This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Lessons from the Menorah
"There are seventy facets of the Torah." This famous Talmudic saying gives us a measure of the depth of Torah teachings. It is taken to mean that for every sentence in the Torah one can find seventy different explanations, lessons or meanings.
But why stop at a sentence? Maybe this is true of every single word of the Torah -- or even every letter? In fact this is so, and it combines with another idea that every Torah concept has four levels of meaning, from basic to esoteric. The Talmud also tells us that Rabbi Akiva, the leading teacher of Torah in his generation, could explain not only every letter of the Torah but even the little "crowns" that adorn the letters in the handwritten Torah scroll.
The Counting Paradox
Counting the Jewish people creates a paradox. On the one hand, our sages tell us that G‑d wants our census taken because he loves us: precious things are counted and recounted by the one to whom they are dear. On the other hand, census taking can be a harmful endeavor that exposes us to great danger. Our sages speak of the "evil eye" that can befall a people when they are enumerated.
This is because a census achieves two contrary aims. By focusing on the total sum of the nation, it asks the individual to suspend his individuality for the purpose of the count. At the same time, by arriving at a number that comprises the sum of the nation's parts, each individual is compelled to ask himself if he is worthy of contributing to the total.
The Price of Spiritual Growth
There’s a legend about a renowned Greek philosopher who was sighted by his disciples in a place of gross immorality. They angrily confronted him: “You -- who educates us in the philosophy of ethics and morals -- how could you?!”
To which he responded, “My dear students, I also teach you the foundations of trigonometry -- do I look to you like a triangle?”