(Haftara: Melachim I, 18:46-19:21)
(Pirkay Avot, Chapt. 1)
1. [25:12] “Therefore I am giving him my covenant of peace.” The Talmud Yerushalmi tells us after Pinchas killed Zimri and Kozbi and stopped the plague, the chachamim wanted to excommunicate him. However, when they saw that Pinchas was rewarded by God with the priesthood and the covenant of peace they changed their minds. How can it be that the wise men of the time were so out of touch with God’s way of seeing this incident?
2. [27:7] “The daughters of Tzelafchad are correct…” The people of Israel were guilty of 2 major sins in the wilderness—the sin of the golden calf, and the sin of the spies. The midrash (midrash rabba) tells us that in each case, the women of Israel were the ones who were faithful to God and our mission, while the men were the ones who sinned. What is it about the quality of women that would make them more faithful to God and our mission than the men?
3. [Haftara: Melachim I, 19:11,12] “…God was not in the wind…God was not in the earthquake…God was not in the fire…a still, small voice.” God was in the still, small voice. The commentaries say, “…speaking and silence at the same time”. What does this tell us about the nature of prophecy and communication with God?
4. [Pirkay Avot 1:6] “…and judge every person to the side of merit”. This statement is generally understood to mean that if one is doubtful about what someone else has done, then he should assume that the other person acted properly. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, however, understands this statement to mean that even if it is certain that a person did a sinful act, one should look deeper into the person and find the spark of holiness and goodness which is deep within. Does the first opinion disagree with R. Nachman? Does R. Nachman disagree with the first opinion?
5. [Pirkay Avot 1:6-7] “Distance yourself from a bad neighbour.” [1:12] “Be one of the students of Aaron–love peace, pursue peace, love people and draw them close to Torah”. Isn’t there a contradiction here? If one should distance oneself from bad neighbours, how can one draw them close to Torah?
[27:16,17] “…set up a leader over the community…who will take them out and who will bring them in…”
“Take them out and …bring them in” implies being part of the physical world and being part of the spiritual world. The leader that Moshe is asking God to appoint for the people of Israel is one who can connect the physical to the spiritual—a leader who can take the physical and infuse it with spirituality.
–The Baal Shem Tov, Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, (1700-1760).