In this week’s Sidra Moshe Rabbeinu starts rebuking the Jews prior to his death. As he is about to depart this world, he takes the opportunity to remind them of all the sins that were committed in the desert.
He affords great details to his account.
He tells us the size of Og’s bed! It was nine cubits long and 4 wide. We are told it was made of iron. ( ch 3 vs 11) We are informed of all the previous names of the cities the Jews conquered.
We are made aware of peoples nicknames (ch 2 vs 20)
Why do we need to know all these details? It appears if one can say so that Moshe is ‘waffling’ on a bit.
It would appear to me after learning this weeks Sidra that when it comes to thanking Hashem for miracles, one must strive to remember every single detail. This increases the praise and honour that we afford Hashem. To People like Moshe Rabbeinu to whom every moment of their lives are precious and sacred, no detail is insignificant. Every thing that is brought to their attention was done so for a reason. That’s why Moshe Rabbeinu saw fit to mention it.
In this week’s Sedra we are told the exact borders of Israel. It is important to know exactly where Israel begins and ends because there are special commandments only pertaining to the Land of Israel.
We are also told that if we don’t wipe out all the people from Israel we will live to regret it. So, as I am sure you are aware by following the events in Israel recently, we didn’t wipe out everyone. The book of Joshua lists all the people who were allowed to remain alive in Israel. We are told they will be (33:55) “pins in your eyes and thorns in your side”. We can see the fulfilment of this verse throughout history.
However, this should serve as a source of comfort to us. If the bad verses are coming true then surely we must believe the good verses will also come true. May it be His will that this be speedily in our days.
At the end of this week’s sedra, we learn about the laws of murder and one who murders accidentally.
We are told (35:20)
“If he pushed him out of HATRED, or hurled upon him from ambush or in ENMITY struck him…. He should be put to death”.
Later on while discussing an accidental murder it states (35:22 )
“But if with suddenness WITHOUT ENMITY or without ambush…” So it is clear from the Torah the reason why someone commits murder; because he has hatred towards him.
This is a frightening thought. If we just look at those people currently in prison for murder today, how many of them would fit our typical ‘murderer’ perception?
There must be many who seem upper class people who would never have dreamed they would ever take a life. They stooped so low because they allowed their little grievance to slowly turn into hatred. Once hatred and even jealousy takes hold then we become slaves to that feeling and if we are not careful we can even stoop low enough to commit murder.
We should all realise the power of hatred and try and settle our disputes in a calm way and air our grievances respectfully before it turns into something nasty.
I believe the Torah teaches how to go about not hating our fellow Jew.
In Leviticus (19:17) it says as follows;-
“You should not hate your brother in your heart; you should reprove your friend and do not bear a sin because of him.”
What is the connection between these apparent random statements that appear in the same verse?
The Torah tells us of the sin of hating your fellow Jew. We know how terrible this sin is. The Talmud gives this sin as the reason for this exile. Therefore, the Torah is giving us a helping hand.
You want to know how not to commit the sin of hating your fellow Jew; then reprove your friend by airing your grievances with him. Don’t let things fester under the surface. We all know that when we feel we are wronged we get angry. If we deal with it and tell the person, we can then move on. If we choose to keep it quiet then it can gnaw away at us and lead to hatred.
I am pleased to bring you a brief summary of the Sedra from my father Rabbi Arnold Saunders who writes a column for the Manchester Jewish Telegraph.
This week’s Sedra is the one that is read from more than any other. This is because it contains the Parsha that discusses the Communal Sacrifices that were offered in the Temple. There were daily Sacrifices as well as special ones for Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) and Festivals. The relevant sections are used either as the Maftir on Festivals or as the sole Reading on Rosh Chodesh and Chol Hamoed Succot.(Interestingly, the Temple Service on Yom Kippur actually included a ritual in which the “score” was kept of the times the sacrificial blood was sprinkled downwards and upwards in the Holy of Holies . The final score was 7-1! We sing it on Yom Kippur- “achat vasheva”!)
