הכנעה

Shavua Tov. Korach tried to undermine Moshe Rabbeinu by taking various laws in the Torah and showing their foolishness. An important lesson is to be learned from this.

It appears that Hashem intended for us to observe specific Mitzvot that do seem illogical or not to make sense according to our intellect. He wanted to teach us the importance of הכנעה, or surrender.

Unlike Greek culture that believes there is great power in one's intellect, Judaism emphasizes that we must be constantly aware of our dependence on Hashem. We must also be aware of our own vulnerability. We may have the greatest plans, but they will not come to fruition if Hashem doesn't want them to.

It's easy to laugh and make fun of our system of laws and customs. And it is far more difficult to observe them. However, if we are able to submit with הכנעה, we will be elevated spiritually as we show that our dependence is on G-d and not man.

We have another day of Rosh Chodesh. Chodesh Tov.

קנאה תאוה כבוד

The של״ה הקודש divides the players in the קרח rebellion into three parts with three different motivations. Korach was driven by קנאה, jealousy. He felt that he was deserving of Aharon's position which caused him to make fun of the Mitzvot.

Datan and Aviram, were among the few individuals who were childless in Egypt. This was when most families were having multiple births. This contributed to their greediness or תאוה. They joined the rebellion because they were desirous of personal gain.

The 250 men that joined Korach were motivated by כבוד, honor. They wanted the glory of being able to offer incense similar to Nadav and Avihu. They were seeking a certain spiritual high but they were unauthorized to do so.

Only Korach and Datan and Aviram were swallowed up by the earth. The 250 were burned to death like Aharon's two sons.

Behind all of this we see the statement of the Mishna proven true. That is, קנאה, תאוה, כבוד, מוציאים את האדם מן העולם, jealousy, lust, and honor, remove a person from the world. Shabbat Shalom

Jealousy

The message of פרשת קרח that seems to really stick out, is the danger of what jealousy can bring. Korach had wealth and honor but did not have the position held by Moshe and Aharon.

The אור החיים הקודש speaks about how one should focus on love and stay away from שנאה, or hatred. He explains that there are many reasons why one may be overcome with hatred towards another person. Most of them are not justified and some are able to be remedied. For example, if one caused another monetary loss or bodily harm, he can fix it with compensation for the loss or an apology. But in the words of the אור החיים,  a שנאה מחמת קנאה, hatred because of jealousy, is by far the most difficult to overcome.

One needs to realize how קנאה, jealousy, is a horrible, negative, character trait. It prevents an individual from being happy. No matter how much he has and how content he should be, the focus and obsession with another person, gives him no peace of mind.

We must learn from the mistake of Korach, and not look at others and learn to be content with what we have.

Guard Your Tongue

When the spies gave their evil report, they began by saying, "Yes. It is a land flowing with milk and honey and here is its fruit." The Talmud in סוטה says that in order for Lashon Hara to be accepted, it must begin with some truth.

The Talmud in סנהדרין says that when someone gets a reputation as a liar, he's not even believed when he's telling the truth. All of this is to emphasize the importance of guarding our tongue.

Speech can be a very powerful and harmful tool. This is why the Rambam categorizes three types of bad speech. The first is called רכילות, which refers to idle gossip that is true and not necessarily negative. The second type is לשון הרע which is also true but very derogatory. And the third is called מוציא שם רע. This is where one lies about another individual that is most harmful.

The Chofetz Chaim said it best with his simple admonition, "Guard your tongue."

Good Intentions

There is an opinion based on the Midrash, that during the time that the spies were scouting the land, a major funeral was taking place. The claim was that there was major mourning for the saintly gentile known as איוב or Job.

Hashem's intention was to protect the spies by having the masses being preoccupied with the loss of a great leader. This way, they would not be discovered spying out the land.

They took this act of protection by Hashem in the wrong way. They spoke badly and said that it was a land that devours its inhabitants and everywhere they went, there were funerals.

The lesson here is that often we experience similar frustrations. Our good intentions are misread and are looked at in a derogatory manner. We are accused of having selfish motives when we sincerely wished to do an altruistic act.

The ארחות צדיקים reassures us by saying that even when our good intentions are seen in a negative light, Hashem knows. This knowledge should actually bring us joy because the truth wins in the end.

A Very Very Good Land

Kalev tried to quiet down the spies with their evil report with the words, טובה הארץ מאוד מאוד, that Eretz Yisrael is a very, very good land. The question asked was why "very very" and not just "very"?

