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Va’etchanan. Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11

Parashat Va’etchanan is a very rich parashah as it contains both the Szema Yisrael as well as the 10 commandments. In the whole fifth book of the Torah, Mosze is reviewing what was said in the previous books of the Torah. This review teaches us that to understand the Torah we must constantly review and reread even what we have already studied That text 101 times.

As the Talmud teaches us, one who studies a text only 100 times does not understand it.

Rabbi Michael Schudrich, August 19, 2016, 15 Av 5776

Ekev. Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25

We listen to continuation of Moses’ speech. He reminds People of Israel that they survived thanks to Gods protect. Now they are about to enter the Land of Israel. Moses admonish his people not to be afraid of powerful nations and to have no mercy over them, This passes sounds very cruel to us. The main objective for Chosen People is not to give in before pagan deities. Most important task is to remain faithful to God and His commandments. They must also remember they do not owe land and success to themselves. This caution is very striking – it does not conform to spirit of our times .

Stanisław Krajewski, August 26, 2016, 22 Av 5776

R’eh. Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
In the beginning of Parashat REH (SEE), God says “See, I give in front of you blessing and punishments. But REH is in singular (talking to one person), not plural. Why?
The GR”A – Gaon from Vilna says, so the individual will check his way, even though everybody goes the same way. You, the individual, has the obligation to see if the path everyone else is going through is good or bad.
Many times we do things just because everybody does them, and not because we though and came to conclusion this is the right thing to do. The Tora teaches us, not to relay on the other people, but to check by ourselves if it is the right thing to do.
Rabbi Moshe Bloom, September 2, 2016, 29 Av 5776

Shoftim. Book of Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9

Parashat “Shoftim” continues the story of the last speeches that Moses gave to the people of Israel and contains one of the most significant Bible verses talking about the pursuit for justice in every moment of our life. It is written (Dvarim 16:20): ” Justice, justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee”. The double presence of the Hebrew word “tsedek” – “justice” is not incidental. It means that according to Saadia Gaon (882-942, Babylonia), the search for the absolute justice, one truth thanks to which our life will gain meaning and will be coherent with G-d’s expectations. It also means that justice is not only a thing mentioned in sermons and speeches, but an everyday practice in the life of the people of Israel. Righteous life guarantees the possession of the land of our ancestors, enables spiritual and physical growth of our nation and other nations. Generally speaking, the combination of the case of the land and justice encompasses the foundation of existence of today’s democratic countries.

Rabbi Stas Wojciechowicz, September 9, 2016, 6 Elul 5776

Ki Teitzei. Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19 

“You shall not see the ox of your brother… get lost and ignore it, you should return it to your brother” (Deuteronomy 22,1).

The Micwa of HASZAWAT AWIEDA, returning a lost item to it’s owner, is learned in our Parasha. When you see a lost item, not only you shouldn’t ignore it, but you should collect it, and make an effort to bring it back to it’s owner. But why should I spend my time and effort to do it?

The key word is ACHICHA – your brother. If you feel every Jew is your brother – off course you will make an effort to help your brother who you love and you are close to, and return his ox.

Our Challenge is to see every Jew as my brother, and to help him at the same level I will help my close relative.

Rabbi Moshe Bloom, September 16, 2016, 13 Elul 5776

Vayelech. Deuteronomy 31:1 – 31:30

Vayelech Moshe” – “and Moshe went”. Moshe was 120 years old and never stopped going. “He WENT”. He didn’t stop. Yom Kippur comes to inspire us to be like Moshe, always going, changing, improving. Never remaining the same but looking to be a bit better than yesterday.

Rabbi Michael Schudrich, October 7, 2016, 5 Tishrei 5777

Haazinu. Deuteronomy 32:1-52

Haazinu“, the one before the last parsha in the Torah, is also one of the three songs of Moses (two are found in the Torah, the third one is Psalm 90). It is fair to say that Moses sums up his life and the long journey of the People of Israel with words of this song, calling heaven and earth as witnesses. There is a chronological relationship between Shirat Hayam (Song of the Sea) and “Haazinu“. The first one was sung as thanksgiving for the rescue from the hands of the Egyptians, while the latter was the last speech given by the great leader to his people. “Haazinu” in a poetic way describes the spiritual quest of Israel, its mistakes, victories, successes and failures. The song is a warning against temptations, giving at the same time great hope to our nation before entering the Promised Land. Moses bids farewell to all the people and to his dream of entering the Promised Land, accepts G-d’s decision and prepares for death.

