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Faith and Ethics

Before the Great Day Comes

Elijah the Prophet offered Olah Sacrifices outside the Temple, seemingly performing a sin, in order to cause the children of Israel to repent their ways. And this indeed corresponds to the ruling of the halacha: A prophet can cancel a mitzva on a temporary basis (“hora’at sha’ah”), as is written, “It is time to act for G-d, they have violated ... Read More »

Purity of Awareness

  While the special Torah reading of Parshat Parah involves the purification of a single individual who is ritually impure, the Haftarah discusses the purification of the entire community (Ezekiel 36:16-38). Personal impurity is a halachic matter which has practical implications for a person’s life. However, general impurity leads to removal of the Shechina as a result of the effects ... Read More »

“These are What I Want”

In the last chapter of Moreh Nevuchim the Rambam lists various opinions about the purpose of life. As far as he is concerned, the first three are not sufficient to justify life, since they are not uniquely relevant for a human being because of his innate essence. These goals are: (1) possessions, (2) a healthy body, and (3) proper behavior. ... Read More »

The Essence of the Temple

The Haftarah of the portion of Pekudai can be divided into two sections. In the first section, which is read by Sephardim and Yemenites (Kings I 7:40-50), the making of the vessels in the Temple is described as the work of two people: Hiram and Solomon. Even though they evidently did not perform the physical operation of making the vessels ... Read More »

Why perform Maintenance in the Temple?

The maintenance in the Temple which was carried out by Jehoash, the King of Judah, in the twenty-third year of his reign (Kings II 12:7-16) took place in the year that Jehu, King of Yisrael, died (as is clear from verse 13:1). Evidently this was not a mere coincidence. The reign of Jehu was a time of renovation such as ... Read More »

Ideal Synthesis

  In this week’s Haftarah, the Prophet Ezekiel shows us the plan of the Temple which will be built in the future (43:10-27). The design differs in many details from that of the First and Second Temples. Even though the mitzvot of the Torah are inflexible, the Temple changes form as generations pass, because it is a reflection of the ... Read More »

The New Calf

The Haftarah of this week’s Torah portion of Mishpatim is from the prophecy of Jeremiah (34:8-22, 33:25-26). It discusses the pact that Zedekiah, the last King of Judah, made with the leaders of the nation during the last days before Jerusalem was conquered. In the pact, the entire nation agreed to free their Jewish slaves and maidservants. Evidently the purpose ... Read More »

And Deborah Sang

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There is a lot to be learned from the poem of praise which Deborah wrote (Judges Chapter 5). Like every victory song, it teaches us that we should rejoice about a victory over the enemies of Israel. In addition, we should also be happy about the suffering of our enemies: “By the window she sat looking, and weeping, Sisera’s mother… ... Read More »

Kingdoms at War

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The main message of the Haftarah for this week’s portion (Ezekiel 28:25-29:21), aside from the discussion of the punishment that will befall Egypt which is similar to the plagues in the Torah portion, is the lesson it teaches us about international struggles. This includes the story of the rise and fall of various empires. In ancient times, the status of ... Read More »

Final Instructions

In this Haftarah (Kings I Chapter 2), King David teaches his son Solomon the essentials of how to manage a kingdom, as the ultimate example of the ideal government. There are six basic principles: Adopting good practices, the foundations of morality: “Be strong, and act like a man” [2:2]. The desired trait that is emphasized for a king is courage. ... Read More »