Perhaps no greater question has vexed the Jewish people as that of our relationship with the nations of the world. Should it be one of integration? Assimilation? Separation? Acculturation? Ghettoization? Should we embrace or reject the world around us? For much of our history, we did not have the luxury to debate this question; the nations of the world made sure that we were a nation that dwelled apart. Thankfully, Jews today can choose whether we should emphasize our similarities or our differences with the nations in whose midst we dwell.
“[Then journeyed] the flag of the camp of Dan m'aseif, the gatherer, of all the camps” (10:25). As the Jewish people prepared to march to the land of Israel—no one imagined it would take forty years until they would arrive—they formed a precise pattern with four groups of three tribes each, with the tribe of Levi and the mishkan in the middle of the camp.
The Jewish people have never been a large nation. Our strength lies in quality, not quantity. Nonetheless, precisely because we are so few in number, every Jew counts. Our vulnerability makes it incumbent upon us to work together as we strive to meet our mandate of being a holy nation that is a light unto the rest of the world.
One of the features of the scientific world is classification of different species into their various groupings and subgroupings. The Torah itself introduces the concept of classification of mitzvoth, identifying the categories of edot, chukim, and mishpatim. It is the question of the classification of these three categories of mitzvoth that our Sages identify as that of the chacham.
During Jewish leap years, Parshat HaChodesh, the special maftir portion we read on the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh Nissan, generally coincides with Parshat Tazria. At first glance, these two parshiot seem to have little in common—Parshat Tazria being one of the most technical and driest parshiot in the Torah, dealing with the intricate and no longer applicable laws of tzara’at. Parshat haChodesh, on the other hand, describes the preparation for and excitement of the Exodus, the most powerful and relevant event in all of Jewish history.
In Jewish law, it is the middle that is most important. We surround the sefer Torah with gabbaim on either side, and ideally we place the bimah in the middle of the shul. A Torah scholar, who as a living sefer Torah is worthy of more respect than the Torah itself, is to accompanied by escorts on either side.
"Do not be a follower of the majority for bad, do not respond to a grievance by yielding to the majority to pervert [justice]" (Shemot 23:2). In the next verse we read "Do not favour the poor". Today's world so often supports the underdog en masse, regardless of the validity of their claim. While such sentiments may be well-intentioned, it does not make them right, regardless of how many people back it.
"And Yitro, the priest of Midian, the father-in-law of Moshe, heard all that G-d did for Moshe and to Israel his people, that G-d had taken the Israel out of Egypt" (Shemot 18:1). Of course, Yitro was not the only one who heard all that G-d had done. Yet he was the only one who was listening; the only one who cared enough and was moved enough to actually do something. While others likely were impressed to hear that a slave nation took on the worlds superpower, such lasted the 30 seconds or so they spoke about it. They then moved on with their daily activities.
This week's devar Torah is dedicated in honour of the upcoming wedding of Miriam Libman and Ephraim Leiderman. May they merit to build a beautiful Jewish home. Mazal-Tov!
"And he saw an Egyptian man hitting a Hebrew of his brothers" (2:11). To the slave in Egypt, being beaten up by our tormentors was the norm, and the Jewish people--having no recourse or justice--suffered in silence. Moshe's act of fighting back on behalf of some "lowly" slave was shocking for those immersed in Egyptian culture, and it nearly cost him his life.