Parshat Shlach

Learning Group—Parshat Shlach-Lecha

(Numbers: 13:1-15:41)

(Haftara: Yehoshua 2, 1-24)

1. [13:27, 28] “…the people who live in the land are fierce…” Our tradition looks upon the spies as the ultimate traitors. What was so bad about the spies’ message to the Israelites?

2. [13:27, 28] “…the people who live in the land are fierce…” Our tradition looks upon the spies as traitors. The spies were not betraying the Israelites. They were afraid. Is fear a sin? Is fear a betrayal? Why are people sometimes afraid of changing a bad situation for a better situation?

3. [13:30] “And Caleb stilled the people”. Rashi says that Calev said to the people, “Is this the only thing that Moshe has done to us?”. This would get their attention and then he could encourage them to go into the land. The Sforno says simply that Calev told them to be quiet so that Moshe could be heard. Each explanation has a different image of the Israelites. What is the difference between the explanations? Which seems more accurate to you?

4. [14:29-35] “In this wilderness, your bodies will fall…” The Israelites complained before the episode of the spies, but this time they were punished with 40 years in the desert. What exactly was their sin? Isn’t this too severe a punishment for their sin?

5. [Haftara: Yehoshua 2:1] Why did Yehoshua send the spies to Rachav, the prostitute, and what significance is there in the fact that Rachav, who protected the spies and helped the Israelites, was a prostitute?

Commentary

[13:32] “…a land that consumes its inhabitants”.

The Hebrew word for “its inhabitants” in this verse—”yoshvehah”–literally means “its settlers”.

The Holy Land does not tolerate those who settle down, who are complacent and content with their achievements. One should always be aspiring to improve—to get closer to God, to people and to one’s real self.

–R. Yitzchak of Vorka (1779-1848), Poland.

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

Copyright © Kef International 2012. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.kefintl.com

Kef International Shipping, Realty, and Relocations  Services since 1979

This site protected by Trustwave's Trusted Commerce program

Learning Group—Parshat Naso

(Numbers: 4:21-7:89)

(Haftara: Shoftim 13:2-25)

1. [5:6] “…when they do any of the sins of man to betray God.” Rabbenu Bachya (Spain, 11th century) says that any sin that a person does against his fellow is also treason against God. Why is doing wrong to a person a betrayal of God?

2. [5:7] “And they will confess the sins that they did…” Specifying one’s sins through verbal confession is necessary in order to be forgiven by Heaven. Why isn’t it enough that a person sincerely changes his or her behaviour? Why is verbal confession so important?

3. [5:14] “…and a spirit of jealousy comes on him…” When a husband suspects his wife of being unfaithful, she drinks something which tests her faithfulness. One would think that there should be a better way of dealing with this difficult situation. In what kind of a society could this ceremony be understood as an enlightened way of dealing with this difficult situation?

4. [6:25-26] “May God shine his face on you and be gracious to you.” In Hebrew, a number of single things are written in the plural–for example, sky, life, water and others. These seem to be things which are not simple objects. “Face”, in Hebrew is also in the plural. However, it seems to be a simple object. Why is face in the plural in Hebrew?

5. [Haftara: Shoftim 13:5] Shimshon (and Shmuel) were born with the restrictions and duties of nazirim. Their mothers had declared that they would be nazirim. In our parsha, the nazir chooses to be a nazir by himself, and does so for a limited amount of time. Who do you think would be more committed to being a nazir—one who doesn’t choose it and does it all his life, or one who chooses it and does it temporarily?

Commentary

[7:84] “This is the dedication offering…on the day it was anointed”.

[7:88] “This is the dedication offering…after it was anointed”.

When one begins to get involved with God and with Torah, one feels an awakening, a renewal and an elevation. After a while, however, the freshness begins to wear off. One must try to keep the clarity of the beginning forever. One must always return to the original light that one had when one first started getting involved with Torah. — R. Avraham Mordechai Alter of Ger (1866-1948)

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

Copyright © Kef International 2012. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.kefintl.com

Kef International Shipping, Realty, and Relocations  Services since 1979

This site protected by Trustwave's Trusted Commerce programParshat Naso1

Learning Group—Parshat Bamidbar

(Numbers 1:1-4:20)

(Haftara: Hosea 2, 1-22)

(Pirkay Avot Chapter 6)

1. [3:12] “I took the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first-born…” The priestly tribe was originally supposed to be the first-born males. After the sin of the golden calf, the first-born lost their status as the priestly class, and Levi took their place, because they were loyal to God. What qualities would the first-born have that would have made them suitable to be the priestly class?

