(Vayikra 14:1-15:33)

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

(Passover)

1. [Vayikra 14:34] “…and I will put the plague of tzara’at in a house of the land…”  The Talmud tells us that a house can get tzara’at as a result of theft that the people in the house did. Why is the house stricken, rather than the people in it?

2. Our tradition tells us that the disease of tzara’at comes on a person for the sin of “lashon hara”—saying negative things about someone for no constructive purpose. We don’t have the disease of tzara’at any more. Why not, and why do we, nonetheless, keep learning about it?

3. [Haftara: Kings II, 7:3-20]  “And four leprous men were at the entrance of the gate…”  The haftara tells about four Israelite lepers who greatly helped the Israelites.  By making this story the haftara for this week, what might the rabbis have been trying to communicate to us about lepers?

4. [Pesach]   The Pesach seder is our main time for passing our tradition on to our children. Many of our customs at the Pesach seder are practiced in order to keep the children awake and interested. So it would seem that the best time for the seder would be during the day. However, we make the seder at night, in order to be like the “seder” and the liberation in Egypt. Why is it so important to be like the original experience, when it weakens the main purpose of the seder—the education of the children?

5. [Pesach] On the morning of the 14th of Nissan (the 8th of April this year), we burn our remaining chametz. Our tradition tells us that chametz represents the evil inclination and especially arrogance. However, being free from the negative things in our personalities doesn’t happen immediately–it is a process and sometimes a long one. What is the ceremony of the burning and immediate destruction of the chametz supposed to teach us?

 

Commentary

 

[Vayikra 14:7] “And he will sprinkle upon the person who is purifying himself…”   Why does the pasuk say, “… who is purifying himself”, rather than “he who is being purified”?

The process of purification is not  passive. It is active. The impure person must help in his own purification through introspection and tshuvah.

Rabbi Meir Simcha HaKohen (1843 – 1926), Dvinsk, Lithuania

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

(Leviticus 12:1-13:59)

 (Parshat Hachodesh)

(Shmot 12:1-20)

(Haftara: Yechezkel 45:16-46:18)

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

Learning Group– Parshat Shmini

(Leviticus: 9:1- 11:47)

Parshat Parah

(Numbers: 19:1-22)

(Haftara: Yechezkel  36, 16-38)

  1. 1.      [10:2] “And a fire went out from before God…”   Nadav and Avihu were killed because they were closer to God and therefore were held to a higher standard than the regular people. Moshe was not allowed to enter Israel for the same reason. Is this fair? Shouldn’t those who serve God more, be rewarded rather than punished?

 

  1. 2.      [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?

 

  1. 3.      [10:6] When we mourn for a close relative, we tear our clothes and we don’t cut our hair. Aharon and his sons were told not to grow their hair long and not to tear their clothing. Shouldn’t our mourning be a natural expression of our emotion? Why should there be laws of mourning? On the other hand, why shouldn’t the priestly class be allowed to express their emotions in a physical way  like every other Israelite?

 

  1. 4.       [Parshat Parah: Bamidbar 19:11]  “Whoever touches a dead body…shall be impure for 7 days.”  What is “tumah”—spiritual impurity, and why should a person who touches a dead human body be impure?

 

  1. 5.    [Haftara: Yechezkel 36:26] “…I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and I will give you a heart of flesh.”  God was complaining that the Jews are involved in idolatry. How will acquiring a “heart of flesh” cause the Jews to give up idolatry?

Commentary

 

[9:1] “And it was [Vayehi] the eighth day…”

 

Wherever the Torah says “vayehi”, it means something bad or painful. What is painful about setting up the mishkan (the Temple) in the desert?

The answer is that the existence of the mishkan itself is a painful fact. At first, God wanted His mishkan to be built in the heart of every Jew. However, after the sin of the golden calf, He was forced to limit His dwelling-place in this world to a physical tent.

