(Leviticus 12:1-13:59)

(Shmot 12:1-20)

1. A person’s sins are rarely seen in the outward appearance of that person. Why is the punishment for “lashon hara”—tzara’at–  recognized on the skin of the sinner?

2. [Shmot 12:7]  “And they will take some of the blood, and put it on the two side-posts and on the lintel…”   Through this sign the angel of death will know that no-one in this house is to be killed.  The lamb was the idolatry of the Egyptians. Why was this sign used to distinguish the Israelites from the Egyptians?

3. [Haggadah of Pesach]One of the commandments of  Pesach night is to tell the story of our liberation from Egypt.  The story is supposed to be told through questions and answers.    What does the question-and-answer format contribute to the seder and what does this rule (question-and-answer) tell us about Judaism and the Jews?

4. [Haggadah of Pesach]  The passage in the haggadah about the 4 sons teaches us that each son should be taught in a way which is suitable to his understanding. This is a model of Jewish education, as it says in the book of Mishle, “Teach the youth according to his way (Mishle 22:6)”.  Why is this an effective educational method?

5. Our holy books tell us that chametz—leaven—represents arrogance. On Pesach, leaven is totally forbidden to us. Arrogance is also totally undesirable to us, so why is leaven only forbidden on the week of Pesach. Why is it not forbidden all year round?

Commentary

Real freedom is connected to real kindness, and only appears in the world when one has the purest personal qualities.  This purity removes all envy from the heart, like the prophetic vision: “I will remove your heart of stone and I will give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).

–R. Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel..

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Exodus: 27:20- 30-10)

(Ezekiel 43:10-27)

1. [28:3 ] “…to make him holy, to serve me.” There are a number of ways of relating to God. One can serve. One can love. One can see God as a judge and ruler. One can see God as the miracle-worker, and so on.  Which is the most desirable way to relate to God? Can one be conscious of God without any special relationship? Can one relate to God in all ways at the same time?

2. [28:4]  “This is the clothing that you will make…”   The Cohanim wear special clothing, and change into other special clothing when they do different duties. The clothing is considered a major part of their duties. In our everyday lives, we also wear different clothing for different activities and duties.  Is the change of clothing for the sake of the person doing the action or for the sake of those who see him?

3. [29:1]  “…to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests/cohanim to me.”   The Jewish people are a nation of cohanim in relation to the world [Shmot 19:6]. Cohanim are priests in relation to the Jewish people. Do the Jewish people act as Cohanim for each other? What does it mean to serve as a Cohan for others?

4.  [Yechezkel 43:11] “If they are embarrassed with all that they have done…”    Must there be embarrassment and regret for a person to make tshuvah and to act in a better way? Can a person relate to his or her undesirable behaviour as a necessary part of life that taught them lessons for the future?  Or is embarrassment and regret necessary for real personal change?

5. [Purim]  One of the commandments of Purim is to eat a meal. Our literature speaks in general about eating in a holy way? How does one eat in a holy way?

Commentary

In the matter of the clothing of the Cohanim…all inner, spiritual work should be covered and have clothing. Therefore, the Cohanim, who are inner-directed and spiritual, need special clothing. The Levi’im, however, whose work is done publicly don’t need special clothing.

–R. Avrohom Borenstein, 1838 – 1910), rebbe from Sochatchov, Poland.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Rivkah Rochel bat Ya’akov haLevi and Chaya Kornberg, and Yechiel Eliezer ben Yitzchok Meir and Rochel Laya Kornberg

And this study page is also dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

(Numbers 25:1-27:20)

(Kings I,  5:26-6:13)

1. In the mishkan, there were things that appealed to all of our senses. The menorah: sight; the bread: taste; the incense: smell; the songs of the Levites: hearing; leaning on the sacrifice: touch. If the mishkan is supposed to be such a spiritual and elevating experience, why are the physical senses such a large part of that experience?

2. Our rabbis tell us that the mishkan is a model of man. The aron represents the, intellect and the faculty of speech; the menorah, represents the eyes and the sense of sight; the table that held the “bread,” corresponds to the sense of taste; the altar for the ketoret, is the sense of smell; and the outer altar represent the digestive system and other “functional” organs. Where are the emotions and intuitions represented?

3. [25:8]  “Make for Me a tabernacle…”  Many of our commentaries tell us symbolic meanings of the furniture and the utensils of the mikdash.  There are, in fact, many fascinating symbolic meanings to many of the commandments. If a person doesn’t think of any symbolic meaning, but just does the commandment with awareness, but in a simple way, how much is he or she losing, or how much is he or she gaining?

