Motzei Shabbos: Nasso 5781

B”H

Motzei Shabbos parashas Nasso 5781

A few thoughts, as the Shabbos kedushah diminishes, with the onset of yom rishon: And the evening and the morning were the first day of the week.

In parashas Nasso, the passage concerning the nazir, speaks of the intention of a man or woman to separate oneself to a higher degree of kedushah (holiness), by primarily abstaining from wine and other intoxicants, as well as letting one’s hair grow. The minimum requirement for this endeavor is thirty days; at the completion of the designated term, in addition to receiving a haircut, the nazir would bring several offerings (in Hebrew, “korban”), including a sin offering.


Although there are various commentaries on the reason for bringing a sin offering, this is the one that I prefer above all of the others. Ramban, Nachmanides, comments that the nazir would have best served his own intentions to live in a manner that would bring him closer to G-d, if he remained a nazir, rather than only becoming a nazir for a limited amount of time. For his decision to enter back into the world, where he will once again partake of worldly pleasures, he must needs bring a sin offering. This is the position of the Ramban, one of the most authorative Rabbinical voices in Judaism today; although, he lived in the 13th Century.


How much moreso, today, when egotistical desires, and the profligation of worldly pleasures abound as normative in a modern society that typifies indulgence as the norm? We do not need to take a Nazirite vow, in order to abstain from the abnormal standards of the world; abnormal, because they are mostly antithetical to Torah. However, we can make an effort to diminish the impact of the yetzer hara (evil inclination) upon our soul; rather than tuning into the zeitgeist, I would recommend opening our eyes to the wondrous words of the wisdom of G-d.

The Encampment

Motzei Shabbos: parashas Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1 – 4:20)

“The Children of Israel shall encamp, every man at his camp and every man at his banner, according to their legions.”  – Numbers 1:52

A census is taken. Each of the twelve tribes of Israel is counted separately. With the establishment of the Mishkan (Sanctuary), all the tribes have a central focus.  Because of this centrality in regard to the tabernacle, each tribe would pool together its talents for the sake of Israel’s purpose of service to the L-RD.

The Levites “were not counted among them” (Numbers 1:47).  For they were appointed “over the Tabernacle of Testimony, over all of its utensils and over everything that belongs to it” (Numbers, 1:50).  They were also in charge of rebuilding the sanctuary, and taking it down, whenever the Children of Israel moved to a new location in the wilderness, during those forty years of traveling in the desert.

“He found him in a desert land, and in the waste, a howling wilderness; He compassed him about, He cared for him, He kept him as the apple of His eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10, JPS 1917 Tanach). Rashi comments, “There He surrounded them and encompassed them with the “clouds of Glory”; He surrounded them with the banners on their four sides” (Rashi; sefaria.org).

The tribes were encamped around the Sanctuary: three tribes in each direction.  The Levites were along three of the sides of the Mishkan. And, “those who encamped before the Tabernacle to the front, before the Tent of Meeting to the east, were Moses and Aaron and his sons, guardians of the charge of the sanctuary” (Numbers 3:38).

Central to the entire formation, was the Ark of the Covenant in the Mishkan.  The Shechinah would rest in between the golden cherubim that were made from a single piece of gold on top of the Ark.  This is the continuation of G-d’s voice at Sinai; the Ark housed the commandments that were given by Him. His voice may still be heard today through the words of scripture, as well as within the silence of the heart.

motzei Shabbos: parasha Tazria-Metzora 5781

 “Tell the children of Israel, ‘if a woman conceives and gives birth to a boy.’”

– Leviticus 12:2

A literal rendering of the verse would be “a woman will conceive, and she gave birth to a male child.” Notice the switch in the verb tense from future to past tense. Ohr HaChayim explains that this is meant to draw our attention to the verse. For, it is a general principle, in regard to Torah study, that such a striking use of verb tenses implies a meaning, beyond the literal rendering of the verse. He notes, that there are various reasons given; yet, one implication concerning this passage is in regard to Moshiach (Messiah):

The use of the past tense, infers reference to an event sure to occur, as if it already happened. Moreover, when H’Shem says, “speak to the Children of Israel,” this is referring to B’nei Yisrael from whom Moshiach will be born; i.e., in plain language, the woman who will conceive is Israel from whom Moshiach will be born. “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee [Moses]; and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him” (Deuteronomy 18:18, JPS 1917 Tanach).

motzei Shabbos: erev Pesach 5781

The redemption of B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) began on Shabbos, specifically, the tenth of Nissan. That Shabbos, later, became known as Shabbat HaGadol. What was so special about the Tenth of Nissan? That day was when the Children of Israel were commanded to bring a lamb into each and every one of their homes. “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying: In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household” (Exodus 12:3, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Why was this the beginning of the Redemption for B’nei Yisrael? Because the lamb was to be the first national offering, made by each and every family, for the sake of using the blood of the lamb as a sign, placed upon the doorposts and lintels of their homes. The blood would serve as a sign, whereby, “the L-RD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side-posts, the L-RD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you” (Exodus 12:23).

