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.

Sanctity of Life

parasha Tazria 5782 -The Sanctity of Life
“Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: if a woman be delivered, and bear a man child.”

– Leviticus 12:1, JPS 1917 Tanach

According to Torah, the miracle of life, from the beginning, is addressed within the framework of sanctification. That is, both the mother and the child are taken into consideration, in terms of their purification. Both the mother as well as child are given a means to commemorate the birth. This is a life cycle tradition. When a male is born, the mother’s temporary state of impurity is only for seven days; this permits her to be present on the eighth day for her son’s circumcision.

The parashas continues with the laws, in regard to tzarras, a skin affliction, often mistranslated as leprosy. The metzorah (person who contracts tzarras) is diagnosed and quarantined. Because the metzorah has contracted tzarras as a result of lashon hara (literally, “evil speech”), isolation outside of the camp provides time for reflection upon the harm done to the recipient of the gossip. H’Shem willing, the metzorah will be able to return to society, as a result of a tikkun (rectification).

The concept appears within the overall framework of the sanctity required to approach H’Shem. Since H’Shem’s presence dwells within the mishkan (tabernacle) at the center of the camp, the metzorah is separated by way of not being permitted to be in the vicinity of the mishkan. Thus, the sanctity of the camp is preserved; and the metzorah is given the opportunity to do teshuvah (repentance), turning the heart back to Elokim (G-d).

Sacred Blessing

new audio: parashas Pekudei 5782

“It came to pass in the first month, in the second year, on the first day of the month, that the Mishkan was set up.”– Exodus 40:16

After the Exodus from Egypt, the B’nei Yisrael ascended over a period of forty-nine days on their way to Sinai. How was this journey an ascent? Figuratively speaking, they had ascended from the forty-ninth level of impurity, over the course of forty-nine days, wherein they were able to make an account of their souls (tikkun hanefesh) to H’Shem. The Torah records that Moshe requested that B’nei Yisrael prepare themselves for receiving the commandments three days ahead of time. However, tradition holds that the refinement of their souls, through introspection of their character, began at the outset of the Exodus, continuing for a period of forty-nine days.

Had they remained at their new level, acquired over this period of time, the Mishkan (Tabernacle) would have not been necessary, because they would have all been pure vessels, so to speak, capable of receiving H’Shem’s Presence, the Shechinah within themselves. However, with their lapse into idolatry, upon the building of the golden egel (calf), they fell back into impurity, because of the idolatrous nature of their revelry (Exodus 32:19). Thus, Moses broke the tablets, for their righteousness had plummeted, and they were no longer worthy of receiving the Tablets.

Yet, on Sinai, during the forty days that Moses had spent in communion with H’Shem, he had received the divinely inspired plans for the Mishkan. And, this would serve for their atonement. So, a year later, upon the completion of the building of the Mishkan, Moshe blessed B’nei Yisrael, “And Moses saw all the work, and behold, they had done it; as the L-RD had commanded, even so had they done it. And Moses blessed them” (Exodus 39:43, JPS).

Insights on the Mishkan

weekly Torah reading: parashas Vayakhel 5782

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be to you a holy day, a sabbath of solemn rest to the L-RD.” – Exodus 35:2, JPS 1917 Tanach

Before giving the commandment to B’nei Yisrael, concerning the terumah (offerings) that are to be brought (silver, gold, and various materials for the building of the Mishkan, a free will offering from the heart of each and every individual), H’Shem instructs Moshe to remind the B’nei Yisrael about Shabbat.

The juxtaposition of the commandment to observe Shabbos, with the commandment, concerning the construction of the Mishkan is significant. As holy as the project of the Mishkan is, the building of the Mishkan does not supersede the sanctity (holiness) of Shabbos; therefore, even work on the Mishkan was prohibited on the Sabbath.

Additionally, the Shabbos points toward acknowledgment of H’Shem, Who created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, belief in a H’Shem is primary; and, perhaps, by implication, a greater imperative than the construction of the Mishkan. That is the essence of what is truly necessary: first, a belief in the existence of G-d; then, a desire to draw near to Him through our avodah (service).

Although the Mishkan was the officially prescribed way to serve H’Shem, through the bringing of offerings, today the main way to do so is through the service of the heart (prayer). Prayer may be enacted on a communal basis, as well as a personal level – external aspects of prayer, and an internal heartfelt connection to H’Shem, that strengthens the inner dimension of our soul.

Our ultimate avodah (service) reflects the purpose of the Mishkan, inasmuch that we are to make ourselves into a temple for His Presence, for this is implied in the commandment, “let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among [within] them” (Exodus 25:8, JPS). The Mishkan serves as a dwelling-place for H’Shem’s Presence, the Shechinah, and is a model for us as vessels for the Shechinah, too.