 4. We are told that both the broken tablets of the ten commandments and the unbroken ones were in the Ark. What is the purpose of also keeping the broken ones?

 5. [Haftara] The mishkan in the wilderness was built with voluntary contributions [Shmot 25:2]. The Temple in Jerusalem was built with a compulsory “mas” a tax—men were compelled to do the work. The Temple could also have been built through volunteers. What are the social advantages of voluntary contributions and what are the social advantages of a tax—compulsory contributions?

Commentary

[25:2] “…and they should take a contribution for me.”

This pasuk should say, “They will give a contribution to me”. Why does it say “take” in the pasuk? When a person gives to God with pure motivation, he or she is really giving to themselves. God doesn’t need anything, so the person is really giving for his or her own good. The giving to God is really a taking for oneself.

–Sfas Emes, Rebbe Yehudah Leib Alter, (1847-1905), Ger, Poland

 This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And to the memory of Sarah Beila Kummer bat Yitzchak and Chana, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Numbers 21:1-24:18)

(Haftara: Jeremiah 34:8-22, 33:25,26)

1. [21:28] When a person’s animal maliciously damages someone else’s property, the owner of the animal pays for half of the damage the first 3 times, and then the full damage every time after that. What might be the reason for this law?  Does it sound just to you?

2. [22:20] When the Torah tells us not to oppress the stranger, we are reminded that we were strangers in Egypt.  In other commandments, we are not told to remember our own experiences. Why is this extra encouragement or motivation given with this commandment?

3. [22:30] “Be holy to me and don’t eat any meat from an animal that was killed by a predator in the field…” What does being holy have to do with not eating this type of meat?

4. [24:7] “…we will do and we will hear (understand).” The Talmud understands this pasuk as expressing a very praiseworthy quality of the children of Israel. First they will do the commandments, and afterwards they will try to understand. The Rashbam understands this to mean that they will do the commandment, and then they will listen for the next commandment.  Which of these explanations is the greater praise of the children of Israel?

5. [24:10] “And they saw the God of Israel…” When the group “saw” God, it is described with this metaphor that suggests clarity. When Moshe is with God alone [24:18], the experience is described in terms of a cloud. Why is there this difference between their experiences, and why does Moshe’s experience seem more “cloudy” and less “clear”?

Commentary

[23:12] “…and on the seventh day you shall rest in order that your ox and your donkey should rest…”

You should rest and have peace on the Sabbath in such an intense way that you should influence everyone and everything in your environment. Everything around you should also be at peace.

–Rabbi A. M. Alter of Gur

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava—Eli Zucker

And this study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Exodus 18:1-20:23)

(Haftara: Isaiah 6:1-7:6, 9:5,6)

1. [18:18]  “You will certainly wear yourself out…”  Moshe was the only judge for a few million people. He must have known that the job was too big for one person.  What was he thinking that would have caused him to continue being the only judge for all the people?

2. [18:9] “And Yitro rejoiced for all the good that God had done for Israel…”  Yitro identified with the people of Israel, and was joyful for them. Why did he return to Midian instead of staying with Israel?

3. [19:5] “…you will be my own treasure from among all the nations…”  On the one hand, we are told that we are God’s special nation.  On the other hand we are commanded to be humble and not feel superior to people.  How can we resolve this contradiction?

4. [20:12] “Honour your father and your mother…”   We are commanded to “love your neighbour as yourself”.  Doesn’t that include honouring? Are there limits on honouring someone other than one’s parents? Why is there a special commandment to honour one’s parents?

5. [Haftara: Yeshayahu 6:9]  “…you hear but you don’t understand. You see, but you don’t really know.”  If they already see and hear, but don’t really understand,  what can a prophet do for them? Don’t they need a leader to re-educate them, rather than a prophet to again tell them that they are doing wrong? What can a prophet do for them?

Commentary

Faith is pure when it is full of inner feelings without self-deception and without ulterior motives…Someone who is intelligent will not be content without rational thinking.  For him, a genuine faith will not be real unless it is illuminated by reason.

