Parshas Ekev- Don’t be ungrateful

At the beginning of this week’s Sedra we are told of the great rewards for keeping all the mitzvoth, especially the minor ones that appear insignificant. The Sedra then digresses to warn against complacency. (ch 8 v 14)

Why when warning against complacency does the Torah tell us of G-d’s miracles?
In verse 15 we are told that Hashem led us through the great and awesome desert with snakes and scorpions and no water- and yet we still survived.

It would appear from here that the worst part of sinning is being ungrateful. Hashem has performed so many miracles for us how could we even think about disobeying him. We are repaying His immense kindness with evil.

We should all take this message on board and try and be more grateful to Hashem for what he has done for us. We should constantly thank Him verbally for all that he has done for us.
People spend far too much time praying for more things without taking stock of what Hashem has already given us. In our day to day lives and relationships we are looking for appreciation for what we do. We feed off it. The more appreciated we feel the more likely we are to continue doing whatever it is we are doing.
The same is true for Hashem. The more we appreciate and thank Him for what He has given us, the more likely He is to give us more things in the future.

The problem is we are born with an inherent quality of ungratefulness. The Talmud (Avoda zarroh 5a) states that Adam was ungrateful when he blamed his wife for giving him to eat from the forbidden tree of knowledge.
If we all manage to work on this trait, then we will all see a change in our relationships. Whether it is with our spouses or parents, children of just our friends, the more grateful and thankful we are for what people do for us, the more our relationships will improve.

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Parshas Voeschanan – no make believe here, you all saw me

This week’s Sedra contains lots on interesting things. It contains;
The repetition of the 10 statements (commandments),
The first paragraph of the Shema,
And the leining from Tisha B’Av morning.
We also make mention numerous times of the fact that Hashem loves us.

How do we fulfill the mitzvah to love Hashem as expression in the Shema? (ch 6 vs 5)
Surely love is an emotion; we can’t force anyone to love something.

The Hebrew word for love is ‘AHAVAH’. In Hebrew all words are made up from routes of other words thus giving each word an intrinsic meaning. The route of the word AHAVA is ‘HAV’ which means ‘giving’. Therefore, the more one gives, the more love one feels towards it. A good example of this is a marriage. The more a husband and wife do for each other the more love they will feel towards each other.
The more a mother does for a child the more she will love that child. In fact we can say that about anything in life. The more effort one invests in a project the more one loves it and feels attached to it.
So in affect, when we are told to love Hashem we are really being told to work for him and keep all his commandments. The barometer of whether we love Hashem is the performance of every mitzvah. We cannot pick and choose which ones we want to keep or which ones are ‘convenient’. By keeping all the Mitzvot even when they are difficult is a sign that we are in love with Hashem.

We can develop this idea further. In the same way as when two people are in love they are prepared to overlook each other’s faults and shortcomings so to of our relationship with Hashem. If we truly try and love him then he will overlook our mistakes and shortcomings.

I heard in a Shiur from the late R’Chaim Kauffman of Gateshead that everyone is born with a love for Hashem. It is instilled in every Jewish Heart. The problem is that the more one sins the more covered over that love becomes. So the commandment to love Hashem is telling us to remove the cover of all our sins and get back to the original love we were born with. That’s why after Yom Kippur when people are cleansed from their sins we feel closer to Hashem and have more love for Him.

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Parshas Devarim- The most popular autobiography

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.

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Parshas Massei- Know your boundaries

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.

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Parshas Matos – ”Perhaps” isn’t always a bad word.

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Parshas Pinchas- Following the leader, the leader ……

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.

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Promo video for Yomim Noraim

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Why were we made to pray for weeks only to be disappointed.

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.

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Parshas Balak- Do as I say or else!!!!!!

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.

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Sorry, no can do.

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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