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.
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?”
The Fifth Year
A popular Israeli joke claims that there are three ways to do anything: the right way, the wrong way, and the Jewish way.
In fact, a careful reading of the Torah shows that it sees everything in the world as belonging to one of three primary domains: the good, the bad, and a third realm that's more difficult to define. In Halachah (Torah law) it's called "the optional" (reshut); in Kabbalah and Chassidism it's refered to as "the translucent husk" (kelipat nogah) or simply, "the undefined". Basically, in this third category a thing is not what it is, but what you make of it. It can be elevated to the realm of holy, or dragged down into the realm of the profane -- depending on what you do with it, what you use it for, even what you're thinking while you're involved with it.