 

–R. Yisrael of Rizhin, 1797-1850.

 

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 38:21-40:38), (Exodus 30 :11-16)

(Haftara: Melachim II, 11:17-12:17)

1. When the Temple was destroyed, and the Temple service ceased, prayer took the place of animal sacrifice. Some of our rabbis believe that prayer is a higher form of service than the animal sacrifices. If that is true, then why were animal sacrifices commanded at all?

2. Our tradition tells us that God is everywhere. We are also taught that God is more present on the Temple Mount and even more present in the “Holy of Holies”. What does it mean that God is more present? Where in our daily lives is God more present and where is God less present?

3. [40:24] “Put the menorah in the tabernacle…” The Sfat Emet (1847-1905, Poland) says that the oil of the menorah represents the human mind—lucid and clear consciousness. Is the mind the same as the soul (neshama)? Do the mind and heart (emotions) together make up the soul? What is the soul?

4. [Shabbat shekalim: Shmot 30:15] “The wealthy will not give more, and the poor will not give less…” On Shabbat shekalim, we read in the Torah about how everyone must give half a shekel for the tabernacle. The rabbis see this as a commandment that shows that everyone is equal. That is, in God’s eyes everyone is equal. However, our tradition tells us that God values the humble, the honest, and the compassionate person more than others. In what way is everyone equal in God’s eyes?

5. [Haftara: Melachim II, 11:17] “Yehoiada made a covenant between God and the king and the people…” We don’t have real kings today in the world. The closest that we have is an absolute dictator. When we say that God is our king, what qualities of God are we referring to?

Commentary

Why do our rabbis tell us to read Parshat Shekalim now even though we have no Temple and we have no animal sacrifices?

The Sfat Emet – R. Yehuda Arye Leib of Ger tells us that all the sacrifices were accepted because of the spirit of selflessness and sacrifice that one had for the service of God, and that spirit is still very much present in the Jewish people to-day. In fact, this feeling is even stronger to-day. Because we yearn so much for holiness, we are more willing to give ourselves over to the service of God.

— Sfat Emet – R. Yehuda Aryeh Leib of Góry Kalwarii

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

How many michsayim were on the Mishkan? There's a "Makhloket," (disagreement). Some commentators have claimed there were three while others four.
How many “Yirayot,” or covering tapestries were on the Holy Mishkan? There’s a “Makhloket,” (disagreement). Some commentators have claimed there were three while others four.And by the way what materials were used for each “Yiraya.” Hint: Each covering was made up of different materials.
Parshat Vayakhel

(Exodus: 35:1-40:38)

(Haftara: Melachim I 7:40-50)

1. [35:31] “And he filled him with the spirit of God in wisdom and in understanding and in knowledge…” These are all intellectual qualities. What other qualities also make up the spirit of God?

2. [35:34] “And the ability to teach, he put into his heart…” From this pasuk, it would seem that the ability to teach is inborn in a person. Is it possible to learn how to be a very effective teacher if one was not born with the natural qualities of a teacher?

3. [35:35] “And he filled him with wisdom of heart to do craftsmanship…those who do craftsmanship and think thoughts.” Is craftsmanship more a quality of the mind, more a quality of the heart—of emotion, or more a quality of control of the body?

4. [35:35] “And he filled him with wisdom of heart to do craftsmanship…those who do craftsmanship and think thoughts.” What is craftsmanship? Can a person of low intelligence be a craftsman? What qualities must a craftsman have?

5. [Haftara: Melachim I, 8:12] “God has said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.” For King Solomon, God was in the “thick darkness”? For Moshe, He was in a cloud. For Eliyahu, He was in the “still, small voice”. What do these different revelations of God mean?

Commentary

Sometimes a person can’t speak at all, and it seems to him that he is not able to open his mouth in prayer and meditation. He is too attached to material things, or he has physical and spiritual troubles. Nonetheless, at a time like that, he should force himself to call out to God from the place of his trouble….through that forcing, he will be worthy, usually, to experience a spiritual release, and he will be able to pray and to express himself as he should.

–Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, 1772-1810, Ukraine.

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

"[32:4] “He took it from their hands and he formed it in a form and cast it into a calf…” Some say that the main sin of the golden calf was the fact that it was an unchanging, rigid form. They wanted to convey the message that the ideal life is stable and lived with a fixed personality. This is the opposite of the Torah life that demands dynamic movement toward holiness. According to that opinion, is the sin of the golden calf a sin of idolatry or is it the sin of having the wrong outlook on  life?"
“[32:4] “He took it from their hands and he formed it in a form and cast it into a calf…” Some say that the main sin of the golden calf was the fact that it was an unchanging, rigid form. They wanted to convey the message that the ideal life is stable and lived with a fixed personality. This is the opposite of the Torah life that demands dynamic movement toward holiness. According to that opinion, is the sin of the golden calf a sin of idolatry or is it the sin of having the wrong outlook on
life?”
Parshat Ki Tissa

(Shmot 30:11-34:35)

(Haftara: Kings I [Melachim I] 18, 1-39)

1. [30:38 ] “Whoever makes exactly like it [the incense of the Temple] in order to smell it will be cut off from his people.” Whoever makes the incense for his own esthetic pleasure will be cut off. We know, however, that in many ways we appreciate things that are pleasing to our senses. Why is there such a severe punishment for someone who replicates the incense for his own use?

2. [30:38] “If a person makes it (the incense) to enjoy its smell, he shall be cut off from his people.” There is a rule in the Talmud which says, “Commandments were not given for enjoyment (or for personal gain)”. We know, however, that we are encouraged by our tradition to “enjoy” doing God’s commandments, and we get pleasure from many commandments. What does the Talmud mean when it says, “Commandments were not given for enjoyment”?

3. [31:2] “Look, I have called by name Betzalel ben Uri…” God called Betzalel ben Uri “by name”, to use his talent for craftsmanship. Our tradition tells us that each of us has a special job to do in this world. What is so special about Betzalel being called “by name”—all of us are called “by name”?

4. [32:4] “He took it from their hands and he formed it in a form and cast it into a calf…” Some say that the main sin of the golden calf was the fact that it was an unchanging, rigid form. They wanted to convey the message that the ideal life is stable and lived with a fixed personality. This is the opposite of the Torah life that demands dynamic movement toward holiness. According to that opinion, is the sin of the golden calf a sin of idolatry or is it the sin of having the wrong outlook on life?

5. [Haftara: Kings I (Melachim I) 18:21] “…how long will you stay between two opinions. If God is God, then follow Him, and if Ba’al then follow him…” Isn’t this a dangerous educational method? The people could have said that they choose Ba’al. Why did Eliyahu choose these words, rather than simply rebuking the people for being idolators?

Commentary

At Mount Sinai, the Israelites experienced God. When the experience was over, and Moshe went up the mountain, they again wanted to experience God. In experiencing God there are two aspects: the meeting and the accompanying ecstasy. They built the golden calf and danced around it to experience ecstasy—but they left the main thing behind—the encounter with God—the meeting. Their sin was in wanting the less important and the more selfish thing—the ecstasy and the pleasure. But they ignored the more important thing—the meeting with 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

 

 

" [28:3] “…to make him holy, to serve me.” What is holiness? What does it mean to be holy? What does this phrase in our kedushah prayer mean: “Holy, holy, holy is God. The whole world is full of His glory”?
” [28:3] “…to make him holy, to serve me.” What is holiness? What does it mean to be holy? What does this phrase in our kedushah prayer mean: “Holy, holy, holy is God. The whole world is full of His glory”?
Learning Group– Parshat Tetzaveh

(Exodus: 27:20- 30-10)

(Ezekiel 43:10-27)

1. [27:20 ] “And you will command the children of Israel and they will take for you pure olive oil…” The language of this pasuk is very strong in Hebrew. The olive oil for the menorah is the job of the Kohanim and could have been part of a longer list of articles for the mishkan. What is so important about the olive oil for the menorah that makes the Torah emphasize it so much?

