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Posted March 1, 2019 - 5:51am

Parashat Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20)

Although Parashat Vayakhel is almost entirely focused on the construction of the Tabernacle it begins by reminding the Children of Israel that no work may be done on the Sabbath. Why does it begin here, rather than jumping right into how the Tabernacle was constructed? As we have previously mentioned, placing the topic of the Sabbath against the construction of the Tabernacle  was God’s way of defining the boundaries of the Sabbath. However, there is another layer to understanding this point and it actually connects back to the golden calf.

As we know, while Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah, the Children of Israel decided to make a golden calf to worship. Why did they do this? Was it simply that they had quickly given up on the God who had delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh and they decided to return to the pagan deities of Egypt? No. In their zeal to worship their Deliverer they did so in a way they were most familiar. They instinctively used their most precious resources to create something they believed would connect them to the LORD. 

After creating the idol they said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD” (Exodus 32:5). But what they created was not what Hashem wanted. He wanted them to create the Tabernacle to serve as the connection between Heaven and Earth, not a golden calf. After this incident of the golden calf the LORD had to constantly remind them, “These are the things the LORD has commanded.” Even though they had a spiritual zeal that desired to serve Hashem wholeheartedly, it was misguided and needed proper direction.

Posted February 22, 2019 - 10:58am
Parashat Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35)

Although Parashat Ki Tisa covers a wide range of topics and events, the opening paragraph of this portion is our focus for this week’s insight. It is the LORD’s command for each of the Israelites who are at least twenty years old to bring a half-shekel offering to the LORD:

Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the LORD. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the LORD's offering. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the LORD's offering to make atonement for your lives. (Exodus 30:13–15)

The most common question asked about this passage is, “Why only a half shekel?” The most common answer is that it’s only when we work together that we are able to create the whole. But I would like to add a slight nuance into this understanding.

First, although the Torah tells us that this half shekel was given by the Children of Israel in order “to make atonement for your lives” (Exodus 30:15). The LORD continues by telling Moses, “You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the LORD, so as to make atonement for your lives” (vs. 16). We know from this that the money was somehow used “for the service of the tent of meeting.” But how was this money actually utilized? 

Posted February 15, 2019 - 10:13am
Parashat Tetzaveh (Exodus 27:20-30:10)

Parashat Tetzaveh is unique from all of the other Torah portions from the beginning of Exodus to the end of Numbers in an unusual way. How so? The name of Moses is curiously missing from the text. In every other portion we hear his name mentioned at least once, if not multiple times. This week, however, the Torah is silent when it comes to actually naming Moses. Why is this the case?

There are several theories as to why this Torah portion does not mention the name of Moses. The predominant theory connects this week’s Torah portion to the major event that happens in our next reading, Parashat Ki Tisa. What is this? The sin of the golden calf. While Moses was still up on Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah from Hashem, the Israelites forced Aaron to make an idol they could worship. The LORD revealed to him what was going on in the camp and told Moses that He was going to destroy the entire nation and start over with him:

I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you. (Exodus 32:9–10)

Moses quickly made his way down the mountain to intervene on behalf of the Children of Israel. He pleaded with the LORD to not destroy them. He went so far as saying that if Hashem blotted them out then his name should be blotted out also:

Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written. (Exodus 32:31–32)

Posted February 8, 2019 - 3:22pm
Parashat Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19)

This week’s Torah portion begins with a request from Hashem for materials to use in the construction of the Mishkan, the Holy Tabernacle. It continues with detailed instructions for how the Tabernacle and its furnishings should be made. One of these furnishings was central to the Tabernacle. It was the Aron, the Holy Ark, about which Hashem instructed Moses, “You shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you” (Exodus 25:16). He gave Moses specific instructions for making the Ark, saying:

They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. (Exodus 25:10–11)

The Ark was made of three parts. There was an inside box made of pure gold, a middle box made of acacia wood, and an outer box made of pure gold. All three of these came together to make a single unit. It makes sense for the wood to be covered with gold on the outside, but why does it need to be completely encased in gold? Why does the inside of the Ark, something that will almost never been seen by any human being, need to be made of pure gold? On a spiritual level, we can learn a very important lesson from the this.

Our sages tell us that the Ark is a reflection of what a person should be. Just as the ark is the same on the inside as it is on the outside, so must a person also be. Our inward character should not be different than how we present ourselves outwardly. This was the primary criticism Yeshua had against some of the Pharisees of his day:

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Latest Book Review

The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

The Koren Ani Tefilla Siddur is one of the latest in Koren’s growing collection of siddurim (prayer books) geared towards a specific demographic. Koren describes Ani Tefilla as “an engaging and thought-provoking siddur for the inquiring high school student and thoughtful adult.” Koren says that Ani Tefillah has been developed in order “to help the user create their own meaning and connection during the Tefilla [prayer] experience.” The name of the siddur is connected with its objective. Ani Tefilla means “I pray.” 

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