Dvar Torah Masey 5776 2016 – Israel, Know Your Past

We read a very strange passage in this week’s Portion: וַיִּכְתֹּב מֹשֶׁה אֶת מוֹצָאֵיהֶם לְמַסְעֵיהֶם, “Moshe wrote their goings forth according to their journeys…”. (Num. 33,2) It is strange that the Torah repeats and emphasizes the various stops the Bnei Israel made during their journeys through the Wilderness. What intrinsic value does it have for us?

It is extremely important that our people know our past. The Torah says elsewhere: זְכֹר יְמוֹת עוֹלָם בִּינוּ שְׁנוֹת דֹּר וָדֹר, “Remember the days of yore, understand the years of generation after generation…” (Deut. 32,7) This is telling us to know what happened in previous generations, in previous years.

The truth is that this is part of the history of the Jewish people and it is tremendously important that we know it. The world we live in today makes many efforts to change the facts of the past. Think of the effort made by many people and nations today to deny the Holocaust. Think of the effort to deny Jews were ever in the Land of Israel. Lies are offered to the world today and people are gullible enough to believe anything.

It is tragic that even many of our own people are unaware of our own Jewish history. The Torah tells us in no uncertain terms that we must know our past.

Dvar Torah Parshat Pinchas 5776 2016 – Elevate the Shabbat Day

Did you ever wonder why on Shabbat you go to Shul later than on weekdays? When instructions were given concerning the daily sacrifice the Torah says: אֶת הַכֶּבֶשׂ אֶחָד תַּעֲשֶׂה בַבֹּקֶר, “The one lamb you shall make in the morning…”. (Num. 28,4) When instructions are given for the Shabbat sacrifices the Torah says: וּבְיוֹם הַשַּׁבָּת שְׁנֵי כְבָשִׂים, “And on the Sabbath day two male lambs…”. (Num. 28,9) No mention is made of morning. It was thus permitted to bring later in the day. Hence the Shabbat services may start later and one has an opportunity to sleep later. This trivia is brought by no one less than the Rama in the Shulchan Aruch. (OC 281)

This is part of our Oneg Shabbat. It does not mean that you can sleep the entire Shabbat and do nothing. Shabbat is a time of rest but it is also a time to study and to improve your religious knowledge. It is a time to spend the day in a religious experience, something that is limited during the weekdays when we are preoccupied with our daily responsibilities.

The Shabbat should be spent by elevating our spiritual lives and increasing our knowledge of our Jewish existence.

Dvar Torah Parshat Balak 5776 2016 Power of Speech

Why did Balak call upon Bilam? He heard that Moshe had a great influence upon Bnei Israel with the many speeches he made. He thought he could counter Moshe’s success by bringing in another personality that had
a great reputation that he could affect many changes with his speech. Bilam was the right man for him.
Bilam was finally convinced to come at Balak’s bidding. A strange thing happened during his trip to Balak. The beast he was riding on suddenly started to speak. What was the message that Hashem was sending to Bilam? Plain and simple, Bilam was told that his ability to influence changes with his speech, is meaningless. He was demonstrated that even a beast can be made to speak.

There are many people who speak well and influence people. It does not mean that the message the speaker is sending is the right one. It depends on who is speaking and what he has to say. Moshe spoke in the name of Hashem so his words were heeded. Bilam spoke in the name of Balak and his words ended up ineffective.

We must be very careful what speaker we go to hear and what speaker’s words we take to heart.
On this topic of Power of Speech, Check out this video from http://DropsofLightProject.com

Dvar Torah Parshat Shelach 5776 2016

When Hashem tells Moshe to send the men into Israel to tour the land, Hashem says he should send: אִישׁ אֶחָד אִישׁ אֶחָד לְמַטֵּה אֲבֹתָיו תִּשְׁלָחוּ כֹּל נָשִׂיא בָהֶם, “one man each from his father’s tribe shall you send, everyone a leader among them.” Num. 13,2. The Torah uses the word נָשִׂיא for “leader”.
A Rabbi once pointed out an interesting fact. The word נָשִׂיא contains the Hebrew letters: Nun, Shin, Yud, and Aleph. Using some of the letters from this word you can form the word אין, which means “there is not”. You can also select other letters from this word and form the word “יש”, which means “there is”.