And, so, the tenth plague, the slaying of the first born, was not enacted upon the Children of Israel. They were spared, because of their emunah (faith) in H’Shem, that compelled them to carry out the commandment, regarding the Pesach lamb. They had been further commanded, “none of you shall go out of the door of his house until the morning” (Exodus 12:23).

“Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee; hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.”
– Isaiah 26:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

Negative Thoughts

B”H

Motzei Shabbos: parashas Vayikra 5781

“If one’s offering [korban] is an elevation offering [olah]” – Leviticus 1:3

The Hebrew word korban, meaning “offering,” is derived from the shoresh (root word) KRV, meaning “to draw near.” Thus it is implied that an offering serves “to bring us closer to G-d as well as to elevate us” (R’ Hirsch). The olah (elevation offering) has the potential to raise the spiritual level of the person who brings that offering. R’ Hirsch further comments that the offering’s name reflects its purpose, which is to raise its owner from the status of a sinner and bring him to a state of spiritual elevation. Additionally, the olah is brought by someone who seeks to repent of sinful thoughts that have not actually been enacted.  The olah offering  may serve as an atonement for those negative thoughts, that seem to involuntary present themselves at times in a person’s mind. This would include the imagination; especially, if one permits the imagination to entertain these negative thoughts.

It is interesting to note that the righteous Iyov (Job; Ezekiel 14:20, Job 1:1), “would rise early in the morning, and offer burnt offerings [pl., olot, from olah]” for his children, because he said to himself, “it may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed G-d in their hearts” (Job 1:5, Tanach). Iyov made olah offerings for his children, on a continual basis, always after the days of their feasting (see Job 1:4-5). How much more so, should we in our own lives ask forgiveness of G-d for the sinful thoughts in our hearts.

motzei Shabbos: Tapestry of Life

Nissan 1, 5781

Our thoughts may be woven together, in order to form a tapestry in this life. The nature of our thoughts will determine the quality of the tapestry. In regard to the paroches (partition) that separated between the area where the Ark was kept and the less holy area of the Mikdash (sanctuary), consider the variety of materials used, “blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen; with cherubim the work of the skilful workman shall it be made” (26:31, JPS 1917 Tanach).

According to the Talmud, the craftsmen “embroidered the place where they had designed” (Yoma 72b). Thus, first a pattern was made on the material, then they embroidered the design. Our thoughts surface first in our mind; these thoughts may be likened to a pattern that is based upon our soul; therefore, the design that is eventually woven in our lives is a reflection of who we are.

Yet, are personalities may often influence the overall design, either positively or negatively, dependent on what kind of other thoughts occupy our minds. If only the true light of the soul could shine through, irrespective of our own limiting factors, we would be able to create a beautiful tapestry in our lives, unimpeded by our faults, character defects, and aveiros (sins).

The soul is constructed, inasmuch that our lower nature may interfere with our higher aspirations; the challenges in our lives to succeed, despite our yetzer hara (evil inclination) makes all the difference. In Freudian terms, our life giving side, eros is opposed by thanatos. Therefore, like skilled crafts persons, we need to discern positive from negative, right from wrong, and light from darkness.

On an additional note, in regard to our thoughts, the tapestry we weave separates to some degree, between our inner sanctuary (the depths of our mind), and the persona we present to the world. Only behind the paraoches (partition) of our soul, are we intimately connected to H’Shem, in like manner that the Ark of the Covenant rested within the Kadosh Kadoshim (Holy of Holies).

motzei Shabbos: Ki Tisa 5781

B”H

Motzei Shabbos: parashas KI Tisa – Wholeness

“This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-shekel by the sanctuary weight—twenty gerahs to the shekel—a half-shekel as an offering to the L-RD.” – Exodus 30:13

The census characterizes a concept, in regard to identity, inasmuch that a half shekel denotes a lack, in and of itself, since it is only half of the whole; thus, each Israelite in giving a half shekel in order to be included in the census taken for K’lal Yisrael, must needs to acknowledge his or her deficiencies. Only by making up for the difference between our real self, and our ideal self, can we become whole. In this specific case, regarding the census, as an atonement for the sin of the golden calf, the half shekel atones for the decreased spiritual level of the soul that occurred as a result of this sin.

R’Bachya speaks of the “dual-duty of the Jew to look after both his body and his soul,” thus implying the need to be aware of both spiritual as well as material needs; furthermore, within the context of the half shekel offered as an atonement for the individual souls of Israel, as recompense for the transgression of the eigel – golden calf – the half shekel represents the need to make up the difference in what each soul spiritually lacked at the time of that debacle. In fact, there was an overindulgence of material pleasures committed along with the idolatry.

