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Choices
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God gives man choices; these are described as blessings and curses, or life and death. Remarkably, mankind has always needed to be encouraged to choose life. This seemingly automatic, rational choice has never been the “no-brainer” it should be. Why would any sane person choose a cursed path that leads to certain death over the […]
Is “One” a Number?
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To a large extent, the Book of Devarim is a polemic against idolatry. Moshe instructs, cajoles and admonishes as he attempts to inspire the people to follow one God. In the portion of VaEtchanan especially, there is a positive declaration, which is often described as the credo of Judaism: “Hear o Israel: God is our […]
The Price of Hatred
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It is often quoted in the name of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook that just as the Temple was destroyed due to baseless hatred, it will be rebuilt due to baseless love.While this teaching sounds simple, it is in fact highly nuanced, and deserves more serious consideration. The image that comes to mind when we hear […]
Walking in Circles
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There is something that may seem rather depressing about the start of the final parasha in the book of Bamidbar: The parasha begins with a retrospective of the various stops comprising the Israelites’ forty-year ordeal in the desert. Knowing, as we do, that the original plan had been to leave Egypt, make a quick stop […]
“Shall Your Brothers Go To War While You Sit Here?”
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“Shall your brothers go to war while you sit here?” With these words Moshe hurls a devastating moral attack against the tribes of Reuven (Reuben) and Gad, an attack that reverberates until this very day, and is used as ammunition against those who live in the modern state of Israel yet choose to take advantage […]
Fanaticism
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Pinchas was a fanatic. As anyone raised in western society will tell you, fanatics are bad, and the only thing worse than a fanatic is a religious fanatic. We have been raised on the axiomatic, nearly – religious certainty that religious fanaticism is the root of all evil, the underlying cause of every conflict around […]
Reading Anti-Semites
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Parashat Balak begins with a peek into a world that both attracts and repulses us; it is a conversation among anti-Semites regarding the Jewish Problem. This conversation interests us because, on some level, we want to know what others are saying about our people – even to the point of an obsession that enthralls and […]
Embracing Torah
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Death permeates this week’s parasha. There are the obvious deaths – Moshe’s older siblings, Miriam and Aharon – and the not-so-obvious deaths: At some point, very quietly, the Torah has “fast forwarded” and skipped 38 years between the previous parashah, Korach, and this week’s parashah, Chukat; all the adults that left Egypt, the generation that […]
Living the Dream; Ignoring Reality
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Opportunism, demagoguery, manipulation, jealousy, conniving, self-destruction: These are just some of the words that come to mind when considering Korach and his rebellion. Moshe’s leadership was challenged many times, both before and after the Exodus from Egypt. Usually, these attacks arose in times of crisis; scarcity of resources has a way of bringing out the […]
Have I Got a Land for You!
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The tragic tale of the spies is well-known: Moshe handpicks leaders to pay a visit to the Promised Land, but the mission spirals out of control. Upon hearing the spies’ report, mass hysteria breaks out, and, as a result, a death sentence is handed down to all those involved: The entire generation that had been […]