Parshas Kedoshim

This week Sidra contains 51 mitzvos. 13 Posivive commandments and 38 negative commandments.
These include;-
Loving your neighbour as yourself,
Not to wear wool and linen garments,
Not to take revenge,
Not to have incorrect weights,
Don’t tell lies
Don’t cut off your sideburns
And the prohibitions against marrying your immediate family.

In chapter 19 v 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?

So I am basing my explanation based on what I saw on the Tisha Bov event by R’ Y Frand.

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 air 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.
If we are not careful and let our grievances build; it can eventually lead to murder. This is clear from Parshat Massie. In Numbers chapter 35, we learn about the laws of murder and one who murders accidentally. In verse 20 it says
‘If he pushed him out of HATRED, or hurled upon him from ambush or in EMNITY struck him…. He should be put to death, Later on while discussing an accidental murder it states verse 22
‘But if with suddenness WITHOUT EMNITY or without ambush…….’ So it is clear from the Torah why someone commits murder; because he has hatred towards him.

We should all learn from this about the power of hated and try and settle our disputes in a calm way and air our grievances respectfully before it turns into something nasty

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Pesach cleaning Motivational pep talk

We all know Pesach is a lot of hard work. Either one has to clean his house or agonise about what cloths to pack in the suitcase. However, that just makes Pesach feel that bit more special. The more one puts in the more one gets out of it. This mimics the actual event some 3326 years ago. First we endured years of intense slavery, and then the joy of freedom. One can only really appreciate something when one has worked for it. This is one of the lessons of Pesach.

Hashem has put us into this world in order to gain rewards in the world to come. This is why He places hardships in our way. The more we have to overcome in our efforts to keep the Torah the more we make Hashem happy.

We can understand this idea from analysing football matches. If a football team plays against a mediocre team they don’t have to put so much effort in to win, however when playing against a good team they must raise their game and play well in order to win. So too we must raise our good inclination to overcome our bad inclination.

Finally I’d like to remind people of the importance of selling our chometz to ensure our chometz food, pots and utensils don’t belong to us. It goes without saying one must lock away all chometz food and cooking utensils.

Please check out my ”guidelines for Passover” under the publications tab for practical halachot pertaining to Pasover.

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Parshas Metzorah- from despair to elation!!!!

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Tazria, – a disease free sedra

This week’s Sedra is “Tazria”. It details the laws of tzoraas which is wrongly translated as leprosy. In fact, it is a special spiritual disease that is brought upon the person to atone for a number of sins. These are, speaking bad about one’s friends, being miserly with money, and being to haughty. Only a Cohen , a priest had the ability to say whether one was tamei, spiritually unclean, or not. He has a right to delay passing judgement, if for instance the person was getting married or if somebody had something that he needed to attend.
Once pronounced tamei the person had to sit outside the Jewish City until it healed. He had to have his hair grow long. His clothes torn and he had to be distant from everybody.

At the start of the Sedra we learn the laws of a woman whom has given birth. After she has recovered she must bring a sin offering and an elevation offering. These were brought to seek atonement for the sins during labour, principally the thought of her never having children again. This is a sin because we are obligated to procreate and populate this earth. This is a sin even at the darkest of times. It seems amazing that a woman could be held accountable for things she thought during this intense painful period of her life.
This should be a lesson to us all. We are never absolved from responsibility for our actions. No matter what is going on in our head, surroundings, family life or whatever it may be, we must always keep a calm head. We must constantly love and fear G-d and avoid committing even the merest of sins. If a woman in the throngs of childbirth is held accountable and needs to seek atonement, how much more so do we need to guard ourselves and watch our actions. .