There is an interesting Chassidic interpretation I heard from my good friend Rabbi Chaim Richman. The usage of this language of מאוד מאוד is also found in Pirkei Avot where it's written, הוי מאוד מאוד שפל רוח, "Be very, very humble."

The connection between the two מאוד מאוד's is the following: Only one who is exceedingly humble is able to fully appreciate the goodness of this land. His humility allows him to take in its beauty and holiness.

When one is haughty and arrogant, he is blinded and only focuses on superficialities and comforts. When comparing Israel with other places on a material level, Israel's uniqueness is not so apparent.

Being humble allows one's spiritual eyes to open and he realizes that there is no place on earth that compares with Israel, because it is a "very very" good land.

Don't Cry for Nothing

Today's Parsha discusses the tragedy of the sin of the spies. When the evil report was heard, the Torah tells us that the people cried that entire night. The commentators tell us that Jashem said," You cried for nothing. Now I will give you a reason to cry every year on this date. The date, of course was the 9th of Av, the original 9/11. ( It was on the ninth day of the eleventh month.) This was the day when many tragedies occurred in our history aside from the destruction of the two Temples.

We are to learn a lesson from this whole story. It is a terrible thing for a person to be filled with self-pity. We must always learn to look at the bright side of every situation. The idea of crying for nothing has very detrimental effects on us.

Negativity has no place in Judaism. We are to work on ourselves to drive away all of our negative thinking. It is interesting that the ארחות צדיקים views worry as the opposite of happiness.

The lesson of the spies is to always look at the positive and that we must be grateful for what we have-not what we don't have. And we must never forget that Hashem is watching over us and will never forsake us.

Blasphemy

Parshat שלח discusses the procedure for atoning for sins done unintentionally. Generally, if it was an infraction of a serious offense that carries with it a punishment of death or Karet, the atonement is a sin offering given with proper intent. This offering allows the person to be totally forgiven.

However, if one sins in a brazen, intentional manner, he has blasphemed G-d. The Torah's words are כי דבר ה׳ בזה, "for the word of G-d he has despised." The Torah goes on to explain that such a person will הכרת תיכרת, shall surely be cut off. This is the most severe Karet. He is both cut off from this world as well as the next world.

The Talmud in סנהדרין says that the Torah is referring to an אפיקורס, or heretic. Such an individual openly expresses his doubts that the Forah came from Sinai. He may also claim that some of the Torah was written by Moshe himself, without Hashem's authorization.

The description of this blasphemer, sounds very much like today's bible critics. They have the audacity to openly question the validity of the Torah. They use weak arguments by attempting to take the etymology of specific words in the Torah, like טוטפות, for example. They try to show that the word evolved hundreds of years after Sinai.

The Torah teaches that Hashem has no tolerance for such people who undermine the truth and authenticity of our holy Torah. Such people shall surely be cut off from the face of the earth. Shabbat Shalom

Hate the Glory

The more I study, the more I marvel at the wisdom of the Rabbis. In פרקי אבות it is written, אהוב את המלאכה ושנא את הרבנות. A loose translation would be, "Love the work, but hate the glory."

The Mishna points out that Yosef lived a shorter life than his brothers (only 110 years old ) because he was in the public eye and held a position of authority. The Mishna is also hinting to the fact that power corrupts.

When one is in a position of power, it is a huge challenge to remain humble and honest. This is the reason why we hear so many cases of either misuse of funds at the disposal of such a powerful person, or sexual improprieties because everything is coming to him.

The Mishna is emphasizing that working for the benefit of the community is a noble task. But we should focus on the work alone and hate the fact that certain notoriety and power may come with such work. And that could be dangerous and lead to the downfall of that person. Brilliant advice from our very wise sages.

Prophecy

Another theme of last week's Parsha, was the concept of נבואה, or prophecy. One of the Thirteen Principles of Faith of the Rambam is that G-d communicates with man by way of prophecy. And included is the belief that Moshe Rabbeinu was the greatest of all the prophets.

The Torah itself describes the nature of Moshe's prophecy in comparison with the other prophets. He was fully awake and could speak with Hashem פנים אל פנים, face to face just as two people carry on a conversation. Other prophets received their prophecy in a dream or went into what looked like an epileptic fit as they received the word of G-d.

Although prophecy ended forty years into the second Temple era, we have merited seeing the fulfillment of prophecy in our lifetimes in Israel. It saddens me that I was not able to get this idea across to the Jews of the Galut that I spoke to in LA. Somehow, they are unable to fully grasp the special times that we are living in.