Only three thousand were executed as those who were brazen enough not to stand down from their revely, when Moses returned; yet, all 600,000 souls, were guilty, inasmuch that they did not attempt to prevent the idolatry. This is akin to the bystander of evil, who permits bad things to happen, not exactly through participation of that evil; rather, through not speaking out against the evil. And, so all the people needed to make an atonement for the souls, that had become deficient on a spiritual level; having been complicit, their spiritual status was decreased, and could only be elevated again through the census –  tisa es rosh (to lift up the head), or elevate the soul.

motzei Shabbos: Tetzaveh 5781

B”H

Motzei Shabbos: parashas Tetzaveh 5781

“And Aaron shall burn thereon incense of sweet spices; every morning, when he dresseth the lamps, he shall burn it.” – Exodus 30:7, JPS 1917 Tanach

In like manner that the menorah was lit every evening, the incense were burnt every morning in the Sanctuary. The light may be understood to represent the wisdom of G-d. “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law” (Psalm 119:18, JPS). The smoke of the incense is symbolic of prayers. We should keep a light burning in our heart, in the evenings; all throughout the night, staying focused on G-d; and, in the morning, ideally to rise early, in order to offer up our prayers to Him.

motzei Shabbos: Terumah 5781

B”H

Motzei Shabbos: parashas Terumah 5781

“Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.” – Exodus 25:2, JPS 1985 Tanach

The sin of the golden calf preceded the building of the mishkan (tabernacle). The gold used to build the calf, was contributed by the men, who gathered the earrings for the cause of making an idolatrous calf. “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me” (Exodus 32:2, JPS 1985 Tanach). When Moses returned from on top of Sinai, he shattered the tablets upon discerning the idolatrous revelry focused on the golden calf; thus, in effect, the covenant was symbolically broken upon its intended reception (Jeremiah 31:32). Incidentally, the covenant was not renewed, until Moshe spent another forty days on the mountain; and, brought down the second set of tablets.

Yet, first, Moshe pleaded on behalf of B’nei Yisrael for H’Shem to forgive their descent into idolatry. Moreover, it can be understood that even before the actual transgression, the remedy for the sin had already been given to Moshe on the mountain, when he received the instructions regarding all of the details for the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). For, “the Tabernacle was a form of atonement for the sin of the golden calf” (Or HaChayim, JT Shekalim 1:5, sefaria.org).

The collection itself of the materials for the construction of the mishkan served as a form of repentance; inasmuch that the collection was designated as a free will offering; this reflects the nature of teshuvah (repentance). Or HaChayim explains that this is the reason why the collection was not made mandatory; instead, everyone contributed of their own free will, inclination, and what their heart compelled them to give; otherwise, “they would not enjoy the atonement for their participation in the sin of the golden calf” (Or HaChayim, sefaria.org).

The essential nature of the Mishkan reveals a hint as to why this type of repentance led towards reconciliation with H”Shem. The Mishkan is where H’Shem’s presence dwelt, in a visible way when the clouds of glory would hover over the Tabernacle. There is an inherent transition enacted amongst the people, from idolatry to the worship of H’Shem, indicated by the difference between them freely contributing gold for the golden calf; versus giving freely from their heart for the tabernacle that will enable the worship of H’Shem. We may also make that transition in our lives, from the idolatry of the modern world, towards the everlasting values given to us at Sinai.

motzei Shabbos: Mishpatim 5781

Imagine what the first Shabbos was like, after G-d created the heavens and earth. A project like none other that existed at that time; a project that will only be given a complete renewal upon the appearance of the new heavens and the new earth (Isaiah 65:17). Abraham Heschel explains that when we observe Shabbos, we are celebrating the creation of the world, to the extent that we may even take part in the renewal of the seventh day. Perhaps, this may be envisioned as actually entering that space that Heschel refers to as “an island in time.”

In parashas Mishpatim, a reminder to keep the Sabbath is given, immediately following the commandment about the Shemitah year. The juxtaposition of this reminder with the commandment in regard to the Shemitah cycle is important: what is the implication? The seventh year when the land is permitted to lie fallow, follows six years of work on the land. This cycle is akin to the day of rest that follows a six day work week. Both of these observances point towards the Millennial Sabbath, that follows six thousand years of history.

In like manner that during the first six years of the Shemitah cycle, the land is sown, and produce is gathered, the same may be true in regard to the six thousand years of history. G-d’s divine plan is continuously sown through His words, and hashgacha (guidance). The Shemitah year may be likened to the abundance of blessings that will be poured out upon us, when we are gathered into the land of Israel. The Sabbath also points towards these blessings, inasmuch that chazal explain we can even get a glimpse of Olam Haba (the World to Come) on Shabbos.