Established from Above

parashas Vayakhel 5782

Upon completing the monumental task of building all of the various components of the Mishkan (portable tabernacle in the desert), the artisans and craftsmen brought everything to Moses, who responded with the appropriate enthusiasm of the leader of B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel). “And when Moses saw that they had performed all the tasks—as the L-RD had commanded, so they had done—Moses blessed them” (Exodus 39:43, NJPS).

The Israelites had done all that was commanded of them; so, of course, they deserved a blessing. Yet, what does a blessing in and of itself constitute, especially for such an enormous amount of work that was done willingly, as a free gift offering by the people that committed themselves to the task?

In the modern world, remuneration for services rendered is the norm amongst those who work for a living; and, often we value even our very selves, based upon our profession, and our ability to provide for ourselves and our families. Yet, anyone who has worked as a volunteer for some cause, knows the reward for doing so; and, to feel a part of a greater whole, for the sole sake of contributing to a good cause results in an invaluable estimation of one’s time and effort in the endeavor.

The big picture concerns our contribution to the expectations of G-d for the sake of others, as well as ourselves. There is no monetary remuneration that can be measured in terms that would compare to the benefits that the soul receives for having been part of G-d’s master plan; for He is the great architect of our lives, as well as the end goal of all human endeavors that are in alignment with His divine blueprint for the world.

The  Mishkan was constructed for the sake of providing a place where G-d’s presence would rest amongst His people (see Exodus 25:8). The project required a coordinated effort from the people to build something of lasting value for the sake of maintaining a connection with G-d. We would also do well to consider, that whatever we do will only be established through the blessings of G-d in our lives, whether we realize the nature of those blessings or not. The more we contribute to worthy endeavors that will be approved in His eyes, the greater will be our security. When we place our trust in Him, He will guide us in the right endeavors. “Except the L-RD build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1, JPS).

“Let the graciousness of the L-rd our G-d be upon us; establish Thou also upon us the work of our hands; yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it.” – Psalm 90:17, JPS 1917 Tanach

The Mishkan & Creation

parashas Vayakhel 5782

“And He hath filled him with the spirit of G-d, in wisdom, in understanding, and in all manner of workmanship.” – Exodus 35:31 JPS, 1917 Tanach

Moshe assembled B’nei Yisrael, reiterating what H’Shem had commanded to him, while on Mount Sinai, to speak to them that they bring an offering – willingly from the heart – to contribute materials to build the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Bezalel is chosen by H’Shem to oversee the entire project, that would amount to a great artistic endeavor; moreover, Bezalel is endowed by H’Shem with the Spirit of G-d (Ruach Elokim), in wisdom (chochmah), in understanding (binah), and in knowledge (da’as)” (Exodus 35:31).

The Talmud notes in Berachos 55a that these same qualities were used by H’Shem to create the Heavens and Earth (see also Proverbs 3:19-20). This comparison points towards the idea that the Mishkan (Tabernacle) itself is a reflection of Heaven on Earth. H’Shem’s Presence (the Shechinah) dwelt in the Mishkan between the two golden Cherubim on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant, from where H’Shem spoke to Moshe; in this sense, the Mishkan encapsulated a smaller rendering of H’Shem’s Glory in Shomayim (Heaven), where, according to the vision of the prophet Ezekiel (see Ezekiel 10:1), H’Shem is surrounded by Cherubim.

In consideration of the designation of the Mishkan as a place where the Shechinah would dwell, it is all the more understandable why its master craftsman was endowed with the same qualities that H’Shem used to create the Heavens and Earth: a microcosm of the whole (Akeidut Yitzchak), the Mishkan required more than artistic capabilities; rather, it called for divine intuition, in regard to making patterns found in the Heavenly Realm. That may be the reason that the most-used color of various components of the Mishkan was blue, denoting a similarity to “the sea that resembles Heaven, and Heaven resembles the Throne of Glory,” as mentioned in the Talmud, tractate Menachos 43a, based on Exodus 1:24, and Ezekiel 1:26.

“The L-RD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens. By His knowledge the depths were broken up, and the skies drop down the dew.”

 – Proverbs 3:19-20, JPS 1917 Tanach

parashas Tetzaveh 5782 – Enlightened Soul

weekly Torah reading: parashas Tetzaveh 5782

“And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure olive oil, beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually.” – Exodus 27:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

The seven-branched menorah in the Mishkan was the only source of light inside of this sacred structure. The lamps were lit by the kohein, and gave off their light, within the Kadosh – the larger portion of the Mishkan, where the menorah, showbread table and incense mizbeach rested. “The spirit of man is the lamp of the L-RD” (Proverbs 20:27, JPS). And, so, in like manner that the menorah gave off the light, within the confines of the Kadosh, so, too does G-d illuminate our soul, when we remain within the boundaries of His established will for us.