Rabbi Stas Wojciechowicz, October 14, 2016, 12 Tishrei 5777

Bereshit. Genesis 1:1 – 6:8

Each parsha sparkles with the radiance of the most memorable scenes of the Bible: creation of the world crowned with the creation of man as a „man and woman”; Adam and Eve in paradise; eating of the fruit (not necessarily and apple) of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; expulsion from paradise; the birth of the first children; Cain’s murder of Abel. Each of these events has served as the basis of numerous interpretations and myths – noble in their own right – formative of the western civilization. Why does the Bible begin with the creation of the world and the misadventures of the first people? How does it relate to the Jewish religion? In fact , the response to this question is a source of strength and the basis for our commitment: these scenes help us realize that our very existence is inscribed into the broader history of the world – from the Creation and the beginnings of humanity to the messianic fulfilment of history.

Stanisław Krajewski, October 28, 2016, 26 Tishrei 5777

Noach. Genesis 6:9 – 11:32 

The Tora tells us that God found Noach a Tzadik of his generation. Some Rabbis understand that in comparison to people in his generation he was a Tzadik, but if he would have be from the generation of Avraham, he would not be considered a Tzadik.

Noach was a Tzadik of a coat that brings warmth only to him. Noach saved himself and his family, that’s it.

Avraham is compared to a heater that heats not only himself but all the people in the room. Avraham cared about everyone and tried to save even evil people in places like Sodom.

We are called sons of Avraham, and should take his way to try to warm ourselves with a heater and not with a coat.

Rabbi Moshe Bloom, November 4, 2016, 3 Cheshvan 5777

Lech Lecha. Exodus 12:1 – 17:27

In our Parsza of Lech Lecha, we have the first mention of the mitzva of brit mila.  The Torah teaches us that we are obligated to circumcise our sons at 8 days old as a “sign” of the covenant between God and the Jewish people. But the Torah does not tell us what this should mean.
What are the secrets of brit mila?
A child has three parents:  the two parents and God. All three are  involved in the creation of this new life. The parents complete the creation through the act of circumcision.  The parents are physically involved with completing the act of creation of their child.
And why did God decide to make this “sign of the covenant” exactly on that particular part of the body?  A person’s relationship to God is through community but fundamentally their own private relationship.  Every human being has the obligation as well as the need to develop and nurture their own private relationship with God.  Therefore, the sign of the relationship is on the most private part of the body.
Furthermore, when is a human being most like God.  Of all God’s qualities, God’s ability to create a new life is the most unique.  When does the human being come closest to creating new life, it is in the act of procreation.  Exactly that part of the body which is circumcised is the part of the body that does the act that brings us most closely to being like God.
As all mitzvot, the goal of brit mila is to bring us closer to God, a physical act whose goal  is spiritual.
Rabbi Michael Schudrich, November 11, 2016, 10 Cheshvan 5777

Chayei Sara. Genesis 23: 1-25: 18

Sara dies – at the news of the sacrifice of Isaac? – and Abraham purchases a burial cave in Hebron. He sends his servant Eliezer to Haran to find a wife for Isaac. Eliezer asks God at the well to point out a proper candidate and Rebecca, a relative of Abraham shows up. She agrees to go to Canaan to marry Isaac there. Isaac loves Rebecca and is consoled after the death of his mother. Abraham takes Keturah for a wife – Hagar sent away? – And before his death he begets six more sons. Isaac and Ishmael bury their father next to Sarah in the cave of Machpelah. On the one hand, the Torah attests to men quickly replacing their female loved ones with a new woman after they passed away. On the other hand, women do not remain anonymous to readers, Torah mentions feelings for the first time (24:67), and Rebecca has the right to refuse marrying Isaac. That’s encouraging.

