Showing posts from May, 2018


Shabbat Shalom Everyone!

Click below for my weekly video on Parshat Beha'aotcha.
May God's Face Be Lifted Unto You...
Parshat Naso 5778

Artwork by Joel Amit

The blessing known as Birkat Kohanim / "The Priestly Blessing" is one of the best known and most powerful blessings in the Torah. There is much to say about this blessing, but I would like to focus on one expression in the third and final line of the blessing. 

יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ .   May God raise up His face to you.

What does it mean for God to raise up His face to you?
First of all, many translations of the text render panim as countenance, which is another way of saying face, but can also mean "support." Did the translation mean to indicate that the expression -- "raise His face" means, "May God support you"? Translation is, after all, an interpretation of the text, and this helps to explain the anthropomorphic language as merely figurative language. So, if we are not intended to understand these words literally, what does the blessing mean when it says, &quo…

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach from Australia!

Vayikra/Leviticus 23:15
וּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה.
15 And you shall count for yourselves from after the day of rest, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the waving; they will be seven complete weeks...
As we approach the Holiday of Shavuot and count the last days of Sefirat Ha'Omer (the counting of the Omer) that began almost seven full weeks ago, I would like to reflect on our own personal countdown. Seven weeks ago, our family was still waiting to receive our visas to move to Australia and at that time we were still living in Omer (Israel)! During that first week of Passover, while visiting family in North America, we received the news that our visas had been granted and we began counting down the days to moving to Melbourne, Australia -- in parallel to counting the days of the Omer. We arrived here in Australia just in time for the Holiday of Shavuot after counting seven weeks. O…

What Do You Do When It Just Gets Old? Parshat (Behar) Behukotai

ויקרא כו:י וַאֲכַלְתֶּם יָשָׁן נוֹשָׁן וְיָשָׁן... Leviticus You shall eat old grain long stored... 

How do we deal with the  despair that we feel when things just "get old" and we begin to lose our passion for what we are doing? Perhaps you chose a career that at first made you jump out of bed in the morning but years later, you can barely muster the energy to put on your shoes! You loved what you were doing and had great hopes for changing the world. But years later, you lost that passion. Does this loss of passion come from the mere boredom of pure repetition or is there something else getting us down? 
My father retired from his law practice after thirty years, as it happens he went back to working as a pharmacist after that. When I asked him why he was hanging up the towel, he simply responded-"I just don't have the fire in my belly for practicing law any more". Did my Dad just get tired of doing the same old thing? Heavens no! He spent thirty years trying to r…

A Spiritual Defect...Moom--Parshat Emor

Leviticus 21:21
כָּל־אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר־בּוֹ מוּם מִזֶּרַע אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֵן לֹא יִגַּשׁ לְהַקְרִיב אֶת־אִשֵּׁי יְהוָה מוּם בּוֹ אֵת לֶחֶם אֱלֹהָיו לֹא יִגַּשׁ לְהַקְרִיב׃
No man among the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the LORD’s offering by fire; having a defect, he shall not be qualified to offer the food of his God.
It might seem strange that according to the Torah a person who has a physical defect is disqualified from serving God in holiness. After all, God created all of us with our so-called physical imperfections, right? 
How can we explain this?
The following commentary by Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra (biblical commentator 1089-1167) helps us to see this in a light that takes us beyond the literal understanding of a "defect"  being a purely physical manifestation.
אבו עזרא וטעם מום בו. כמו אביו ואמו קלל:
The reason there is a defect in him. For example, he cursed his mother or his father.
The commentary ab…