Vanquished Dreams

Moses, who lost out on permission to enter the land, pleaded one last time with H’Shem. He did not expect to change the L-RD’s mind, based upon any merit that he might claim for himself; for, it was precisely his demerit, having struck the rock, instead of speaking to the rock, that compelled G-d to decree that neither Moses, nor Aaron would enter the Land. Yet, try and try again, for the sake of making an appeal to the L-RD, Who on several occasions in the past, relented from strict judgment against the Israel.

To no avail, Moshe’s pleas only brought the retort that the L-RD had heard enough, he would not change his mind. Why, we may ask, when Moses acted on behalf of the people, the L-RD forgave them, and lessened the judgment; yet, in asking for himself, he is refused? Although I am not prone to speculation, one answer could be because of the high level of expectations the L-RD had of him, as well as Aaron, because of their leadership positions. For, as a scriptural premise, more is expected of those who have greater responsibilities to others.

Yet, consider, that all was not lost upon Moses, for his error; rather, as Rashi comments, his “consolation prize,” so to speak, was permission to enter Olam Haba (the World to Come). And, this, in all estimation, is really the greater reward – one that we should also look forward to in expectation. For, this world is like a corridor, where we prove ourselves to the L-RD, so that we may enter the banquet hall, symbolic of the World to Come (Pirkei Avos 4:21). Therefore, regardless of whatever unfulfilled dreams we may have in our own lives, G-d will reward us, if we remain faithful to Him.

Daily Potential

“The L-RD your God has blessed you in all your undertakings. He has watched over your wanderings through this great wilderness.” – Deuteronomy 2:7, JPS 1985 Tanach

While journeying from place to place in the wilderness, the L-RD provided the Children of Israel with sustenance, in the form of water from the well, manna from the sky, and quails, on that one occasion, that they ate for a month. Over a period of forty years, the fledgling nation of Israel was guarded, guided, and provided for by the L-RD. Although, this time was also used to test them, when provisions seemed to run scarce, or they had growing temptations about returning to Egypt, where there was not only more variety of food, rather, also, security in knowing where food would come from every day to put on their table. Their provisions in Egypt, even as slaves, seemed more sure, than the day to day trust that they needed to place in the L-RD, who only provided for them on a daily basis, as opposed to provisions that could be stored, after procuring what seemed sufficient for a week or two.

Perhaps, the adage, “one day at a time,” really seems significant, with respect to the way they lived their lives for forty years. And, the same adage can be applied to our lives today, with respect towards a trusting in the simplicity of life, when we focus on needs, as opposed to wants. For, only inasmuch that we can depend on the provision of the day, for both our material and spiritual nourishment, can we live in appreciation of each day, as a unique, unrepeatable basic unit of time, that brings certain opportunities for our growth as individuals. There is a teaching that each day has its potential that is offered in its own time. This is akin to the offerings of the moadim (appointed times), “each on its own day” (Leviticus 23:37). So, that in regard to the days of our lives, we may achieve what G-d’s expectations are for us, adding day upon day, in order to accumulate understanding, experience, and wisdom.

Guard Your Speech

B”H

holy scribbles: parashas Matos Massei 5781

“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

The Tamid Offering

“And say to them: This is the order of the oblations you shall offer before the L-rd; two lambs of the year, unblemished, daily, a perpetual burnt offering.”

  • Targum Jonathan on Numbers 28:3, sefaria.org

Everything was set in order upon the inauguration of the Mishkan, for the sake of the Levitical offerings, and the benefit of the people. Here, in parashas Pinchas is the daily tamid offering mentioned, to be brought in the morning and the afternoon. These two continual offerings denote the daily grind of avodas (worship) instituted in regard to the Mishkan, and later the temple, the central location of worship, as constituted within the framework of the offerings made for atonement, thanksgiving, and personal devotion.

