Parashat Hashavua

Portion Chukat - Teaching the World about Death - or LIFE

Portion Chukat - Teaching the World about Death - or LIFE

One of my Staten Island friends recently became a bit upset. He met a convert to Judaism who claimed that the Torah is not an important part of Judaism.

So what did that person mean? I had met the same person. They had "converted"  to marry a Jew, but really knew almost nothing at all about our "3300" or so years of our people's connection to the Almighty, or even our Jewish history or heritage.

One Orthodox Rabbi in his yeshiva class said years ago "that to learn (and to teach) how to do the Many Mitzvas Today you sometimes have to learn "where to cut corners". But with ANY LIVING THING you can't cut out the heart! Thousands of years of Torah Learning is what kept our people and keeps our people united (even if there have been many arguments in our history). 

Matza balls and bagels in Jewish culture is not Judaism and don't make for survival (Sephardic Jews don't usually even eat those). Jewish "culture" can be ALL the fun or traditional folkways that Ashkenazi and Sephardi people adapted wherever they lived – but "man (and woman) does not survive (for long) on bagels alone". Even this week's Portion Chukat as well as the previous weeks, mention Israelites in the desert complaining - EVEN about the "MANNA from Heaven"(better tasting than most bagels)  that they subsisted on (without having to work for it) for 40 years.

This Portion – Chukat – states Zot Chukat (Choke is some TYPE of LAW) Hatora.THIS IS TORAH! What do we mean?

Most sages have interpreted that as "rules too mystical to understand". But in his own amazing way, the Maharal of Prague – that great mystical commentator on the Torah says  a most UN-mystical thing:

He interprets "Choke" as not an UnKnowable rule – claiming as opposed to Maimonides and others - That Everything is Knowable. TORAH Din – judgment as opposed to Choke – Rule depend on how you LEARN it. You have to LEARN the Torah to Appreciate its Greatness..

The portion can be looked at as "Din" or "Choke" – even with its strange practice of the Red Heifer Ashes and the Practice of Purity surrounding the Holy Tabernacle in the desert – and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem – and THE WHOLE WORLD. WHY?.  

According to the Maharal in Judaism WE LIVE AND LEARN (and are supposed to TEACH) "Din=Justice" – through – and along with the centrality of the Tabernacle/Temple rituals..

The Red Heifer rules in the portion are followed by the Israelite Rituals Related to Death – "Adam key yamut ...kol nogay ba etzem"

And today we still have a custom WHICH WE SHULD FOLLOW – after  Funerals - the hand washing   and   "tum ah" ritual - in memory of Temple Times.

What does that mean for THE WORLD TODAY?

. Death and Temple must be separated – because each has a different sanctity. THAT IS OUR TORAH TEACHING from the first Aliyah in this week's portion (in Israel).Holiness practice is our Objective Heritage even today.

 However today in the US people burn cultural symbols – and then attack synagogues that have never had anything to do with racial discrimination! As The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported, just about a week ago a fountain dedicated to the memory of holocaust victims was destroyed in a local memorial park.

That is not an attack on bagels – that is an attack on Sanctity and Humanity – of the Torah and of all people of good faith.

Don't forget those medical front liners – but WE JEWS ARE ALL SPIRITUAL FRONT LINERS! Heal the Hatred!

A kind word AND SOME TORAH - pack a powerful spiritual TORAH healing greater than bagels and matza balls!

 

Shabat Shalom

 

Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

 

Portion Korach - Survival of the Fittest?

Portion Korach - Survival of the Fittest?
 
Who and what was Korach? Moses' cousin - and a rival for leadership of the Temple Cult.
 
He was smart - but his name Kor Rach means - cold of spirit. Think about that.
In this portion, Moses has some detractors, so ...What doès he do?
 
He tries to reason with them!  Maybe some people just like to make trouble?
 
So things aren't perfect there in the desert -Still, isn't it better than slavery?
 
The complainers were really fighting the Almighty - why pick on Moses and Aron?
 
Moses had a cushy life before the Almighty laid the whole Egypt thing on him!
 
And then - he didn't need 40 years in the desert  -
 
and he could have taken the two tablets with him and gone back -
to Midian with his father in law .. for an easy retirement
 
G-d doesn't like complaining.
G-d doesn't need pettiness.
Insensitivity (including greed) is like a virus!
And Habbit - it keeps you from stepping up to the plate when needed!
 
