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).

G-d’s Word

parashas Nasso 5781

“And when Moses went into the tent of meeting that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him from above the ark-cover that was upon the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and He spoke unto him.”

– Numbers 7:89, JPS 1917 Tanach

As recorded in Torah, not until the leaders of each of the twelve tribes of Israel brought their offerings, did the L-RD’s presence appear within the Kadosh Kadoshim (Holy of Holies). It is interesting to note, how the phrase, “the Voice speaking unto him” denotes the voice of the Shechinah (G-d’s presence). The targum paraphrases, “the voice of the Spirit who spake” unto Moses, that descended “from the heaven of heavens” (Targum Yonaton, Numbers 7:89; sefaria.org). The Targum further associates the Voice with “the Word,” hearkening back to G-d’s Ten Utterances in the Creation narrative.


The building of the Mishkan (tabernacle) itself, a microcosm of the macrocosm, is likened to the creation of the world. Hence, it is appropos to think in terms of G-d’s presence being present, as He was in Gan Eden (the Garden of Eden); and, His Word being heard, as at the beginning of Creation. G-d’s presence will now rest between the two golden cherubim on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant; and, so, His voice will emanate from behind the paroches (curtain) that separated the Holy of Holies from the less holy area of the mishkan, called the Holy.


Woven into the fabric, are two depictions of angels that are symbolic of the angels that guarded the Tree of Life. Further lending authenticity to this understanding, are the names given to the wooden dowels of a Torah scroll, eitz chayim (tree of life). G-d compels us to choose life, by acknowledging His words, carefully inscribed on the two tablets of the Aseret HaDibrot (The Ten Statements); otherwise, referred to as the Ten Commandments. From these, stem all of the other commandments. We would be wise to heed the call, by entering into relationship with the L-RD, for the sake of procuring eternal life.

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.

Established from Above

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 they who 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, including myself, 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 is an invaluable estimation of one’s time and effort in the endeavor.

Even so, the greater picture concerns our contribution to the expectations of G-d for the sake of others, as well as ourselves. There is no remuneration that can be measured in terms that would assess 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. 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

Gold Dust

B”H

Holy Scribbles: Parashas Ki Tisa 5781 – Gold Dust

An often neglected nuanced understanding, in regard to the debacle of the golden calf is as follows: after grinding the golden molten metal calf into dust, Moses throws the dust particles into the water; additionally, he compels the people to drink this. Why? Later in the accounts given in Torah, we learn the reason. This has to do with the sotah – the unfaithful wife who is put to the test, in regard to her innocence. She is compelled to drink water that has a little bit of earth, plus the erased letters of a written punishment if she is guilty of adultery. These words that make up the judgment include G-d’s name; yet, the name of G-d is also erased along with the rest of the passage. If she is guilty, the written curse will be supernaturally enacted.

This procedure is akin to the measures that Moses took, after grinding the golden calf into powder. Israel was guilty of adultery, in a certain sense, as well as idolatry, because to turn away for G-d to another god is a form of adultery. Elsewhere throughout kitvei kodesh (holy scripture), Israel is compared to a wayward wife, essentially an adulteress, because she turned towards all sorts of other gods. Recompense is made for Israel, when they turn back towards H’Shem (literally, “the Name”), thus effectively ending the separation.

This same parallel can be found in our own lives as well, for when we turn away from G-d, whether through neglect of our duties, indifference, or outright sin, a chasm opens up between us and Him. “Your iniquities have been a barrier between you and your G-d, your sins have made Him turn His face away” (Isaiah 59:2, JPS 1985 Tanach). Although we are not made to drink bitter water, the result of our negligence has the effect of bringing bitterness into our lives, until we reconcile ourselves to G-d.

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