A Balanced Perspective

parashas Beha’alotecha 5781

Moses was shown the shown pattern for the menorah (seven branched candlestick) that was to be made for the Mishkan (Sanctuary). He received a vision of the heavenly menorah, as if made of light. “The Holy One, blessed be He, showed him the pattern of it in a candlestick of fire (Rashi, Menachot 29a; sefaria.org). “And see that thou make them after their pattern, which is being shown thee on the mount” (Exodus 25:40, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Symbolically, many meanings may be drawn out from the menorah. One such explanation is given by Sforno, who comments, “that only by the ‘right’ side representing preoccupation with eternal values, life in the future, working together with the ‘left’ side which represents the concerns with physical life on our planet, will we be able to attain our purpose on earth” (Sforno on Numbers 8:2, sefaria.org).


This is a timely message, for the implied essence of the teaching is that there needs to be a balance between ruchniyos (spirituality), and gashmiyos (materiality). If humankind is compelled to only focus on materialistic concerns, without giving heed to the Creator, then there is a clear imbalance in values, that will eventually lead to dystopia. Yet, G-d has given us hope, in order to transcend the mundane, even while recognizing the inherent value in leading a godly life on earth. If we continue to cast our eyes towards Him, we will succeed with our endeavors.


“I am ever mindful of the L-RD’s presence” (Psalms 16:8). Those who are already led astray by the deceits of socialism, have fallen prey to an ideology that will not produce fruit. Rather, through pursuing righteousness, blessings will abound, both in this world and the next. “And He will do thee good” (Deuteronomy 30:5, JPS 1917 Tanach). “G-d will redeem my soul from the power of the nether-world; for He shall receive me. Selah” (Psalm 49:16, JPS).

Inner Spark

“All the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.”

– Exodus 10:23, JPS 1917 Tanach

Three days of darkness fell upon Egypt, as the ninth plague was enacted. Yet, there was light in the dwellings of the Children of Israel, who lived apart from the Egyptians in the land of Goshen. This is in accord with the declaration made several times, in regard to the plagues, that the L-RD would differentiate between the Egyptians and Israel. Perhaps, this is the most striking example, whereof somehow B’nei Yisrael had light in Goshen, whereas the rest of Egypt experienced utter darkness for three days. How can this be explained?

The Targum infers that the light served the purpose of enabling the righteous to be occupied with good deeds within their dwellings (Targum Yonatan, Exodus 10:23, sefaria.org). Or HaChayim alludes to the origin of this light as having to do with the righteousness of the Children of Israel. By this allusion, in all likelihood, he was referring to the idea of the pintele yid – the inner spark.

Despite a person’s best efforts, we often fail to even live up to our own standards of righteousness, let alone G-d’s standard; yet, there is flame within that may always call us to return to Him. This is the pintele yid, the inner essence, wherein the flickering flame of divinity, yearns to be kindled by acts of righteousness (mitzvoth).

“For the commandment is a lamp, and the teaching is light.”

– Proverbs 6:23, JPS 1917 Tanach

parashas Bo 5780

B”H

“And the L-RD said unto Moses: Go in unto Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart, and the heart of his servants, that I might show these My signs in the midst of them.'”

– Exodus 10:1, JPS 1917 Tanach

According to the Zohar, when Moses entered Pharaohs inner chamber, considered to be the abode of evil, HShems Presence was with him. This is drawn from the translation of the word, bo, as meaning “come” to Pharaoh, instead of “go” to Pharaoh. Because H’Shem said to Moses, in a manner of speaking, come with me, into the abode of the serpent, and My Presence will be with you when you confront Pharaoh. To some degree, what is written in the Zohar seems to imply that this inner chamber was actually a spiritual abode of darkness, as if Moses was brought face to face with the power of the serpent that sustained Pharaoh and all of Egypt. The only reason that this would be necessary is to break that power through G-d’s might.

Moshe may have also felt some trepidation about confronting Pharaoh within the court this time. Having grown up in the previous Pharaoh’s court, he knew full well the level of darkness in the form of idolatry, present within Pharaoh’s inner chambers. The servants of Pharaoh were well skilled in the ways of darkness associated with these deities. Their so-called powers were not from G-d; rather, their strength was dependent upon the sitra achrah, literally, “the other side.” This why the Zohar refers to Pharaoh’s inner chamber as the abode of evil; for in the absence of G-d, there is only evil.

Yet, H’Shem reassured Moshe, that He would be present with Him, even in this darkest of abodes. At this point, Moses, accompanied by Aaron, delivered the warning for the eighth plague – the plague of locusts. The description of the plague was severe enough that “Pharaoh’s servants said unto him: ‘How long shall this man be a snare to us? let the men go, that they may serve the L-RD their G-d, knowest thou not yet that Egypt is destroyed?” (Exodus 10:7, JPS 1917 Tanach). It is the nature of evil, that when it lifts up it’s ugly head, it does so in insolent pride against G-d – for Pharaoh did not relent.

The Foundation Stone

B”H

Shiur for parashas Vayeitzei 5780

(Genesis 28:10 – 32:3)

December 7, 2019 — 9 Kislev 5780

“And he lighted upon the place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took one of the stones of the place, and put it under his head, and lay down in that place to sleep.”

– Genesis 28:11, JPS 1917 Tanach

The word lighted, i.e., “and he lighted upon the place,” in Hebrew is vayifgah, from the shoresh (root word), paga. According to chazal, the word implies prayer, hence, the origin of the evening prayer being attributed to Jacob. Therefore, this event in Jacob’s life was the precedent for prayer, the third prayer of the day, that marks the transition from day to night. What significance does this particular prayer serve? Within the context of the evening shema, the prayer draws emphasis on G-d’s faithfulness to Israel; we remind ourselves of His faithfulness to us, because darkness signifies the exile. Yet, He is with us, as He was in the past: “In all their affliction He was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9).

The stones that Jacob placed around his head, twelve stones, are said in the midrash to have been taken from the mizbeach (altar) made by Abraham. The next morning, Jacob “took the stone that he had put under his head, and set it up for a pillar” (Genesis 28:18). In other words, of the twelve stones that he originally placed under his head he took the stone, one specific stone. Although, according to the midrash, symbolically, the twelve stones became one, representing the unity of the twelve tribes of Israel.

According to Pirkei de Rabbi Eliezer, this stone was given the name evehn shetiyah (the foundation stone), many generations later. This stone symbolizes the center of the world, from where all the earth was created. Jacob poured oil on this stone, so that it could be used as a mizbeach (altar), later, when he would return from his journey to Haran. This location is where the first and second Temples stood, many generations after Jacob. It is also where the third Temple will be built in Jerusalem.

As mentioned above, the maariv (evening) prayer, recited after nightfall, is a reminder of H’Shem’s faithfulness to us, during this Galus, i.e., the current exile. With our hope focused on the time of the Final Redemption, we may look forward to the time when K’lal Yisrael (All of Israel) will be united. “And He will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the dispersed of Israel, and gather together the scattered of Judah” (Isaiah 11:12, JPS 1917 Tanach).

“‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the L-RD of hosts. He shall bring forth the top stone with shoutings of Grace, grace upon it.'” – Zechariah 4:6-7

(In memory of Yaakov ben Dovid)