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This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the 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 website.

Achieving Your Best PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky   
Monday, 02 June 2014 00:00

"When you kindle the lamps...." (Numbers 8:2)

The Talmud (Menachot 86a) says that when the oil was made for use in the service in the Holy Temple, the olives were squeezed three times. The oil of each pressing was divided into three quality levels. The first level of the first pressing was supreme, and it was used for the kindling of the menorah. The second oil of the first pressing and the first oil of the second pressing were of equal grade, and could be used for the meal-offerings (the Menachot). But only the first oil of the second pressing could be used for the menorah, and not the second oil of the first pressing. The third oil of the first pressing and the second oil of the second pressing and the first oil of the third pressing were all equal for meal-offerings, but only the first oil of the third pressing could be used for the menorah.

Making the Desert Bloom PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tali Loewenthal   
Monday, 26 May 2014 00:00

At first sight, the beginning of the Torah reading of Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89) seems to concern something which was only relevant in the ancient past. It describes the tasks of the Levites during the period of traveling in the desert. Before each journey the Sanctuary would be dismantled by the Levites and then they would transport its various sections: the curtains, beams of cedar wood, and so on, until they reached the next stopping place. Then they would again set up the Sanctuary, while the rest of the Jewish people pitched their camp around it.

It is interesting to think that for thousands of years we have been reading again and again the account of this journey in the wilderness. This helps us understand our own task in life.

The Sages tell us that the purpose of creation is that G-d should be revealed and "dwell" in this physical world. But this idea contains a difficulty.

The Right Time for a Census PDF Print E-mail
Written by Zalman Posner   
Monday, 19 May 2014 00:00

One of the early expressions of the dignity of the individual is in this week's Torah reading. The greatness of giants is a commonplace: Adam, Noah, the Patriarchs, Moses -- these are all noteworthy names. But the anonymous, the scores of thousands who were not leaders and chiefs, the masses -- they too are endowed with worth by the simple theme of this week's Torah reading, the census. Counting implies value, for worthless things are not counted, certainly not as individual units but in the mass at best. The Torah counts Israel to the last man, because each one, insignificant though he may seem, is priceless.

We are quite prepared to accept this idea, that even the little man is not so little that he may be ignored. But the biblical commentator Rashi makes a noteworthy observation. He cites several occasions when Israel is counted, specifically the count following the Golden Calf and the count following the dedication of the Sanctuary. These examples are in striking contrast. One depicts Israel in the depths of idolatry, at its spiritual nadir; the other represents Israel in a moment of dedication (of self no less than Sanctuary) to G‑d's service.

Perhaps Rashi means to indicate that the worth of man is intrinsic, that his soul has an innate purity beyond sullying. We cannot establish standards for "worthy" people and proceed to deny to the deficient the prerogatives of all men. Each individual is unique and priceless, and not only at moments of consecration, but even when fallible and fallen, is worthy of being counted as one of Israel.

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