Featured Posts

Parashat Korach (Numbers 16:1-18:32)

If you've read this week's Torah portion, you already know that the story of Korah is a sad one. But there are many important lessons we can learn from the story of Korah. The primary, and most obvious lesson we can learn from Korah's mistake is in regard to humility. However, a deeper understanding reveals that his lack of humility stemmed from his disregard for mishchah, distinction. Let's explore this further.

Korah was a Levite of the Kohathite family, a cousin of Moses and Aaron. He wasn't just the average Israelite. He had special privileges that the average Israelite did not. Being a Kohathite, he was also responsible for transporting the most holy items in the Tabernacle: the Ark of the Covenant, the table of the showbread, the golden menorah, etc. And as a Levite he was also supported by the tithe of his Israelite brothers. He was not content, however, to enjoy the privileges of a Levite; he wanted the privileges of the priesthood also. He did not like the distinction between the priests and the Levites. Since the priesthood is determined by birth, Korach felt this was unfair, and his indignation ultimately lead him to destruction. He failed the test of humility because he failed to recognize the distinct calling of Aaron's sons. His name will be forever remembered and associated with arrogance, pride and jealousy.

Parashat Shelach (Numbers 13:1-15:41)

This week's Torah reading begins by recounting the spies being sent into the land of Canaan on behalf of the Children of Israel. Joshua, Caleb and ten other qualified leaders were chosen from each of the twelve tribes and sent into the land of Canaan ahead of the Children of Israel in order to scout out the land and report back their findings. Their job was to spy out the land, as it says in Numbers 13:2, "Send men to spy out the land of Canaan ..." As we know, ten of these twelve men came back with an evil report that slandered the land God had promised to them. That evil report delayed their entrance into the Land of Promise by forty long years.

At the end of the portion we read about how the Children of Israel are to make tzitzit—ritual fringes/tassels—on the corners of their garments. Even to this day religious Jewish men wear a special garment with these tassels attached to it as a normal part of their daily attire. The commandment is as follows:

Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels ("tzitzit") on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. (Numbers 15:38-39)

Parashat Beha'alotcha - Numbers 8:1-12:15

As you have probably noticed, there is almost always something fascinating to discuss at the very beginning of the weekly Torah portions. This week is no exception. Parashat Beha'alotcha begins with the instructions on how Aaron, the kohen gadol (high priest), should kindle the menorah for the Tabernacle. It begins:

Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to Aaron and say to him, When you set up [baha'alotcha] the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand." (Numbers 8:1-2)

The word baha'alotcha means, "to cause to go up." Therefore, Rashi, the medieval Torah commentator, describes this procedure by saying that Aaron was to hold the fire to the wick of the menorah "until the flame rises on its own accord." What does this mean? Isn't it obvious that this is the way you should light a candle? But let's think for a moment. I'm sure we've all done it. We have stuck a match and then held it to a candle until we think it's lit. But when we pull the match away to extinguish it, the wick immediately dims and is reduced to a smolder without any sign of a flame. We have not only wasted a match, but also our time. Now we have to find another match and begin the process all over again. Doing it properly, therefore, is to our advantage.

Chasidic Judaism uses Rashi's comment to compare the kindling of the menorah to discipleship. This concept is connected with Proverbs 20:27, which says that "the soul of man is the candle of God." In other words, the soul of man must be set aflame with the love of God and love of the commandments. Aaron is seen as the model for this. Jewish sources remember Aaron for his ability to endear his fellowman to the Torah. The great sage, Hillel, tells us that we are to imitate Aaron in this way, saying:

Shalom Bayit

Babies. Isn't that what naturally comes to your mind after reading this week's Torah portion? Confused? Let me explain.

This week's reading contains an unusual ritual, the testing of the sotah (the wayward wife). This is a strange and even fantastical ritual, quite foreign and bizarre to the modern mind. To the modern ear it appears to be more akin to alchemy than biblical instruction. It goes like this: 

If a woman was suspected of adultery and had been warned in regard to certain actions that could lead to inappropriate behavior, she would be brought to the kohen (priest) in the Tabernacle to undergo this unusual interrogation. It begins with her bringing "a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of remembrance, bringing iniquity to remembrance" (5:15). The kohen then takes a clay pot filled with sacred water from the bronze laver of the Tabernacle and adds to it some of the dust from the floor of the Tabernacle. He then uncovers her head and places her grain offering into her hands. He then makes her swear an oath. The oath attests either to her innocence or to her guilt. If she is innocent then the waters of cursing will have no affect. If she is guilty, however, then an awful curse will come upon her that will make her "womb swell and [her] thigh fall away" (5:22). After this, the kohen writes the entire curse upon a scroll. He then scrapes off the text-which contains the Divine Name of God-into the water mixture. After this, the woman drinks the mixture of water, dust and ink and waits to see if her innards will rot.


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.” 


Welcome to Emet HaTorah! We're blessed to have you here! We hope to be an online source for discipleship resources from a Messianic Jewish perspective. If you're new to Emet HaTorah have a look around and enjoy some of our online teaching resources and sign up for our monthly newsletter. You'll be blessed!

Eight Lights Hanukkah Devotional - Buy Now!