What Was the Sin? Parshat Pinchas

Why did Pinchas kill Kozbi? Was it because of her immoral sexual seduction of an Israelite, Zimri ben Salou, or because she and her Midianite clan worshipped the idol Pe’or? Rashi (ad loc.) is aware of the ambiguity of the verse and suggests that the end-goal of the Midianites, and the reason for which they… Read More

Who Are the Jewish People? Parshat Balak

Who, or what, defines Israel, and why does it matter? If deeply concerning trends continue in the United States, research and ample anecdotal evidence indicate that those succeeding in affecting views toward Israel are the very people who attack it as a racist, discriminatory occupier lacking any moral or political legitimacy. Noble attempts to brand… Read More

Moses’ Blind Eye Parshat Chukat

Moses entered the stage of Jewish history by heroically striking an Egyptian taskmaster who was beating an Israelite slave (Ex. 2:11-12). In contrast, his unfortunate striking of a rock in this week’s biblical portion of Chukat precipitated his exit from the stage of Jewish history. His first act of striking was done out of love… Read More

The Quest for Holiness Parshat Korach

Where did Korach err in his rebellion against Moses and Aaron? On the surface, his argument appears to be both logical and just: “You [Moses and Aaron] have gone too far. The entire congregation is holy, and God is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above God’s assembly?” Indeed, did not the… Read More

The Sin of Misunderstanding Parshat Shlach

Of the sins that the People of Israel commit in the Bible, the most serious of all takes place in our portion of Shlach. The spies’ severe report directly causes the death of the desert generation. However, it is difficult to understand that the suggestion to establish such an ill-fated reconnaissance team came directly from… Read More

Seeking the Right Kind of Leader Parshat Beha’alotcha

The Jewish people seemed poised for entry into the Promised Land when suddenly; “The nation became a group of kvetchers, complaining evilly in the ears of the Lord saying, ‘Who will feed us meat? Remember the fish which we ate in Egypt for free, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the onions and the garlic’” (Numbers 11:1,… Read More

Being the Best We Can

This week’s Haftorah is about the birth of Samson the Nazarite. His mother was not able to have children, so she prayed to G-d for a miracle and to bless her with a child. An angel informed the mother of rules that she must follow, including not drinking wine, keeping kosher, not touching a dead… Read More

Water as Torah

This Shabbat, we read the haftorah from the Book of Jeremiah. During his lifetime, Jeremiah, the prophet, remembered the exile of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians, when the Ten Tribes were led into captivity. The Israelites were worshiping idols and foreign gods, and Jeremiah understood that they had to be punished for their lack… Read More

Mitzvot and Faith Parshat Behar-Bechukotai

In this week’s double parshah, Behar-Bechukotai, the Israelites are instructed how to take care of the land of Israel. The shmita year, the seventh year, was created to make sure that the land would not be worked continuously so that it could replenish itself. As an agricultural society, Israelites would grow crops to produce food… Read More