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.
How often do we pick up the phone to ask a friend for advice and listen intently to their valuable words? And then, how often are the tables turned, and we find ourselves dishing out pearls of incredible wisdom and revolutionary advice to those exact same friends? An enigmatic omission when Moses is reminiscing about his strategic plan for leadership, teaches us that, with just a little digging below the surface, and tapping into the nuances of our inner resources, we can discover all the advice that we may ever seek, simply waiting to be revealed.
When we truly love someone, we find ourselves willing to do almost anything. We help them with enthusiasm and we are always ready to go that extra step. What if, however, as our very act of service towards them, we are required to curb our enthusiasm and refrain from going that extra step? Twice daily we recall the command to love God with all our heart, our soul and our might, which is why, when Moses relays the prohibition against adding anything to the Torah’s laws, it leaves us particularly perplexed.
Quite surprisingly, the precise location of Mount Sinai - the setting for what is arguably the most iconic moment in Jewish history, the Revelation of God’s Torah to the world - is unknown. In contrast, the location of Mount Moriah, the location of the Binding of Isaac, and where both Temples stood, is known to all. Sitting in the heart of Jerusalem, people visit Mount Moriah daily to draw inspiration from its holiness and pay respect to the site. The contrast between the two mountains reflects deep-rooted themes about our purpose on this earth, which in turn shed light onto the significance of bread in our relationship with God.
As time marches relentlessly forward, new discoveries are constantly being made, causing the world to be in a perpetual state of growth and evolu- tion. Every single day, great strides are made in technology, and every single moment, scientific advances are made at a pace that outsteps even the greatest scientists themselves. Not least among these are the advances in the field of communication, which has revolutionised the world and transformed, for eternity, the global into the local. At what cost, however, is the world evolving? How far-reaching is the impact? Is it conceivable that these technological successes might actually be impacting our ability to fulfil some of our most basic biblical obligations?
We have all experienced at some point or another this moment of paralyzing fear - physical or psychological - which absolutely consumes our mind and our being. Through delineating three categories of people who are exempt from battle, the Torah offers us a timeless lesson of how to stand up in the face of such fears, tackle them head on, and prevail.
A quick skim through the Torah can open our eyes to a code that sometimes provides invaluable guidance and insights into the most contemporary of subjects. Pre-dating modern philosophy by millennia, the Torah gave a voice to the voiceless, advocating for animals long before the RSPCA was even conceived.
In the verses commanding us to look after the needy there is a strange requirement to declare that we have performed the mitzva and that we have not forgotten it. This is intriguing, for surely if we are stating that we have performed something, we have obviously not forgotten it? Although confusing on the surface, hidden behind this strange command lies the blueprint for successfully addressing some of the ills of society.
From the age that a child learns to read, he or she is taught that learning Torah is of utmost importance, a paramount value in our lives. The question is, though, whether our Torah education should be viewed as exclusively an ‘end’ in and of itself, or as a means to an end as well. And if it is indeed, in part, a means, then what is the ultimate purpose? An enigmatic use of the word ‘heavens’ in the middle of Parashat Nitzavim unexpectedly sheds light on these questions, offering us clarity as to the purpose of life.
Millennia ago people travelled in encampments. Today they travel in airplanes. Millennia ago people communicated by word of mouth. It could take weeks or months to get a message to someone on the next hilltop. Today, they share messages in an instant. Millennia ago the most sophisticated tools might have been a chisel and a ploughshare. Today, with the development of the hi-tech field, the possibilities are endless. In this context of an ever-evolving world, one could understandably think that our world bears no resemblance whatsoever to that of our forefathers. And yet, as the baton of leadership is passed from one great to the next, in the Torah encounter eternal lessons that are perhaps even more relevant today than ever before.
The famous Latin proposition ‘Cogito, ergo sum’, stated by sixteenth-century French philosopher Rene Descartes, translates into English as ‘I think, therefore I am,’ indicating that our thoughts are definitive of who we are. More than a thousand years earlier, talmudic scholars debated whether our essence is indeed defined by our thoughts or by our actions. Intriguingly, an approach is hinted to earlier still; two thousand years prior, the order of words that Moses used when describing our nation contained a very subtle hint.