Sefer Breisheet begins with the grandeur of creation, detailing the many new life forms, and with great hope for the human race. This hope was to be short-lived, with story after story of man's pettiness and propensity for evil. By the end of the book, the theme is that of death, and the stage is set for the enslavement of the Jewish people.
Parshat Pinchas presents us with at least three distinct models of leadership.
"Take Aaron, and Elazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor; and strip Aaron of his vestments, and dress Elazar his son in them; Aaron shall be gathered in and die there" (Bamidbar 20:25-26). It was only after Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden that man had a need for clothing: "then the eyes of both of them [Adam and Eve] were opened and they realized that they were naked" (Breisheet 3:7). Up until the point of sin, the spiritual and physical worlds were in complete harmony; there was no need to cover any parts of our physical being.
It is most difficult to solve a problem if the protagonists will not meet with each other and hear each other out. While there is no guarantee that talking will solve an issue, there is a guarantee that silence will perpetuate the problem.
“Rav Yossi said: It would have been appropriate had the Torah been given through Ezra, but Moshe preceded him… and even though the Torah was not given by him [Ezra], it was changed by him” (Sanhedrin 21b). The Talmud explains that this change relates to the “font” of the Torah, which was changed from ketav Ivri, the initial font in which the Torah was given, to ketav Ashurit, the “font” we have today in our Torah scrolls.
“Do not follow the ways of Egypt, where you once lived” (Vayikra 18:2). The Jewish people's formative years were those we spent in the land of Egypt, something for which we are to be eternally grateful. “Do not despise the Egyptian, since you were an immigrant in his land” (Devarim 23:8).
Amongst the unsung heroes of the Jewish people are Shifra and Puah. Despite the genocidal decrees of the Egyptian regime against Jewish newborns, these two unknown women risked their lives to save the lives of others. This is all the more remarkable according to those commentaries that claim that Shifra and Puah were non-Jews, and thus, the first of the Righteous Gentiles.
The first of Nissan and the first of Tishrei mark the beginnings of the Jewish year. The solar aspect of our calendar—representing the fixed laws of nature—begins in Tishrei; whereas the lunar cycle—symbolizing the ups and down of Jewish history—begins on the first of Nissan.
Vayedaber Hashem el Moshe lei'mor is the most commonly occurring verse of the Bible. While it is usually translated as, “G-d spoke to Moshe, saying”, our rabbis saw additional meaning in the word lei'mor. If it only meant “saying”, then it would be superfluous; if the Torah tells us that G-d spoke to Moshe, then surely something was said.
Since the time of Joseph, infighting has been the Achilles heel of the Jewish people, causing untold pain, suffering and national calamity. So much of our collective energies are wasted on disagreements with others; many of them are so trivial when viewed from the perspective of history. The schisms of the 19th century, caused to a large extent by such topics as sermons in the vernacular or the placement of the bimah in a shul, are being felt today in ways that many are not even aware of.