Parsha Thoughts: Rabbi Jay Kelman

Purim: Shaping Jewish History

Rare is the person who has the opportunity to knowingly shape the course of Jewish history. Most are happy to be relieved of that responsibility. From Moshe to Yonah, Yirmiyahu to Esther, few are willing to carry such awesome responsibility on their shoulders. And even—or, shall we say, especially—when taken on willingly, the burden can be too much to handle. How can one be confident in a decision made today, the impact of which will reverberate for hundreds or even thousands of years?

Mishpatim: Sequel to Sinai

It is common after a major event to have difficulty getting back into our daily routine. Whether it is a child's wedding, an exotic vacation or a summer at camp, rarely do we feel ready to return to our daily schedule—something we all yearn for at this time. Surely the excitement of the events surrounding the receiving of the Torah at Sinai would qualify as a major event—and then some. The thunder, lightning, and masses of people all gathered to experience Divine revelation would have put one on a spiritual high from which it must have been hard to come down.

Yitro: A Perfect Ten

In the Western world, the number ten represents perfection. Not surprisingly, this concept seems to be rooted in our biblical tradition. “In ten utterances, the world was created (Avot 5:1)." And what a world it was! “And G-d saw all that He did, and it was very good”. Yet instead of “working and guarding” this world as we were commanded (Breisheet 2:15), ten generations later “[There are] ten generations from Adam to Noach”], man had so corrupted G-d's creation that He was forced to create the world anew.

Beshalach: Who's Up First

The problem of theodicy—why there is evil in this world—has bothered thinking people from time immemorial. We cannot answer Moshe’s question to G-d as to why the wicked often prosper and the righteous suffer (Brachot 7a). Hence, Rav Soloveitchik noted that we do not even ask the question of lamah, why? Rather, we ask lemah[1], for what purpose? Not why, but how should we respond? Instead of wondering why G-d acts as He does, we must ask, given the circumstances, what should we do? 

Shemot: A New Leader

In today's world of the 30-second soundbite, good oratory skills are a necessary ingredient for any aspiring politician. Good politicians are often able to talk themselves out of difficult positions spouting half-truths, equivocations, and at times, outright lies. A good politician knows how to talk without saying anything. Yet the greatest political leader of all time, Moshe Rabbeinu was a kvad peh vkvad lashon, a stammerer.  He was also Moshe Emmet, the man of truth who could tolerate no falsehood.

Vayigash: Reconciliation?

Hugs, kisses, joy and forgiveness. So appears the reunion of Yosef and his family after twenty-two long years. “Don’t be sad nor reproach yourselves for having sold me here, G-d had sent me ahead of you to insure your survival in the land” (Breisheet 45:5). It sounds almost as if Yosef is thanking the brothers for having sold him into slavery. In fact, Yosef continues, “it was not you who sent me here, but G-d” (Breisheet 45:8).

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