Happy are we whose eyes are open that allow us to perceive Hashem's abundant blessings as He rebuilds the Third Commonwealth right before our eyes. Open prophecy will return to man with the coming of Mashiach. May he come speedily in our day.

Anti-Semitism

This past week's Parsha also had the verses related to the Holy Ark and how it traveled in the desert. This is the prayer we say when we take out the Torah in Shule.

Moshe Rabbeinu said a prayer that included the words, וינוסו משנאיך מפניך, "May Your enemies be scattered from before You." Rashi asks the question as to whom did Moshe mean when he described G-d's enemies.

Rashi answers the question by making a very strong statement. He says that anyone who hates a Jew, hates G-d. It's as if he is saying, "Jew, you are nothing and your G-d is also nothing!" It is a novel description of what is anti-semitism.

Today there are those that try to claim that they are ONLY anti-Zionist and that does not make them anti-semites. This makes no sense as I see it as a pathetic attempt to smooth over very strong anti Jewish sentiments. I rely on Rashi. One who hates a Jew, hates the G-d of Israel.

הצר הצורר אתכם

There is an expression used in yesterday's Parsha, in connection with the trumpets, the חצוצרות. When the Torah alludes to a future war, it is referred to an enemy called הצר הצורר אתכם. This is translated as "an enemy that is oppressing you. This is the only time the Torah uses such an expression in describing our enemies.

The Rambam in Hilchot Melachim defines what is a מלחמת מצוה, or an obligatory war. He says that this applies to our war with Amalek, the war with the Seven Nations, and הצר הצורר אתכם. Here we are given a clearer description of this term.

Any nation that lives among you and wishes to drive you out of the land, falls under the category of הצר הצורר אתכם. Rav Yisrael Meir Lau, the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, once said that there is no doubt that our Arab enemies are today's הצר הצורר אתכם. All of the rules of מלחמת מצוה apply in our war with them, except one.

Unlike Amalek and the Seven Nations, where the Torah commands to kill them all including women and children, this does not apply to הצר הצורר אתכם. We are commanded to defeat them in order to remove any threat to our security in our land.

Key to Success

Shavua Tov. The של״ה הקודש makes an interesting connection from the words, על פי ה׳ יחנו. על פי ה׳ יסעו, according to Hashem, they camped, and according to Hashem, they traveled. He says that this is a life lesson for whatever endeavor we might undertake.

The של״ה הקודש says that we should not make a move in life without prefacing it with a remark that indicates the following: We hope that what we are about to do meets with Hashem's approval. Our awareness of G-d must be constant, while we are involved in this project and when we have completed it.

This is such an important life lesson for success. We must never forget for one minute that no matter how good an idea looks, it will only succeed with Hashem's blessings and a constant awareness of this fact. This may seem obvious to some, but it needs to be said and emphasized emphatically.

Temple Trumpets

In this week's Parsha, we have the commandment to build two חצוצרות, or trumpets. These trumpets had many functions. Most see them as instruments to call the desert camp to order. The people learned that based on the blows of the trumpet, they would know that it was time to get organized for travel. Each of the tribes knew how to follow these trumpet sounds and they would take their place in line.

Many are not aware that these חצוצרות were used daily in the Beit Hamikdash. They were blown in the morning and evening at the time of the offering of the תמיד sacrifice. They were also blown during the Chagim and even blown together with the Shofar on Rosh Hashana.

The של״ה הקודש says that the חצוצרות were meant to combat the forces of the Kelipot, another name for evil. It was also a device to fight the יצר הרע and negative influences rampant in the world. Just as we say that the Shofar was blown to confuse the Satan, the חצוצרות were a daily call to order. When the trumpets were heard, they served as a reminder to behave and return to sanctity and holiness and distance ourselves from the impurities of the world. Shabbat Shalom

Moshe's Humility

This week's Parsha, בהעלותך, describes the humility of Moshe. I have often quoted that there is a direct correlation between greatness and humility. The more humble a person is, the greater he is. And conversely, the more arrogant a person is, the smaller he is.

The Maharal expresses this idea in a beautiful fashion. Hashem in His abundant wisdom created man in such a way that he would strive towards perfection. The soul placed in man, would long for an attachment to his Creator. He would achieve great spiritual joy by gaining more of an understanding of G-d's essence.

As he continues in this spiritual quest, the more he learns about Hashem, the more he realizes that whatever he has learned is only a drop in the bucket of Hashem's awesomeness.

This was Moshe Rabbeinu. He knew Hashem in the most intimate way known to man. Yet, the more he understood, the more he knew how limited man was in terms of G-d. This knowledge only made him more humble. This humility is what made Moshe Rabbeinu the greatest man who ever lived.

