• Dvar for Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

    After Bila’am’s failed efforts to curse the Jewish people, he devised another ploy. He advised the nations of Midian and Moav to lure the Jews to sin through salacious activities. Midian complied wholeheartedly, offering its daughters as conspirators in the profanity. The scheme worked, and the wrath of Hashem was aroused. A plague ensued and thousands of Jews died. In this week’s Parsha, Pinchas, G-d commands his people to administer justice. “Make the Midianites your enemies and attack them!” The issue that may confront the modern thinker is simple. War? Over what? They were not fighting over land or oil. Why such vehemence to the point of physical attack over the incident at Peor?

    Rabbi Eliezer Sorotzkin related the following story: In November 1938, before the onset of World War II, some Jewish children had the opportunity to escape from Nazi Germany and resettle in England through what became known as kindertransport. Unfortunately, there were not enough religious families able to accept these children and other families who were willing to take them were not willing to raise the children with Jewish traditions. The Chief Rabbi of London, Rabbi Yechezkel Abramski, embarked on a frantic campaign to secure funding to ensure that every child would be placed in a proper Jewish environment. Rabbi Abramski called one wealthy Jewish industrialist and begged him for a donation sizable enough to ensure that the children would be raised in proper Jewish environment. “It is pikuach nefesh” cried Rabbi Abramski.

    At that point, the tycoon became incensed. “Rabbi,” he said, “Please do not use that term flippantly. I know what pikuach nefesh is. Pikuach nefesh means a matter of life and death! When I was young, my parents were very observant. When my baby sister was young, she was very sick. We had to call the doctor, but it was on Shabbos. My father was very conscientious of the sanctity of Shabbos, but our rabbi told us that since this is a matter of life and death, we were allowed to desecrate the Shabbos. Rabbi Abramski,” the man implored, “with all due respect. The children are already here in England. They are safe from the Nazis. The only issue is where to place them. How they are raised is not pikuach nefesh!” With that, the man politely bade farewell and hung up the phone.

    That Friday evening, the wealthy man was sitting at dinner, when the telephone rang incessantly. Finally, the man got up from his meal and answered the phone. As he listened to the voice on the other end of the line, his face went pallid. “This is Abramski. Please. I would not call on the Sabbath if I did not think this was pikuach nefesh. Again, I implore you. We need the funds to ensure that these children will be raised as Jews.” Needless to say, the man responded immediately to the appeal.

    We understand matters of life and death, justice and injustice, war and peace, in corporeal terms. It is difficult to view spirituality in those terms as well, but the Torah teaches us that our enemies are not merely those who threaten our physical existence, but those who threaten our spiritual existence as well. What our enemies were unable to do to the Jewish people with bullets and gas, they have succeeded in doing with assimilation and spiritual attrition. The Torah teaches us that the physical world and the spiritual world are inseparable. An attack on spirituality breaches the borders of our very essence, and our response must be in kind. It is essential to know that when we do some serious soul-searching there is really something out there waiting to be found.

  • Dvar for Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

    Parshat Pinchas relates the story (27:1-12) about the daughters of Tzlafchad, descendants of Yosef (Joseph). These daughters wanted and loved the Land of Israel so much that they wanted a piece of it. As Rav Moshe Feinstein asks, why do they have to have a claim in the land, just because they love it? Wouldn’t entering or living in the land be fulfilling enough?

    Rav Moshe thus concludes that if a person truly loves something, they’d want it to be theirs, and no one else’s. This is why the daughters wanted to actually own a piece of the land, rather than simply living in it. This logic applies to marriages, as well as the Torah’s preference that every Jew writes their own Torah (or a portion of it). In our terms, it’s not enough to borrow and read Jewish books. We need to love the Torah we read so much that we feel the need to own it. As this week’s Parsha urges, we should not only seek, read and enjoy words of Torah, but we should own those books, and live those words.

  • Dvar for Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

    After Bila’am’s failed efforts to curse the Jewish people, he devised another ploy. He advised the nations of Midian and Moav to lure the Jews to sin through salacious activities. Midian complied wholeheartedly, offering its daughters as conspirators in the profanity. The scheme worked, and the wrath of Hashem was aroused. A plague ensued and thousands of Jews died. In this week’s Parsha, Pinchas, G-d commands his people to administer justice. “Make the Midianites your enemies and attack them!” The issue that may confront the modern thinker is simple. War? Over what? They were not fighting over land or oil. Why such vehemence to the point of physical attack over the incident at Peor?

