Behalot'cha: Jewish History in Two Verses

Words that we sing with gusto as we take the Sefer Torah out of the Ark, and the conluding phrase that accompanies its return, have their source in the Parasha of Beha’alotecha. This sedra concludes the first part of the book of Bemidbar which describes the arrangement and functioning of the Israelite camp, with the details of how the tribes journeyed. The centrepiece of the camp embarking was the majestic movement of the Ark of the Covenant, and on this the Torah declares: “When the Ark went forth, Moses said: ‘Arise, O God, and scatter your enemies! Let your foes flee before you’”. The very next verse describes the conclusion of the Ark’s travels. “When it came to rest, he said, ‘Return, O

Naso: Blessing with Love

We hear it from the Cohanim each Yom Tov (and every week, or even every day, in Israel and in some communities). Many parents say it to their children every Friday night. They even feature in the lyrics of “Fiddler on the Roof”. And these three verses from this week’s sedra are amongst the most well-known in the Bible. Indeed the Priestly blessing of “May G-d bless you and keep you. May G-d light His face to you and be gracious to you. May G-d lift up his face to you and give you peace” is so prominent in Jewish tradition and practice, that it comes as a surprise to find it mentioned so briefly in the Torah, appearing almost as an afterthought following on from a lengthy discussion of variou

Shavuot - working for success

When Adam sinned in the garden of Eden, he was punished with the curse that: “thorns and thistles shall sprout for you…by the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread”. The Midrash tells us that this verse gives us only part of a conversation that took place between Adam and Hashem; when he was told that his harvest would consist of thistles, Adam cried out “should I and my donkey eat from the same trough?” Hashem replied that this would not have to be the case; Adam would not have to eat the same food as the animals. He would be able to eat bread – the food of humans – but only if he made the effort, and worked “by the sweat of his brow”. The Omer derives its name from the quantity of barley

Behar: The Torah's Third Way

Article for Behar-Behukotai Is the Torah Socialist or Capitalist? Since the Torah is more than just a set of laws for private individual, but presents a legal and social code for the running of an entire community then naturally it includes an economic system and we can ask to which of our existing models that system can be compared. But two particular elements which are unimaginable in any form of contemporary secular economy, which can be found in the sedra of Behar, make it impossible to fir the Torah neatly into any of our existing economic theories. The first of these is the institution of the Jubilee year. Every fifty years, all lands had to lie fallow (as in each Sabbatical year). Fur

Emor: Shabbat and the Festivals

Shabbat is mentioned several times in the Torah in relation to many key moments in the life of the Jewish people, including the creation of the world, the Exodus from Egypt, and the building of he Tabernacle. Rav Shimshon Rafael Hirsch observes that in the parasha of Emor, Shabbat is placed at the head of the list of the yearly festivals, which are each described as opportunities to “to be callings of holiness” - to bring extra holiness into the world and into our lives, by means of the nation declaring each festive day to be holy. Shabbat, which introduces the “holy convocations”, stands in contrast. Shabbat is not holy because the Jewish people declare it to be so; its unique sanctity is f