Nasso. Bless You and Protect You

The priestly blessings are one of Judaism’s most famous texts: May God bless you and protect you! May God make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! May God lift up His face to you, and give you peace! This is a blessing that increases. The first verse has 3 words, the second has 5 words, and the third has seven. The first verse talks about blessing, the second has God’s face lighting up to the object of the blessing, the third escalates to God lifting his face – engaging in direct vision - and granting the greatest of all blessings, namely peace. “May God bless you and protect you!” What blessing is invoked? What is God’s protection here? Rashi: “May God bless you”- that your ass

Bamidbar. Why a Wilderness?

This week we begin Sefer Bamidbar – “In the Wilderness”. We began our national existence in this rugged and harsh environment, there we received the Torah. Why there? Why in a wasteland? Why not in the land of Israel? Or maybe even in Egypt? This is a great topic to discuss: Why are the Jewish people “born” in the wilderness and not within a civilization like Canaan or Egypt? The Torah is given in the wilderness. Can you think of a good reason why? Jeremiah complained about the corruption in Jerusalem. He stated “ Oh, to be in the desert, at an encampment for wayfarers! Oh, to leave my people, to go away from them— For they are all adulterers, A band of rogues.” (Jer 9:1) What is the wildern

Behar-Behukotai. The Loyalty of the Land

In our Parsha Discussions this year, we haven’t yet spoken much about the special nature of the Land of Israel, a particular passion of mine. Behar and Behukotai have a strong focus upon the land of Israel. This seems an apt topic at this time of year, with Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim in the air. Parashat Behar discusses the Shemitta (Sabbatical) and Yovel (Jubilee) years when farmers are meant to let the land rest, to abandon their control of the land. Although the people of Israel are granted sovereignty over the land, in a sense they remain “strangers resident with Me;”(Lev 25:23) in other words, ultimately the land is God’s and we are merely its guardians, not its master. And yet,

Emor. Why Count the Omer?

We are currently in the heart of the period known as the Omer, the 49 day-count that links Pesach and Shavuot, and the source of this mitzva may be found in our Parsha. Each day we signify “Today is X days to the Omer,” detailing weeks and days. Discuss these questions Why do we count from Pesach to Shavuot? We don’t count to Pesach, or to Rosh Hashanna! Why count here? When we count days, it is usually to a special event; a birthday,a trip abroad, an exam towards which one might have to plan and prepare. What are we preparing for in the lead-up to Shavuot? Most people suggest that this count is a linkage between the Exodus and Matan Torah, the Revelation at Sinai and the giving of the Torah

Acharei-Mot-Kedoshim. How to Turn Hate into Love

This week’s parsha contains one of the Torah’s most famous sayings: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” It seems a great aspiration but an impossible law to fulfil; after all, how does a person love another person as much as we love ourselves? How do we override ego and competition or jealousy towards another individual? We shall address this verse in its context to discover a new perspective to this verse. Let’s look at the context: “Do not hate your brother in your heart. Admonish your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him. Do not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people; love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord” (19:17-18) In these verses we may di

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