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.

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.