So Korach seems to have got a lot of people fired up and challenging Moses -
because of the above 4 "cardinal mistakes."
 
And there was a fault under where they stood opposite Moses -
and the earth swallowed them up!
 
So who survived?
 
Ohn did because his wife didn't let him join the confrontation.
 
And the children of Korach survived - and later became leaders - but they "saw the light" -
 
It was the light Moses brought down from Sinai - and it covered him - so that it says
 
"When Moses walked through the camp in the desert he had to wear a HEAD COVERING -
because he was SO RADIANT!
 
That's what the Torah can do for all of us - make us SHINE!
 
 
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion SheLach Anashim (great people) in Israel – A little Kabala for great people

Portion SheLach Anashim (great people) in Israel – A little Kabala for great people

 

 Shakespeare wrote " All the world's a stage - and all the men and women merely players...

The Torah implies (and it rhymes with the above)

All the world's a temple - and all the men and women do their mjtzvahs.

Shakespeare himself would say "Aye Where's the rub?" (Nu - so what?)

I have to ask - Do people THINK what they DO? Is everything just a game or a musical?
Seems like Shakespeare would have to say "no" - people just ACT -
except for the plotting and conniving ones -And maybe a rare bird like Hamlet!
 
Our Torah portion is filled with "conniving ones" - mostly great leaders of the Israelites (in the desert) -
and how they got our forebears into trouble!

(Does that sound familiar in today's world? Personally, I don't see a single European or Asian leader concerned with truth or the world or with healing the world despite this Pandemic that threatens everyone and everything!
Africa and South America? Are all leaders plotting opportunists? Maybe it goes with the territory -

for most people – except a Moses and a Joshua and a Caleb! (And the women in the desert seem to be above the conniving).

So those great leaders went to Canaan to spy out the potential adversaries -
and on return told the peoplè "Forget about it - we just can't do it! Don't try for Israel!"

They were maybe afraid or maybe were worried they might lose ledership rewards IF ALL THE Israelies took themselves
into a whole new  Land of Milk and Honey -
a beautiful country ! It is not so clear from the Torah wording why they dissuaded the Israelites from entering the Land of Israel.

 It was a commandment for them to spy - Moses sent them.

Commandments must be followed according to Kabbalah in 3 ways-
Verbally, with thoughtfullness - and then following the commandment.

They missed it - the point - and messed up.

The results were that all that generation had to die in the desert, and only the children of that generation came into the land  -
and conquered it - with Joshua and Caleb – those 2 spies who trid to convince the people that the other 10 were wrong.

 The Kabbala implies that we can defeat false ideas by making all our actions and words focused on the positive methods above.

 But how to focus on those 3?

Reb Shlomo Carlebach taught that:

You can't look at Israel like a stage to play out the (Canaanite or Euro-Asian) perversions,
cooked up by enmies of truth - whether at the UN or EU - or by "world class" anti semites.

Only if we have "Moshiach Eyes" –
Searching Eyes Ready for a Redeemed World -
can we all get past today and past today's limitations - to reach a Holy Potential -

For the Land and the People of Israel - and for healing the World.
 

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Andy Eichenholz (in Israel)

Portion – Theory of Relativity - Baha Alote cha in Israel – Naso in the Galut (Outside Israel)- where are YOU

Portion – Theory of Relativity -  Baha Alote cha in Israel – Naso in the Galut (Outside Israel)- where are YOU
 
 
Last week Shavuote was 1 day in Israel, 2 days outside Israel with the second day on Shabbat. So in Israel we went ahead to the next Torah portion, and “outside” is reading what we read last week.

Not to sound too Kabbalistic BUT – this Shabbat should SPIRITUALLY “blow everyone’s mind”! Why?

In Israel we read the portion with its name meaning “Raising you UP” (Baha Alote cha);

In Diasspora (everywhere else) – we read Naso – from the root meaning “pick up - the BURDEN”.

Wherever you are, you need to try to connect to the Torah, to be insulated from worldly problems. It works!

In the Israel portion there is so much to learn from! And it takes you “on a journey” away from all the talk about corona corona corona – statistics and statistics – issues and issues.

I bring here just a little idea about RELATIVE CONTEXT.