Yet, if we tread upon the demarcations of moral integrity, as prescribed by His commandments, then we bring darkness upon ourselves, as our sins separate us from G-d (Isaiah 59:2). Viktor Frankl, the eminent psychological thinker and psychiatrist, who survived Auschwitz, proffers that man’s conscience is directly linked to G-d. This teaching reflects the wisdom of the above-mentioned proverb, connecting man’s spirit to G-d. Thus, in its undiluted state, the spirit may be said to be in accordance with the guidance of the conscience.

Taking this a step further, when in alignment with G-d’s will, light will animate the soul; yet, when we do not adhere to our conscience, we darken our moral understanding. The conscience is weakened – G-d forbid – in this manner. Yet, strengthened when we remain in our integrity, according to the standards set by H’Shem. This is akin to “flexing our spiritual muscles.” If we falter, we may seek to return to G-d, by making a greater effort through teshuvah (repentance).

Take for Me

parashas Terumah 5782

“Speak unto the children of Israel, that they take for Me an offering; of every man whose heart maketh him willing ye shall take My offering.” – Exodus 25:2, JPS 1917 Tanach

While H’Shem conversed with Moshe on Mount Sinai, He gave him the instructions for the building of the Mishkan. In order for the Mishkan [portable tabernacle in the desert] to be built, first, a collection was necessary. The collection was a freewill offering of the people for H’Shem, for the sake of building a sanctuary, where H’Shem would dwell. Everyone gave according to what their heart inspired them to give.

The Hebrew word, “lakach” is translated as “take;” although, “bring for Me an offering” would seem more linguistically correct. According to many commentators, the Torah is teaching us that when we bring an offering, we are actually taking for ourselves. I.e., the benefits of giving to a G-dly cause, outweigh the cost. We receive much for our efforts, for we have a reciprocal relationship with H’Shem. When we give, we are blessed with abundance, as is written elsewhere.

For example, regarding the tithes, brought during the first Temple period, it is written, “Bring ye the whole tithe into the store-house, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now herewith, saith the L-RD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall be more than sufficiency” (Malachi 3:10, JPS).

Moving On

parashas Beha’alotecha 5781

“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

B’nei Yisrael had been encamped at the base of Mount Sinai for ten days under a year. When the Cloud lifted up from above the encampment, that was the signal to journey to the next location. “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, did the Children of Israel move out in the formation that was previously established for them.


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 behind them. “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). By day also He led them by a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire (Psalm 78:14).

Let us 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. Appropos of the times, the day speaks of the necessity to turn towards the Creator, whose words are better than silver and gold (Psalms 19:1-5, Proverbs 8:19).

His Presence

parashas Terumah 5781

“The veil shall divide unto you between the holy place and the most holy.”

– Exodus 26:33, JPS 1917 Tanach

The Ark of the Covenant with the tablets, rested within the Kadosh Kadoshim – the Holy of Holies. The cover was designed with two golden cherubim with their wings spanning the breadth of the Ark. The Holy of Holies was separated by the paroches – a veil – a finely embroidered curtain that was placed between the holiest place where the Ark containing the Ten Commandments was kept, and the Kadosh (Holy place), where the menorah, showbread table and copper incense mizbeach (altar) were placed. The holy place was frequented by the Kohein, while the most holy place received one visitor each year – the Kohein Gadol – only on Yom Kippur.

Although the offerings made within the mishkan were facilitated by the Kohein, symbolically, Torah points us in the direction of making ourselves a sanctuary for H’Shem’s Presence. According to the pasuk (verse), “Make Me a sanctuary, so that I may dwell within them” (Exodus 25:8). Therefore, let us consider, that we need to clear away a space inside of ourselves, in order to invite H’Shem to dwell within us. It is not necessary to use a broom and dustpan; although, figuratively speaking, perhaps, a feather to clean our minds and hearts, according to the moral inventory of Torah.

In preparing ourselves to sense H’Shem’s Presence, through the kedushah (holiness) that we create by sanctifying our lives, with respect to our higher aspirations, we remove ourselves from the realm of unholiness. Within our “inner sanctum” – the holy of holies – where only each one of us as sovereign individual of our own soul may enter, there we find H’Shem in the solace of a quiet refuge. “Rest in the L-rd, and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7).

“Who shall ascend into the mountain of the L-RD? And who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart. – Psalms 24:3-4, JPS 1917 Tanach

parasha Va’etchanan 5782 Words Give Life

weekly Torah reading: parasha Va'etchanan – Deveykus “Ye that did cleave unto the L-RD your G-d are alive every one of you this day.” – Deuteronomy 4:4, JPS 1917 Tanach
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  4. The Penitent Soul
  5. parasha Balak 5782 – Character and Integrity