This rigamarole reflects the constant focus on G-d that we should have in our hearts, if not in our daily activities; in other words. Even if we are living in the world, not exactly being engaged all of the time with outwardly godly pursuits, we can still keep our minds on H’Shem; regardless of how much opportunity we have to pray, study Torah, or do good deeds. This is the way of those who may be said to be pious of heart; regardless of externals in one’s life, the internal disposition is what matters most. This is otherwise known as kavannah (intention); although, in modern terms, could be associated with “mindfulness.”

Yet, this does not mean at all to forsake the commandments; all that we do must be within the designated guidelines set down for us in the commandments. The point being, that the righteous are righteous because of their conduct, regardless of vocation. In fact, many of the laws of Torah have to do with business, as well as our own personal conduct. The patriarchs who tended sheep, had plenty of time in isolation, like David to reflect on G-d. So, if we keep our lives simple, our hearts and minds can be on G-d, irrespective of our outward duties.

Response-ability

“Every situation requires a response.”

I believe that every situation requires a response. In reflecting upon, my own indecision, as well as my failure at times to respond at all, whether verbally to what someone else relates to me, or a situation that really requires my attention, I feel the need to articulate a stance. Towards the end of parashas Balak, the zealous Pinchas responds to a dire situation, whereof the Children of Israel were in the midst of being judged for idolatry and immorality; the plague was moving quickly amongst the people. Yet, Pinchas acted without haste, to protect G-d’s honor when a Prince of Israel and a Princess of Moab were flouting the moral integrity and directive of G-d’s divine commandments. In doing so, the plague was stopped, and Pinchas was given “a covenant of peace,” as delineated in parashas Pinchas.

Every situation requires an appropriate response. The Talmud emphasizes the commandment not to stand idly by, while others are in harm’s way. While on the one hand, it is not appropriate to act with zealousness in the manner that Pinchas did; on the other hand, it is necessary to assess every situation in order to reflect on the proper response. Keep in mind the following adage: “All that is required for evil to flourish is for good men [and women] to do nothing” (Elie Wiesel). Above all, discernment is necessary so that the best response may be made, after thoroughly thinking through the consequences of one’s own actions. If nothing else, prayer is paramount, as so many examples from scripture portray.

Kings HWY

“We will go along the king’s highway, we will not turn aside to the right hand nor to the left” – Numbers 20:17, JPS 1917 Tanach

The Children of Israel were ready to enter the Land. This was the generation after those who had believed the ill-report of the Spies. Yet, the shortest route into Eretz Canaan would pass through the territory of Edom. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau. Moshe appealed to the king of Edom, reminding him of the oppression of the Children of Israel, when enslaved in Egypt. Perhaps, he would have a moderate amount of compassion towards his brothers.

Moshe explained, that the Children of Israel would pass through Edom, travelling upon the king’s highway, neither deviating to the left nor to the right, as if to say, that the people would not enter the fields, nor the vineyards, and would pay for any consumption of water. (Incidentally, this is an excellent standard, for the lifetime journey of keeping to the straight and narrow). However, the king of Edom’s response was harsh; he refused passage through his kingdom. He backed up his refusal, saying that if they tried to pass, he would go against them with the sword. (His refusal represents the many obstacles in the way, on the derech towards Malchus Elokim).

The Sages emphasize that this is the way of Esau, based upon the blessing that his father, Isaac had given to him, “By your sword shall you live” (Genesis 27:40). On the contrary, Isaac, who was blind, said, “the voice is the voice of Jacob,” when his son, Jacob came to him for a blessing. The Sages infer that these words connote the value of prayer in regard to Jacob (Bereishis Rabbah 65:20). For, the sword of Esau is contrasted against the prayers of Jacob. Prayer is highly regarded as an effective means of seeking assistance from th L-RD. The sincere prayers of Israel will evoke a response from G-d (Rashi).