The Sedra begins, however with a continuation of the story of Pinchas who had quelled the A-lmighty’s anger, following the debauchery with the Moabites. Pinchas is duly rewarded with elevation to the Priesthood. Despite being a grandson of Aaron, the High Priest, he was not initially made a priest – this was restricted to Aaron, his sons, and unborn future descendants. In fact, tradition has it that Pinchas became Elijah, the Prophet, who “attends” every circumcision and every Seder table and will herald the coming of the Messiah.
The 5 daughters of Zelophehad-who had recently passed away- complained to Moses that, as they had no brothers, their family would lose out on a portion in Israel. After consulting the A-lmighty, Moses instructs that they are, indeed, entitled to be granted their father’s portion.
Having discussed the topic of inheritance, Moses feels it is a good time to ask G-d about the succession to his own position as leader. The L-rd appoints Moses’ pupil and trusted liueutenant, Joshua as the heir apparent.
The Haphtarah –unusually- is actually the one for Pinchas itself. In most years, the following 2 Sidrot, Mattot and Massei are read together. When this occurs, the haphtarah of Mattot is brought forward to Pinchas- as it would thus invariably already be in the “3 Weeks of mourning”–and the latter is thus the appropriate one. However, this year those Sedrot are read separately. This will not occur again (outside Israel) till 2035!
Tuesday is the Fast of Tammuz- commemorating the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem- leading to the destruction of the Temple. It begins at dawn & ends at nightfall. This is also the beginning of the aforementioned “3 Weeks”. Marriages are not solemnised and joy is curtailed.
May we merit the restoration of the Temple and true peace on earth.
This week we learned that the 3 kidnapped Israeli boys were indeed murdered. Millions of Jews all over the world joined together to pray for their safe return. Jews came together from across the religious spectrum. We are now all joined together in mourning. Lets hope that the unity that the Jewish people have showed these last 3 weeks is what the Almighty was looking for in order to rectify the Sin of baseless hatred which led to the destruction of the second Temple. Let us keep the unity we have created and may we see the coming of Moshiach in the next few minutes.
May I also take this opportunity to wish the 3 families a long life free from further trouble and sorrow.
This week we learn about Ballam trying to curse the Jews. Even though Hashem warned him not to, he still thought he could outwit Him. Hashem showed him who’s boss by forcing him to bless the Jews instead. We should all take this as a lesson that we cannot outwit Hashem. We have to live our lives according to the Torah and pray as hard as we can.
Perhaps the the reason why Hashem let Ballam try to curse the Jews even though he would ultimately fail was to teach us that we do have a choice in this world. Hashem will allow do sin if we wish. However, ultimately the will of Hashem will prevail. It will only end in embarrasment like Ballam who was embarrassed infront of Balak.
This week we learn about the significance of the Red Heffer and Moses’ punishment for hitting the rock that would result in his punishment to never enter the land of Israel. However, Moses didn’t lose hope from this. We learn a valuable lesson about perseverance.
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This week we read of Korach’s uprising against Moshe. It is amazing to think after all Moshe had done for the Jews, his integrity was still called into question. Perhaps this is why he asked G-D to preform a special miracle where the earth grew a mouth which swallowed up Korach and his men. He needed to do something extraordinary to convince them.
The Sedra finishes off with the laws of tithes given to the Priest and the Levite.
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Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai 3326 years ago. However, the Torah does not specify the actual date it was given. We only know that it was 50 days after the first night of Passover. Why doesn’t Shavuot have its own specified date? Why is it dependent on the occurrence of Passover? Surely, the giving of the Torah, the climax of our travels in the desert, the contract that defines our existence and destiny should be as important if not more so than the Exodus from Egypt. This is to teach us that the Torah should always be incorporated into our lives new and fresh everyday. While the Torah was given on one specific day in history it is not explicitly defined because the acceptance of the Torah occurs every day when we consciously decide to continue living as Jews. The laws of the Torah exist as a conduit through which we may renew and strengthen ourselves. We may do this by setting aside time to study. Today there are so many commentaries and analyses in English; surely we can all find a topic that perks our interest.
May I take this opportunity to wish you all an illuminated and good Yomtov.