parasha Shelach 5782 – Trusting G-d

“‘We came unto the land where thou didst send us, and truly it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.'” – Numbers 13:27

“H’Shem spoke unto Moshe, saying: ‘Send thou men, that they may spy out the land of Canaan’” (Numbers 13:1-2, JPS 1917 Tanach). Yet, this does not give the complete details, as later revealed in Torah. In Deuteronomy, it is written, “Behold, H’Shem thy G-d hath set the land before thee; go up, take possession, as H’Shem, the G-d of thy fathers, hath spoken unto thee; fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 1:21, JPS).

These are words of encouragement; however, the people responded with caution, requesting of Moshe, “Let us send men before us, that they may search the land” (Deuteronomy 1:22, JPS). This is the prior conversation between Moshe and the people, before the opening words of the parashas, where H’Shem literally says, “if you would like to send men, send men for yourself.” In other words, H’Shem left the decision to Moshe, whether to grant the request of the people to send out spies into the land of Canaan.

So, proof of the goodness of the fruits of the land was brought back to the people; however, ten of the spies also brought an ill report of the land. They said, “howbeit the people that dwell in the land are fierce, and the cities are fortified, and very great” (Deuteronomy 13:28, JPS). Rather than trust in H’Shem, that he would be their strength, the spies searched out the land in order to prepare a military strategy; yet, in their own estimation they saw themselves as “grasshoppers,” compared to the local inhabitants of the land (13:33).

The ten spies lacked self-esteem, as well as emunah (faith), they did not fully trust in H’Shem to bring them into the land. They saw a lack in their own abilities, not realizing that their strength was in H’Shem. When we put our trust in H’Shem, set our concerns aside, and acknowledge that our reliance on Him will bring our best intentions to fruition, in accordance with His will, then we can expect good results.

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Shabbat shalom.

parasha Shelach 5782 – First of the Dough

“Ye shall also give unto the priest the first of your dough, to cause a blessing to rest on thy house.” – Ezekiel 44:30, JPS 1917 Tanach

Sforno note the extraordinary way the commandment, “Of the first of your dough ye shall set apart a cake for a gift” (Numbers 15:20) was fulfilled, when Elijah requested of the widow of Zarephath, “make me thereof a little cake first” (1 Kings 17:13, JPS). He promised: “The jar of meal shall not be spent, neither shall the cruse of oil fail” (17:14). And, it was so, for her and her son, as well as Elijah whom she provided for as well (7:15). Thus, we can see the blessings bestowed upon her, for having honored Elijah.

Jewish tradition assigns to Elijah the role of testing others kindness, by asking them to go out of their way to help a stranger, whom is actually Elijah in disguise. In our own lives, we may never know the significance of a unique opportunity to help out others, who depend on our kindness for their very survival. Neither can they reward us, like Elijah rewarded the widow. Yet, G-d will bestow blessings upon us, especially for going out of the way to help others.

Prayer & Sincerity


A Few Thoughts on Prayer and Sincerity:

Elokai neshama:

“My G-d, the soul you placed within me is pure.” – from the morning prayers

Too often, I am unable to say the beginning of this prayer “as is.” Was the original soul that G-d placed within me pure when I was born? Yes, as far as I know, I can receive this as a truth.

Is my soul renewed every morning, having spent some time in the upper realms to get a recharge, before being placed back within me before I wake up? No doubt, that my soul is renewed each and every morning, as implied elsewhere, “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23).

Yet, I know myself too well; my conscience is not necessarily renewed to its pristine quality every morning. And, if yesterday’s taint upon the soul is still present in my mind, my soul does not “feel” pure when I awake to the “rise and shine” of the day.

For some time, I have been disconcerted by the apparent incongruity of how I feel, as compared to the literal text; so, I explored various ways to understand this concept of the soul’s purity being restored. One finding is that, only a certain part of the soul is referred to in the prayer; that part is “pure.”

I also seem to recall learning of tzaddikim, who were unable to say certain prayers in sincerity. As far as I can recall, they modified those particular prayers a little bit, for themselves, in the moment, in order to be heartfelt and true to their words. Yet, this is not to be understood as a pretext to actually changing the prayers of chazal (the sages).

Yet, there does appear to be a pretext to solving my own troublesome dilemma, by altering a prayer somewhat, at least, in the moment, to be faithful and true to one’s own words. As such, I usually say, “My G-d, may the soul you placed within me be pure.” I have turned a statement into a request.

