Blessed Rain

The Gemara in בבא בתרא 25b, discusses Israel’s climate and rainfall. When the Torah discusses the blessings that will come to the Jewish people, we are told that rains will come from אוצרו הטוב, from Hashem’s good treasure.

The Gemara goes on to explain that there is a big difference when Israel is fulfilling the will of G-d and they are dwelling in the land. When both of these things happen, that the Jewish people are living in the Land and fulfilling the will of Hashem, the good rains come.

It follows that even when the Torah is observed outside of Israel, but the Land is desolate of Jews, there will not be the same blessings.

It is clear that the ideal situation for the Jewish people is that they observe the Torah and live in Eretz Yisrael. When this happens, we will merit Hashem’s blessings. We will then fulfilling the ultimate purpose of the Jewish people.

Waiting Six Hours

An interesting Halacha is learned from the case of the שלו, quails. The Torah describes how the people were punished for asking for meat.

The Pasuk then says, והבשר עודנו בין השיניים, and the meat was still between their teeth. This was followed by their ultimate punishment.

There is an argument among the Rishonim as to why we wait six hours between meat and milk. One opinion is that we wait six hours because it takes that amount of time for the food to be removed from our teeth, as learned from the above Pasuk.

The other reason is that it takes six hours for food to be digested. The practical difference is in a case where a mother chews meat for her baby to soften food. According to the opinion regarding digesting food, the mother would not be “Fleishig or בשרי”, but according to the opinion about food between the teeth, she would need to wait six hours.

Aharon and the Menora

There are two opinions regarding the Menora and Aharon. Last week’s Parsha ended with the twelve נשיאים offering sacrifices during the first twelve days of the functioning of the Mishkan.

According to Rashi, Aharon was disappointed that he had no role to play in the dedication ceremonies. Hashem comforts him by saying that his role is greater. He will be charged with the task of permanently lighting the Menora that will bring light to the world.

The Ramban wrote that Aharon was comforted by Hashem when he was told that his descendants would bring honor to the Jewish people during the Chanukah  story.

According to either opinion, Aharon was comforted.

Request for Meat

Shavua Tov. In today’s Parsha, we read of the people’s complaining about wanting meat and that they were not satisfied with the Manna from heaven.

Moshe Rabbeinu asks where will he be able to find meat to feed all the people. The various commentators discuss this comment made by Moshe. Some were of the opinion that there was real concern that there would not be enough cattle to supply the nation.

The Yalkut Shimoni rejects this answer because it does not jive with the request of the two and a half tribes who asked for land on the other side of the Jordan, due to their abundant cattle.

The Yalkut answers this by saying that the complainers knew that there was enough meat to go around. They complained for the sake of complaining. And they were really challenging the strict rules of family purity.

Moshe’s question of where will he find meat, was really an expression of frustration. He was saying in frustration, that there was no way in pleasing these people. They will always find a reason to gripe.

The solution was to establish a Sanhedrin to help Moshe deal with a tough nation.

G-d’s Enemies

In פרשת בהעלותך, we have the description of the ארון קדש traveling by itself in a miraculous fashion. The holy ark literally flew on its own and cleared the path of snakes and scorpions.

When Moshe saw the ark traveling, he said, קומה ה׳ ויפוצו אויביך וינוסו משנאיך מפניך. He asked for Hashem’s glory to rise and that His enemies should be scattered.

Rabbeinu Bechaye says that G-d’s enemies are those who question the truth and validity of the Torah. They mock the authenticity of the Torah.

Rashi wrote that the enemies of Hashem are those who hate the Jewish people. Simply put, the Jew haters are saying, “Jew, you are nothing. And your G-d is nothing.”

We likewise pray that the mockers of Torah and the Jew haters be scattered from Hashem’s Presence. Shabbat Shalom

Prophecy

One of the basic principles of Judaism as explained by the Rambam, is that there is such a thing as prophecy. There was a period of 1000 years from יציאת מצרים to forty years into the second Temple period, where prophecy existed.

A great deal is learned about the specifics of prophecy from פרשת בהעלותך. We are taught that some received prophecy by way of a dream. Others, by way of going into a trance. But the prophecy of Moshe Rabbeinu was higher than any prophet that ever lived. He remained in a state of complete consciousness. He spoke with Hashem as two people would hold a conversation with one another.

This was the reason that Moshe separated from his wife. He needed to be on call at all times to hear the word of Hashem. Others needed to work hard to be on a level to be able to receive prophecy. Moshe maintained that level at all times.

When Mashiach comes, all will receive prophecy. We look forward to that day but in order to get ready, we should work at elevating ourselves spiritually.

The Role of the Levi

We learn in these Parshiot, the special role of the לוי. In the desert, the לויים were divided into three groups. Each had a special task in carrying the Mishkan when it was dismantled.

Gershon was the oldest of the three brothers. He carried the curtains and coverings. Merari carried the beams, and Kehat had the most important job. They were in charge of the seven holy vessels.

In the Temple, the Leviim also had three different tasks. Some of them were charged with playing musical instruments as part of Temple service. Others who were blessed with good voices, were the singers during Temple service. And a third group were charged with guard duty.

