Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Parshas Mishpatim 5767

This week, we move from the lightning and thunder upon the mountain of Parshas Yisro to the nitty-gritty details of our every-day interactions one with the other of Parshas Mishpatim. Again, as I opined last year on Parshas Beshallach and on Parshas Yisro, it is often nice to find G-d in the moment of experiential “highs”. However, to truly live in relationship to G-d is to accept ol malchut shemaim and to live every moment—high, low, and in between—mindful of HaKadosh Boruch-Hu and acting toward our fellow human beings and toward Him in consonance with that mindfulness as we are instructed in His Torah.

This year, Parshas Shekalim coincides with Mishpatim, and illustrates the point that though, as we will read in Parshas Teruma, for the initial building of the Mishkan, it took the repetitive, commanded donation of the half shekel each year to maintain the Mishkan and later the Mikdash. The high felt by the people in the initial building was unsustainable and it required commandment to insure the long-term involvement in even in so central an institution to our religious live.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Parshas Shemini

Parshas Shemini juxtaposes the story of the deaths of Nadav and Avihu with the laws of kashrus. Nadav and Avihu were consumed by divine fire for offering “aish zarah”, strange fire, to Hashem. The nature of the aish zarah is not specified in the verse and is the subject of much midrash. What is clear is that Hashem specified that which was acceptable to offer to him and this offering was not included in that list. It is a hoq—a law of Hashem with no clear explanation for its origin.

We are soon presented with another list, this of creatures we are permitted to eat and others which we are not. Again, there is much midrash as to why a cow might be permitted and a pig not or why a locust might be permitted but a lobster not. In the end, though, we can only say that the list is a hoq—a law of Hashem with no clear explanation for its origin.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Parshas Ki Sissa

The first set of lukkot is destroyed as Moshe descends from the mountain to find the people celebrating with the egel zahav. The second set of lukkot is preserved in the aron for many generations. There is an interesting difference between the short-lived first and the long-lived second set. The first were presented to Moshe pre-carved and then inscribed by the finger of G-d. The second set were carved by Moshe and then inscribed by the finger of G-d. It is the partnership between G-d and Moshe as a representative of Israel that permits bringing more than transient holiness into the world. So too in our day is it our partnership with G-d which brings holiness to the world.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Parshas Tetzaveh

This week’s parsha dwells at length on the priestly vestments, you should excuse such a highfalutin expression. One might think, from the amount of ink devoted to the detailed description of the clothing, that outward appearance is of great importance. Although, to those who grew up in the grungy ‘60s, this is difficult to swallow, our appearance to others reflects our attitude to the other. We can show respect or not in our manner of dress. When the other is G-d, does it not make sense that we should be particularly meticulous.

The tradition also prescribes meticulousness in speech. As an example, we have the extensive, detailed instructions about the care we take in reciting the Sh'ma in the Talmud (BT Brachos 15). One of my acquaintances once said, we are so careful so that someone who over-hears us will getr it right. I would submit that Someone always hears our recitation. We always stand before the Kadosh baruch hu in our recitation. It is a sign of our love and respect for Him that we recite with care.

It says in Avos (3:1). Akavya ben Mahalalel said: Reflect upon three things and you will not come to sin. Know from where you came and where you are going and before whom you are destined to give account and reckoning. From where have you come?--from a putrid drop. Where are you going?--to the place of dust, worm, and maggot. Before whom are you destined to give account and reckoning?--before the supreme King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be he. ( http://www.pirkeiavos.org/) .

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Parshas Terumah

In his drash on this week’s haftorah, Rabbi Dovid Green (http://www.torah.org/learning/haftorah/terumah.html) points out that the prophecy revealed to Shlomo HaMelech, "(Regarding) The house you are building, if you walk in My statues, adhere to My laws and guard all My mitzvos .... I will dwell amongst the Jewish people and not forsake My nation, Israel." (M'lochim I 6:12,13) comes as the exterior of the Beis HaMikdash is completed and the construction of interior to begin. As the outside of the building should be consonant with the glory and majesty of the Shechina which dwells within, so to must the interior reflect to G-d the honor and devotion of the builders.

The aron is built by taking a box of shittim wood and casing it outside and in with gold to provide a proper place for the lukkot inscribed by the finger of G-d. Is this not also the way of the Jew? We take our base material world and our bodies and by making a place for G-d, transform our interior life and our relationship the world to glittering gold.