2. [Haftara: Hosea 2:21] “I will betroth you to me in righteousness (betzedek) and in justice (bemishpat), and in kindness (chesed) and in compassion (rachamim)”. What is the difference between righteousness and justice? What is the difference between kindness and compassion?

3. [Haftara: Hosea 2:21] “I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, and in kindness and in compassion”. One would think that this should say, “I will marry you to me…” Why does it say, “I will become engaged to you”?

4. [Pirkay Avot 6:6] “…the Torah is acquired in 48 ways…with humility…” There is humility that is a result of low self-image, and there is a positive kind of humility. What self-image and what relationship to others does a person with positive humility have?

5. [Rosh Chodesh] On Rosh Chodesh we pray the Hallel prayer. What does the following sentence mean: “The stone that the builders despised became the most important stone”?

Commentary

[3:12] “…And I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel… and the Levites shall be mine.”

“Not only the tribe of Levi, but each and every person in the world, whose spirit has moved him and has understood himself that he should separate himself to stand before God, to serve Him, to worship Him, to know God and to walk in a straight way like God made him, and he has given up all the various calculations that men make–this man has become holy like a holy of holies, and God shall be his portion and his inheritance forever, and shall give him his needs in this world, as He has given to the Kohanim and the Levites…”

–Rambam, R. Moshe ben Maimon, 1135-1204, Spain and Egypt

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

Image

Copyright © Kef International 2012. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.kefintl.com

Kef International Shipping, Realty, and Relocations  Services since 1979

This site protected by Trustwave's Trusted Commerce program

Parshot har-bekhukotai

Learning Group– Parshot Behar-Bechukotai

(Leviticus: 25:1-27:34)

(Haftara: Yirmiahu 16:19-17:14)

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 5)

                                                               

1. [26:37] “the sound of a leaf will chase you…but no-one will be chasing you”. What psychological condition does this sound like? Are there other psychological illnesses mentioned in these psukim?

2. [27:33] “…and he shall not exchange it…”  One of levels of interpretation of the Torah is the spiritual level.  R. Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, (1902-1994), said that this pasuk can be understood to mean that every person was born with a mission in life that is distinctly, uniquely and exclusively his or her own. How can a person know what his or her purpose in life is?

3. [Jeremiah 16:19] “…to You the nations will come from the ends of the earth.”  We believe that in the future all the people in the world will recognize the one universal God who revealed the Torah to us.  In other words, we will be recognized as the center of the world. In our religious-spiritual system, arrogance is considered a very, very bad quality. How can we believe in our religious-spiritual system in a way that does not lead to arrogance?

4. [Yirmiahu 32:27] “…is there anything too hard for me?”   In pasuk 17 of this chapter. Yirmiahu says to God, “…there is nothing too hard for you”.  In pasuk 27, God says to Yermiyahu in almost the same words, “ …is there anything too hard for me?”. Yirmiyahu knew in theory that God can do anything, but God had to reassure him. This is a major theme in the way of Torah. How can a person take what he or she knows  in theory—in his or her mind—and transfer that understanding to the heart—integrate that knowledge totally into one’s personality?

5. [Pirkay Avot 5:20-23] “One should be as brazen as a leopard… the brazen go to hell…”  When is brazenness a Godly quality, and when is brazenness an undesirable quality? Do all human qualities have a holy expression and an unholy expression?

Commentary

[27:33] “…and he shall not exchange it…”

Every person was born with a mission in life that is distinctly, uniquely and exclusively his or her own. No one–not even the greatest of souls–can take his or her place. No other person who ever lived or who ever will live can fulfill that particular aspect of God’s purpose in creation.

–R. Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, (1902-1994), USA.