In short, we see that each Levi had his special תפקיד, or job. Each of us also his special תפקיד. Hashem gives each of us their own special talents and abilities. We are charged with the responsibility of achieving all that we can in serving Hashem with these talents and abilities. It’s not always easy to know what our תפקיד is, but it’s our job to find out what that תפקיד is.

Priestly Blessings

Parshat נשא discusses ברכת כהנים, the Priestly blessing. There is a special commandment for the Kohanim to bless the people of Israel. This is a positive commandment fulfilled in Israel around 450 times a year.

There is something magical about this blessing in that the שכינה, Divine Presence, is found in the fingers of the Kohein when he blesses the people.

The fifteen words of this blessing are so special that there is an additional prayer one can say during this blessing, in order to nullify a frightening bad dream.

A Kohein is meant to be a lover of peace as Aharon exemplified by his actions. A Kohein should be liked by his community. If he is hated, it is considered dangerous for him to give this blessing. Chazal were concerned that he will receive so many curses that could potentially harm him.

The Sefardim do ברכת כהנים outside of Israel, while the Ashkenazim in Chutz L’aretz only do this on holidays. Another reason why living in Israel is special. You get blessed by the Kohanim every day!

Hashem and Torah are Truth

Shavua Tov. Now that Shavuot is behind us, we should be approaching the summer with a renewed resolve. We should feel inspired and grateful for the greatest gift; the Torah.

We must be constantly be reminded of the truth of Torah and the path of Torah.

The Rambam writes in הלכות יסודי התרה that אין אמת כאמיתתו, there is no like His truth. And we say in Tanya that Torah and G-d are one and the same.

How fortunate are we with our lot. We are living in Eretz Yisrael and we feel Hashem’s Presence. May we show added determination to reaffirm this commitment by studying Torah with greater intensity.

Jewish Values

The major theme of Shavuot to be clearly understood, is that the values and morals that we possess, must be Torah values.

One must never think that he is capable of being kinder, more righteous, or more just, than the laws given in the Torah as explained by our Sages.

We say that the Torah possesses חכמה אלוקית, a certain Divine wisdom. This wisdom comes from a G-d who is perfection.

One must never doubt that the Torah could ever be outdated or no longer applicable in our times. A perfect G-d has the capability of writing a book that is applicable for all times.

The Torah represents truth and all that is good and sacred in the world. Our values must come only from the Torah. This is the important message of Shavuot. Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach

Our Special Destiny

The ספר התודעה speaks about the special mission of the Jewish people over the generations. When Moshe first asked the Jewish people about their responsibility, they responded with נעשה, we will do.

The second time they were asked, they answered with נעשה ונשמע, we will do and we will hear. This latter declaration referred to the observance of the actual Mitzvot.

The first declaration of נעשה, is described as יעוד, or the special destiny of the Jewish people. Israel accepted their role of teaching the world morality. They were also told that they would be different from all of the other nations. Their special role would not be easy. It was likely to come with hatred and persecution.

We see today how needed we are in fulfilling our destiny. The world needs to learn about Hashem and the Torah. We must make Hashem King of the world. Hashem’s laws are the ones that will help make the world a better place. A system of justice that is not focused on G-d is destined to fail and be perverted. This is a very central idea of Shavuot. We affirm once again that we will live up to the challenge made to us on Mount Sinai. We must not falter in fulfilling it.

A Rebbe Is Like a Father

A final point from last week’s Parsha worth mentioning. The Pasuk says, ואלה תולדות אהרון ומשה, “And these are the generations of Aharon and Moshe.” The Torah proceeds to discuss the sons of Aharon.

The Gemara asks why Aharon’s children were attributed to Moshe, when he was their uncle and not their father.

An important principle is learned here about the relationship between a Rebbe and his students. We learn from here that one who teaches Torah to his students is as if he gave birth to them.

Put simply, your father brings you into this world, and your Rebbe brings you into the next world. This explains why a good and devoted teacher, views his students like his children.

פדיון פטר חמור

In last week’s Parsha, we have a reference to the Mitzva of the redemption of a first born donkey by a lamb. This is called פדיון פטר חמור. It is a ceremony that is still done today.

There is a Bracha recited, and the holiness that the first born donkey had, is transferred to the lamb. Even though donkeys are non-Kosher animals, they are rewarded because they helped carry the riches of Egypt on their backs during the exodus.

The Parsha noted that when the Leviim were chosen to replace the first born in the Temple, the בהמת הלויים, the animal of the Leviim, replaced בהמתם, their animals (plural).

Quoting the beginning of מסכת בכורות, it was learned that one lamb of the לוי, was able to redeem numerous פטר חמור’s of the other tribes. It was because of the text where the לוי’s animal was written in singular, and the animals of the other tribes, was written in plural.

Dots on Aharon’s Name

In yesterday’s Parsha, there is a reference to the family of the Leviim. They had their own separate counting from one month and onwards.