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Parshas Shmini

On the 1st of Nissan 2449 in the Sinai desert tragedy struck. On what was supposed to be one of the happiest days in Jewish history with the residing of Hashem’s Shechina
on earth, Nodov and Avihu were consumed by fire in the Mishkan. They decided to mark this momentous day by offering up their own pan of Ketores (frankincense). The Talmud in Eruvin 63a says they derived this from the verse in Vayikro (1 :7): “And the children of Aaron should place fire on the Mizbaiach.” Nevertheless, they incurred the death penalty for deciding a halachik point in front of their teachers, Moshe and Aaron.

It is interesting to note that the Midrash offers a slightly different explanation. The Midrash Tohras Cohanim says that the fire did not descend at first. Nodov and Avihu exclaimed, ‘‘How can one cook without a flame?” Then, they kindled the fire themselves. At that point the heavenly fire descended and consumed the Mizbaiach together with Nodov and Avihu. Their souls burned, but their bodies remained whole.

There are several other reasons why Nodov and Avihu received the death penalty. These include:

1) Not honoring their father by consulting him before offering up the Ketores,

2) Drinking wine which renders a priest unfit for duty,

3) Entering the Holy of Holies, which is only permitted by the Cohen Gadol and even then only on Yom Kippur,

4) Failing to pour water over their hands and feet prior to entering the Mishkan, and

5) Not wearing the special Priestley clothes.

However, let’s not forget that Nodov and Avihu were great tzadikim. The Talmud says they had it in themselves to become great leaders of the Jewish people. Their names depict this. Nadav comes from the word “nedivus,” which means nobility. Avihu can be read as ‘‘av-hu,’’ meaning he was a father and could have been a father to the whole nation. The passuk (10:3) later describes them as “bekroivay,” meaning friends of Hashem. This is fitting as they were the sons of Aaron Hacohen and nephew to Moshe, the leader of the Jewish people.

Therefore, how could such great tzadikim commit this sinful act and incur the death penalty?

They were holy men yearning for Kedusha at every moment, similar to metal drawn to a magnet. Once Hashem’s Shechina descended they could not help themselves. Their souls were pulled towards the Shechina. They felt the need to offer Ketores as a way of serving Hashem, the life source of the world.

Nevertheless, this is not what Hashem desires from us. It is not fitting that everyone has access to serve a king. Only the select few have the privilege of serving him. This is especially true when serving Hashem, the King of Kings. Only those people appointed can enter into his Holy Service. Perhaps we can now offer a different understanding in the verse, “bekroivay ekodeish” (10:3). This is usually understood as a consolation to Aaron on the death of his beloved sons. Moshe tells him that Hashem had previously told him that His name would be sanctified through his close ones. Moshe always thought it would be himself or his brother Aaron. When he saw Nodov and Avihu were sacrificed, he realised that they were even closer to Hashem than himself and Aaron. Now we can say it means, ‘‘With my called ones.” Moshe explained to Aaron that only people that Hashem called to serve Him were permitted to do so, regardless of how great they were.

This is why when Hashem wanted to speak to Moshe by the burning bush it first says, “Vayikra” (Shemos 3:4) “And he called to Moshe,” and afterwards He spoke to Moshe. One has to first be called by Hashem before He interacts with a person and appoints him or her as His messenger. The word ‘Vayikra’ is also repeated at the start of Sefer Vayikra. That is perhaps why people refer to the job of a rabbi as a calling. They are called by Hashem to do his special work.

We find another similar circumstance by Matan Torah. Hashem told Moshe to warn the people not to ascend Mt. Sinai. He later tells Moshe to surround the mountain with gates and barriers to stop the people from ascending the mountain. The passuk says, “Go warn the people lest they surge forward past the barriers to see: many of them will fall” (Shemos 19:21). The usual way of understanding this passuk is that people might surge forward past the barriers to get a look and will ultimately be liable for death as Hashem told them not to ascend.