–R. Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava—Eli Zucker

And this study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Exodus 13:17-17:16)

(Haftara: Shoftim 4:4-5:31)

(Tu B’shvat)

1. [14:22 ]   “And the Israelites went into the sea on the dry land…”   The Israelites were being chased by Pharoah and his army, and they were afraid.  The pasuk seems to tell us that the Israelites went into the dry sea-bed without hesitation.  The midrash, however, says that the Israelites did not trust the miracle, and only entered the sea-bed after great hesitation, and after one brave person jumped in. Which version of the story do you think is most likely to be true?

2.  [15:1] “Then Moshe and the Israelites sang this song to God…”   What is the quality of music that makes people want to sing at elevated times?

3. [15:1] “I will sing to God, because He is exalted…”  The Kabbalistic thinkers tell us that God does not really need our praises. So why do we praise God so often in our prayers and in our lives?

4. [17:3]  “Why have you brought us out of Egypt—to kill us and our children and our cattle of thirst?”   Water is more necessary for life than food. God fed the Israelites with the man—the miraculous food from heaven. Why didn’t God also give the people water in abundance?

5. [Tu B’Shvat] When we make blessings before eating  fruit and other foods, we make the blessing which is specific to that family of food. There is one blessing, however, that could apply to every food—”Blessed are You..that everything exists through His word.  If one blessing is acceptable for every food, why do we try so hard to make the specific blessing?

Commentary

The love for people must break out from the source of compassion. It must not come to us as a prescribed law, because then it would lose its most luminous quality. It must come as a spontaneous, powerful movement from the deepest depths of the person.

–R. Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava—Eli Zucker

And this study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Numbers 10:1-13:16)

(Haftara:  Jeremiah 46:13-28)

1.  [11:2] “…let a man borrow from his neighbour, and a woman borrow from her neighbour,  silver ornaments and gold ornaments.” The Israelites would not repay this “loan”. This sounds like theft. How can this be justified?

2. [11:3] “God gave the people (of Israel) charm in the eyes of Egypt; also the man Moshe was very big in the land of Egypt…” After all the difficult and terrible plagues, how could the Egyptians look positively at the Israelites?

3. [12:9] The Passover lamb was supposed to be eaten roasted and one was not allowed to break its bones. In addition to this one was supposed to eat it quickly, with one’s shoes on and a staff in one’s hand. What effect would all of these detailed commandments have on the Israelites?

4. [12:22] “…Let no man leave his house until the morning.” God did not command this to Moshe. Moshe added it himself. Why did Moshe make this up?

5. [12:24] “Keep it as a law forever”.  What makes these laws and ceremonies fit to be passed on forever through the generations.

Commentary

[10:23]: “A man did not see his brother, and no-one rose from being under it (the darkness)…”

The worst darkness is when a person does not want to see his brother’s distress and does not want to help him. However, the result of this is that when a person ignores his friend’s pain, he, himself cannot move from his place—“and no-one rose from being under it…”

Chiddushei HaRim–R. Yitzchak Meir of Ger (1798(?)-1866)

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And to the memory of Sarah Beila Kummer bat Yitzchak and Chana, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

Numbers 6:2-9:35

Rosh Chodesh

1. [6:9] “…and they didn’t listen to Moshe because of impatience and hard work”.  If the Israelites had not been impatient and hadn’t worked so hard, they also wouldn’t have listened to Moshe, because their lives would have been easier.  Under what conditions does an oppressed people listen to someone who wants to free them from their oppression?

2. [6:12] “…the children of Israel didn’t listen to me, so why would Pharoah listen to me…”   The Riva (12th century, France) explains the logic in the following way: The children of Israel didn’t listen to me , even though I came for their good, so why would Pharoah listen to me when I’m telling him something that’s not good for him?  Some commentators say that this is faulty logic. What might be faulty about the logic here?

3. [6:14] In the previous parsha, the Torah gave us a list of the tribes. Rashi, our main commentator, says that this shows how much God loves the Israelites. Here the Torah gives us a list of the heads of the tribes. Why does the Torah write lists

of names so often?

4. [6:30] Moshe does not want to be the leader of the Israelites, but God insists that he is the man for the job. What qualities does Moshe have that make him a proper leader? How are these qualities different from the qualities that we usually associate with leadership?

5. [7:19] In this parsha, 7 plagues are mentioned. They are: 1) the changing of the waters of Egypt to blood; 2) frogs everywhere; 3) lice; 4) swarms of flies; 5) disease on the cattle; 6) boils on the body; and 7) hail. The commentators try to find a pattern to the plagues. Do you see a pattern to the plagues?

