Food For the Soul
The Parshah Behaalotecha tells us, “The Ark of the Covenant of G-d journeyed before them” (Numbers 10:33). Rashi interprets this to mean that the Ark—which housed the Tablets inscribed with the Ten commandments—would miraculously prepare the groundwork for their future encampments. What this is also telling us is that the Torah (as embodied by the Tablets) is way ahead of the game. It goes before us. It is not only timeless; it is ahead of its time.
I can think of so many values and lifestyles which have become trendy now, which Torah has been encouraging for centuries.
A Time magazine cover story focused on young moms putting successful careers on hold in order to stay home and nurture their children when they need them most. From the beginning, Torah exempted women from timebound mitzvahs like tefillin or thrice-daily prayers, so that they could fulfill the more important mitzvah of raising the next generation.
The Jewish tradition of sitting shiva when one loses a family member is today recognized by psychologists of all faiths and cultures as being excellent bereavement therapy. When Jacob cooked lentils for his father, Isaac, it was because Isaac was a mourner sitting shiva for Abraham.
Whereas a generation ago women spurned mikvah as demeaning, today’s woman is embracing it as a supreme acknowledgment of her sexuality and as the most beautiful spiritual experience available. But there were mikvahs in Masada, in Jerusalem during the Temple era, and long before. And the phenomenon of a society in search of spirituality, with celebrities and pop icons studying the Kabbalah, serves only to validate the teachings of Jewish mysticism, which are indeed of ancient days.
Paisley ties were once compulsory, but today are verboten. Fads and fashions come and go, but G-dly values, the morals of menschlichkeit and the mitzvahs of Torah, are not behind the times. If anything, they are ahead of the times.
As He is beyond time, so are His commandments. If they appear to our mortal eyes as anachronistic, then that is our challenge: to relate Torah to our own realities, and to shape our lives according to its standard. He intended it for us and our world, so obviously it can be done.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Shabbat and the Divine Mind
In six days, G-d created heaven and earth, and on the seventh day, He rested. But when G-d rests, how is there a heaven and earth? What force sustains the molecules in their places, the electrons in their shells? In what way does any form or matter exist at all?
Rather, for six days, G-d sustains the creation of heaven and earth by His word, and on the seventh day, it rests within His thought. For six days, as you speak words to others outside of yourself, so the Creator generates a universe in which each creature senses itself to be outside of Him. But on Shabbat, if you will only stop to listen, to perceive and to know, you will discover a universe as it is found within the mind of its Creator.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Mind Over Matter
It’s not easy to reach out to others. We often feel shy or awkward, worried about interfering, and unconvinced of our ability to be of any use. Far easier to hide in one’s own little huddle and let the world take care of itself.
We can’t, we mustn’t. The exponential effects of inspiring others, the good engendered and inspiration effected have such powerful consequences, that to abnegate our responsibilities would be to condemn both ourselves and others to a sterile, frosty existence.
From an article by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum
“Six hundred thousand footmen are the people, bekirbo (in whose midst) I am…” (Beha’alotecha 11:21)
This verse intimates the mystical principle that there is a spark or part of Moses in every one of his people: taking the word bekirbo literally, the verse reads “in whose innards I am.” Thus Moses was connected with every Jew, and this enabled him to be the “faithful shepherd” of Israel and its redeemer from Egypt. The same applies to Moshiach. Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov teaches that within every Jew there is a spark of the soul of Moshiach. This spark constitutes the very core of everyone’s soul which each one is to unveil and release to govern his life. Each one will thus redeem himself, and this will bring about the national redemption for all of Israel. Moshiach is connected with the entire nation of Israel, with every single Jew, and that is why he is able to redeem all the Jewish people.
Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Miriam’s Message to the Powerless
A teenager was complaining because her school had punished her for a misdemeanor, while her partner in crime had escaped even a reprimand. “Since her father is on the school board, they won’t punish her! How can I respect such an unfair system when the principal has no real principles!”
At the conclusion of the shacharit (morning) prayers, we recite the Six Remembrances. These are six occurrences that happened at the birth of our nationhood. According to many authorities, we are obligated to remember them every day.
G-d commands us to remember our Exodus, the revelation at Sinai and sanctifying the Shabbat day because they are integral to who we are and our destiny as G-d’s people. Remembering Amalek’s G-dless attack and our obligation to obliterate them also provides the necessary reminder of the danger of evil and how we must be on guard to eradicate it.
Even remembering our rebelliousness soon after receiving the Torah reminds us of the many times our nation erred and strayed, and to be careful not to repeat this pattern.
However, one of the remembrances has always struck me as odd: “Remember what G-d did to Miriam on the way when you went out of Egypt.”
Miriam loved her younger brother, Moses, and when she heard that he had separated from his wife (not realizing that G-d had instructed him to do so), she spoke to her brother Aaron about it. G-d punished her with leprosy. This daily remembrance reminds us not to speak ill of others or jump to conclusions about their behavior, even if we have positive intentions. The temptation is so great that we need to be reminded daily!
Nevertheless, there are other instances of evil talk, some of which caused far greater harm than Miriam. Moreover, the wording is curious in that it doesn’t remind us of what Miriam did, but rather “to remember what G-d did to her . . . ”
Miriam saved Moses as a baby; she was a prophet, a holy woman and a righteous leader who taught and guided. She also had “powerful connections” as the sister of Moses. One would imagine that G-d would overlook a minor misjudgment by a person of such stature! Nevertheless, G-d didn’t and commands us to remember this daily, so that we internalize that in G-d’s book—because of her greatness—she needed to be an even better example.
We live in an imperfect world where it is easy to become cynical about justice, even among those meant to be our mentors or leaders. So often if feels like it’s not what you know, but who you know; it’s not about your personal integrity or effort, but your power or cunning.
And so, G-d reminds us daily that ultimately, there is true justice. In G-d’s system, you are seen for what you are, for what you accomplish and for what you aspire to be. And that’s something worth remembering daily!