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Do you have a Dvar Torah you would like to share on KosherPages?

If so we would love to include it, please use our contact form to send it through to us.


Ki Tavo

Wednesday, 18th September 2019

The verse states "VeSamto Bateneh" - "You shall place the Bikkurim - first fruits - in a basket". What is the significance of the baskets? Isn't it the giving away of the first and best fruits that is the proof of the farmers' self sacrifice and the important factor?
 
The answer is so as not to embarrass the poor.
Our Sages tell us that the wealthy people would bring their Bikkurim in golden baskets, the Kohanim - Priests - would remove the fruits and return the baskets to them, as opposed to the poor who would bring it in wicker baskets which the Kohanim kept along with the fruit. Why did the Kohanim return the baskets to the wealthy who did not need their baskets, and keep the poor man's basket?
The Commentaries explain, this was in order not to shame the poor. The wealthy gave expensive, beautiful fruit. Even when not in the golden basket the fruit looked impressive. Therefore the Kohanim returned the baskets to them. On the other hand, the poor gave lower quality fruit. If the fruit would have been removed from the basket, the poor man would be embarrassed. Therefore the Kohanim kept their fruit and the baskets. Hence the reason for bringing the fruit in the baskets

Ki Seitze

Thursday, 12th September 2019

In this week’s Torah portion, the Torah prohibits marrying an Ammonite or a Moabite for all generations even after conversion. LO YAVO AMONI UMO’AVI BIKHAL HASHEM, “An Ammonite or a Moabite may not enter into the assembly of Hashem (G-d)”. (Deut. 23,4) The reason given is that when the children of Israel were on their way to the Promised Land these two nations refused to provide them with bread and water, the two greatest necessities for sustaining life.

There were nations who enslaved Jews and nations who went to war against Jews. Some were not forbidden to be married by Jews and some were forbidden only for a number of generations. But none were forbidden forever as were the Ammonites and Moabites. Why? 

The Sages tell us that there are three important distinguishing characteristics of Jews. Jews are merciful, bashful and charitable. The Ammonites and Moabites demonstrated that they are neither merciful nor charitable. While other people who convert to Judaism may eventually become part of the Jewish fold, individuals of these two nations lack the basic characteristics needed to fit into our people. Conversion will not transform them into true Jews.

Jews have these beautiful traits. They have demonstrated throughout history their desire to help others in need. They have been the greatest contributors to charity. They have always felt for the underdog. They have always demonstrated these traits and never sought credit for doing so. This distinguishes Jews above other people. 

Shoftim

Tuesday, 3rd September 2019

In our parsha (Torah reading for this week) we are commanded (18:13) ‘be complete (tamim) with HaShem (G-d), your God.’ What does this mean and involve? 

Rashi writes that we are not to go looking into what the future will hold, but rather just accept everything with full trust and faith in HaShem; He takes care of us. 

This explains the connection to the next few psukim (verses), which deplores the use of magic (something often used to predict or find out the future). 

The Chofetz Chaim highlights that it only says that one must fully trust HaShem - it does not extend the same level of trust to fellow humans. This means, as the Chofetz Chaim explains, that one is not to be naïve in trusting everyone; before relying on someone, make sure they are trustworthy - one cannot merely fully assume so from the outset. 

Va'eschanan

Thursday, 15th August 2019

The posuk (verse) (6:5) commands that you shall love HaShem (G-d) with "all" your heart (be’chol levavcha), which Rashi reveals refers to loving HaShem with both your inclinations; the yezter hatov (good inclination) and the yetzer hara (evil inclination). How can one possibly use the yetzer hara - that force which attempts to hijack one’s spirituality and pull one away from HaShem - for good? 
In Alei Shur (page 35), Rabbi Wolbe quotes Rabbi Tzaddok HaKohen who writes that the area with which the yetzer hara tests/entices a person is that same area where we have the greatest potential for growth in serving HaShem. 

For example, one might have a big yetzer hara test to say brochos (blessings over food) really quickly and get on to eating the food - here Rabbi Tzaddok is telling us that since the yetzer hara is attacking your area of brochos, it must be that you have great potential to say brochos properly and with the correct intentions and mindset. 

