Effort vs. result. The relative value of these two concepts is a fundamental dispute between our western worldview and Jewish teachings. The secular world is, as it must be, bottom-line oriented. From a Jewish perspective, it is effort, not result, that ultimately counts. G-d blessed us all with different and varying degrees of talent; thus, it would be unfair to expect similar results from all. Rather, it is the effort we expend on moral improvement, understanding a Torah text, or performing mitzvoth that is crucial.
Life is so unfair. While we believe that ultimately (and ultimately can take an eternity!) justice must and will prevail—to believe otherwise would be to deny the essence of Judaism—it is clear that life is full of injustices. Moshe Rabbeinu was the greatest person who ever lived. Yet he was denied his one wish, to be able to walk in and breathe the air of the land of Israel. Moshe continued pleading his case until G-d "angrily" told him, enough already! Your request is denied.
“And Elazar the priest said: This is the law of the Torah, which the Lord commanded Moshe” (Bamidbar 31:21). The Torah goes on to describe the laws of kashering utensils, laws that were pertinent in light of the spoils captured by the Israelites in their war with Midian.
Our Sages, quoted by Rashi, were perplexed as to why Elazar and not Moshe gave this series of laws, especially as the Torah tells us it was Moshe whom G-d had commanded regarding these laws.
This week's devar Torah is dedicated in honour of the bat mitzvah of Temira Koenig. Mazal tov to her parents, Tali and Jason, and to the entire family. May Temira follow in the footsteps of Miriam, sanctifying the name of G-d in all that she does.
Sefer Bamidbar describes not only the physical locale of the Jewish people, but their spiritual state. Wandering in the desert, they could not be self sufficient, neither physically nor spiritually. The book reads like one depressing story after another. While Bamidbar makes for fascinating reading and its lessons are crucial for community building, for those in the desert, little came of their aimless wandering.
“These are the commandments that G-d has commanded Moshe to the children of Israel on Mount Sinai (Vayikra 27:34).” Though it is the Book of Exodus that we associate with Har Sinai, it is at the end of Vayikra that the Torah actually places us there.
Our long sojourn in Egypt was meant to develop those character traits necessary to transform the Jewish into G-d's special nation. We were to appreciate the need for human freedom, develop our sensitivity towards others--especially the downtrodden--and were to forge a community with a shared history and destiny.
The book of Shemot details the emergence of the Jewish people as a nation. Though descending from spiritual giants, the nascent nation displayed great fickleness in their relationship to G-d. On the one hand, they showed tremendous faith in following Moshe into an unknown desert. These same Jews, however, wasted no time complaining whenever things were a little tough. G-d's past benevolence was quickly forgotten.
"G-d said to Abraham, ‘Go away from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you' (12:1)".