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 

 

Copyright © Kef International 2012. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.kefintl.com

Kef International Shipping, Realty, and Relocations  Services since 1979

This site protected by Trustwave's Trusted Commerce program

Parshat EmorLearning Group– Parshat Emor

(Leviticus: 21:1-24:23)

(Haftara: Yechezkel 44:15-31)

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 4)

1. [23:4] “These are the festivals of God…” The holier the day is, the more one is restricted in one’s physical activities. For example, on a festival, one may cook food, although there are other restrictions. On Shabbat one may heat up certain cooked foods, but may not cook, and on Yom Kippur one may not cook and one may not even eat or drink. Why should physical freedom of action be dependent on the level of holiness of that day? One might think that more holiness should suggest more freedom of action, rather than the opposite!!

2. [23:24-23:44] Our tradition tells us that by keeping the Torah, we make everyday life holy. If so, then why are there so many festivals which introduce to us a higher holiness than the everyday?

3. [24:22] “…there will be one law for the stranger and for the home-born…” When someone converts to Judaism, he or she needs other Jews to supervise their entry into the Jewish people. Why isn’t it enough to simply declare one’s loyalty to God and the Torah?

4. [Haftara: Yechezkel 44:23] “And they will teach my people the difference between the holy and the common…” Why do we make such a distinction between the holy and the common? Why don’t the Kohanim teach that the common is a lower form of holiness and can be raised to a state of holiness?

5. [Pirkay Avot: 4:4] “…Be very humble…” People with a low self-image are sometimes very humble because they feel that they are worthless. This contradicts the truth–that we are all created in the image of God. How can a person be very humble and still know that he or she is very worthy?

Commentary

Not knowing where to go, I go to you. Not knowing where to turn, I turn to you. Not knowing how to speak, I speak to you. Not knowing what to hold, I bind myself to you. Having lost my way, I make my way to you. Having soiled my heart, I lift my heart to you…Blessed are you whose presence illuminates outrageous evil…Blessed are you, who waits in the world. Blessed are you whose name is in the world.

–Leonard Cohen, Book of Mercy, born 1934, Canada, USA.

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

 

Copyright © Kef International 2012. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.kefintl.com

Kef International Shipping, Realty, and Relocations  Services since 1979

This site protected by Trustwave's Trusted Commerce program

Parshat Acharay--Kedoshim
Parshat Acharay–Kedoshim

Learning Group– Parshot Acharay–Kedoshim

(Leviticus: 16:1-20:27)

(Haftara: Amos 9:7-15)

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 3)

1. [19:18] “…and love your fellow person like you love yourself “. Is it a sin then, not to love oneself? If someone has a low self-image, and does not love himself or herself, what should he or she do? How can a person come to love him or herself? How can a person come to appreciate and love another person?

2. [Haftara: Amos 9:15] “I will plant them on their land and they shall no more be uprooted…” Why doesn’t the pasuk say that they will no longer be driven out? Why is the metaphor of planting and being uprooted a good metaphor for the relationship of the Jewish people to the land of Israel?

3. [Pirkei Avot 3:9] “R. Chanina ben Dosa says: ” Anyone whose fear of wrong-doing is more important to him than his wisdom, his wisdom will endure, but anyone whose wisdom is more important to him than his fear of wrong-doing, his wisdom will not endure.” Why is one’s wisdom dependent on how careful one is in his or her morality?

4. [Pirkei Avot 3:10] He used to say, “Anyone who people like, God also likes, and anyone who people don’t like, God doesn’t like.” Why do we compare God’s perception of a person to people’s perception of a person? People can be wrong!

5. [Pirkei Avot 3:13] R. Akiva says, “…silence preserves wisdom.” Wouldn’t one think that interacting with the world and being talkative would add to wisdom? Why do we say that”…silence preserves wisdom”?

Commentary

[19:18] “…and love your fellow person like you love yourself “.

A learned but ungenerous man said to R. Avraham of Stretyn (mid 1800’s–Poland): “They say that you give people mysterious drugs, and that your drugs are effective. Offer me one that will give me the fear of God.”

” I don’t know any drug for the fear of God,” said R. Avraham. “But if you like, I can give you one for the love of God.”

“That’s even better!” said the man. “Just give it to me.”

“It’s the love of your fellow men,” answered the tzaddik.