Responsibilities of the Torah Scholar

The Talmud in Yoma continues to explain the responsibility involved with becoming a תלמיד חכם, Torah scholar. First, he must be certain not to be a hypocrite. He must not be אחד בפה ואחד בלב, one thing in his heart, and the other in his mouth. He cannot be fake.

The תלמיד חכם must have strong יראת שמים, fear of Heaven. He should be able to inspire people with his unshakable faith. He must set an example as to how to deal with adversity. He accepts with love, whatever Hashem sends his way.

When we lift the Torah, we say, וזאת התורה אשר שם משה, "This is the Torah that Moshe placed before the Jewish people." The emphasis is on the word, שם which could also be spelled סם, which could mean a drug or poison. If one succeeds in his Torah study it is a סם החיים, an elixir of life. If not, it could become a סם המות, a drug of death.

Because of the power of Torah, one must use his scholarship in the best way possible.

Three Crowns

The Talmud in יומא page 72b, discusses the specialness of Torah study provided that it comes with יראת שמים, fear of Heaven. The Gemara notes that in the Beit Hamikdash, there were three vessels that had gold lattice type work on them. They looked like golden crowns on each of these vessels.

The golden crown was placed on the שלחן, the table of the showbread, as a symbol of wealth attributed to the Jewish king. This was the כתר מלוכה, the crown of the kingdom. (There is a wedding hall in Jerusalem called שלחן דוד.)

The second crown was on the small altar known as מזבח הקטורת. This symbolized the work of the Kohanim in the Temple, and the כתר כהונה. It also alluded to the twenty four gifts that the Kohein received as he performed his special role.

The third crown was on the ארון קדש, symbolizing the Torah and the כתר תורה. The Rabbis said that the כתר מלכות was reserved for kings of Davidic descent. The כתר כהונה was reserved for the descendants of Aaron. But the כתר תורה is available to all who wish to partake of it with diligence and sincerity.

It is also worth noting that in פרקי אבות it's written that the כתר שם טוב, the crown of a good name, rises above all three.

Priestly Blessing

Parshat נשא also included the ברכת כהנים. The priestly blessing begins with the words, אמור להם, "Say to them." Because the word להם is written in the plural, we only call out the word, "כהנים" if there are a minimum of two Kohanim. If there is only one Kohein present, he recites the blessing with the completion of the Bracha הטוב שמך ולך נאה להודות.

Rav Nachman Kahane once wrote that in Israel, the Kohanim bless the people about 450 times a year. And outside of Israel, around ten times.

There is something magical about ברכת כהנים. The שכינה, Divine Presence, passes through the fingers of the Kohein as he blesses the Jewish nation. For this reason, there is a prayer recited during ברכת כהנים, to nullify a very frightening dream. We should pay closer attention to the specialness of the Priestly blessing.

The Nazir

Shavua Tov. Today's פרשת נשא, discussed the Nazir, who abstains from drinking wine and cutting his hair. At the end of his period of Nazir, he offers a sin offering. Most commentators say that this is because he took too many laws upon himself.

Shimon Hatzadik was Kohein Gadol for forty years and only offered one Nazir sacrifice.

A story is told that a very handsome man saw his reflection in the water and realized for the first time how good looking he was. He became frightened that he would sin because of this. He decided to become a Nazir and was praised by Shimon Hatzaddik for his sincere efforts to stay away from sin.

We must also try to protect ourselves from sin in every situation.

Three Levels of Impurity

Greetings from Los Angeles. This week we read Parshat Nasso, which is the longest Parsha of the year. One of the subjects discussed is that there were three different degrees of טומאה, in the Beit Hamikdash.

Just like there were three camps in the desert, there were also three camps in Jerusalem. One was the Temple itself, the second was the Temple Mount, and the third was Jerusalem itself within the city walls.

The first type of טומאה or impurity, was called טומאת מת, coming in contact with the dead. Such an individual had to remain outside only one of the camps. The של״ה הקודש says that the reason for this was that it was not really that person's fault for coming in contact with the dead.

The second type of טומאה was זב, that refers to a man who has an unwanted flow, which could either be a seminal flow or puss from an infection. This person stays out of two camps because had he remained on a high spiritual level, this טומאה would not have happened.

The most severe impurity is צרעת, or leprosy, that comes with evil gossip that certainly could have been prevented. This person causes great damage with his tongue. He must remain outside all three camps until his impurity passes due to the severity of his sin. Shabbat Shalom