Lessons From the Spies

Written by Rabbi Hyim Shafner on . Posted in Torah

In this week’s Torah portion, Shelach, the Jewish people have completed the short trek from Mount Sinai to the Land of Israel. G-d tells them to send the heads of each tribe to scope out the land. After 40 days, the spies return. Ten of the spies bring back a bad report, and though two spies assure the people that with G-d’s help they will be able to go into the Promised Land, the Jewish people, in their cowardice, follow the 10. As a result, they are doomed to spend 40 years in the desert until a new generation of Jews, born in the desert, comes to Israel.

A Blessing That Brings Us Together

Written by Rabbi Dr. Avidan Milevsky on . Posted in Torah

In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, the Torah further describes the travels of the Jewish people in the desert toward Israel and the specific form taken by each tribe along this journey. Midway through the portion, the Torah inserts six seemingly unrelated verses. The disjointed section discusses the commandant of the priestly blessings, Birkat Kohanim. The Torah describes G-d’s commandment to Moshe to speak to Aaron and his children and instruct them in blessing the Jewish people. This was a blessing said in the Temple, and is recreated during our contemporary prayer service on a daily basis in Israel and in exile during the holidays.

What the Talmud Tells Us About Caring for Our Parents

Written by Frank Solomon on . Posted in Torah

The Sages have a lot to say about the difference between dignifying our parents and revering them.

On April 21 at Congregation Har Tzeon Agudath-Achim in Silver Spring, Maryland, Howard Gleckman delivered a lecture on the Jewish view regarding caring for one’s parents, based on Jewish textual sources. Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, is the author of “Caring for Our Parents: Inspiring Stories of Families Seeking New Solutions to America’s Most Urgent Health Care Crisis.”

The Shiva House of a Fallen Soldier on Yom Hazikaron

Written by Rabbi Dr. Avidan Milevsky on . Posted in Torah

In one of the most quoted verses in the Torah, we are commanded in this week’s portion to love our contemporaries as we love ourselves (Leviticus 19:18). In fact, the great Rabbi Akiva notes that this dictum is the greatest instruction of the Torah.

The Ten Plagues and the Seder

Written by Uncle Dovie on . Posted in Torah

What were the makos, the 10 plagues? Were they what Albert Camus describes in his book, “The Plague,” the bubonic type that swept through his French town killing the populace? No, of course not. The plague that slew the first born was selective. It didn’t kill the other brothers and sisters, only the firstborn. It wasn’t contagious, and it happened all at the same time, at the stroke of midnight.

Between G-d and the Devil

Written by Rabbi Haim Ovadia on . Posted in Torah

We were taught to believe that the text of the Torah is economical and succinct, and that Torah and redundancy are mutually exclusive. We therefore cannot but wonder why the Torah is so verbose when describing the construction of the Tabernacle.

Gambling on the Game of Life

Written by Editor on . Posted in Torah

If we require someone to attend driving school before he is allowed to drive, and flying school before he is allowed to fly, why don’t we require every human being to attend a “school of life”?

All You Need Is Love

Written by Rabbi Stephen Baars on . Posted in Torah

Believe it or not, there is no specific mitzvah (commandment) to love your parents. You don’t have to love your spouse either — although it’s a good idea — nor are you commanded to love your children. In fact, there is no specific requirement that you even like them very much.

Matzah: Food or Slavery?

Written by Rabbi Stephen Baars on . Posted in Torah

“This is the bread of affliction that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.”

We raise the matzah to announce that we are going to relive the experience of the Jews in Egypt. Try to imagine: What was it like being a slave in Egypt?

The Journey of Life

Written by Rabbi Stephen Baars on . Posted in Torah

“For the cloud of the Lord was upon the Mishkan [Tabernacle] by day, and there was fire within it at night, before the eyes of the entire house of Israel in all their journeys” (Exodus: 40, 38).

H-O-N-O-R

Written by Rabbi Stephen Baars on . Posted in Torah

In this week’s parsha, the Torah describes one of the garments of the high priest (kohen gadol) as having lots of bells sown around its base (Exodus 28:33). Most would consider that alone to be strange enough, but the parsha also informs us that the high priest’s garments are designed specifically to exhibit “honor and beauty” (ibid. 28:2). Being British, it’s hard for me to imagine the Queen of England opening Parliament wearing a bell. So, why the bells, and what does this have to do with honor?

The solution to this riddle is found in understanding honor. For many, attaining honor is something of an enigma. You have probably encountered people who think they are entitled to more honor than perhaps they deserve. These people demand that their name be pronounced properly at all times, that they get a seat commensurate with their “station” in life, and other conspicuously little (or sometimes not so little) details.

Our Sages tell us “He who chases honor will have honor flee from him.” In other words, the more we demand respect, the less we get it. Honor comes from respecting others. As Ben Zoma (Pirkei Avot 4:1) explains, “Who is the one to be honored, the one who honors others.”

What do clothes of honor look like?

As our Sages explain, the high priest would wear bells to alert people of his presence in advance so that he would never walk in on someone unexpectedly and potentially make him feel uncomfortable. In fact, our Sages say even a person in his own home should knock before entering a room for the same reason.

The more we value, respect, and honor others, the more honor returns to us. That is true honor, bell or no bell.

By Rabbi Stephen Baars

 Originally from London, Rabbi Stephen Baars resides in Rockville, Maryland, and serves as executive director of Aish Seminars. An educator and marriage counselor for the past 25 years, Rabbi Baars and his wife, Ruth, are blessed with seven children. Learn more about Rabbi Baars at www.getbliss.com and www.core9.live.