Rabbi Margalit Kordowicz, November 25, 2016, 24 Cheshvan 5777

Toldot. Genesis 25:19-28:9

“Yitzchak pleaded with HaShem on behalf of his wife, because she was barren and HaShem responded to his plea, and his wife Rivka conceived.” Bereshit 25:21

Rashi, in his commentary, sees this scene thus: Yitzchak and Rivka are two despairing people in a room. Yitzchak stands in one corner while Rivka in the opposite one. Each prays separately. Each of them brings their plea alone. They are not sitting together at the table nor are they hugging each other teary-eyed. Each of them experiences their misfortune separately. Perhaps Yitzchak blames Rivka and her family, which had been recalled in just the previous sentence. In contrast to Abraham and Sarah, these are not the most worthy folk. Rivka may also be aware of this, she knows how righteous her husband and his parents are. She may be pleading for forgiveness of her father’s and brother’s transgressions, which may have brought that scourge upon her. Ultimately, HaShem responds to Yitzchak’s plea. The way Rashi explains this is that both Yitzchak and his parents were righteous (tzaddikim), and a prayer of a tzaddik who a son of a tzaddik is more powerful than a prayer of a righteous daughter of a villain. However, if Yitzchak was indeed righteous, he could not have blamed his wife for her infertility nor could he blame Bethuel or Laban. Neither could he have flaunted his merits before HaShem. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev says that what Yitzchak did and what brought the desired effect and convinced HaShem was haw he mentioned the merits of his wife, Rivka. “Yitzchak implored HaShem for the sake of his wife,” is one of the ways the following sentence can be translated.

Tomasz Krakowski, December 2, 2016, 2 Kislev 5777

Vayetze. Genesis 25:19-28:9

Parashat Vayetze starts with Yaakov sleeping outside, on the way from Israel to Charan, to find himself a wife. God comes to him in the dream, and promises he will protect him.

When Yaakov wakes up, he says: “There is God in this place, and I did not know about it… this is the house of God and this is the gate of heaven”.

God teaches Yaakov, that every house can become a house where God appears. It is up to us, to welcome God’s name into our life, into our House. As the Rebbe from Kock (Menachem Mendel) answered, when he was asked where can we find God – “Wherever we let him in”.

Rabbi Moshe Bloom, December 9, 2016, 9 Kislev 5777

Vayigash. Exodus 44:18–47:27

At the beginning of our Parashat Shavuah “Vayigash” Yehuda asks Yosef to free Binyamin from prison. Why? Because (Genesis 44:32) “For thy servant became surety (guaranty) for the lad”.
Just like in a big loan you need 2 people to be guarantees for the money, so that if you can not pay the money, they will cover it. The same for Yehuda, who took full responsibility for Binyamin.
Our sages learn from here that “Kol Yisrael Arevim Ze LaZe”, all Jews need to feel responsible for each other. We should feel that every Jew is like our brother. If we do that, we can bring our nation to a more united, strong and positive place.

Rabbi Moshe Bloom, January 6, 2017, 8 Tevet 5777

Vayechi. Genesis 47:28 – 50:26

The ending of the Book of Genesis is at the same time the ending of the history of patriarchs and the longest history in the Torah, the story of the amazing doings of Joseph. We are in Egypt. Jacob dies, but before his death he wishes to be buried in the Cave of Machpelach in Hebron. He blesses all of his sons, characterizing each one of them. When their father dies, the brothers become afraid that the almighty Joseph will take revenge on them. Instead, he asks “Don’t be afraid, for am I instead of God? Indeed, you intended evil against me, but God designed it for good”. He forgives his brothers. He answers evil with love. This behaviour appears to be the message of the book that begins with the creation of the world, which is described as something good. Does that message explain why introducing a man into the world was „very good”?