It is much like war; the enemy will focus their attention on attacking the area most potent and useful to the other side. So too will the yetzer hara attack each person’s individual strength and area of growth - and this area will be different for each individual for each person has their own unique strengths. 

Rabbi Wolbe comments on this that we learn from here that one is not to merely ignore one’s yetzer hara, but to confront it and realise one’s area of greatest potential. Thus, this is one way we can use our yetzer haras for the positive - by noticing which area they attack and thus using it to identify our strongest area of growth.  

Alternatively, one can use the yetzer hara to fuel one’s performance of mitzvos (positive commandments). For example, if you are competitive by nature then use this to become better at learning Torah than the next person. Or, if you are stingy then use this to motivate you to commit to give a certain sum of money to charity. 

Each bad middah (character trait) can be turned round to spur on and promote the development of a positive middah or mitzvos.

Mattos Massei

Thursday, 1st August 2019

At the beginning of Chapter 32, the Torah tells us that the Tribes of Reuven and Gad desired to settle not in Eretz Yisrael (Israel), but on the side of the River Jordan that they stood on. These two Shevatim (Tribes) had an abundance of cattle and believed that this was good grazing land. 

They went to Moshe (Moses) and asked his permission to settle there, promising that they would join the other Shevatim in conquering Eretz Yisrael before they settled down. 

The Chumash tells us that they asked permission to build holdings for their cattle and cities for their families. When Moshe responds to them he reverses the order and tells them to build cities for their families and holdings for their cattle . 

Why did Moshe reverse the order of their words? Moshe was teaching the Shevatim and us a life lesson. He told them that their families must come before their businesses. First, set up cities for your families and then set up boundaries for your businesses. 

Pinchos

Thursday, 25th July 2019

 

"And the Almighty said unto Moshe (Moses), 'Take Yehoshua (Joshua), the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit and place your hand upon him (to designate him as the leader)." (Bamidbar 27:18).

Rashi, writes regarding this verse: "Appoint a man to announce the laws loudly for Yehoshua so that he shall expound the Law during your lifetime; so that people shall not say concerning him, "he was not able to lift his head during the days of Moshe." 

What do we learn from this? We must do all that we can to strengthen the power of Torah leadership. The Almighty - and Moshe - wanted to ensure that the Jewish People had a leader to succeed Moshe who they would follow. Thus Moshe wanted his successor appointed before he died. He also wanted Joshua to publicly teach Torah in his presence to demonstrate that Moshe sanctioned and approved of Joshua's position. This was a great kindness to both Joshua and the Jewish people! 
The renowned Rabbi Akiva Eiger once visited Nicholsburg. Rabbi Mordechai Benet, the Rabbi of the city, honored Rabbi Eiger by asking him to deliver a lecture in Jewish law to his congregants on Shabbos.  

In the middle of the lecture, Rabbi Benet interrupted with a question which seemed to upset Rabbi Eiger's entire argument. After a short pause, Rabbi Eiger descended from the pulpit, vanquished. 
 After the service, Rabbi Benet begged Rabbi Eiger for his forgiveness. With a smile, Rabbi Eiger disclosed that he really knew the answer to the question. 

"But, why didn't you tell me in the synagogue that I was in error?" asked Rabbi Benet. 

"I did not want to belittle you in the eyes of your congregation," replied Rabbi Eiger. "After all, you are their leader; they look up to you. I am only a passerby; my reputation is inconsequential." 

If a great rabbi can forgo his own honour to strengthen the honour of another, then how much more so shouldn’t we be able to also forgo our own honour for the honour of others?

Bolok

Thursday, 18th July 2019

The basic outline of the main part of our sedra (Torah portion) this week is that Balak hires a prophet/professional ‘curser’ called Bilam, to curse the Jewish nation.  However, after several failed attempts at cursing, the Jews are in fact blessed by Bilam, and the danger is averted.  Indeed, there was a real danger involved had Bilam been successful; the Gemorro (Talmud) reveals that Bilam knew the exact tiny fraction of a second in the day when HaShem (G-d) ‘is angry’ and accepts curses, and to prevent Bilam being successful, HaShem closed this window of opportunity.