    Rabbi Eliezer Sorotzkin related the following story: In November 1938, before the onset of World War II, some Jewish children had the opportunity to escape from Nazi Germany and resettle in England through what became known as kindertransport. Unfortunately, there were not enough religious families able to accept these children and other families who were willing to take them were not willing to raise the children with Jewish traditions. The Chief Rabbi of London, Rabbi Yechezkel Abramski, embarked on a frantic campaign to secure funding to ensure that every child would be placed in a proper Jewish environment. Rabbi Abramski called one wealthy Jewish industrialist and begged him for a donation sizable enough to ensure that the children would be raised in proper Jewish environment. “It is pikuach nefesh!” cried Rabbi Abramski.

    At that point, the tycoon became incensed. “Rabbi,” he said, “Please do not use that term flippantly. I know what pikuach nefesh is. Pikuach nefesh means a matter of life and death! When I was young, my parents were very observant. When my baby sister was young, she was very sick. We had to call the doctor, but it was on Shabbos. My father was very conscientious of the sanctity of Shabbos, but our rabbi told us that since this is a matter of life and death, we were allowed to desecrate the Shabbos. Rabbi Abramski,” the man implored, “with all due respect. The children are already here in England. They are safe from the Nazis. The only issue is where to place them. How they are raised is not pikuach nefesh!” With that, the man politely bade farewell and hung up the phone.

    That Friday evening, the wealthy man was sitting at dinner, when the telephone rang incessantly. Finally, the man got up from his meal and answered the phone. As he listened to the voice on the other end of the line, his face went pallid. “This is Abramski. Please. I would not call on the Sabbath if I did not think this was pikuach nefesh. Again, I implore you. We need the funds to ensure that these children will be raised as Jews.” Needless to say, the man responded immediately to the appeal.

    We understand matters of life and death, justice and injustice, war and peace, in corporeal terms. It is difficult to view spirituality in those terms as well, but the Torah teaches us that our enemies are not merely those who threaten our physical existence, but those who threaten our spiritual existence as well. What our enemies were unable to do to the Jewish people with bullets and gas, they have succeeded in doing with assimilation and spiritual attrition. The Torah teaches us that the physical world and the spiritual world are inseparable. An attack on spirituality breaches the borders of our very essence, and our response must be in kind. It is essential to know that when we do some serious soul-searching there is really something out there waiting to be found

  • Daily Aliya for Pinchas, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya discusses the sacrifices offered on the holidays of Succot and Shemini Atzeret.

    During the seven days of Succot 70 bulls , 14 rams and 98 lambs were sacrificed. Rashi explains that the bulls represented the 70 nations, explaining that the sacrifices “shielded them from adversity”. It’s unclear if the Jews were shielded, or the nations were. I’d like to think that both are true, and that as the nation with the closest relationship with G-d, we shield the world from adversity. In those days it was with sacrifices, and these days it’s with morality, even when facing hostile and tense situations. As a “light unto the nations”, it’s always been our responsibility to “represent”.

  • Daily Aliya for Pinchas, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya discusses the sacrifices offered on Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, and Yom Kippur. The Torah also discusses some of the laws related to these holidays.

    In case you were wondering about the “recipe” for these sacrifices, Rashi explains that the bulls represent Avraham (who ran to get cattle to feed his guests), the ram represents Yitzchak (Isaac – the ram replaced him as a sacrifice), and the lambs represent Yakov (Jacob – separated the lambs in his camp). Referencing our forefathers has two distinct benefits: It helps us put the sacrifices, our relationship with G-d, and our life in perspective, and it reminds G-d of their merits to the extent that they can help us. That’s why we also mention the forefathers when we daven (pray), for the same bilateral perspective.

  • Daily Aliya for Pinchas, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: From this point until the end of this week’s reading, the Torah details the various communal sacrifices which were offered in the Tabernacle and Temple at designated times. This section discusses the twice-daily “Tamid” sacrifice, as well as the additional sacrifices offered on Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the Jewish month).