Stanisław Krajewski, January 13, 2017, 15 Tevet 5777

Shemot. Exodus 1:1 – 6:1 

In the beginning of Parshat Shemot when Pharaoh’s daughter opens the basket containing Moshe and takes pity on him, she says “He is from the Hebrews”(Shemot2:6). What do we learn from her statement? After all, it was just stated that the boy’s father and mother were both from the tribe of Levi. Don’t I already know that he is a Jew? Her statement comes not to inform us about Moshe, but rather about her. She saw a Jewish boy and even though her own father had commanded that all male Jewish infants should be drowned that day, refusal punishable by death, she took pity on him and spared his life. This was the first persecution of Jews in history and Pharaoh’s daughter was the first gentile in history to risk their life to save a Jew, to stand up to the tyranny of religious hatred and anti-Semitism. Pharaoh’s daughter was the first Righteous Among the Nations.

Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis, January 20, 2017, 22 Tevet 5777

Va’eira. Exodus 6:2 – 9:35 

Parsha Va’eira introduces us to the so-called Chidush Habrit, the renewal of the Covenant between the Eternal One and Israel’s Forefathers. We read of the speech to Moses, in which Adonai, a new name of God, unknown in the earlier narratives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is revealed. The Eternal One addresses Moses for the second time after the revelation at the Mount of God in Horev and makes a promise of swift emancipation from the Egyptian slavery. In verses 7 and 8 of the sixth chapter of Shemot, this promise is based on four different categories of redemption: “vehotzeti” – “and I will bring you out,” “vehitzalti” – and I will save you,” “vega’alti” – “and I will redeem you,” and “velakhahti” – “and I will take you [as my nation].” According to the rabbinical tradition, the four categories of redemption specified in the beginning of our parsha became the basis for the decision of placing four cups of wine on the Pesach seder table.

Rabbi Stas Wojciechowicz, January 27, 2017, 29 Tevet 5777

Beshalach. Exodus 13:17 – 17:16

After leaving Egypt, the descendants of Jacob, together with their voluntary travel companions wander – in God’s will – the desert trails. They are approaching the Sea of Reeds when it turns out that Pharaoh is in pursuit after them, willing to capture his former slaves. The enemy behind us, depths before us – what to do? Split waters are like a birth canal through which the People of Israel are born into the world. After this limit-experience, the Israelites chant a song of praise to God. The overwhelming influence of the miracle does not last long and soon the “newborn” needs more signs: so the querulous get manna, quails and water from a rock. Fortunately, also the first military confrontation – with the Amalekites – is successfull.

Rabbi Margalit Kordowicz, February 10, 2017, 14 Sh’vat 5777

Yitro. Exodus 18:1 – 20:23

This week’s Parsha contains one of the most important fragments of writing in history, the Ten Commandments. The basis of Jewish life and western civilization is transmitted in this week’s Parsha to the Children of Israel. G!d gave the Torah to the Children of Israel and G!d transmitted it to Moshe so why is the Parsha named after Yitro, Moshe’s father-in-law, what does Yitro have to do with receiving the Torah?

Yitro is from the word Yeter, to increase. The Torah is only acquired by those who are always striving to increase their wisdom and connection to G!d. Receiving the Torah is only the beginning of our spiritual journey, from that day forward we must work to understand and live the precious gift that G!d has given us. May we all be blessed with increased understanding of ourselves, connection to others and unity with G!d

Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis, February 17, 2017, 21 Sh’vat 5777

Mishpatim. Exodus 21:1 – 24:18

The month of Adar approaches, and with it the foretaste of the upcoming holiday of Purim. It is in connection with it that on the coming Shabbat we begin the period of Arba Parshiyot, of four special Shabbatot; their respective names are Shekalim or Shekels, Zachor or Remember, Parah or The Red Heifer and HaHodesh or That Month. Those four Shabbatot mark for us the transition between Purim and Pesah, the holiday which will commence exactly one month after Purim. This is why we additionally refer to the Shabbat Mishpatim as Shabbat Shekalim. By the way, this year we add one more name to the same Shabbat, that of Machar Chodesh (lit. Tomorrow the New Moon); this is because Rosh Chodesh Adar or the first day of the month of Adar falls on the coming Sunday.

