In this week’s parshah the Torah writes about the halachos of a sotah. A sotah is a woman whose husband warned her, in the presence of two witnesses, not to go into seclusion with a specific man – but two witnesses saw her in seclusion with that man. Even though the only testimony that we have is that she was secluded with this man, she is nevertheless forbidden to be with her husband as she is an adulteress. This is in effect until she drinks the sotah water.
Parshas Naso is notable for its length, and its length is notable for its redundancy. The Torah minces no words, and therefore we understand that the repetition in the description of the Mishkan's inaugural service is purposeful and laden with meaning. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that this is a reflection on the importance and centrality of the Mishkan.
There was an ongoing debate between the Sages as to whether the nazirite – whose laws are outlined in this week’s parshah – was to be praised. Recall that the nazirite was someone who voluntarily, usually for a specified period, undertook a special form of holiness. This meant that he was forbidden to consume wine or any grape products, to have a haircut, and to defile himself by contact with the dead.
Although Megilat Rut is one of the most beautiful stories regarding unadulterated chesed, it also serves as a primer on leadership. After all, its primary purpose is to establish the lineage of King David’s dynasty. Therefore we should expect to glean from it some important leadership lessons. Yet at first blush it would appear more apt to describe it as a book about followership. Rut’s noble commitment to join the Jewish people, despite all the hardships this entailed, is captured in her stirring words (1:16): “To where you will go I will go, where you will sleep I will sleep, your nation is my nation…” These words seem to constitute a declaration of what is termed “followership” more than leadership. However, a recent class trip, with my Yeshivah’s 8th grade, to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis helped clarify matters.
Throughout their forty years in the desert, the Jewish nation had to be prepared to travel at a moment’s notice. At any time the Divine clouds could suddenly rise and proceed further into the desert. As soon as that occurred the entire nation had to immediately dismantle their camps, gather their children and belongings, and begin to travel in perfect formation along with their tribe.
The Generation of the Wilderness was unique in the history of Israel, as Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains concerning the first verse of Bamidbar. Israel was slated for a special mission in the world, and this mission was begun with a special forty-year inauguration in which Israel gained an intense and unmatched closeness to Hashem.
The Rambam begins hilchos talmud Torah with the following halacha: Women and slaves are exempt from talmud Torah. A man is obligated to teach his son Torah, as it says, “velimadetem osam es beneichem ledaber bam.” However, a woman is not obligated to teach her son Torah because whoever is obligated to learn is obligated to teach – and since a woman is not obligated to learn, she is not obligated to teach.
According to the Ramban, the verse "your foes who dwell upon it will be desolate" (Vayikra 26:32) is a partial blessing within the curse that guarantees through all generations that the Land of Israel will not receive any foreign nation in place of her true indigenous people.
In a famous photo, President John F. Kennedy is seen facing the windows of the Oval Office with his back to the camera. Slightly bent over, with his hands spread out on a credenza, he appears in deep and painful thought. The caption of the picture says it all: “The Loneliest Job.” Only the relatively few people who have been President of the United States truly understand the enormity of the job’s burden. It is for this reason presidents, despite their party affiliation, and often after leaving office, develop close bonds with one another, give the current office holder the benefit of the doubt and make themselves available to whoever may be president at the moment to help and advise.
When we are on our own land we are commanded to keep every seventh year as the shemittah year, and at the completion of seven shemittahs to add an additional shemittah year – the yovel. During this year, all land lays fallow. Homesteads return to their original owners, and all Jewish slaves are freed.
In Behar, one of this week’s parshiyos, the Torah commands us in regard to some of the laws of buying and selling. The pasuk says, “Vechi simkiru mimkar la’amisecha … al tonu ish es achiv – When you make a sale to your fellow … do not afflict one another.” The Gemara in Baba Metzia 51a derives from this pasuk that one may not overcharge when selling an item without informing the buyer. This is referred to as ona’ah. The Gemara says that if one charges more than a sixth more than the market value of an item, the sale is void. If one charges less than a sixth more, the sale is valid. If one charges exactly a sixth more, the sale is valid; however, the seller must return the overcharge.
The truth is sometimes unpopular or uncomfortable. Thus, people who wish to dismiss the Hand of Hashem from history and human affairs may be taken aback by the assertion of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, based on the beginning of this parshah, that the suffering that befalls Israel comes for a Divine purpose. Rabbi Miller finds this purpose explicit in the opening words of Bechukosai, and observes that this “wish” (to dismiss the Hand of Hashem from history) is not a Jewish way of thinking.
The Talmud tells us that compassion is one of the three traits that distinguish the nation of Israel (the others are shame and kindness). The Torah abounds with commandments that exercise this quality, and Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, explains that they are given for exactly that purpose.
Sefer HaChinuch: The Torah commands us to count the Omer so we can relive the Exodus from Mitzrayim. Just as the Jews back then anxiously anticipated the great day when they were to receive the Torah, so too we count the days till Shavuos, the Yom Tov that commemorates the giving of the Torah. To the Jews then, accepting the Torah on Har Sinai was even greater than their redemption from slavery. So we count each day to bring ourselves to that sense of great enthusiasm, as if to say, “When will that day come?”
One who forgets to count sefirah at night may count during the day without a berachah, and then continue counting the rest of the days with a berachah. If one forgets to count sefirah at night and does not remember to count by day, he may not count with a berachah thereafter.
It seems that from time immemorial, or more specifically from some time after G-d first declared that a person’s days shall be limited to 120 years, at best (Genesis 6:3), Jews have been blessing each other with the wish “May you live to be 120.” I have noticed, however, that many people look at that goal with trepidation, as if it is not necessarily something positive to live for.
In sixteenth-century Cracow, there lived a Jew named R’ Isserl. He was a scholar, philanthropist, and a well-respected community leader, who made a fine living manufacturing and selling fine silk. Many member of the Polish nobility were his customers.
In our time we must always take advantage of the opportunity for a second chance to revive our identity as Jews in Eretz Yisrael, for without the identity of Israel as a Jewish state, we are truly at a spiritual and physical loss.
The restrictions Yom Kippur places on each Jew are unique among the Torah’s holidays. Likewise, the intricate and detailed Temple service that was performed...
It is simply not the same to put on tefillin or keep kashrut or observe Shabbat in the Diaspora as in Israel. The Torah is the constitution of a holy people in the holy land. Only in Israel is the fulfillment of the commands a society-building exercise, shaping the contours of a culture as a whole. Only in Israel does the calendar track the rhythms of the Jewish year.