A group of more than 20 of my family members recently got together in Las Vegas to celebrate the 60th birthday of my dear aunt. While there, I found myself in the poker room at a hotel on the Strip. As I sat, I noticed I completed the “minyan” of 10 adult poker players at our table.
We read in this week’s parsha, Nitzavim:
“For this commandment which I command you this day, it is not too hard for you, and it is not distant. It is not in heaven, that you should say: ‘Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say: ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).
In this week’s parsha, Shoftim, we find the ringing command that reverberates through the ages: “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). The admonition carries a special meaning for us as Jews. Indeed, the verse repeats the word “justice” twice for emphasis. Moreover, we see from the laws of weights and measures in next week’s parsha how scrupulously we must pursue justice.
This week’s parsha, Va’etchanan, derives its name (translatable as “And I beseeched”) from its opening narrative. G-d had sworn to Moshe at Merivah (Numbers 20:12) that he would lead the Jews into the Land of Israel. After Aaron had died, G-d ordered Moshe to “Ascend … Mount Abarim and see the land … and you [shall die]” (Numbers 27:12-13). This week’s parsha opens with Moshe’s account of his response to this decree.
The first of this week’s two parshiot, Matot, tells the story of Moshe’s final duty, avenging Balaam’s wicked plot to entice the Jews into licentiousness. The story takes some unusual twists, particularly in verses 2 and 5 of chapter 31. Verse 2 says that G-d told Moshe, “Avenge [the treachery to] the Children of Israel [which] the Midianites [perpetrated], and then you shall [pass away].” Moshe duly repeated the command and ordered the Jews to take “G-d’s vengeance” against Midian. Verse 5 records, “From the multitude of Israel were delivered 1,000 for each tribe [12,000 in all to go to war].” The Jews killed Balaam in the process of defeating Midian.
Sefer Bamidbar opens with the final preparations for the journey from Har Sinai (the physical setting for all of Sefer Vayikra) to the promised land. Rav Yosef Soloveitchik discusses the final preparations in his classic dvar Torah on Behaalotcha (available from Torah.org).
I used to have a class with a very successful venture capitalist. One time, I started our weekly session and instead of opening the Torah to discuss a relevant issue, I asked him if he would fund my new business.
“Many pens have been broken and seas of ink consumed to describe things that never happened.” — Maimonides
Our sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, so in order to bring about an eclipse, the moon has to be placed 400 times closer to Earth.
In an 1898 article for Harper’s Magazine, this is what Mark Twain had to say about the Jews:
A few weeks ago, my friend accidentally broke my glasses. Of course it wasn’t intentional, and she felt awful about it. Nevertheless, one moment I had functional glasses to wear; the next moment, thanks to a perfectly positioned (and delicate) impact, I was left with a broken pair that I affectionately called a monocle.
When my son was young we took a trip together. It was before 9/11 and airport security was going through the standard questions when the officer asked: “Did anyone give you anything to take?”
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- Principles From the Parsha: Korach’s Confrontation With Moshe
- The Best Things in Life Are Never Free
- Between Man and His Fellow Man: Hospitality
- Principles From the Parsha: Preparing and Cleaning the Menorah
- Principles from the Parsha: The Land Shall Observe Shabbat
- שבועות – סור מרע ועשה טוב הרב חיים עובדיה
- Does Judaism Make People Better or Worse?
- G-d’s Cosmic Joke