Rabbi Ezriel Tauber shlita offers a different explanation. He says that Hashem told Moshe that the reason for the ban on ascending is to prevent others from spiritual demise. It is normal to expect that whilst seeing the divine revelation and yearning for that Kedusha, people may want to surge forward. The soul would then break past all bodily barriers that hold it down and try to connect itself to the Shechina. However, they will subsequently fall. People cannot sustain a heightened spiritual level for very long. Indeed, the Jewish people as a whole were unable to maintain it. Just a few short weeks later they erred by making the golden calf. It’s like the old cartoons where a character runs at hyper speed off of a roof top. He keeps running on thin air for a few steps. Then, when he sees he is walking on air, he drops rapidly to the ground. What goes up must come down. Artificial highs never last, no matter what the high is, even in spirituality. The only way to properly rise to a higher spiritual level is on solid foundations. Every sky scraper is built from the bottom up with a strong foundation. The crane is only jumped and moved on to the higher floor when the lower floor is completed, checked, double checked and inspected. The Mesillias Yeshorim quotes the Talmud (Avodoh Zoroh 20b) and lists 12 levels of spirituality that a person needs to ascend. Each level has to be understood and mastered before the next level can be attempted.

Returning to Nodov and Avihu, they should have withheld their urges. Infact, the connection to Matan Torah goes a bit deeper. The Midrash says that although Nodov and Avihu enjoyed the Shechinah by Matan Torah, they received the death penalty because they displayed levity. Hashem did not want to dampen the spirits of the Jewish people so he waited till a later time to exact punishment. The passuk in Devarim (4:24) says, “Hashem is a consuming fire.” Only those properly trained can deal with fire.

In conclusion, we see from this week’s sedra the importance of remaining calm and consistent on one’s spiritual journey. One must not get despondent that he is growing too slowly. One must slowly master all levels before he can truly rise safely into the spiritual spheres. There are no quick fixes. It is a slow process that takes a lifetime. As long as steps are made towards reaching this goal – even tiny steps – and progress continues, then that is satisfactory enough.

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Parshat Tzav – Spread the joy

This week we are told the laws of the ”thanksgiving offering”. A person who had reason to be thankful to G-d for his kindness, would bring an animal to the temple. This was accompanied by 30 loaves of bread and 10 matzos. 4 loaves were given as a present to the Cohen (priest). Our Rabbis tell us that when the messianic era comes all offerings will be annulled because we will no longer commit sins except for the thanksgiving offering. We will always have need to thank G-d for his kindnesses to us.
What is also interesting is that other peace offering were eaten in 2 days and the thanksgiving offering was eaten in 1 day. This is to symbolise that tomorrow we will have new miracles to thank G-d for. We have to thank G-d daily.

What is the link between Purim and the thanksgiving offering?
Answers on a postcard!!! or email or facebook


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Parshat Vaykiroh

In this week’s Sedra we learn about the ‘’korbonos.’’
There is so much that can be said regarding the ‘’korbonos’’.

The English word used for ‘’korbonos’’ is sacrifice. This is not really what the‘’korbonos’’ are all about. You are not really sacrificing anything. Rather the word ‘’korbonos’’ comes from the word ‘’Korev’’ which means draw close. The idea of offering a ‘’Korbon’’ is to draw close to G-d.

The Sedra starts off by saying;-
‘’When a man brings from himself an offering’’. Our Rabbis learn from this strange phrase ‘’from himself’’ that when one brings an offering one must imagine he is offering himself to Hashem. It just so happens that we use an animal instead. That is why one must lean ones full body weight on the animal and confesses ones sins prior to slaughtering.

Whenever the ‘’korbonos’’ are mentioned in the Torah the name ‘’Hashem’’ is used and never the name ‘’Elo-kim’’ The name ‘’Hashem’’ always means G-d of mercy and the name ‘’Elo-kim’’ means G-D of justice and harsh judgement. Our Rabbis infer from this that the ‘’korbonos’’ are nothing to do with appeasing a harsh blood thirsty vengeful G-D, rather a merciful way of atoning for our sins and coming closer to him.

