Chukat. Choose Life!

Parashat Hukat opens with the ritual of the Red Heifer, a complicated purification process to purify a person who has come into contact with the dead. But, does death defile? Does death generate some impure spirit? Why do we need purification after we have touched the dead or resided in the same room as a corpse? Rabbi Soloveitchik in his work, Halakhic Man, gives a fascinating perspective on this topic: Judaism has a negative attitude toward death: a corpse defiles; a grave defiles; a person who has been defiled by a corpse is defiled for seven days and is forbidden to eat any sacred offerings or enter the Temple… Many religions view the phenomenon of death as a positive spectacle … sanctif

Shelach-Lecha. A Question of Attitude

This week we read of the Spies who come back with a negative report from their forty-day tour of the land of Canaan. They frighten the nation with reports of the formidable strength of the Canaanites, and suggest that the nation return en-masse to Egypt. This results in the punishment of forty years, meaning that the Exodus generation died in the wilderness and only their children entered the Promised Land. What is fascinating here, is that the facts here are not disputed. Only the attitude. The Spies say: We came to the land you sent us to; it does indeed flow with milk and honey… the people who inhabit the country are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large; moreover, we saw

Behaalotecha. The Marshmallow Test

As the people of Israel make their way from Sinai to Canaan they unexpectedly begin to complain and cry about the food: “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. Now our gullets are shrivelled. There is nothing at all! Nothing but this manna to look to!” (11:4-6) These longings make Egypt sound like a luxury resort, not a “house of slavery”! Did the Israelites really eat fish for free in Egypt? Was life under slavery accompanied by delicious cuisine? And was the Manna really so awful? Nahmanides suggests that although Pharaoh gave Israel only slave rations, the Israelite slaves would

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