Walk in Faith

parasha Devarim 5782

At Kadesh-Barnea, Moses explained to B’nei Yisrael that they had alighted upon the land that “our L-RD is giving to us” (Deuteronomy 1:20, JPS 1985 Tanach). At that time, they were commanded to take possession of the land promised to them. Moses said to them, “Fear not and be not dismayed” (1:21).

Moses recounts this narrative, thirty-nine years later, when the Children of Israel are poised on the edge of the Promised Land. He further explains to this new generation, how the generation of the spies, unfortunately, preferred to reconnoiter the land, rather than fully trusting in H’Shem to lead the way into the Promised Land.

This was a lack of faith on their part, and although Moses permitted them to send spies (see Deuteronomy 1:23), as H’Shem had left the choice up to him, the mission turned out for the worse.

Moses reminds the people, for the sake of admonishing them for their past failure, with the intent that they will see the error of their ways, and strengthen their trust in H’Shem this time. “I said to you, ‘Have no dread or fear of them. None other than the L-RD, who goes before you, will fight for you, just as He did for you in Egypt before your very eyes’” (Deuteronomy 1:30-31).

Similarly, to learn from our past failures in life is to gain an understanding based upon lived experience. In this manner, our errors may instruct and encourage us to do better, if we take them to heart, as steppingstones, along the way towards perfection of our faith. “The L-RD will accomplish that which concerneth me; Thy mercy, O L-RD, endureth for ever; forsake not the work of Thine own hands” (Psalm 138:8, JPS 1917 Tanach).

The Power of Words

parasha Mattot-Massei 5782

“When a man voweth a vow unto the L-RD, or sweareth an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.” – Numbers 30:2, JPS 1917 Tanach

Although the specific kinds of vows and oaths, referenced in the above-mentioned commandment apply to certain situations, within the context of Judaic law, the general principle is encapsulated, “he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.” Therefore, the premise may be applied to more commonly found issues, regarding the integrity or lack of integrity of speech.

In our own lives, there are many stipulations that could be identified in terms of the words that we speak.  For example, oftentimes what is said in anger is not to be taken seriously.  It is better to acknowledge what may have been said out of anger as inappropriate, making amends for the emotional harm done.  This requires the counterpart of forgiveness by the recipient. 

Any commitments we make to ourselves or others should be kept or not made at all.  The Sages were very skeptical about making vows of any sort, saying that it is better to not vow at all.  The L-RD appreciates a sincere effort in all that we do for His sake; it is better not to boast about our intentions. Bragging will only lead towards a negative consequence, akin to the adage, pride before a fall.

Additionally, all of our words should be chosen carefully, in accordance with humility. Idle chatter will be scrutinized by the heavenly court at the judgment. We will be subject to the consequences of every idle word spoken. Ill-spoken words will also be taken into account, as well as words of judgment against others. Taking all of this into consideration, it is better to remain silent, than to speak without thinking. Let us guard our speech from now on.

“Set a guard, O L-RD, to my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips.”

– Psalm 141:3, JPS 1917 Tanach

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Character and Integrity

parasha Balak 5782

“G-d is not man to be capricious, or mortal to change His mind. Would He speak and not act, promise and not fulfill?” – Numbers 23:21, JPS 1985 Tanach

As paraphrased by the Targum, “The Word of the living G-d is not as the words of men for the L-rd, the Ruler of all worlds, is the unchangeable, (but) man speaketh and denieth. Neither are His works like the works of the children of flesh, who consult, and then repent them of what they had decreed” (Targum Jonathan on Numbers 23:19, sefaria.org). In other words, that they change their mind, instead of remaining committed to their original intended course of action.

R’ Bachya states, in no uncertain terms that “the essential difference between G’d and man is that G’d keeps His promises whereas man often deceives, [and] disappoints the people who have been promised by him” (sefaria.org). Moreover, “Whereas man may change his mind concerning matters he had planned, which did not involve undertakings to his fellow man, he nonetheless is apt to have remorse, to change his mind before executing his plan” (sefaria.org).

