Dvar Torah Parshat Pekude 5774 2014 – in the merit of their fathers..

The Torah, summarizing the construction of the Mishkan, mentions: בְצַלְאֵל בֶּן אוּרִי בֶן חוּר לְמַטֵּה יְהוּדָה, “Bezalel, son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah did everything that Hashem commanded Moshe.” (Ex. 38,22) Why was it necessary for the Torah to go back in history and mention Bezalel’s grandfather and his tribe? Usually, in Jewish practice, when identifying a person, only his name and the name of his father are given.

Chazal tell us that when people are active in community work they should do so for the sake of heaven, because then זכות אבותם מסייעתן, “the merit of their fathers will aid them”.

Community workers may have the feeling that they can do as they please and that they are not accountable to anyone. By mentioning Bezalel’s ancestry the Torah is telling us that one should always keep in mind his background, his parents and their parents. By remembering them, their memory will aid them in doing their work honestly and faithfully for the cause.

The saying is, “power corrupts”. This may be true, but recalling whence we stem from may help overcome the trend.

Dvar Torah Parshat Vayakhel 2014 5774 – United We Stand

The Portion starts with the words: וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה אֶת כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, “Moshe assembled the entire assembly of the Children of Israel…”. (Ex. 35,1) He gathered all the people and his purpose was to instruct them in building the Mishkan. He first reminds them to observe the Shabbat as previously instructed. Rashi explains that he was telling them that although they are about to build the holy Mishkan, they were not to do any construction on Shabbat.

It is strange that in instructing the building of the Mishkan Moshe gathered all the people. He did not do so in all the other Mitzvot of Hashem. With other Mitzvot he first taught them to Aharon and them to Aharon’s children and so forth. There was a definite method. For the Mishkan he gathered all the people.

Perhaps the reason for this different approach is because of what happened with the destruction of the second בית המקדש. We are told that the Temple was destroyed because of שנאת חינם, unfounded hatred. Hence Moshe wanted to gather all the people in building the משקן so that the people will all be united and there would be no different factions.

This is a worthy objective that we should keep in mind in working with others to create an important project. There must be agreement at the start as to how things will be carried out.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Tisa 2014 5774 – Honest Business

A businessman once came to a famous Rabbi and told him he has an opportunity to enter into a certain business where he can make a great deal of money. In order to succeed, however, he will have to pull a few unethical tricks.

The Rabbi referred to this week’s Sidra to the verse which tells us about the Ten Commandments. The Torah says: לֻחֹת כְּתֻבִים מִשְּׁנֵי עֶבְרֵיהֶם מִזֶּה וּמִזֶּה, “…Tablets inscribed on both their sides, they were inscribed on one side and the other.” (Ex. 32,15) Why, asked the Rabbi, were we told this? He answered, to tell us that whichever way we read the Torah, it tells us the same laws – you must not steal.

There are people who try to distort the meanings of the laws of the Torah by twisting them one way or another to suit their own fancies. The Torah’s laws are given for us to live a moral and ethical life. Trying to twist the meaning so that we can avoid living the honest Torah’s intent, distorts its function and its purpose.

Dvar Torah on Parshat Tetzaveh 5774 2014

In describing the garments that were to be made for the Kohen Gadol the Torah says that a golden bell was to be attached to the hem of his robe. What was its purpose? The Torah tells us immediately: וְנִשְׁמַע קוֹלוֹ בְּבֹאוֹ אֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ, “…Its sound shall be heard when he enters the Sanctuary…”. (Ex. 28,35)

This is an important provision for a leader, his voice must be heard when he enters to administer his duties. What does that mean? The name “leader” implies that he must lead the people and not simply be a follower. A leader must be one who is not afraid to take a stand when necessary and does not hesitate to voice his true opinion even if that would create opposition against him from among his followers.

וְנִשְׁמַע קוֹלוֹ בְּבֹאוֹ אֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ, his voice must be heard when he wants to administer in his position. Unfortunately, we often see leaders who are afraid to take a stand when they feel it will create a problem for them. A true leader is one who lets his voice be heard and does not hesitate to lead in the proper direction.

Dvar Torah Parshat Terumah 2014 5774

We read this week about instructions given to Bnei Israel through Moshe to build a Mishkan or sanctuary for Hashem. The Torah says: וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ, “They shall make a sanctuary for Me…” (Ex. 25,8) The next verse reads: כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי מַרְאֶה אוֹתְךָ, “Like everything that I show you…”. That means that definitive instructions were given about every detail of the construction of the Mishkan.

There is another sanctuary that every Jew builds when he gets married. The new home that is established should also be a Jewish sanctuary. Here there are no detailed instructions given anyplace. The reason for that is that to build a home that will radiate Judaism and one in which children will grow up with respect for others and adherence to Jewish principles depends on numerous factors.

Not every situation is the same. To reach the desired results depends on the background of the parents, the temperament of the children, the environment in which the family lives, and many other factors. To generate the ideal home depends on the dynamics of the family. Although the exact instructions are not given, the guidelines, nevertheless, are found in the teachings of Judaism.

Dvar Torah Parshat Mishpatim 5774 2014 – Four Types of Watchmen

The Torah talks about four different types of watchmen. Some as a favor will watch something for a friend. Another type will get paid for watching an article. A third type is someone who rents an item to use and is responsible to watch it from any harm. A fourth type is one who borrows an object from his neighbor and is liable for any damage that befalls it.

In every case there is a different responsibility for damage that occurs. Nevertheless, in each case where the caretaker is exempt from reimbursing the owner, he must go to court and verify that he was not negligent in watching the item.

The language the Torah uses to express this obligation is: וְנִקְרַב בַּעַל הַבַּיִת אֶל הָאֱלֹהִים, and the ‘watchman’ shall approach the court…”, that he has not laid his hand upon his fellow’s property. (Ex. 22,7)

A Rabbi once used this passage to express a different notion. Explaining the passage literally, he said if a person wants to approach or come close to Hashem, he must demonstrate that he has not injured his fellow man either materially or mentally. We often do things and unintentionally hurt someone either financially or emotionally. To be a righteous individual we must ever be mindful not to harm someone, even unintentionally.

Dvar Torah on Parshat Yitro 5774 2014 – Being Grateful

After Moshe relates to Yitro all the happenings and all the miracles that Hashem had performed for the Jewish people, Yitro’s reaction was to say: בָּרוּךְ יְקֹוָק אֲשֶׁר הִצִּיל אֶתְכֶם מִיַּד מִצְרַיִם, “…Blessed is Hashem, Who has rescued you from the hand of Egypt…”. (Ex. 18,10)

Chazal make a very strange observation regarding this statement of Yitro. They say: “It was a disgrace for Moshe and the six hundred thousand (the Israelites who left Egypt) that they did not bless (Hashem) until Yitro came and did so.” (Sanh. 94a)

This is strange, for after the miraculous crossing of the sea they offered a beautiful song of thanks to Hashem for all He did in saving them from the Egyptians. Was this great song of lesser significance than the few words uttered by Yitro? What then did Chazal mean?

The answer may be that the Jews had offered their thanks and appreciation to Hashem for all the favors he bestowed on them. Thanking Him for the blessings He showers on others, this is what Yitro demonstrated. Yitro thanked Hashem, not for what he had been granted, but for what Hashem did to others. This was the great lesson that he taught.

We should be grateful, not only for our blessings, but also for blessings that other people receive.