Ki Tisa: The Golden Garden

"And the people saw ki boshesh Moshe, that Moshe delayed in coming down from the mountain" (32:1). As a young nation coming from a hedonistic society that had many gods, the transition to a monotheistic people living a disciplined life was not (and is not) an easy one. They needed lots of 'hand-holding' as they matured as a people, and were paralyzed with their leader away. The people wanted a relationship with G-d; they just did not know how to do so on their own.

Shabbat 10: In Your Court

While the prelude to the giving of the Torah is the establishment of a court system (see Shemot 18), it would seem that having to actually use the justice system is less than ideal. In a perfect society, people would be honest, forgiving, and not fight for every right that is theirs. Spending one’s time learning Torah is surely a much greater pursuit than listening to litigants argue. And thus, the Talmud records that Rav Hisda and Rava bar Rav Huna, after spending the entire day in court adjucating one case after another, were upset.

Vayelech: Time for a Change

"And G-d said, 'My spirit shall not continue to judge him forever; he is nothing but flesh, and his days will be 120 years'" (Breisheet 6:3). Man had gone from the Garden of Eden to the depths of depravity, and the days of lifespans of hundreds of years was over. Yet it took 26 generations - well over 2,000 years--until the Bible actually records that someone lived to 120; "And Moshe was 120 years when he died" (34:7).

Chukat: Second Chances

This week's dvar Torah is sponsored by Golda Brown and Harry Krakowsky in memory of their dear son, Moshe Chanoch, obm. The law of the red heifer serves as the break between two separate but similar narratives: those relating to the generation that left Egypt, and those relating to the generation that was about to enter the land of Israel. A cursory read of the Torah can easily lead one to think that we are reading not two different stories, but the same story told over again, akin to the narratives in Sefer Devarim.

Vayikra: Time to Reflect

When making reference to biblical verses, we tend to identify them by chapter and verse. This most convenient system is of non-Jewish origin and occasionally deviates from the division of texts as understood by our Sages. While one might be tempted to say that a more traditional approach would divide the text according to parshat hashavua (the weekly Torah reading cycle), that, too, is of later origin. Our division into 54 parshiot was only finalized in the middle ages, hundreds of years after the close of the Talmudic period.

VaEra: Status Quo

"And they did not listen to Moshe, from short spirit and hard work" (7:9). Moshe had a daunting dual task before him. Not only did he need to demonstrate to Pharaoh that he must free his slaves, he needed to convince the Jewish people that they would be better off following him into the desert. And the latter was a prerequisite for the former.

Chukat: Dying of Thirst

One of the most beautiful and impactful aspects of the Torah is its description of the humanity of its protagonists. Their strengths and struggles, heroism and failures, highs and lows are depicted before us, allowing us to much more readily identify with and learn from them. The realization that our Avot and Imahot had many crises within their own lives, or that Moshe himself had to struggle to contain his temper, can guide us and reassure us as we struggle with our own issues.

Korach: Honour the Enemy

The name Korach is synonymous with Machloket shelo leshem shamoyim, arguments that are not for the sake of heaven. As we read how Korach and his rebel rousers were killed by G-d, exactly as Moshe had predicted, no doubt many feel gleeful as those "who gathered together against G-d" (16:11) receive their due. Yet Judaism demands a much more nuanced approach. True, we must eradicate evil; but we must never confuse evil with evildoers. All people are created in the image of G-d, and all are deserving of respect; there are no exceptions.


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