If one thinks about the events objectively, there should be no natural way for the Jewish people to have known of Bilam’s attempted curses.  How would they know? There were two people on faraway mountains gazing at the Israelites and trying to utter curses. In fact, the Chassam Sofer writes that until the Jewish people received the complete Torah at Moshe’s (Moses's) death, the Jewish nation did not know anything about what Bilam and Balak had conspired to bring about.

This is all part of HaShem’s kindness to us; not only does He save us from precarious or dangerous situations, but He often does so without our knowledge; only later do we find out.  Thus, not only are we saved from the danger itself, but we are saved the anguish at having to worry about the danger (for we did not even know about the danger in the first place). 
 
The Brisker Rav (the Rabbi of Brisk) used to convey this message via Tehillim (the Psalms). We say in Tehillim (Psalm) 117 (and hallel) ‘all the nations will praise HaShem for the kindness He has done to us (the Jews).’  Asks the Brisker Rav; why is it that specifically the non-Jews are praising HaShem for the kindness He shows to us? He answers that often the non-Jews had plotted against the Jews, and HaShem prevented these plans from coming to fruition.  Thus, the non-Jews were in the best position to recognise HaShem's kindness to us, but we - who didn’t even know there was a plot, let alone that it was foiled - would not realise what was done to be able to thank HaShem for it.

Chukat

Friday, 12th July 2019

 

Chukat - Losing Miriam

Please click the image below to read this week's Dvar Torah 

from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

 

 

 

Korach

Thursday, 4th July 2019

This week's Torah portion tells the story of Korach's dispute with Moshe. The Mishna in Pirke Avos 5:20 states :
"Any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven will be of lasting worth and a dispute not for the sake of Heaven will not be of lasting worth. 
Which dispute was for the sake of Heaven? That of Hillel and Shamai. Which was not for the sake of Heaven? That of Korach and his company."

The Mishna should have said that the dispute not for the sake of Heaven was that of Korach and Moshe, not between Korach and his fellow conspirators! Why then does the Mishna mention that a dispute not for the sake of Heaven is the one between "Korach and his company"? 

We might think that Korach and his company were united in their argument with Moshe. The Mishna is telling us that each of the 250 were challenging Moshe for his own gain (each one brought incense to see if he himself would be chosen as the Kohen Godol - High Priest.) In truth, Korach and his congregation were in dispute amongst themselves as to who should be the High Priest. 
Korach and his company weren't in one dispute against Moshe which may have been a heavenly dispute, they were in a dipute of their own for pride and honour. When we go through our lives with daily disputes we may face, what is the real reason for these disputes, is it personal honour, pride or for any other personal gain or is the dispute a heavenly dispute?

Shelach Lecha

Friday, 28th June 2019

It was perhaps the single greatest collective failure of leadership in the Torah. Ten of the spies whom Moses had sent to spy out the land came back with a report calculated to demoralize the nation.

“We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large … We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are …

This was nonsense, and they should have known it. They had left Egypt, the greatest empire of the ancient world, after a series of plagues that brought that great country to its knees. They had crossed the seemingly impenetrable barrier of the Red Sea. They had fought and defeated the Amalekites, a ferocious warrior nation.

They should have known that the people of the land were afraid of them, not the other way round.

Only Joshua and Caleb among the twelve showed leadership. They told the people that the conquest of the land was eminently achieveable because G-d was with them. The people did not listen. But the two leaders received their reward. They alone of their generation lived to enter the land.

One of the fundamental tasks of any leader from president to parent is to give people a sense of confidence. A leader must have faith in the people he or she leads, and inspire that faith in them. “Leadership is not about the leader, it is about how he or she builds the confidence of everyone else.”

A law of self-fulfilling prophecy applies in the human arena. Those who say, “We cannot do it” are probably right, as are those who say, “We can.” If you lack confidence you will lose. If you have it – solid, justified confidence based on preparation and past performance – you will win. Not always, but often enough to triumph over setbacks and failures.

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