Tisha B'Av 5778

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The story of Rabbi Akiva and the foxes on the Temple Mount ends the tractate of Makkos and is to bring us comfort during the exile. He laughs cheerfully as he sees the foxes; if the first part of the prophecy has come true (ie. the destruction of the Temple and the barrenness of the land), then surely the second part is to come true as well.
However, we do see that the final part of the prophecy that Rabbi Akiva mentions in fact has been fulfilled. The streets of Jerusalem are indeed filled with people young and old. So why do we still mourn?
The answer is simple. We still don't have our Temple back. We can prosper in the land of Israel. We can build it up with the latest trends in technology and agriculture. We can make it the most populated area of Jews in the world. We can have one of the best armies in the world.
But we're not done yet. Not until we bring G-d's Presence back into our midsts. These are all minor steps in the right direction, but we have many more to go.
May we be zocheh to see the Final Redemption and the final Temple built, a place that will be deemed a "house of prayer for all nations".

Tetzaveh 5778

Thursday, February 22, 2018

If one looks at the order of the vessels and clothing made for the Mishkan, one would see that one final vessel was made at the very end. This was the golden altar which was used for bringing the incense ("ketores" in Hebrew). Why was it mentioned after everything else had been completed? It should have been mentioned along with the other vessels such as the menorah and table.
The Ramban explains that this was to teach Bnei Yisroel that their service was not complete yet. Right before the golden altar is mentioned, Hashem sums up the Mishkan and says it will allow Him to dwell among the nation. However, there would be an additional service to carry out: bringing the incense twice a day for His honor. As we learn later on in the Torah, the incense had the special ability to stop plagues and combat G-d's harsh judgment. The Seforno adds that the incense's job was not to bring G-d's presence into the Mishkan like the other vessels, nor was it to bring His physical expression of existence into the Mishkan as the sacrifices did. This was to show honor to Him after He accepted the sacrifices.
What we can take away from this Ramban is the idea that we are never done with our service to G-d. Once we finish one thing, we move onto the next item on our list of duties. For example, on the day of Purim itself we begin learning the laws of Pesach, which takes place a month later. We prepare for the next holiday as we wrap up another. We also see this idea when we finish a Masechta of Gemara. In the concluding prayer, we mention that we will return and re-learn what we just completed and hope that we will be able to go on and finish many others as well. We continue to grow and move upwards in our service of G-d as well as ourselves.

Shemot 5778

Friday, January 5, 2018

Antisemitism has been around for quite a long time. We can say since the days of Yaakov that such a concept has existed as Lavan tried to uproot him and his descendants. However, the first to really carry out a plan against the Jewish nation was Pharaoh. The Kli Yakar paints Pharaoh as the first nationalist who rallied up his people to take back their country. In 1:9, he says "to his nation, 'behold, the nation of Israel is numerous and stronger than us." He emphasizes "nation" and tells the Egyptians that it's impossible for two opposite nations to dwell in one place; the Jews are stronger and will outnumber them soon. His plan is to have them hurt themselves. Pharaoh knows they are strong due to their dedication to G-d's service. But if he can have them pay taxes towards Egypt's priests, that's as if the Jews were worshipping foreign deities. His plan succeeded and he was able to enslave them because of it.
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