Additionally, “when man deceives or reneges, this is considered a serious flaw in his character” (sefaria.org). Therefore, it may is important to keep in mind, based upon this commentary the benefits, of focusing upon character development, integrity, and keeping one’s word. These are all positive qualities to work on obtaining in life. Moreover, that our own words, should not contradict each other, as if we had two selves, in conflict with each other. And, that are actions should also not be opposed to our values, beliefs, and goals.

parasha Chukat 5782

“And there was no water for the congregation.” – Numbers 20:2

The well that provided water for the B’nei Yisrael in the desert, and “followed” them throughout their journeys, did so upon the merit of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron. She was a prophetess, and a coleader with Moses and Aaron. “For I brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam” (Micah 6:4). However, when Miriam passed away, “there was no water for the congregation” (Numbers 20:2). Miriam was a righteous person; so, in her merit the water had been provided to the Children of Israel for thirty-nine years. When she passed away, the well dried up.

The Sages ask why the mentioning of Miriam’s death occurs right after the description of the chukat (decree) of the parumah adumah (red heifer). The answer given is to exemplify that just as an offering brings atonement, so does the death of a righteous person bring atonement for the people (Mo’ed Katan 28a). Additionally, concerning the death of Aaron, who was not permitted to enter the land of Canaan: “Aaron shall be gathered to his people” (Numbers 20:4), his death also brought atonement.

As commentary futher explains, “Wherefore is [the account of] Aaron’s death closely followed by [the account of the disposal of] the priestly garments? [to inform you] that just as the priest’s vestments were [means to effect] atonement, so is the death of the righteous [conducive to procuring] atonement” (Talmud: Moed Katan 28a, Soncino edition, www.halakhah.com). Therefore, both the deaths of Miriam and Aaron, because they were righteous persons, atoned for that generation.

In like manner, that the chukat (decree) of the parumah adumah (red heiffer) is perplexing, so too, is the chukat of the lifting up of the copper serpent in the wilderness. The red heifer’s ashes mixed with hyssop, crimson, and cedar wood, are placed in mayim chayim (living water), that serves to cleanse from the impurities associated with death. And, the copper serpent, when looked upon, healed the people who had been bitten by the serpents in the wilderness. Perhaps, these chukatim both symbolically point toward the atonement of sin (the bite of the serpent) that would otherwise lead toward a type of spiritual death, if not atoned for.

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dvar Korach 5782

parasha Korach 5782

“O G-d, the G-d of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and wilt Thou be wroth with all the congregation?” – Numbers 16:22, JPS 1917 Tanach

It is written in Pirkei Avos that every controversy that is for the sake of heaven will endure, while every argument that is not “in the name of Heaven” will not endure. The discussions between Shammai and Hillel are an example of those that endure. The dispute of Korach was a rebellious argument that was not destined to endure (Pirkei Avos 5:20). Rather, Korach was destined to be punished from the beginning of human history, inasmuch that the mouth of the earth that swallowed Korach and his followers is said to have been created on twilight of Shabbat Eve (Pirkei Avos 5:9).


Korach separated himself from the assembly of H’Shem. He purported to champion the people, inasmuch that he claimed that everyone was holy, saying that Moses and Aaron should not lift themselves “above the assembly of H’Shem” (Numbers 16:3, JPS 1917 Tanach); commentary explains that Korach wanted Aaron’s position of Kohein Gadol (High Priest) for himself. He did not recognize that both Moshe and Aaron were G-d appointed; rather, he felt that they unfairly took the positions of leadership for themselves. His accusation revealed his own intent.


With the rebellion looming over Moses and Aaron, poised to overthrow them, H’Shem told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the congregation, so that He might destroy the entire congregation. Yet, Moses interceded on behalf of the people; in doing so, he addressed G-d as “the G-d of the spirits of all flesh.” In other words, Moses appealed to G-d, Who knows the hearts of all men, including their thoughts, inasmuch that in this specific case, He knew who was loyal to Him, and who was disloyal. So, Moses pleaded on behalf of the people that G-d would distinguish between the conspirators, and those of the people who still trusted in Him. As a result of Moshe’s heartfelt prayer, G-d decided to limit the extent of the punishment only to the guilty. This connotes G-d’s sense of justice, as well as His attribute of mercy.

“Behold, the eye of the L-RD is toward them that fear Him, toward them that wait for His mercy.” = Psalm 33:18, JPS 1917 Tanach

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.

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.