    If you’re looking for juicy theories and life lessons, this Aliya is as bone dry as it gets (pun intended). However, two items stand out among the detailed descriptions of the sacrifices brought monthly. The first is the “re’ach nochoach” that was associated with these offerings. Literally it means “a spirit of satisfaction”, and it refers to G-d pleasure in seeing that we did exactly what He asked us to do, despite it making little sense, because that’s what makes Him happy. The second is the monthly sacrifice brought to atone for the sins we are not aware of. These two items clearly outline the relationship between two people, where one tries to please the other, and just in case they did anything wrong, apologizes for things they were unaware of. It’s a beautiful blueprint for relationships.

  • Dvar for Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1)

    Parshat Pinchas relates the story (27:1-12) about the daughters of Tzlafchad, descendants of Yosef (Joseph). These daughters wanted and loved the Land of Israel so much that they wanted a piece of it. As Rav Moshe Feinstein asks, why do they have to have a claim in the land, just because they love it? Wouldn’t entering or living in the land be fulfilling enough?

    Rav Moshe thus concludes that if a person truly loves something, they’d want it to be theirs, and no one else’s. This is why the daughters wanted to actually own a piece of the land, rather than simply living in it. This logic applies to marriages, as well as the Torah’s preference that every Jew writes their own Torah (or a portion of it). In our terms, it’s not enough to borrow and read Jewish books. We need to love the Torah we read so much that we feel the need to own it. As this week’s Parsha urges, we should not only seek, read and enjoy words of Torah, but we should own those books, and live those words.

  • Daily Aliya for Pinchas, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d agreed to Tzlophchad’s daughters’ request. Moshe is then instructed the laws of inheritance. Included in these laws is a daughter’s right to her father’s estate if he does not leave any sons. G‑d tells Moshe to climb to the top of Mount Abarim from where he would see the Promised Land before he died. Moshe asks G‑d to appoint a worthy individual to succeed him. G‑d instructs Moshe to endow Joshua with some of his spiritual powers and publicly name him as his successor.

    When Moshe was shown the land he yearned to enter but was not allowed to, he had a choice. He could have been bitter, or happy that at least his people were finally about to enter the promised land. What was his main concern when he saw the land? That a worthy successor be chosen to lead the Jews into the land. And when G-d told Moshe to lay his hand on Yehoshua (Joshua), his successor, Moshe laid TWO hands, bestowed some of his wisdom and radiance upon Joshua, encouraged him to see all his people as individuals, and to lead by example. True leadership 101: Empowering a successor to succeed.

  • Daily Aliya for Pinchas, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: As per G‑d’s command, the land of Israel was to be divided amongst all those who were counted in the census. The location of each tribe’s portion would be determined by lottery. The tribe of Levi is now counted. There were 23,000 Levite males above the age of one month. The daughters of Tzelophchad approached Moshe and stated that their father had died leaving behind only daughters. They requested to receive their father’s portion in the land of Israel. Moshe relayed their request to G‑d.

    The daughters of Tzelophchad weren’t the first active women in Jewish history, but their actions commanded respect because of the underlying desire to be a part of the land distribution, and the Jewish nation. Their argument was logical, respectful and fair. This is yet another example of a maturing people, having learned how not to argue for what they thought was fair, and finally making a point. We’re seeing the growth of a nation, in numbers, experience and maturity.

  • Daily Aliya for Pinchas, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Israelites are counted, and the totals are given for each of the twelve tribes. The grand total of all the tribes combined is 601,730. The tribe of Levi is not included in this census.

    The very first Passuk (verse) says it all about this Aliya. The firstborn for Reuven was Chanoch, from the Chanochi family. The statement seems redundant, but it’s really not. Rashi explains that outsiders questioned the Jews’ ability to trace their ancestors, claiming that when they were in Egypt no one really knew who the children’s fathers were because of immorality that must have occurred (between the Egyptian men and the Jewish women). G-d response to that was to add his name to every family, adding a “hey” to the beginning and a “yud” to the end, so Chanoch became “Hachanochi”, demonstrating that G-d protected the Jews, and specifically the women in Egypt.

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