Sometimes when we have an argument with someone, even more important than trying to understand the other side, is to look at the bigger picture. There is so much good we need to accomplish; let’s not get mired in controversy.
Our ancestors didn’t run away from Egypt, they ran away from themselves.
The Torah emphasises multiple times how the Jewish People rushed out of Egypt. In fact, to this very day we eat Matzah on Pesach to commemorate how they didn’t have enough time to let their dough rise before leaving.
Wouldn’t the Egyptians have been sufficiently fed up with the Jews and the plagues to happily let the Jews go? Why does it sound like they went out like prisoners in the night, grabbing whatever they could find, not even having enough time to pack a proper sandwich for lunch?
What would you say is the most important Mitzvah? Would you say it’s Shabbat, or perhaps the Holidays? Honouring your parents or being kind to all people?
What interesting to note, is that while these are very important, they are summed up in the Torah in a mere line or two each, with many of their intricate laws not even written clearly in the Torah, rather passed down through oral tradition.
On the other hand, we find that in this week’s Torah portion we are told at great length all the details and miracles involved when Avraham’s servant Eliezer went to find a match for his son Yitzchak.
Is it worse to mess up on my relationship with G-d, or with my fellow?
This week's Torah portion and its two stories of the early ancestors of mankind shed light on what G-d considers to be more important. Each story is about the misdeeds of the generation and the punishment G-d imposed on the people accordingly.
As we approach Rosh Hashana, the great Day of Judgment on the Jewish calendar, many may feel at total loss on what this means for them. Slightly cynical of the whole judgment idea, perhaps. “What will I be judged for, considering that my Jewish practice pales comparison to that of my ancestors?”
In the end, some of us just show up in Shul without any real introspection. After all, we hesitate to imagine the outcome of G-d’s judgment for us.
This coming week in the United States millions of people will witness a full solar eclipse. In many traditions a solar eclipse is considered a bad omen for the world. To this day in some parts of the world people do not eat food cooked during an eclipse for fear that evil spirits attach themselves to the food during an eclipse. In other places, women and children are encouraged to stay indoors so as not to be affected by the feared ill effects of an eclipse.
Today when we read in the Torah the story of the revelation at Mt. Sinai, we too are meant to envision that great defining moment in our history. We stand in reverence while it is read, and later we go back to our lives striving to live as if we too had witnessed that sublime event.
Amongst the wondrous descriptions of the giving of the Torah, are details about how G-d’s voice was heard: it was a ‘great loud voice’, and it had ‘no end’.
What does ‘no end’ mean?
The Talmud tells us that when he Roman conquerers entered the Holy Temple they saw that the two cherubs that were on top of the Ark were facing each other.
What's unusual about this is that we are told that these cherubs had a miraculous ability to mirror the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people; that their facing each other would reflect on G-d being happy with us whereas if unfortunately the relationship was strained, the cherubs would turn their backs to one another.
Yet here, during the destruction of the Holy Temple, at a time when G-d was seemingly not at all pleased with the Jews, these cherubs were surprisingly facing each other. Why was this so?
What is the proper outlook to have as we come across struggles in our day to day life?
After we mess up, how can we still attain a balance of being realistic and knowing where we are holding, without causing the idea of change to seem so far off and unfathomable?
The secret to achieving this balance can be found in the Torah:
The enemies of the Jewish people turned to the prophet Bilaam for a spiritual solution; perhaps he could curse the Jewish people.
Bilaam agreed, however, although his aim was to curse the Jews, Hashem arranged for blessings to come from his mouth instead.
Each of these blessings is truly an eye opener and helps to understand the strength of the Jewish people and our continuity despite all the hardships we’ve endured throughout thousands of years.