Commentary

There are 10 words in the Torah for prayer. When the Israelites were in spiritual exile in Egypt, their power of speech—their prayer—was also in exile. (This is seen in everyday life when a person is depressed. The person’s full power of speech is lost—is in exile.) The 10 plagues that removed the exile restored the power of speech so that the Israelites could pray the 10 expressions of prayer.

The Chiddushei HaRim–R. Yitzchak Meir of Ger (1798(?)-1866)

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And to the memory of Sarah Beila Kummer bat Yitzchak and Chana, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Exodus 1:1 – 5:23)

(Haftara: Yirmiahu 1-2:3)

1. [2:1] “A man from the house of Levi took a woman from the house of Levi (as a wife).”  Our tradition tells us that Moshe’s father married his own aunt, and that that act was permitted before the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai.  Why did the Hebrews have different laws before the Torah was given from the laws after the Torah was given?

2. [3:2] “…the bush burned with fire and the bush was not consumed.”  If God had revealed Himself in a more impressive way, Moshe might have been more eager to accept God’s mission. Why did God reveal Himself to Moshe in a bush?

3. [3:13]  “…and they will say to me, ‘What is His name’, what shall I say to them?”  Why does God need a name? Why can’t Moshe say that our God is so universal that He is beyond names?

4. [4:10] “…I am slow of speech and of a slow tongue.”  The Israelites had to be convinced to leave Egypt, and Pharoah had to be convinced to let them leave. Why didn’t God choose a more eloquent and charismatic leader for the Israelites?

5. [Haftara: Yirmiahu 2:2] “I remember for you the affection of your youth…”  In the way of the Torah, we are always trying to renew ourselves, and return to fresh perceptions. However, our cycle of the year in almost the same as last year and our daily prayers are almost the same as yesterday’s.  How is it that we can have such regular practices and at the same time value fresh perceptions?

Commentary

Under all conditions it is important to find the quality of goodness in a person, and if its light is weak, it must be brightened through Torah and prayer.

R. Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And  to the memory of Sarah Beila Kummer bat Yitzchak and Chana, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

(Genesis-47:28-50:26)

(Haftara: Kings I  2:1-12)

1. [48:14] “And Israel put his right hand on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger…”  Ya’akov got the rights of the first-born son even though he was younger than Esav. Now he is giving the rights of the first-born to Ephraim even though he is younger than his brother, Menashe.  It seems that the Torah does not really value the rights of the first-born. If so, why does the Torah give the first-born extra rights?

2. [48:20]  “And he blessed them on that day, saying, “By you shall Israel bless, saying…”  On the evening of Shabbat, when we bless our daughters we say, “May God make you like Sara, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah”.  When we bless our sons, we say, “May God make you like Ephraim and Menashe”.  What is so special about Ephraim and Menashe?

3. [49:18] “For your salvation I hope, God”.  Ya’akov says this short prayer in the middle of his blessings for his sons. This prayer does not seem to relate to anything that he is saying. Why does Ya’akov say it?

4. [49:14] “Yissachar…crouching between the borders.” A number of commentators say that this means that Yissachar sleeps in unfamiliar places because he travels in order to teach Torah. What does this tell us about the Torah’s vision of teachers of Torah?

5. [Haftara: Melachim I, 20:6] “Do not let his old head go down to the grave in peace.”  Among  King David’s last words to his son, Shlomo, is this in order to take revenge.  R. Yosef Tzvi Hertz (born 1884) makes a distinction between this kind of revenge—which is to create a feeling of justice in the state—and revenge in one’s personal life.  Revenge for justice in the country can be justified, but personal revenge cannot be justified. Do you agree with this distinction?

Commentary

When a person feels that he is very much lacking and inadequate in his spirituality, he should know that the time has come for him to put up a new structure–more elevated, stable and magnificent than it was before.  And he should strengthen himself and strive to change his actions and his ways in an organized way, with a strong heart and with pure motivations—with a heart full of  strength and inner joy.  God is just and good. Therefore, He teaches sinners the way, directs the humble with justice and teaches the humble His way.

.—R. Avraham Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel.

This study page is dedicated to the memory of Gad Eliahu ben David and Kochava–Eli Zucker

And  to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer

Location

Mizmor LeDavid meets at the Mesorati High School, 8 Beitar Street, in the auditorium. There is another minyan that meets there, we are the one further north. Accessible from Beitar, the single gate at the bottom of the semi-circle of steps, or from the north end of Efrata Street, through the gate on the right, then turn left.

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