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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.

Sages and Saints (Naso 5779)

Thursday, 13th June 2019

 

Sages and Saints (Naso 5779)

Click the image below to read this weeks

Dvar Torah from

 

 

 

Shavuos

Tuesday, 4th June 2019

Dvar Torah - Shovuous

 

Did we really receive the Torah on Shavuos? Let's ruin the party, we did not get the Torah on Shavuos. 

Bnei Yisrael (the children of Israel) sinned with the egel hazahav (golden calf) and we did not get the Torah until the following Yom Kippur. So what are we commemorating on Shavuos? 

When Moshe (Moses) warns Bnei Yisrael not to forget Sinai (Devorim 4), he reminds them not to forget the spectacle of the lightning, thunder, and awe-striking ceremony they saw. Why does he not tell them not to forget the giving of the Ten Commandments themselves? 

The answer is that standing by Har (Mount) Sinai was to instil in us yiras HaShem (the fear of G-d), and that comes before Torah, for it dictates our ability to receive and forge a connection with the Torah and its Giver. This is what Moshe is warning the people not to forget, for it is the key to Torah.

So although we did not get the Torah until Yom Kippur, on 6th Sivan we became worthy to receive yiras HaShem - and this is what we relive on Shavuos.

Bechukosai

Thursday, 30th May 2019

Blessings are great, but curses, well no one wants to hear those. This week’s Torah portion sets out the blessings that will occur when we do the Will of our Creator, and G-d forbid the curses that will occur if we don’t.

One of the curses although bad, could seem worse. "Venastem V'einRodef - and you shall flee when no one will pursue you" (26:17). We will feel as if the enemy is chasing after us and we will flee out of fear, whilst in actual fact they won’t even be chasing us.

This is a curse but wouldn’t it be worse if they were really chasing after us? Surely it’s not so bad if at the end of the day there is no enemy really behind us?

The Rambam (Moses Ben-Maimon, called Maimonides and also known as Rambam - Hebrew acronym for "Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon", was a preeminent medieval Jewish philospher and one of the greatest Torah scholars and physicians of the Middle Ages) was the doctor of the Sultan of Egypt. He held a great position in the country and many of the other Sultans advisers were jealous. Eventually they came to the Sultan asking him to get rid of the Rambam, and place a better Arab Doctor in his stead.

The Sultan called the Rambam and the Arab Doctor and proposed a test to them. Each one was known to be a great physician and had knowledge in medicines and cures. He told them that he would give each one, a week to nurture up a poison that would be able to kill the other. Each one would also have at their disposal any medicines they wished. Whoever would die, would be the loser and the one who lived through the experience would stay on as the Sultan’s doctor.

The Arab doctor went home and started to nurture up an amazing poison, one that would be impossible to cure.

The Rambam on the other hand didn’t wish to waste his time, trying to make a poison that could kill. He had much more important things to do. He kept to his daily routine of attending to the long queue of patients waiting outside his house, and concentrating on his Torah teachings.

The final day came and the two doctors stood in front of the king. The Arab doctor gave over the poison to the Rambam. The Rambam examined it and before swallowing it made a medicine he deemed right to cure the poison. He then consumed the poison followed by the medicine. It seemed to work, but no one could be sure, as the poison might take a few hours to work on him.

Now it was the Arabs turn to consume the Rambam’s poison. But the Rambam had no interest in killing the Arab and merely gave him a cocktail of some food he had nurtured for the occasion.
Looking at it with great focus the Arab Doctor couldn’t define which "poison" it was. Perhaps the Rambam had managed to make some kind of super poison, one whose cure did not yet exist. After a few minutes of examination, he too made a concoction of medicine to counter the "poison". He consumed both the food and the medicine. He saw that nothing happened to him and he was amazed. He was happy with his medicine, but he didn’t underestimate the Rambam.

He started to think that perhaps the Rambam's poison only takes effect when a person eats meat. He decided not to eat meat. After a few hours he saw that the poison still hadn’t reached its climax. He said perhaps it’s not to do with meat, perhaps it’s to do with eating wheat. He decided not to eat wheat.

He stayed like this for a few days, until one day the Rambam met him in the street. The Rambam was concerned to see the Doctor looking so pale and started to ask him how he was doing and feeling. Then the Rambam asked him how he felt after he drank milk. The Arabs face turned red, and he thought that the Rambam meant that with milk the poison was supposed to take full effect. He had just drank a glass of milk, and was so concerned that due to his weak status he had a heart attack and died. The king heard that the other doctor had died, and called for the Rambam to be brought to him.

Wow, I knew you were a great physician, but I didn’t realise you knew how to make poison last for so many days before working and killing the man. The Rambam answered the king and told him that he was no killer. Rather the man had died due to his own weakness and anxiety.

Is imagination good or bad? It depends – if we use our imagination to form worlds to create our ideas and fulfil our destiny it is an awesome act. If however we use it to fool ourselves, to convince ourselves of a false world and to place importance in the wrong direction – it could be a curse.

The Torah states that one of the worst curses is to run when no one is really chasing. To imagine people are there, and they really are not. To live in constant fear when there is no need too. Sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where our business affairs, and the outside world pretend to chase us, our imagination is let loose and we charge great importance to these to the extent that we can make ourselves ill and die.

Behar

Wednesday, 22nd May 2019

The first half of Behar deals with various laws regarding "Shmita" . In short, the commandment of "Shmitta" is that in the 7th year all agricultural activities ceases, and the land of Israel lies fallow.

The land will give its fruit and you will eat to satisfaction...And if you will say ‘What will I eat in the seventh year? – Behold, we will not sow and we will not gather our crops’, I will ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year and it will yield a crop sufficient for three years (25:19-21)

Hashem (G-d) promises that if someone keeps the Shmitta year by not harvesting his field or gathering crops, he will be blessed in the year preceding the Shmitta and he will reap enough food to last the next three years.  From the verse quoted above it sounds like Hashem is giving a blessing to someone who does not trust fully in Him.  What is the explanation of these verses?

Rashi explains that the blessing of “satisfaction” that one receives from observing the Shmitta is that “even within the stomach there will be in it a blessing”, which means that one will be satiated after eating only a small amount. When the Torah then says “And if you will say ‘What will I eat in the seventh year?’” and continues to detail the blessing, one will note that the blessing is that there will be “crop sufficient for the three years”. 

The Sforno explains that any person who keeps Shmitta will be blessed with enough to eat for three years.  However, the initial blessing of “even within the stomach there will be in it a blessing” is reserved for someone who trusts in Hashem and does not question His ways.  This person will see the same small crop for one year but find that it lasts him three years.  If however, he questions Hashem and asks ‘What will I eat in the seventh year? – Because he kept the Shmitta, he still receives the blessing of having enough to eat for the three years, but when this person will receive enough crop in the first year to last for three years, he will receive the quantity of three years worth of food.  This person will have to work three times as hard on all of his fields in the sixth year, whereas the person who trusts in Hashem will not even have to work any harder in the sixth year and he will receive the same amount (qualitatively) as the one who questioned Hashem.

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