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.

Dvar Torah Parshat Emor 5776 2016

The Portion of Emor instructs the Kohanim as to how they are to conduct themselves. They are told when they may become defiled by coming in contact with the dead and when they may not. They are told whom they may marry and who not. Among all the laws pertaining to these holy persons we read a very strange statement. The Torah says: קְדֹשִׁים יִהְיוּ לֵאלקֵיהֶם וְלֹא יְחַלְּלוּ שֵׁם אֱלֹקיהֶם, “They should be holy to their G-d and they should not desecrate the name of their G-d.” (Lev. 21,6)

This is strange because the Torah is talking to the Kohanim, and they are supposedly the holiest among all the Jewish people, and they are told not to defile the name of G-d. Who would think that the Kohanim, who have been designated to the high spiritual status would fall down in their responsibilities and become defiled?

In fact the Torah is speaking specifically to them because they are so holy. They are admonished to be extremely conscious and careful not to do anything that would offend the name of the Almighty.

The moral lesson is that the more important a person is in the eyes of others, the more carefully he is obligated to act. People look at important people and consciously or subconsciously tend to imitate their manner of action. Hence for them it is extremely significant that all their actions should be blameless.

Take Initiative – Dvar Torah on Parshat Metzora 5776 2016

Metzora is mentioned in the Torah and is described as a skin infection which renders a person Tammey or spiritually defiled. A Kohen, and not a doctor, is instructed to determine if the person is truly infected. When the infection seems to be gone the Torah states that the individual is to be brought to the Kohen: וְהוּבָא אֶל הַכֹּהֵן, (Lev. 14,2) to determine if indeed the person has recovered and to instruct him about the method of purification. The very next verse states: וְיָצָא הַכֹּהֵן, “the Kohen shall go forth…” to the individual.

First it stated the infected person is to be brought to the Kohen. The next verse states that the Kohen is to go to the person. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein points out the contradiction and gives a very potent explanation. He maintains that the person should come to the Kohen but if he doesn’t than the Kohen should go to him. He then adds that “every teacher or person who can influence others must keep this mind and do so.”

This is extremely important for everyone to take heed. We often see how we can help someone but wait for that person to ask and hesitate to offer. Not all people will ask. We must extend ourselves and make the first move.

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Be Careful About What Comes Out Of Your Mouth – Parshat Tazria 5776 2016

The Portion of Tazria deals mainly with a skin affliction wrongly translated in the English Bible as leprosy. It is actually a form of skin disease which appears on the body as a rash.  Our Talmudic Rabbis attribute this disease as a punishment for “Lashon Hara”, slander or tale bearing. The preceding Portion of Shmini ends with the laws of forbidden foods. Many Biblical commentaries deal with the juxtaposition of these two portions.

Rabbi Israel Salanter, the 19th century scholar and founder of the Musar movement, poses a very interesting answer. He says that many people are meticulously careful when it comes to Halachic observance of consuming kosher food. They are not as careful when talking about other people. They are free with gossip and slander. Hence the Torah put them together to emphasize that both are equally important.

This is an extremely serious message which is relevant to this day. We are careful about what we eat but we must be just as painstakingly meticulous when talking about other people. “Lashon Hara” is never permitted.

 

Immediate Action – Dvar Torah Parshat Shemini 5776 2016

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Aharon had certain responsibilities as the Kohen Gadol. In the opening verses of the Portion Shemini we read of some of the functions given to Aharon. Then the Torah tells us that Moshe said to Aharon: וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל אַהֲרֹן קְרַב אֶל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וַעֲשֵׂה אֶת חַטָּאתְךָ וְאֶת עֹלָתֶךָ, “Moshe said to Aharon: Come near to the Altar and perform the service…” (Lev. 9,7) Rashi states: Aharon was ashamed and feared to go there.

There is a very significant lesson to be learned here. Aharon was given instructions and he hesitated to perform his duties for fear of approaching the Altar. Rabbi  Moshe Tzvi Neria, one of the founders of the Bnei Akiva youth movement, in his volume on the Torah writes in connection with a different verse a very cogent argument for following instructions.

He points out that when a commander in a war gives a charge to his soldiers to perform a certain operation, they must obey without hesitation.  If they feel they must understand every comment and worry about every act if it is safe, then that army would certainly lose the war.

This can be applied to Aharon. He was given instructions by the Almighty and he had to obey them.

This reasoning can also be applied to Mitzvot that we cannot understand. As believers in our Torah we must be willing and ready to perform all commandments even though we do not understand their rational.

 

Dvar Torah Parshat Tzav 2016 5776 – Thank You Hashem!

Amongst the Korbanot (sacrifices) described in this week’s Sidra we read:  אִם עַל תּוֹדָה יַקְרִיבֶנּוּ, “If he shall offer it for a thanksgiving-offering…”. (Lev. 7,12) Rashi explains that this is referring to the four times that Chazal tell us a person must offer his thanks to Hashem. These occasions are: if one has made a sea voyage, or one has travelled in the wilderness, or one has been kept in prison, or one has been seriously ill and has now recovered.

In the days of sacrifices in the Temple in Yerushalayim such an individual was obligated to bring a thanksgiving offering. Today according to Chazal he must offer a prayer of thanks in the presence of a Minyan of ten people.

What this teaches us is that one should show appreciation when he finds he has been blessed with a special significant gift from Hashem. It also teaches us that when we are granted a gift from an individual, whether it be something physical or some form of help, we should not accept it as if it is owed to us but we must express our gratitude and appreciation. This is something that we often forget to do. We must be mindful and remember.

 

Dvar Torah Parshat Behar 5775 2015

Hashem speaks to Moshe and instructs him to speak to Bnei Yisrael and tell them: כִּי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ, “…When you come into the land that I give you…” וְשָׁבְתָה הָאָרֶץ שַׁבָּת לַיקֹוָק, “…the land should observe a Sabbath of rest for Hashem.” (Lev. 25,2)

The Shabbat spiritually enlightens and exhilarates the Jew who observes it according to the law. In the same fashion, the land is to observe a Shabbat every seventh year. We call it Shmitah. The fields are to be given a rest and are not to be worked. When the Jewish people dwell in the land, the land has a revival. When we look at history we see how many people have conquered the Land of Israel and not one was able to make it flourish. The land lay desolate for centuries and all you could see was deserts.

When the Jewish people began to return in mass during the last century the land suddenly took on a new reality. It came back to life. It started to flourish. It seems to have been uplifted by Hashem and regained a new spiritual existence.

Israel today is not only great for itself but is contributing to the world at large. Numerous creations and inventions in virtually all fields are developed in Israel and adopted by the world. In science, medicine, technology, and every domain of modern civilization, Israel is in the forefront. The promise of Hashem to the Jewish people is coming to pass before our own eyes.