The first offering discussed is the ‘’Olah’’ which is loosely translated as a ‘’burnt offering’’, because it is totally consumed on the altar, but actually the word means to ‘’elevate’’ by totally dedicating an animal to Hashem we’re elevating ourselves in the process.

It is interesting that the ‘’Olah,, only comes from male animals, a ‘’Chattos ‘’(sin offering) only female animals and ‘’Shlomim’’ (peace offering) male or female animals.

There are many ideas behind this.
The Kli Yakar explains that since an ’Olah’’ symbolises dedication we want it to be perfect. That is symbolised by the stronger more powerful male animal, without trying to be too sexist.
A ‘’Chattos ‘’ is offered when one commits a sin. We want to show our power and might have been weakened by the act of sinning. . This is symbolised by offering a weaker female animal.

A ‘’Shlomim’’ which is a thanksgiving offering or an outpouring of gratitude to Hashem.. Anyone, no matter how rich, poor, strong or weak can be equal in the eyes of Hashem. This is symbolised by offering either a male or female animal.

When the kohen Gadol (high priest) sins he brings a bull and when all the Jews sin they also bring a bull but when a private person sins or indeed the King they bring a ram.
This is to symbolise that when the Kohen Gadol or all the Jews sin, it causes great embarrassment and uproar and needs a big bull to atone for it.
However, when individuals or the king sin they don’t make such a huge negative impression with their sin and therefore only need a smaller ram to atone.

There is also a lot of symbolism in the various limbs of the sacrifices that were offered on the altar
An ‘olah’ is totally burnt on the altar and not eaten even by the priests by way of saying we want to totally elevate ourselves to G-d and not let any of our human faults, as symbolised by eating, hold us back or draw us to sin.
Of the animals that can be eaten, the kidneys, fats around the stomach, a portion of the liver, the diaphragm, and the juicy body fats were to be burnt on the altar.
The kidneys symbolise the thought making process. The juicy fats around the stomach, the good fats of the body and a small section of the liver represent the heightened passions of a person that caused him to sin. These need to be burnt and offered to Hashem by way of saying these are the organs that brought us to commit sins and we are making up for it by offering them up to Hashem.

Blood represents the very essence of a human being. Without blood circulating around the body, one cannot live. Therefore, we sprinkle the blood on the holy altar by way of saying we wish we could totally dedicate our whole life essence to Hashem.
Also if a person has committed murder and the family are running after him to kill him, he may hold on to the altar and spare himself from death. It is like a so called ‘den’ when playing hide and seek when nobody can tag you. Therefore by spraying the blood, our life force, on the altar we are saying we want to be attached to the altar. We are attaching our whole lives to the altar; therefore, our lives cannot be taken in recompense for our sins.

For common sins it is sufficient to sprinkle the blood on the outer altar.
However when the high priests sins or all the majority of the Jewish nation or indeed on Yom Kippur we must seek a higher form of dedication to Hashem and sprinkle the blood inside the temple on the inner altar and actual curtain to the holy of holies.

This is just a small look at the rationale behind the Korbonot. Rabbio Samson Rafael Hirch in his book ‘Horeb’ has a in- depth look at the subject Korbonot.

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Parshat Pikudai coupled with Shekalim

This week is Parshat Pikudai. It is also Parshat Shekolim, the first of the 4 extra special portions that are read on Shabbat over the next few weeks.
We read from the book of Shemos chapter 30 verses 11-16 after we read the Torah portion of the week which is Pikudai. It tells of the need for every Jewish male between the ages of 20-60 to donate half a Shekel towards the pot used to purchase the communal sacrifices.
It is read now to remind everyone that we only have 1 month left to get our coins in before the beginning of the Jewish month of Nissan. We still read it nowadays because we hope the Temple will be rebuilt speedily in our days, Amen.

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Parshas Ki Sisa

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Parshat Tetzaveh

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