Parasha with Rabbi Benji is a unique and interesting approach to the weekly Parasha, bringing different ideas through one-minute videos, and texts available as downloadable PDFs.
In our constant drive towards spiritual growth and fulfilment, it could be assumed that we are trying to emulate angels, those ultimate celestial beings who dwell in the proximity of the Divine Presence. However, the brief waving of flags at the foot of Mount Sinai teaches us an important distinction between angels and humans that offers us an insight into our tremendous potential to soar to even greater heights than the holy angels.
In a strange sequence of seemingly unconnected verses, the Torah jumps from a national census to stealing, from an adulterous woman to a nazir who abstains from wine and cutting hair, and then to the priestly blessings. And yet we know that nothing in the Torah is random. How, then, do these seemingly disparate ideas weave together to form eternal lessons for preserving healthy relationships on all levels, and the key to a life of elevated sanctity?
From a young age children are taught about the miraculous food given to the People of Israel by God during their journey through the desert. This legendary and extraordinary food, the manna, was known to take on the taste of any food that the people desired. And yet the people complain about the food, harking back to the variety of culinary options they enjoyed while in Egypt. Why, while seemingly living the dream and being provided with a food that can literally taste of anything, do the Children of Israel still complain?
Scouts are sent to the Land of Israel with the task of assessing the Promised Land. Following years of wandering in the desert, and generations of dreaming of the Land, the nation’s eyes and ears are all focused on the return of the scouts, eagerly awaiting their positive report. And yet in the ultimate anticlimax, the scouts return despondent and negative. How did it all go so wrong? An analysis of the episode of the scouts highlights for us the importance of maintaining a strong self-image in the face of adversity, and the inherent dangers of placing too great an emphasis on the percep- tions of others.
Korach is in search of power. As is natural, he seeks a weakness he can exploit. He searches for a crack in the leadership into which he can step and wreak havoc. He elects to criticise Moses - who is famous for his humility - for taking on too much power. The one attribute of Moses that he decides to highlight is the one at which Moses most excels. Is this not a flawed strategy?
It is natural that when situations arise we seek out previous similar situations in order to help guide our responses. Indeed, in the legal system, the concept of precedent - previously established principles or rules - guides judicial leaders as to how to deal with subsequent similar instances. If that is so, then what is the problem with Moses striking the rock to bring forth water? Surely he is simply replicating his reaction to very similar circumstances just a generation earlier? Why is his punishment so severe, when his act is seemingly calling upon a precedent from years gone by?
As the Israelites make their long and arduous journey through the wilderness, they live in unparalleled proximity to the Divine Presence. They experience miracles on a daily basis, and enjoy protection from Heaven night and day. They are on the brink of entering the Land of Israel. All is perfectly in place for them to fulfil their destiny and become a holy nation. And yet, we read of their moral demise and acts of immorality with the Moabite and Midianite women. If they, who can almost tangibly feel God’s Hand on a daily basis, can nonetheless falter and fail in the face of temptation, then what hope is there for us, all these generations later?
In a moment of true greatness, showing himself to be a role model to all of us, Moses responds with grace and humility to the devastating news that he will not be entering the Land of Israel. Whereas many would respond with acute disappointment and maybe even anger, Moses, our ultimate leader, immediately focuses on the process for the appointment of a new leader for his precious charges. And in that very moment, when his dreams have been absolutely crushed, the manner in which he asks God about the leadership plan holds a clue to his unparalleled greatness.
The Land of Israel is an inheritance that the Children of Israel have been awaiting for four hundred years. During that time, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were wanderers, the Children of Israel were enslaved in Egypt, and subsequently they spend forty years wandering the desert - all for the sake of entering the land. Now, the Children of Israel are about to finally receive that which they have been promised. They are about to fulfil their destiny and realise their dream. They are right outside the land! Why then, at this climactic moment in history, do Reuben and Gad choose to declare their desire to live outside the land? Why do they want to forsake their right to their homeland?
On the brink of entry into the Promised Land, the Torah diverts the focus for just a moment and enters into an unusual level of detail about the journeys of the Jewish people through the desert. Why do we need to know all the details? What is the significance of each of the different locations and stages of the journey? Perhaps within this unlikely list of travel coordinates lies the ultimate code to achieving true peace of mind.