Additionally, the prayers may be personalized, to some extent, while reciting them: that is the nature of personal kavannos, best explained as thoughts about the prayers while reciting them. (There are also specially designed kavannos to recall while reciting certain prayers).

motzei Shabbos: Beha’alotecha 5782

“And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the L-rd, and Satan standing at his right hand to thwart him.” – Zechariah 3:4

In parashas Beha’alotecha, a brief description of a critique against Moses is given, concerning Miriam and Aaron, co-leaders of Israel (see Micah 6:4) as well as prophets in their own right, who feel diminished by Moshe’s apparent uniqueness, when he separates himself out from family life, in order to be more prepared to receive H’Shem’s presence at all times. And they said: ‘Hath the L-RD indeed spoken only with Moses? hath He not spoken also with us?’ And the L-RD heard it” (Numbers 12:2).  

H’Shem responds by rebuking Miriam and Aaron, reminding them that the level of prophecy that Moses received is such that the L-RD speaks with him face to face, and that Moses is the trusted one in all His house. He asks Miriam and Aaron, “wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?” (Numbers 12:8, JPS).

Then H’Shem strikes Miriam with leprosy; although, upon Moshe’s immediate plea to heal her, the L-Rd heals her; yet, she is placed in quarantine for seven days. She as treated as a metzorah (similar to a leper), wherein she is removed to the outer limits of the camp. This, like any metzorah who receives the same treatment, will give Miriam time to reflect.

Thus, as mentioned in the haftorah, for the sake of comparison, and this is the parallel theme to the parasha, an accusation made against Joshua, the next kohein gadol (high priest), and his subsequent acquittal, so to speak, through the defense laid out by the prophet Zechariah.

Although we are not on the same level as Moses or Joshua, the kohein gadol, we are still subject to the protection of H’Shem if we are in good standing with Him. G-d is our defense, he will avail us, when we are in need, on an individual basis, if place our trust in Him. And, he will also redeem us as a people, K’lal Yisrael, in due time at the Final Redemption.

parasha Beha’alotecha 5782 – Our Refuge

d’var for parashas Beha’alotecha 5782

parasha Beha’alotecha 5782

“In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, that the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle of the testimony.” – Numbers, 10:11, JPS 1917 Tanach

The first journey made by B’nei Yisrael, after the encampment at the foot of Mount Sinai was on the twentieth of Iyar, ten days shy of one year, from their arrival at Sinai on the first of Sivan. The departure was well organized, ahead of time, for the sake of an orderly procession, tribe by tribe, to the next encampment.

First the tribe of Judah, then, as they began to march, the tabernacle would be disassembled, and placed in the care of the three Levite families. Two of the families followed the tribe of Judah; the third Levite family followed the tribe of Reuben. The rest of the tribes followed in formation, according to the Jerusalem Talmud either in the shape of a diamond, or in a straight line, tribe by tribe.

“And the cloud of the L-RD was over them by day, when they set forward from the camp” (Numbers 10:34, JPS 1917 Tanach). Thus, during their three day journey, H’Shem’s Presence in the form if a tangible cloud, sheltered them from the heat of the day.  “Whenever the cloud was taken up from over the Tent, then after that the children of Israel journeyed; and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel encamped” (Numbers 9:17, JPS).

Consider how G-d’s Presence guided the B’nei Yisrael, during the wandering in the desert. “Thou goest before them, in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night” (Numbers 14:14, JPS). This points toward H’Shem’s role in our lives to guide us in the right direction, to be a compass in an uncertain world, and a light in the darkness, as well as a refuge from the tumults of life.

Tonic for Mind & Body

“My heart and my flesh cry out to the living G-d.”

– Psalm 84:3

It is known to we, who pray to G-d in all sincerity, with heartfelt conviction, that our souls are nourished by Him, because He is the Source of renewal for our troubled selves. Yet, G-d is also a tonic for our body as well, so that both our heart (the seat of emotion, and biblically speaking, akin to the soul), and our body may yearn for His ever-flowing waters of refreshment. Although, at times we may flee like a bird soaring in flight, we will soon return to the place of our refuge, within the confines of our relationship to G-d (Psalm 84:4).

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Challenges in Life

“So we that are Thy people and the flock of Thy pasture will give Thee thanks for ever; we will tell of Thy praise to all generations.”

– Psalms 79:13, JPS 1917 Tanach

We are the sheep of your pasture, we will continue to express our gratitude, even as we suffer in exile (Psalm 79:13). L’dor vador, generation after generation, we will speak of our praise to H’Shem, despite our circumstances. For, the flow of time and history does not always appear to be favorable to us. While ostensibly, this seems to be the case, if deep within our hearts, we search in earnest, we shall find that all is for our ultimate good. As is implied elsewhere, that our journey is for our own good (Genesis 12:1).