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

 

Copyright © Kef International 2012. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.kefintl.com

Kef International Shipping, Realty, and Relocations  Services since 1979

This site protected by Trustwave's Trusted Commerce program

Tazria-Metzorah

Learning Group—Parshot Tazria-Metzorah

(Leviticus 12:1-15:33)

(Haftara: Kings II, 7:3-20)

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 2)

1. Our tradition tells us that the skin disease of tzara’at is a result of speaking “lashon hara”—saying something bad about someone without any constructive purpose. The sin of “lashon hara” is said to be equal to the sins of idolatry, murder and forbidden sexual relations. Why is this sin considered so bad?

2. [12:7] “…he makes an atonement for her and she is pure…” After she is pure, she can enter the holy place. The Torah is understood on both a physical and a spiritual level. What does it mean on a psychological-spiritual level that someone who is pure can go into a holy place?

3. [Chapter 2, Mishna 5] Hillel said, “Don’t judge your fellow-man until you arrive at his situation”. Can one ever arrive at the situation of his or her fellow-man? Under what circumstances would one be allowed to judge another person?

4. [2:15] R. Eliezer says, ” Let your fellow’s honour be as dear to you as your own”. What is the difference between this and “Love your fellow-man as you love yourself”?

5. [2:21] R. Tarfon used to say, “You are not obligated to finish the work, but neither are you free to ignore the work.” What is the “work”? Summarize the message of this mishna.

Commentary

[Leviticus 14:2] …and he shall be brought to the Kohen.”

When a person speaks “lashon hara (nasty gossip about another person)”, it shows that the speaker does not know the power of the spoken word. A nasty word can destroy someone’s world, and similarly, a good word can build someone’s world. The speaker of “lashon hara” becomes afflicted with “tzara’at”—a skin disease. A Kohen decides whether one has “tzara’at” or not. Until a Kohen inspects the person and says “impure”, the person does not have tzara’at. During festivals or Chol Hamoed, for example, inspections for tzara’at cannot be carried out, and the diseased person would still be considered pure because the Kohen has not yet SAID that he is impure. In this way the gossiper understands the power of the spoken word, and should come to guard his speech more closely.

–Ohel Ya’akov—Ya’akov ben Ze’ev Kranz ( 1741-1804), the Maggid of Dubno.

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

 

Copyright © Kef International 2012. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.kefintl.com

Kef International Shipping, Realty, and Relocations  Services since 1979

This site protected by Trustwave's Trusted Commerce program

Parshat Shemini

Learning Group– Parshat Shmini

(Leviticus: 9:1- 11:47)

(Haftara: Shmuel II: 6:1-7:17)

(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 1)

1. [Vayikra: 10:3] “And Moshe said to Aharon, “This is what God meant when He said, ‘Through those who are close to Me, I will be made holy…and Aharon was silent’ “. Is Aharon silent because he was comforted, because he was angry or for some other reason. How can we understand Aharon’s silence?

2. [Haftara: Shmuel II, 6:14-16] “And David danced before God with all his strength…and Michal [his wife]…despised him in her heart”. If it was really undignified for David to dance like this, why did he do it? What does this show about a Jewish king?

3. (Sfirat Ha’omer) In many of our prayerbooks, there is a prayer after we count the omer in which we try to correct one personality trait on each one of the days of the counting. Why do we work on one character trait each day? Couldn’t this fragment our personalities? Wouldn’t it be better to see our personalities as a whole and, in general, work to become better people?

4. [Pirkay Avot 1:1] “…he passed it on to Yehoshua…” . [On each Shabbat between Pesach and Rosh Hashana there is a custom to read and learn one chapter of “The Ethics of the Fathers”. On this Shabbat, we begin with the first chapter. (It can be found in a regular Siddur after the afternoon service of Shabbat.) The first mishna tells us that the Torah is passed on from living person to living person. Why is it so important that our spiritual tradition is passed on from person to person, and not only through writings and ceremonies?

5. [Pirkay Avot, Chapter 1, Mishna 1] …”set up many students…” This is Beit Hillel’s opinion (Pirkay d’R. Eliezer), but Beit Shamai believes that one should teach only the best and not waste energy on the weaker students. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each opinion? Which do you agree with?

Commentary

[Vayikra 9:6] “This is the thing which God commands you to do, and the glory of God will appear to you.”

The Torah, however, does not tell us what the “thing” is that one should do in order to see a revelation of the glory of God. The midrash (Yalkut) tells us that this is “THE thing”: one must remove from one’s heart the quality of hatred, resentment and argument. The midrash assures us that when one does this, then there will be a revelation of the glory of God.