2. [28:2] “This is the clothing that they will make…” If the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) or the regular kohen do their ceremonial work in the tabernacle or Temple without their special clothing, then the work is not acceptable, and they have done a sin. What is the status of the clothing? When it is worn out, must it be disposed of in a holy way, or can it just be discarded like any old clothing? What is the “holy status” of other ceremonial objects—tefillin, lulav and etrog, a Kiddush cup, etc.?

3. [28:3] “…to make him holy, to serve me.” What is holiness? What does it mean to be holy? What does this phrase in our kedushah prayer mean: “Holy, holy, holy is God. The whole world is full of His glory”?

4. [29:1] “…to consecrate Aaron and his sons as priests to me.” The position of Kohen Gadol (High Priest) is not hereditary—the most worthy person is chosen. The position of kohen (priest), however, is hereditary. The son of a kohen is a kohen. Why isn’t a regular kohen’s position also based on merit?

5. [Yechezkel 43:11] “If they are embarrassed with all that they have done…” Only if the Jews regret the sins that brought about the destruction of the first Temple, will they be prepared for building the second Temple. If there is no regret, then there is no second Temple. Couldn’t one argue that by building the Temple, a central place for holiness and forgiveness, the Jews will be encouraged to regret their acts and turn to God? Why is this possibility not considered?

Commentary

Certainly the Holy Temple cannot hold God’s honour and greatness. However, because of God’s love for Israel, He contracted his greatness so that His presence could rest on the Temple, and His kingdom could be revealed. In this way, we are able to take on the job of keeping His commandments and revealing His kingdom in the world.

–R. Nachman of Breslov, 17772-1810, Ukraine.

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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

[25:4] "And blue and purple and scarlet…" The Tabernacle in the desert had a wide variety of colours and materials. It also appealed to each one of the senses. What is the value of aesthetics in our religious life? Is there a danger when there is too much emphasis on aesthetics in our religious life? "
[25:4] “And blue and purple and scarlet…” The Tabernacle in the desert had a wide variety of colours and materials. It also appealed to each one of the senses. What is the value of aesthetics in our religious life? Is there a danger when there is too much emphasis on aesthetics in our religious life? “
Parshat Trumah

(Numbers 25:1-27:20)

(Haftara Shabbat & Rosh Chodesh: Isaiah 66:1-24)

(Rosh Chodesh)

 

 

1. [25:4] “And blue and purple and scarlet…” The Tabernacle in the desert had a wide variety of colours and materials. It also appealed to each one of the senses. What is the value of aesthetics in our religious life? Is there a danger when there is too much emphasis on aesthetics in our religious life?

 

2. [25:8] “…and I will live among them.” How does a central place of holiness cause God to dwell “among” or “between” the people? What does it mean to “dwell among” the people?

 

3. [Haftara: Yeshayahu 66:1] “…where is the place that is my resting-place?” The midrash tells us that God wanted a dwelling place here on earth. The Chassidic books tell us that we can make a place for God in this world. How can we make a place for God in this world?

 

4. [Haftara: Yeshayahu 66:12] “…I will give peace to her like a river…” In what way can peace be like a river?

 

5. [Rosh Chodesh] Rosh Chodesh is our time for renewal. Is the fact that we need rejuvenation a fault of ours, or a natural part of life? Is there a way that we could live where everything always seems fresh and new?

 

 

Commentary

 

[Haftara: 6:12] “As for this house which you are building, if you will walk in my laws…I will live among the Israelites, and not leave them”.

 

God said to Shlomo, the king, “Don’t think that this building with all its magnificence is what will bring my Presence to the people. Rather, it is proper behaviour and spirituality which bring my Presence. And through the spirituality, my Presence will remain even after the building is destroyed: “I will live among the Israelites, and not leave them”.

 

–Kochav M’Ya’akov, R. Yaakov Weidenfeld (1840-1894), Grimalov

 

 

 

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.

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1. [20:2] "Who brought you out of the land of Egypt". Why doesn't God present himself as He "who created the world"?
1. [20:2] “Who brought you out of the land of Egypt”. Why doesn’t God present himself as He “who created the world”?
Learning Group– Parshat Yitro

(Numbers 18:1-20:23)

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

1. [20:2] “…who brought you out of the land of Egypt”. Why doesn’t God present himself as He “who created the world”?

2. [Midrash Rabba, Bamidbar 1:7] The midrash says that “anyone who does not make himself ownerless (hefker) like the wilderness cannot acquire wisdom and Torah”. What does that mean?

3. [20:15] “And the entire nation saw the thunder and lightning and the sound of the horn…” Rashi quotes a midrash that tells us that they saw that which is impossible to see. What does this fact add to the experience of Sinai?

4. [20:15] When God revealed himself at Sinai it was a very “loud” experience. When God revealed himself to Eliahu in the cave, it was a very “quiet” experience (Kings I, 19:11,12). Both seem to have been intense experiences. What is the difference between them, and which is the most effective?

5. [Yeshayahu 9:6] “…in justice and in righteousness—from now and forever…” “Justice” means being judged by the strict letter of the law. “Righteousness” can be understood as making a compromise between the two parties in a judgment.

Which is the more praiseworthy for a Torah judge—strict justice, or compromise between the parties?

Commentary

Shmot [18:5]: “…to the wilderness where he (Moshe) was camping there– to the mountain of God…”

Because he was staying there, it became the mountain of God. Through Moshe, the place became elevated until the Holy Presence of God rested there. A person can be somewhere, and through his or her actions and attitudes, transform that location into a Godly place–a place where God is present.

–R. Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, 1808-1888, Niemcy.

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.

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Kef International Shipping, Realty, and Relocations Services since 1979

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1. [20:2] "Who brought you out of the land of Egypt". Why doesn't God present himself as He "who created the world"?
1. [20:2] “Who brought you out of the land of Egypt”. Why doesn’t God present himself as He “who created the world”?
Learning Group– Parshat Yitro

(Numbers 18:1-20:23)

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

1. [20:2] “…who brought you out of the land of Egypt”. Why doesn’t God present himself as He “who created the world”?

2. [Midrash Rabba, Bamidbar 1:7] The midrash says that “anyone who does not make himself ownerless (hefker) like the wilderness cannot acquire wisdom and Torah”. What does that mean?

3. [20:15] “And the entire nation saw the thunder and lightning and the sound of the horn…” Rashi quotes a midrash that tells us that they saw that which is impossible to see. What does this fact add to the experience of Sinai?

4. [20:15] When God revealed himself at Sinai it was a very “loud” experience. When God revealed himself to Eliahu in the cave, it was a very “quiet” experience (Kings I, 19:11,12). Both seem to have been intense experiences. What is the difference between them, and which is the most effective?

5. [Yeshayahu 9:6] “…in justice and in righteousness—from now and forever…” “Justice” means being judged by the strict letter of the law. “Righteousness” can be understood as making a compromise between the two parties in a judgment.

Which is the more praiseworthy for a Torah judge—strict justice, or compromise between the parties?

Commentary

Shmot [18:5]: “…to the wilderness where he (Moshe) was camping there– to the mountain of God…”

Because he was staying there, it became the mountain of God. Through Moshe, the place became elevated until the Holy Presence of God rested there. A person can be somewhere, and through his or her actions and attitudes, transform that location into a Godly place–a place where God is present.

–R. Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, 1808-1888, Niemcy.

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