Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Divrei Torah

Safe Haven

No other weekly parsha is visited during the year as often as Pinchas, which is this week’s reading, at least in all those places within two week’s walking distance from Yerushalayim. Everyone else must save this message until next week. The good news is that the first group is larger than the latter, because for the first time in over

Prophecy, the Jewish Way

R. Arama tips his hand at the beginning of the nineteenth sha’ar, telling us he intends to contrast the Torah’s version of prophecy to the one advanced by philosophers, among whom he includes several traditional thinkers (he singles out Ralbag, as we will see). He is invested in the topic, in other words, because a common view seems to

Spying Out Good Qualities

There are many puzzling aspects to parshat Shelach. One of these is Moshe changing Hoshea’s name to Yehoshua. The gemara, brought down by Rashi, states Moshe changed his student’s name as a prayer. Moshe asked that HaShem save Hoshea/Yehoshua from the spies’ counsel. This of course raises numerous questions.

The Traits of Perfection Are Inextricably Intertwined

All or Nothing Perfection

R. Arama tells us he plans to make two points in the seventeenth sha’ar. First, admirable qualities are not separate from mitzvot, and, second, Avraham was shown the spiritual rewards for goodness, which became part of his belief in Hashem.

Are We There Yet?


Someone once asked me, ‘Aren’t road trips with your kids just amazing?’ I answered, ‘If by ‘amazing,’ you mean better than being locked in a room with mosquitoes, then I agree.’ For the record I hate mosquitoes! 

Judge vs. King

Parshat Naso

Our haftarah this week relates to us the well-known story of Shimshon HaGibor. Over the past few years I have written about the difficulties in understanding the decisions and actions of this final Shofet, as well as the behavior of the nation itself. But the truth

Two Kinds of Knowledge of Hashem

R. Arama introduces his readings of sections of the Torah with long theoretical discussions. Those have often been rich enough to make his textual readings of the actual parsha almost redundant, and I have often taken only snippets.

In this sha’ar, R. Arama offers a rich reading of Avraham’s

Yom Yerushalayim: A City of Magnets

The Book of Bereishit portrays three vastly different visits to Yerushalayim. Avraham first encounters this city after intervening in a raging world war. Years later, an acquiescent Avraham and his son voyage to the mountain to execute the Divine command and perform the akeidah. Finally, Yaakov flees his murderous brother and

Remembering Hashem’s Beneficial Control

Many times when I drive from a meeting or an errand and head for a quick stop at the grocery store, I find myself pulling up in front of my own house instead. I seem to have an automatic “home” setting in my brain, unless I really focus.

The midrash at the start of Parshas Bechukosai, which discusses

In This World and the Next 

Parshat Bechukotai

This week’s parsha lists rewards in this world for keeping mitzvot. Peace, prosperity and other gifts are mentioned. However, nothing is mentioned about Olam Haba! How can that be? Why would Hashem ever have us sacrifice eternal reward for money and peace in this

Nature Includes Miracles

R. Arama summarizes the 15th sha’ar with a proposition whose importance I have found increasingly clear in the past few years, nature includes miracles [this is the reverse of the rationalist idea everything which looks miraculous to us is actually natural; it means nature includes much more than the ordinary patterns we see,

The Rainbow and the Flood

R. Arama starts the fourteenth sha’ar with several statements from Chaza”l about how Jews should react upon seeing a rainbow, such as the blessing Berachot 59a prescribes to recite. As is his way, he will move off to other topics and work his way back here, but I wanted us to remember where he’s headed.

Join Our List
and receive information on community events, announcements, exclusive sales and our issue emails.