Teshuvah: Return

parasha Nasso 5782 – Returning to G-d

“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 they shall confess their sin which they have done.” – Numbers 5:6-7, JPS 1917 Tanach

According to the Talmud (Pesachim 54a), G-d created teshuvah (repentance), before the creation of the world. This teaching connotes the significance of teshuvah for tikkun hanefesh (rectification of the soul), and tikkun olam (repair of the world). In light of another passage in the Talmud (Megillah 13b), that speaks of the remedy being created before the wound, teshuvah is elevated to a near panacea, capable of transforming lives.

The first person to do teshuvah (repentance), as recorded in the Torah is Yehudah. He publicly acknowledged his transgression, after realizing his guilt. Also, King David, upon hearing a mashal (parable) about a rich man who had many sheep, yet, demanded the one and only sheep of a poor person for dinner, was told by the prophet that he was that man; consequently, he immediately confessed his sin. If only we had the resolve of biblical proportion to act in a decisive way, without hesitance, in recognizing our trespasses against G-d and man.

A sincere confession is necessary to diminish the influence of the yetzer hara (evil inclination), designating past ways of transgression to the past, in order to begin anew (Maimonides). Acknowledging past mistakes, and attitudes, as well as behaviors that are not in accord with a righteous way of living is an act of character, that supplements self-improvement. “And to him that ordereth his way aright will I show the salvation of G-d” (Psalm 50:23, JPS).

To be delivered from our nisyanos (trials), requires an effort that is enhanced by G-d’s mercy. He gives us opportunity to do teshuvah, to rectify our ways, so that we may be reconciled to Him. Additionally, regardless of any overly harsh condemnation we might hold against ourselves, He will grant us clemency, when we make a sincere confession within the depths of our heart.

Yet, if we do not recognize that we are imperfect human beings, who are subject to stray from the derech (path) that G-d intends for us, then we will continue to be lost amidst a labyrinth of wrong choices, and false ways. As noted in Mesillas Yesharim (the Path of the Just), by Chaim Luzatto, we need to seek the direction of someone, who figuratively speaking, can stand in the middle of the labyrinth and point out the right path. If we seek the wisdom of G-d, then we will find the way. “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6, JPS).

A Restoration of Values

parasha Nasso 5782 – a restoration of values in the postmodern world

“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 they shall confess their sin which they have done.” – Numbers 5: 6-7, JPS 1917 Tanach

According to Rambam, this verse is the basis of the importance of confession (vidui), 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. Yet, it is interesting to note that the Hebrew word for reparation is from the same shoresh (root word), shuv, as teshuvah, meaning to return. Repentance is a return to H’Shem (the L-RD). “Let us return unto the L-RD” (Hosea 5:15b, JPS 1917 Tanach).

The Mishkan along with the Levitical system of offerings were meant to restore the relationship of the people with H’Shem. A restored relationship with H’Shem begins with vidui (confession), whereby we confess our sins to Him; additionally, we return to Him by not making the same transgression again. We must also increase our mitzvoth, spending more time engaged with godly pursuits, and less time in that which could be considered frivolous. This is all the more important in today’s world of instant gratification, social media, and encroaching nihilism.

Unless we are conscious of leading a godly life, we may not even realize that a diminished connection to G-d, is a result of our own lack of mitzvot (good deeds). “Your iniquities have separated between you and your G-d (Isaiah 59:2, JPS 1917 Tanach). In order to experience G-d’s presence in our lives, then we need to approach Him in righteousness. If we have not been cognizant of what He expects from us, then we need to educate ourselves, according to His ways. Now is a good time to start.

motzei Shabbos: Emor 5782

parasha Emor 5782 – 7th aliyah

“He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the L-RD continually.”

– Leviticus 24:4, JPS 1917 Tanach

The menorah and the showbread table, respectively represent “spiritual growth” and “material prosperity.”  Both of these provisions rest upon the incense mizbeach (altar), so to speak, inasmuch that the smoke of the incense is symbolic of prayer; thus, through our avodah, namely, service of the heart (prayer), we may acquire both spiritual and material blessings.

Additionally, according to the Steinsaltz edition of the Chumash, the menorah represents “purity and radiance” (Steinsaltz commentary on Leviticus 24:4). This makes perfect sense, in consideration of the pure olive oil that was used for the menorah; and, the light emitting from the wicks of the menorah. Thus, an added dimension is brought to the above-mentioned insight, namely, that our spiritual growth is also dependent upon leading a pure life, focused on righteousness.