extremist positions that claim to be divinely based are a desecration of the name of G-d and affect all practitioners of religious faith. When people are convinced G-d is on their side even as they engage in...
Continue Reading »

Kedoshim: No Mercy Here

Commenting on the Torah's charge "to be holy, since I the Lord your G-d am holy" (19:2) the Ramban explains that it is not enough to keep the laws of the Torah. One can actually do so meticulously and still be a "scoundrel with the permission of the Torah". Torah law gives us a framework for life, but one who so desires can technically stay within that framework while nonetheless violating the basic goals of the Torah. What we often call the...
Continue Reading »

Pages