In the middle of this section, אהרון is mentioned with a number of dots on top of his name. The explanation for these dots is to tell us that Aharon was not counted as part of the Levi family. There were 22,000 לויים that did not include the Kohanim.

Aharon was kept separate because of his importance and holiness. His role as אוהב שלום, a lover of peace, and his loyalty to Moshe, where he showed no jealousy whatsoever, put him in a special category. The dots above his name in Chapter 3:39, was meant to emphasize this.

Yom Yerushalayim

Shavua Tov. Tonight is יום ירושלים when we say, זה היום עשה ה׳ נגילה ונשמחה בו, “This the day Hashem did for us. We will be glad and rejoice on it.”

Perhaps the greatest miracle witnessed in modern times, is the miracle of the Six Day War and the return of Jerusalem and other holy territories to the Jewish people.

It is essential that we recognize this and give gratitude to Hashem for this incredible Chessed that He did for us. The trait of הכרת הטוב, recognizing the good done for us is extremely important. Such gratitude and recognition leads to many wonderful things.

We are brought closer to G-d as we show appreciation for giving us so much beyond what is deserved. We will develop our אהבת ה׳,  love of G-d, and we will learn to reach the level of שמח בחלקו, being happy with our lot in life.

Yom Yerushalayim is the perfect time to begin and continue showing gratitude for the endless gifts that we are constantly receiving from Hashem. Chag Sameach

Orderly Tribes

We begin the Book of במדבר this week. Most of the book deals with the travels of the Jews in the desert. Parshat Bamidbar discusses how בני ישראל traveled and how they camped.

Rabbeinu Bechaye points out that there are three different occasions when we see a reference as to how they traveled and camped.

The first was when Yakov’s twelve sons carried his remains to Israel to be buried in מערת המכפלה. Three sons each carried their father on four sides. For example, the east side was flanked by Yehuda, Yissasschar, and Zevulun.

The same order was followed when twelve leaders each offered their respective sacrifices during the week that the Mishkan was dedicated. Again, Yehuda, Yissasschar, and Zevulon.

Therefore, it was no surprise when בני ישראל were taught how to travel in the desert according to the same order.

They ultimately camped in groups of three in each of the four directions.

We see how everything is planned in שמים. It is our job to follow Hashem’s wishes. Shabbat Shalom

מחיצתו של הקדוש ברוך הוא

There is a Talmudic saying from מסכת שבת that tries to establish a high standard in our interaction with people.

The Gemara says that even if we have not done anything wrong, but others are punished because of how they wronged us, we are still affected.

We are kept at a distance from מחיצתו של הקדוש ברוך הוא, from a particular level of closeness to Hashem. The very fact that a person messed up and we were the vehicle that caused it, leaves a kind of stain.

The solution to getting back in Hashem’s good graces, comes when we are able to forgive that person who treated us badly. Despite their bad behavior, we should not be happy that another person falls. There is great reward if we can reach this kind of level.

Yom Yerushalayim

This coming Sunday is Yom Yerushalayim when we celebrate Israel’s miraculous victory in the Six Day War. With Hashem’s help, we were able to liberate Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem. The Kotel was again in our hands.

Rav Shmuel Eliyahu of Tzphat says that there is a hint to this miraculous war from last week’s Parsha.

It says, “How is it possible that five chase one hundred, and one hundred chase ten thousand?”

This is a description of the tremendous blessing that comes when Hashem decides that it is time to rebuild the Third Commonwealth. It is our view that the redemption comes in stages.

We began with a physical return to Israel that was followed by amazing war victories. The land that was desolate begins to produce again. One of the final stages is a spiritual rebirth. Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook זצ״ל pointed to the Pasuk in Yechezkel that describes a sprinkling of waters of purification. This refers to the collective returning to Hashem that we are now witnessing.

We have much to celebrate on Yom Yerushalayim. The גאולה is coming!

קול עלה נידף

The Parsha seems to indicate one of the symptoms of living in Galut. The warning of the Torah is that when Jews will be forced to live in the Exile, they will have no rest.

They will always feel that they are on the run and that they are being chased. The Torah uses the words, קול עלה נידף, the sound of rustling leaves. Their fear will be so great that even the sounds of leaves will frighten them.

Isn’t it possible that even today when Jews live very well, that there is a need to turn their homes into fortresses so that they feel safe.

Somehow in Israel we do not live with those same fears. I contend that in addition to Israel being the only home for the Jews, we also feel Hashem’s protection all the more. What could be better than being home with our Father watching over us!

Israel is Home

In both Parshat בהר and בחוקותי, we have the words, וישבתם לבטח בארצכם, and you will live securely in your land. To this the Rabbis comment, “In your land you will live securely, but not outside of Israel.

The message here is an important one. We must know and be clear that the Jewish people have only one home. And that home is ארץ ישראל. Any other place in the world is not our home. We are merely guests there.

Many have the זכות to make this realization about Israel. Often people feel it the first time they visit Israel. There is something very different about this place.

It is the excited Jewish soul celebrating that it has finally been placed where it belongs. Israel is the only home for the Jewish people. This is why we are secure only in Israel. Because only Israel is our home.