During this Shabbat we read the Torah from two scrolls. From the first one we read the primary parashat Mishpatim, in which God expounds to Moses Mishpatim or the laws which are in a way commonsensical and can be explained, and which yield some tangible benefits in everyday life. Naturally, for us living in the 21st century, it is hard to grasp the sense of slave ownership and trade, and possibly the more so when there is the talk of Jewish slaves. Nonetheless, in the distant times of our forefathers this was by no means an uncommon phenomenon, and the laws of the Torah regulate human relations even in this context as they stress the unique value of every individual human life. The reading from the second scroll is the final of the prescribed public readings of the Torah passages in the synagogue; this is where we read about shekels (Szmot 30, 11-16) or – to be more precise – about the measure of half a shekel (or Machatzit HaShekel) as an offering to the Eternal One. In the times of the Temple. it was on Rosh Chodesh Adar that the people were reminded publically of Machatzit HaShekel (Mishnah, Shekalim 1:1), which was to be donated toward the maintenance of the Temple. In our times, we fulfil this commandment of offering the “half a shekel” during the holiday of Purim.

Rabbi Stas Wojciechowicz, February 24, 2017, 28 Sh’vat 5777

Tetzaveh. Exodus 27:20-30:10

In the Tetzaveh parsha the description of matters related to the Tabernacle continues. In the beginning there is an accurate description of the garments worn by Kohens, including the ephod and the breastplate of the High Priest, containing twelve precious stones. We then have a description of the ritual of priest ordination during which ram’s blood is placed on the ear, the thumb and the big toe of Aaron and of his sons. Finally, there is a precise description of acacia altar for burning incense. This parsha is the only one, apart from the Book of Genesis, in which the name of Moses does not appear. In turn, the name of Aaron and his sons is repeated several times. He is the High Priest, they are priests. And Moses anoints them. Rabbi Sacks writes: for the first time in the Torah narrative brothers do not act against each other, but only one for the benefit of the other. How I wish the same could be with each and every one of us.

Stanisław Krajewski, March 10, 2017, 12 Adar 5777

Ki Tisa. Exodus 30:11 – 34:35

In our Parasha we read about Moshe breaking the Luchut (Tablets). After he got the Luchut on Mount Sinai from G!d. Moshe goes down to bring them to the nation of Israel. Moshe goes down, sees that the people sinned and worshiped the golden calf, and broke the tablets, in front of the people.
The question is why? Why did he break them, when he came down from the mountain? It says that G!d told him on the mountain that the nation sinned. Why to take them down, and to break them in front of the people?

When Moshe heard from G!d that the people sinned, he came down to try and fix the situation. But when he came down, he saw the people dancing. When a person sins, but is unhappy of himself, there is a way to fix. But when you are happy and satisfied of your sin, than you cannot fix the situation. The only solution is to break the Luchut, to make the people shocked. There is no sense of getting the Holy Luchut, if you are not holy.

Everyone sins, and does mistakes. But when one is happy with his sin – than his situation is very, very bad, and he needs to restart his life, in order to be a better person.

Rabbi Moshe Bloom, March 17, 2017, 19 Adar 5777

Wayakhel-Pekudei. Exodus 35:1-40:38

It begins with the words: Having gathered the people of Israel, Moses tells them what G-d told him in the last three portions of the Torah. Then the word turns into action: when they hear that they should be offering materials for the building of the Tabernacle, the Israelites willingly bear gold, silver and copper, leather, wool and linen, wood, oil and gemstones. The amount of donated material exceeds demand and Moses asks to stop these donations. And again – the words from the previous parshaot – instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle, its equipment and priestly garments – under the leadership of Becalel and Oholiav are transformed into action. The work is over and G-d’s Presence may already be resting among its people.

Rabbi Margalit Kordowicz, March 24, 2017, 26 Adar 5777

Vayikra. Leviticus 1,1 – 5,26

This week we start a whole new book of the Torah. Vayikra (Leviticus) is possibly the hardest of all the books of the Torah to get into. It is full of technical details regarding the sacrifices and devoid of almost any narrative. Whereas the previous two books of the Torah spoke to us through the language of human experience Vayikra relates to us the laws of holiness. To our great sorrow purity and sacredness are concepts foreign to most of us. We learn an important lesson from the fact that the Torah spends more time on the rules of holiness and ritual contamination than on civil law. As real, essential and necessary as civil law is in order for us to exist and move forward as a nation how much more essential is holiness and our connection to G!d in order for us to fulfill our national mission.

Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis, March 31, 2017, 4 Nisan 5777

Acharei-Kedoshim. Leviticus 16:1–20:27

The main topic of this week’s Parasha is an idea of holiness – group and individual. Seder Haawoda, the order of service of the High Priest in the Temple of Jerusalem, resembles the whole community of shared responsibility before the God of Israel. This passage, as well as a passage from Kedoshim parasha, is read in synagogues on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Judaism accepts human weakness, but it always follows the pursuit of the holiness of the whole community, speaking of moral behavior as the principal requirement of our religion. Today the High Priest is everyone, who is responsible for the fate of all his brothers and sisters.

Rabbi Stas Wojciechowicz, May 5, 2017, 9 Iyyar 5777

Emor. Leviticus 21: 1-24: 23

The Torah portion for this week talks about festivals: the sabbath, the three pilgrimage festivals (although they are not named) and Rosh HaShanaYom Kippur. It teaches us about sacrificial animals and oil for temple menorah and showshowbread. The parsha also touches the issue of penalties for blasphemy, murder and bodily injury.

But the reading begins with the laws referring to the Cohens, descendants of Aaron. They are required to maintain ritual purity and therefore must minimize contacts with a dead body, therefore are allowed to take part in funerals of but the closest family members. They also cannot take any woman for a wife. The high priest can marry only a virgin and must forget the last ministry. However, these are not all the requirements: a physical defect disqualifies the Cohen as a servant in the Temple. Scaled standards – is not this the eternal fate of the leaders?

Rabbi Margalit Kordowicz, May 12, 2017, 15 Iyyar 5777

Behar – Bechukotai. Leviticus 25:1-27:34

In Parashat “Bechukotai” we read about the blessings that the Jewish nation will receive when they follow the Torah and Mitzvot.
One of the blessings is “And five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand” (Leviticus 26,8). We have a math problem: at the beginning each one chases 20 enemies (100/5), and at the end each one chases 100 (10000/100). How can that be?

Rashi teaches us a very important lesson. He says: it is not the same when few people who keep Torah get together as it is when when many keep Torah get together. When many keep Torah together, the strength of each one is much bigger. The sum is much more than when few people gather.
Binding and becoming a Community that does things together and acting as a united Jewish body can give more to each individual: gain more connection to God, more connection to other Jews and strengthen his Jewish identity.

Rabbi Moshe Bloom, May 19, 2017, 23 Iyyar 5777

Bamidbar. Numbers 1:1 – 4:20

The beginning of the fourth book of the Torah. Its name Bamidbar means “in the desert”. What is the role of the desert in our lineage? It is an empty place belonging to nobody. Because it is empty, we are not overwhelmed by the views, the signs of life, civilization. That is why you can hear the words of revelation. Hear and listen. This association of the desert and revelation suggests the same vocabulary: the word “speaker”, medaber, is written in the same way as midbar. It is no wonder that this reading falls before the holiday of Shavuot, or the holiday of revelation. However, because the desert is a place that is not only empty but also belonging to nobody, one can think that although the revelation happened to us, it was not to become our exclusive property. Had it been in the Land of Israel, we could have thought that it was only ours. In the meantime, it is meant to be for us, but at the same time it is meant for anyone who might be in the wilderness. Can we remember that? Can we understand what this means?

Stanisław Krajewski, May 26, 2017, 1 Sivan 5777

Naso. Numbers 4:21 – 7:89

There is only one time in the Torah where a supernatural outcome is promised for the enactment of a Miracle, in our Parsha in the trial of the bitter watters. The Torah promises a supernatural outcome in order to restore the trust between a husband and wife and to return to sanctity to their marriage because the magic was there from the beginning. There is no greater miracle than a Jewish family. When Pharoah sought to destroy the Nation of Israel he attacked the family unit, and when G!d freed us from Egypt we left as an assembly of families. Creating and sustaining a family requires us daily to rise above the forces of nature to strive towards and create the miraculous. Every family exists only because of the untold miracles that happen in its midst daily. The miraculous aspects of the trial of the bitter waters are just a concentration of those miracles to a single moment. When our life is threatened our bodies are able to concentrate all or our energy and attention to that moment in order to save our ourselves. Likewise when the love and integrity of a marriage is threatened all of the potential and power coalesce in the ceremony of bitter waters.

Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis, June 2, 2017, 8 Sivan 5777

Behaalotcha. Numbers 8:1 – 12:16

Parashat Behaalotcha at the very beginning focuses on lighting the seven-lamp candlabrum, the Menorah by Aharon. The story of the exceptional status of the tribe of the Levites returns very clearly after a brief pause, related to a detailed description of all the offerings made by the princes of the tribes in the previous parashot.

The Levites were not present among those bringing offerings. But that does not mean their mission is of less importance. On the contrary, our parsha again emphasizes the essence of service in the Temple and the role of this unique tribe. The Torah writes (Bemidbar 8,16) “netunim netunim” about the Levites, which literally means “devoted devoted” to God. We see that the temple service has much more to it than simply doing the so called temple “logistics” and that it contains a completely different aspect of total sacrifice.

Rabbi Stas Wojciechowicz, June 9, 2017, 15 Sivan 5777

Shlach. Numbers 13:1 – 15:41

The central story of the parsha is that of the spying mission of the twelve representatives of the tribes of Israel before the conquest of Canaan. After 40 days they come back carrying, among others, an impressive bunch of grapes – this is a picture familiar to us for example from the logo of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. Indeed, the Promised Land is flowing with milk and honey, however ten of the twelve spies fail to believe that with God’s help the Israelites can seize its fortified cities. People raise their lament and want to return to Egypt. Having learned that they will be punished with a 40 year long wandering in the desert. Some of the Israelites try to attack Canaan, but it is too late and they are beaten by the natives. As the Talmud observes, the day of weeping after the return of the spies – the 9th of Av (Tisha Be Av)- changes into the day of weeping for the next generations: the destruction of both Temples and many other tragedies will touch our people on Tisha Be Av.

Rabbi Margalit Kordowicz, June 16, 2017, 22 Sivan 5777

Korach. Numbers 16:1 – 18:32

The first words of Parshat Korach is “Wajikach Korach”, “And Korach took”. But the Torah does not say what did he take. Rashi explains that he took himself, that he removed himself from being part of the community. In our tradition, Korach is the person you never want to be like. Because the worst thing you can do is to remove yourself from being part of the community.

As Hillel taught us ” Never separate yourself from the community”. Not only may you never separate yourself but you should always look for ways to connect.

We need you. We need your ideas, your energy, your concerns. The more you give, the stronger we get.

To make sure you never separate yourself, the best way is to always find new ways to connect

Rabbi Michael Schudrich, June 23, 2017, 29 Sivan 5777

Chukat. Numbers 19:1 – 22:1

This parsha contains two of the least comprehensible Torah teachings. The first is a ritual of purification from ritual impurity, using ash from a red heifer. The second is the fact that Moses, our greatest leader and teacher, could not enter the Promised Land. The use of a uniformly red cow is still today a central example of a commandment that cannot be understood. According to a well-known Talmud commentary, ” neither does the dead defile nor the water purify, but the Holy One blessed be He said: It is a statute I have laid down”. And the punishment of Moses, just like the whole generation of slavery, is being explained in very different ways, because no explanation is convincing enough. Does this mean that both of these matters are incomprehensible? Or rather, is the task of understanding them still ahead of us? Maybe those who will be able to unravel them will be the people who attain the next stage of civilizational development, cleansed of today’s impurities, liberated from the present day’s enslavements.

Stanislaw Krajewski, June 30, 2017, 6 Tammuz 5777

Balak. Numbers 22:2 – 25:9

This week’s Parsha has a number of aspects that appear only in our Parsha. The only time an animal speaks, the only time an angel speaks and the only time a non-Jewish prophet speaks in the Torah are in our Parsha. G!d can make all things speak, not only humans. Our speech can debase us to act like animals or elevate us to the level of angels. It all depends on where we cast our eyes. So let us see the beauty of our fellow man and let our mouths be a tool for blessing.

Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis, July 7, 2017, 13 Tammuz 5777