Positive Controversy

“Every controversy that is in the Name of Heaven shall in the end lead to a permanent result, but every controversy that is not in the Name of Heaven shall not lead to a permanent result. Which controversy was that which was in the Name of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Hillel and Shammai. And that which was not in the Name of Heaven? Such was the controversy of Korah and all his company.”

  • Pirkei Avos 5:20


After the incident of the spies, whereof the people were demoralized by the ill report of the land, H’Shem decreed that generation would wander in the desert for a total of forty years. The people were none too happy about this consequence of their lack of faith; plus, there was further discontent sown by Korach, who took advantage of their general malaise, in order to foment an outright rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Yet, Moses was clear about the implications of Korach’s agitation, “you and all your company are gathered against the L-RD” (Numbers 16:11).


Although the intentions of Korach were to take the position of Kohein Gadol for himself, only the rightfully chosen persons are placed in their position of leadership by H’Shem.”The L-RD will show who are His, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near to him; him whom He has chosen will cause to come near to him” (Numbers 16:5). Both Moses and Aaron, as well as the Levites were chosen by H’Shem for their respective positions. When Korach disputed their authority, he was challenging G-d’s authority.


Only “controversy” in the Name of Heaven, i.e., discussion for the sake of reaching a greater understanding of G-d, scripture, and prophecy, will flourish because the means to a common goal is justified by the intent of the participants to further their own appreciation of heavenly things, from a godly perspective. As one mind may benefit from another, because of the heightened level of discernment attained as a result of the combined effort.

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).

parashas Tazria-Metzora 5781

“This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: he shall be brought unto the priest [kohein].” – Leviticus 14:2, JPS

In each case, whether a person’s home, clothing, or body is stricken with a nega (plague), he is brought to the kohein (priest). The kohein determines not only the status of the suspected nega; he also is qualified on a spiritual level to gain insight on the state of the person’s soul. This concept is in line with the understanding of tzarras as a spiritual malaise that manifests as a skin disease.

Tzarras is one type of nega, the other two in question, here, are those that show up on a person’s clothes or the walls of his home. In all cases, as already mentioned above, the kohein is the sole individual, who uses his discernment to ascertain the specific sin that was the root cause of the blemish on a person’s soul, that manifested as a nega (literally, “plague”).

What can we learn from this connection? H’Shem is merciful; He is not interested in simply punishing us for our sins. Rather, He will send an early warning signal to serve as a “wake up call,” specifically designated for us, so that we may scrutinize our own selves, in search for our misdeeds, character defects, and deficiencies.

While sheltering in place, amidst the restrictions that began, in an attempt to counter the proliferation of  the Corona Virus, we are very much like the metzora, the Biblical leper who is sent outside of the camp, where he is in isolation, for the purpose of reviewing his thoughts, speech, and action, so that he may rectify his ways.

Many of us have had plenty of time to do the same, by searching our hearts, and carrying out what is referred to in Hebrew as heshbon hanefesh, literally, an “accounting of the soul.” H’Shem may very well be effecting a judgment upon the world for this very purpose. We should compel ourselves, in all sincerity, to continue to use our time wisely.

parashas Shemini 5781

“For today the L-RD will appear to you.” – Leviticus 9:4

Upon completion of the (tabernacle), offerings were brought for its inauguration: these included an offering to atone for Aaron’s role in the golden calf incident. Commentary reads, that the offerings were prepared; however, the fire had not yet descended from the sky; so, Aaron grew concerned. His guilt in the sin of the golden calf compelled him to think that the delay was a sign that he was not completely forgiven.

At this point, Moses and Aaron entered the sanctuary. While no reason is given on the actual passage found in Torah, commentary offers several reasons. One reason given is that Aaron confided in Moses, concerning his felt shame over his sin. Thus the two of them entered the sanctuary, in order to pray to the L-RD to forgive Aaron. When they walked out of the sanctuary after praying, the fire descended upon the mizbeach, consuming the offerings.

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