How can we recognize this essential truth, in order to not backtrack upon our commitment made at Sinai – na’aseh v’nishmah (we will do, and we will understand)? Consider, that as we continue to observe the commandments, we will not only begin to better understand the nature of their benefit in our lives; rather, also, we will be able to comprehend how remaining on the derech (path) will continue to serve as a buttress against all the nisyanos (challenges) in our lives.

Sanctified Be

parasha Beha’alotecha 5782

“In the second year from their exodus from the land of Egypt, in the first month…” – Numbers 9:1-2, JPS 1917 Tanach

This was the only year wherein the B’nei Yisrael partook of the Pesach offering in the wilderness. It would have been a hop, skip, and a jump, figuratively speaking, into the Promised Land after this, wherein the Pesach offering would have continued to be brought within the land of Israel. Tragically, ten well-renown leaders of Israel who were chosen to spy out the land gave an ill report; the Children of Israel were condemned to wander in the desert for forty years.

So, the Pesach offering was not made again until B’nei Yisrael crossed into Eretz Canaan, under the leadership of Joshua (Joshua 5:10). Thus, rather than a continuous annual commemoration of the Exodus, through the celebration of Pesach, the Passover was delayed for thirty-nine years. If you have ever wondered why plans may not work out the way that you had in mind, or why goals have been offset, and deterred until H’Shem created all of the proper circumstances to fall into place, we have a clue in this narrative.

Because of a lack of emunah (faith), the Children of Israel were subject to wander in the desert for forty years; not until the new generation entered the Promised Land, did the people celebrate the Passover. The forty years was a time of testing in the wilderness, “to know what was in thy heart” (Deuteronomy 8:2). When, the covenant was renewed through circumcision, and they were made whole, and Joshua declared, “This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you” (Joshua 8-9). Now, they could partake of the Pesach offering.

H’Shem will cause us to be made whole, by way of the nisyanos (challenges) in our lives. Thus, we must be patient, until the time that we merit to be made whole through the sanctity that He will bestow upon us, as a result of our own personal spiritual growth and character development. If we make an effort to sanctify ourselves, we will be sanctified from Above (Yoma 39a).

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Fire on the Mountain

The Pipeline Fire is currently the #1 fire resource priority in the nation.

– Coconino National Forest

The San Francisco Peaks are burning six miles north of Flagstaff, AZ. So far, the fire has covered 24,815 acres. The Pipeline Fire is designated as such, because of a nearby trail called the Pipeline Trail. Currently 27% contained. Management of the fire will transition to a Type 1 incident management team on Thursday June 17.

The Pipeline Fire was spotted at 10:15 a.m., Sunday morning, June 12, 2022. The fire is actually burning partly alongside the San Francisco Peaks, and in the valley between the Peaks and Elden Mountain, moving toward the northwest. Firefighter crews consist of at least 500 personnel.

Currently, the Pipeline Fire is burning at 22,888 acres, 27% contained.*

The nearby Haywire Fire is at 5,372 acres, 11% contained.

*this blogpost will be updated on a daily basis

Teshuvah – A Return to G-d

weekly Torah reading: parasha Nasso 5782

 “Speak unto the children of Israel: When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to commit a trespass against the L-RD, and that soul be guilty; then shall they confess their sin which they have done.” – Numbers 5:6-7a, JPS 1917 Tanach

According to Rambam (Maimonides), this verse is the basis of vidui (confession), within the context of teshuvah (repentance). “And shall make reparation in full” (Numbers 5:7, OJB). This latter part of the pasuk (verse) denotes reparations made to others, if the aveirah (transgression) is against another person. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for reparation is from the same shoresh (root), shuv (to return) as teshuvah (repentance). Essentially, repentance is a return to H’Shem (the L-RD). “Let us return unto the L-RD” (Hosea 5:15b, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Maimonides offers a basic example of how to approach vidui (confession):  “I beseech Thee, O Great Name! I have sinned; I have been obstinate; I have committed profanity against Thee, particularly in doing thus and such. Now, behold! I have repented and am ashamed of my actions; forever will I not relapse into this thing again.” He further states that whoever takes it upon him or herself to further elaborate, is considered praiseworthy. Nachman of Breslov notes that one measure of having done a complete teshuvah (return to H’Shem, is if in the same situation wherein had previously sinned, this time, avoids sin in the given situation.