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

 

Copyright © Kef International 2012. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.kefintl.com

Kef International Shipping, Realty, and Relocations  Services since 1979

This site protected by Trustwave's Trusted Commerce program

 

Enjoying Chol Hamo'ed Pesah!

Learning Group—for Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach

(Shmot 33:12-34:26)

(Ezekiel 37:1-14)

(Sfirat Haomer)

(Shir Hashirim [Song of Songs])

1. [Shmot 33:20-23]: “…you are not able to see my face…and you will see my back…” This is obviously a metaphor, since God does not have a body. What does it mean to see God’s face and what does it mean to see God’s back?

2. The midrash tells us that the angels started singing praises to God when the Egyptians were being drowned in the sea. God told them to stop singing because it wasn’t right to sing while His creations were dying. Because of this midrash, we sing only part of the Hallel—the song of praise—all the week of Pesach after the first days. Does Pesach have a universal theme or is it specifically a Jewish national festival?

3. [Chol Hamoed Pesach] Chol Hamoed Pesach celebrates the crossing of the Red Sea, when God split the sea for us. Our mystical texts tell us that at that time, God made the miracles happen even though we had not earned them–we didn’t deserve them. At others times, however, we get miracles because we deserve them. Which miracles are preferable–those that we deserve, or those that are pure kindness from God without us deserving them?

4. For the Chassidim, each day of the 49 days of the omer—the days between Pesach and Shavuot—has a personal characteristic attached to it. One tries to correct that quality on that day as a preparation for accepting the Torah on Shavuot. How does becoming a better person prepare one for accepting the Torah?

5. [Shir Hashirim] Shir Hashirim is a love song between a man and a woman that represents the love between Israel and God, or the love between a person and God, and every pure love. The Rambam says that, “Just like a man who loves a particular woman cannot remove her from his thoughts, a person should love God with that same intensity”. If that is true, why is there such an emphasis in the Torah on the fear and the awe of God?

Commentary

R. Akiva said, “…all the holy books are holy, but that the “Song of Songs” is the holy of holies”.

For Rabbi Akiba and for Judaism, love is one flame expressing itself on many different levels. To diminish the flame on any one level is to weaken the capacity of love on all levels.

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

 

Copyright © Kef International 2012. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.kefintl.com

Kef International Shipping, Realty, and Relocations  Services since 1979

This site protected by Trustwave's Trusted Commerce program

Parshat Tzav

Learning Group– Parshat Tzav

(Leviticus: 6:1-8:36)

Shabbat Hagadol

(Haftara: Malachi 3:4-24)

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

2. [Pesach] In our prayers and in Kiddush, we often say “zecher l’yitziat mitzraim”–in memory of leaving Egypt. Why are liberation and freedom such central values to us. Shouldn’t we also mention justice, kindness, truth and awareness of God in Kiddush.

3. Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kuk (1865-1935—Lithuania, Israel) tells us that matzah represents freedom and marror (bitter herbs) represents the limitation to freedom because of listening to God. They are eaten together in korech (the sandwich) and this reminds us of the holy Temple–our ideal. Why do we call Pesach the “festival of freedom” if our freedom is limited?

4. [Pesach] We drink four cups of wine at the Pesach seder because the Torah uses four words for different stages of the liberation process. We are joyful that we were liberated. Why are the different parts of the liberation process so important to us? Doesn’t this attention to examining details take away from our joy?

5. [Malachi 3:24] In a messianic vision, we are told that “he shall turn the hearts of the father’s to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers”. This seems to express the main change that will occur in the ideal world of the future. Why is this the major messianic image, and not Godly knowledge, political and spiritual independence or social justice?

Commentary

Leviticus 6:13: “…a tenth of an ephah of fine-flour for a meal offering…”

A regular Kohen brought a meal-offering only on the day that he began his work in the mishkan. However the High Priest brought a meal-offering every day. What does this difference suggest to us?

Someone who is on a higher spiritual level– his service is new every day. Every day is like his first day, and it is as if he is born anew.

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

Copyright © Kef International 2012. All Rights Reserved.

http://www.kefintl.com

Kef International Shipping, Realty, and Relocations  Services since 1979

This site protected by Trustwave's Trusted Commerce program