Some leaders “have it” and some leaders “do not have it”. That is, some leaders who think they have it and are capable may not have it, and some who do not think they have it may, indeed, really have it.

It is up to the people who choose the leaders to know who is suited for the job and who is not. The results can be drastic if the wrong people are given power.

Dvar Torah Parshat Naso 5776 2016

The Torah talks about the obligations of one who takes upon himself to be a Nazir or a Nazarite. The Torah says: לְאָבִיו וּלְאִמּוֹ לְאָחִיו וּלְאַחֹתוֹ לֹא יִטַּמָּא לָהֶם בְּמֹתָם, “To his father or to his mother, to his brother or to his sister, he shall not contaminate himself to them upon their death…”. (Num. 6,7) This is strange since a Kohen must retain his holiness at all times yet he is permitted to come in contact and attend the funerals of these relatives. Why may the Kohen and not the Nazirite?

The “Sefer Hachinuch” which explains the Taryag Mitzvot (the 613 Mitzvot) makes an interesting distinction. These prohibitions were placed on the Kohen without consulting him if he is willing to accept them. They came upon him at birth when he was born a Kohen. He may not be strong enough to adhere to these restrictions. The Torah realizes the frailty and does not place upon him this stringent law. The Nazir, on the other hand, took these restrictions upon himself so he knows his abilities and must know that he can abide by them. He thus must obey these laws.

When committing oneself to certain obligations one must know that he can carry them out. He must think twice before he makes a commitment. It is regretful that at times in haste we promise things that obligate us to carry out tasks or promises that we find later they are too difficult for us to fulfil.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bamidbar 5776 2016

Bnei Israel are ready to enter into the Promised Land and Hashem instructs Moshe to take another census of the people. Moshe is told, when the counting was to take place: וְאִתְּכֶם יִהְיוּ אִישׁ אִישׁ לַמַּטֶּה, “And with you shall be one man from each tribe…”. (Num. 1,4) There had to be a representative for every tribe present when his tribe was being counted. In the Book of Exodus a census was also taken as we read in the Portion of כִּי תִשָּׂא. There we find no mention of a tribal representative. Why the difference?

The first counting mentioned in the Book of Exodus in כִּי תִשָּׂא took place soon after the Exodus from Egypt. It did not matter what the population of every individual tribe was. The purpose was to know the total number of the People of Israel. There was no need for tribal representation.

The census in this week’s Portion had a different purpose. Here the reason for counting the tribes was to know its size and how much land was to be allocated for each tribe when the land was to be divided up amongst them. For this reason a representative of the tribe had to be present so that there be no dispute about its size.

In our daily dealings we must also be very mindful and careful to act in such a manner so as not to leave any doubt in someone’s mind about what we are discussing and what the appropriate facts are. This prevents later troubles and arguments.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bechukotai 5776 2016

In last week’s Portion Hashem relates to Moshe numerous laws which he should relay to Bnei Israel that they must observe. This week’s Portion continues with Hashem’s words to Moshe, and Hashem says: אִם בְּחֻקֹּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ, “If you will follow My decrees…”. (Lev. 26,3) Rashi quotes the Midrash and says that this “is an admonition that you should study the Torah strenuously”.

There is an interesting story told about the Chafetz Chaim. A young man once came to him and bemoaned the fact that he has been studying Torah strenuously for many years and he still does not see any scholarly blessing in his studies.
The Chafetz Chaim said to him, “Did the Torah ever say we must be scholars? The Torah tells us that we must study Torah strenuously. We do not have to become scholars.”

Every person today must allow time to study. Some may find it difficult to set aside time for study but we must recall that years gone by in Europe Jews would work hard all day to earn a living. Yet at the end of the day’s work they would hurry to the Synagogue or Bet Midrash to pray and to learn.

We must all adopt the habit of devoting some time in our daily activities to study at our own level and fulfill the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah.