Priorities

B”H


Shiur for Mattot-Masei 5780

“Let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession.”

– Numbers 32:5, JPS 1917 Tanach

The tribes of Reuben and Gad requested of Moshe, thus, also of H’Shem, that their inheritance be given to them on the East side of the Jordan River. Yet, they were rebuked by Moshe, for implying that they would not set forth into Eretz Canaan, with the rest of the twelve tribes of Jacob, to partake in the battles that would enable them to defeat the local inhabitants, subsequently, permitting them to settle in the land. In response to Moshe’s concerns, they responded that not only would they fight with their brethren, rather, also they would be the vanguard, and would remain in the Eretz Canaan, until the lands were allotted to the other tribes, before going back to the East side of the Jordan.

What compelled them, to place themselves outside of Eretz Yisrael proper, set apart from their brethren, was the quality of the land, east of the Jordan, wherein they would be able to graze their flocks; apparently, they had more livestock than any other tribe. Also, their immediate concerns with their livelihood may be part of an overall faulty outlook, further revealed when examining Moshe’s correction of their values. Two points are noted, based upon Moshe’s critique of their response: 1). misplaced allegiance, and 2). neglect of primary responsibilities.

First of all, Moshe points out that rather than making a commitment as the vanguard of the Children of Israel, when going into battle, for the sake of their inheritance in Eretz Canaan, they should see themselves as marching “before H’Shem,” first and foremost, according to His will. This should be their primary allegiance, then all else will follow. Even any commitment they felt towards their brethren should not be stronger than their devotion to H’Shem. As Arbavanel points out, the compassion towards their fellow tribes that compelled them to assist them in battle, does not match their obligation towards H’Shem. Our best intentions towards our fellow human being, even family and friends may fall short of the mark from time to time. However, when we fulfill our commitments to others, because we know that we should do so by divine decree, we are less likely to shirk our responsibilities.

Secondly, Moshe reminded the tribes of Gad and Reuben of their family responsibilites. They had initially said that they would “build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones” (Numbers 32:16). However, Moshe responded, “Build you cities for your little ones, and folds for your sheep” (32:34), reversing the order of their words to show that their children were certainly more important than their livestock.” A lesson for modern times, whereof misplaced values may lead to being sidetracked by an over-emphasis on work, material goods, and the temporal realm. Lest we forget, a more balanced perspective on life, inclusive of relationships, spiritual blessings, and the realm of the sublime.

“Search me, O G-d, and know my heart, try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any way in me that is grievous, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

– Psalm 139:23-24, JPS 1917 Tanach

parashas Mattos-Masei 5780

reflections: Redemption

B”H

17 Tammuz 5780

“And Moses said unto the people: ‘Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the L-RD, which He will work for you to-day.” – Exodus 14:13, JPS 1917 Tanach

Is the time drawing near for the sea to part? Is the Geulah (Redemption) at hand? The sages, in all of their sharp acuity, draw a parallel between the First Redemption, and the Final Redemption: akin to plagues that devastated Egypt, before the exodus of the Children of Israel, so will many plagues, even more than those inflicted upon ancient Egypt, precede the final redemption. This is gleaned from the following verse: “As in the days of thy coming forth out of the land of Egypt, will I show unto him marvellous things” (Micah 7:15, JPS). Could the modern day plague of the coronavirus be a foreshadowing of the Messianic Age?

The current exile (galus) of the Jewish people began almost two thousand years ago, when the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans. We were dispersed amongst the nations, as we still are today to some degree. Even though the state of Israel was renewed in 1948, without the Third Temple, we are technically still in exile. This is one reason why we proclaim every year, at the end of our Passover seder, “Next Year in Yerushalayim.” In essence, this does not refer to having the opportunity to fly to Israel via El Al Airlines, in order to make aliyah to our Biblical homeland. Rather, this alludes to the Geulah (Redemption), when Moshiach will reign from Jerusalem.

At that time, “peace on earth,” in all of its splendor will prevail over the unruly forces, that have no interest in recognising G-d’s sovereignty. Needless to say, we are only witnessing the beginning of these forces to potentially impact society in an unprecedented way; the road has been paved ever since the Age of Enlightenment, when the Deity of Reason was worshipped, to the diminishment of a focus on G-d, and religious values. This set the background for the French Revolution.

Behind the facade of a higher cause, these forces hold sway over any godless movement, whose roots are deeper than its claims to higher ideals, human rights, or “power to the people.” It is interesting to note, that as a result of the Bubonic plague of the 14th Century in Europe, “some historians believe that society subsequently became more violent as the mass mortality rate cheapened life and thus increased warfare, crime, popular revolt, waves of flagellants, and persecution” (Wikipedia). As far as I know, excepting self-flagellation, this seems to ring true today, in the face of COVID-19. “If we do not learn from the past, history will repeat itself.”

Am I overconcerned with the state of affairs in the world, and, more specifically, in America today? Others are apparently even more concerned. “In a normal month [Nefesh B’Nefesh] receives several hundred to a few thousand calls,” yet, this past June the Jewish organisation that promotes aliyah from the U.S. to Israel received 25,000 calls (VosIzNeias). For myself, I would only take that step, if and when I would hear the call from H’Shem, as has been mentioned by several fellow Jews in the not so recent past, concerning intuition from Above. Yet, the call to teshuvah, in and of itself, is primary; and, may be viewed the in light Hillel’s adage, “It’s not where you are, but how you are.” And, “if not now, when.”

“And thou shalt bethink thyself among the nations, whither the L-RD thy G-d hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the L-RD thy G-d.”

– Deuteronomy 30:1-2, JPS 1917 Tanach

Jerusalem Day

B”H

May 22, 2020

A poem: Perhaps

Perhaps someone knows,
where the fire still glows.

Perhaps, the stars still shine
over the lives of distant relatives.

Somewhere, in the darkness of the past,
perhaps, they returned home at last.

Today, I continuously search,
within the ashes of the Shoah.

Searching for my lost family members,
whose fate is unknown.

Yet, the light from Shomayim
will always protect their souls.

Wrapped up in the Bundle of Life,
they are preserved forever.

by Tzvi Fievel Schnee

Reflection: Yom HaShoah

B”H

Ezekiel 37:11
וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלַי בֶּן־אָדָם הָֽעֲצָמוֹת הָאֵלֶּה כָּל־בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל הֵמָּה הִנֵּה אֹֽמְרִים יָֽבְשׁוּ עַצְמוֹתֵינוּ וְאָבְדָה תִקְוָתֵנוּ נִגְזַרְנוּ לָֽנוּ׃
Then he said to me, son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.

Ezekiel 37:12
לָכֵן הִנָּבֵא וְאָֽמַרְתָּ אֲלֵיהֶם כֹּֽה־אָמַר אֲדֹנָי יֱהֹוִה הִנֵּה אֲנִי פֹתֵחַ אֶת־קִבְרֽוֹתֵיכֶם וְהַֽעֲלֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם מִקִּבְרֽוֹתֵיכֶם עַמִּי וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם אֶל־אַדְמַת יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
Therefore prophesy and say to them, Thus says the L-rd G-d: Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.

  • Tanach Bible

Out of the ashes of the Shoah, Israel was restored in 1948, thus fulfilling the prophecy, “Is a land born in one day? Is a nation brought forth at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children” (Isaiah 66:8, JPS 1917 Tanach).