(NO – NOT ABOUT THE in-laws ) – but about WHERE are YOU? Are you – raising up – or feeling the burden?

In this week’s portion it says 3 times in the fourth Aliyah (of seven): That the Israelites in the desert “camped by word of the L-rd” and “journeyed onward” by word of the L-rd”.

An idea from one of the teachers where I pray was expressed thusly:

Imagine a tiny child being held by it’s mother, what will be the answer if you ask “where are you”?

The answer will be “I’m with Mommy”. If you are in a store, in a playground, going on a bus, the answer from a child held by the mother has got to be, “I’m with Mommy”.

Wherever the Israelites traveled those 40 years in the desert – they were around the Tabernacle, and protected by the Almighty.

So too, this week's Israel portion teaches us to feel the protection – not the burden – of being near the Tabernacle and near the Almighty.  And to raise up the spirits of others – even if sometimes we think it is a burden.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Shavuot - and Naso in Israel

Portion Shavuot - and  Naso in Israel
 
 
On Mount Sinai heavy things were happening. Angels were blowing Shofars and Lightning lit the sky.
 
Imagine the week before! How did we get that G-dly presentation - of 10 things we should KNOW Naturally?
 
On the exact timing of the Revelation at Sinai the Rabbis of the Talmud are of differening opinions. 
 
Were all the Israeltes ready to becomeFaithful and Receivers of the TorA on Thursday?
 
Or was it on that Friday? or Shabbat - or  " the day After receiving the Ten Commandments at Sinai?
 
The words in theTorA are conceptually clear ... this happened and that happened ... 
 
but it is often that a basic concèpt is taught first and later a less basic one.
 
Timelines are not G-dly - nor are time limits!
 
So some rabbis may argue over - WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT.in case of a conflict.
 
They might think something came later or came sooner - in importance - but
 
What is  clear is that :
 
In life many things can be happening at once,
 while humans have  no way to deàl with that.
 
Events always are serially  portrayed - but occuring concurently
 
What is clear is that everyone was 
 
First healed then
standing beneath the mountain AND
 
then the Torah was received
 
And everyone's life was changed - like new converts -
 
 to the religion first taught to the world - by Abraham and Sara.
 
Chag Samayach Shabbat Shalom and Stay Well
 
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Ba Midbar Between a (desert of) Rock and 40 Hard Years (of wandering)?

Portion Ba Midbar  Between a (desert of) Rock and 40 Hard Years (of wandering)?

 

More Accurately, "Between Egypt and Canaan"?
 
Bamidbar Means "in the desert"
 
After a couple of major failings, the Israelites are sent to "desert boot camp"
 
It was to train them to not worship idols (Golden Calves)
 
And to learn not to always complain (like after the spies)
 
etc.
 
But Wasn't it also to train Joshua and the New Leadership?
 
The desert is a test - and a training - for people miraculously freed from slavery.
 
Was it training for war? For spiritual development? To develop a broader community?
 
SO THE TROOPS ARE COUNTED - at the beginning of the Portion-
and they DID NOT WORSHIP IDOLS 40 YEARS
and they rarely complained to Joshua during the 14 years of his leadership.
 
I heard a class where a famous Rabbi claimed the Israelites trained there 40 years -
not for war - but how to Live and Love Shabbos! (and its laws).
 
According to Rabbi Carlebach in the vein of some Master Rebbes
 
One Can Look at everything as "Shabbos" if you look forward to Shabbos!
 
Living in the desert and surviving there was certainly some form of
 
Living in the Bosom of Hashem - the Almighty - as Shabbat should be.
 
Did they have music? Yes - we are still singing Moses' song(S) -
 
(a few of them are written in the torah)
 
Did they dance? Yes - Miriam started at the sea - and there must have been other occasions
 
Because we don't see Israelites complaining about HER - the dance-leader of the women.
 
So were they just learning laws? Or music and dance?
 
 Reb Shlomo Carlebach taught us - like Rebbe Nachman did-
 
That they had to learn there skills - so that
even when you think you are high spiritually -
and then fall the next minute - you can get up again!
 
And as the Lubavitcher Rebbe taught "his troops" - the Chabadniks-
 
the way to STAY close to G-d - and to always Get Up
 
is to do MivTzoyim - masses of mitzvas - all the time.
 
We will all get out of these shutdowns -
 
and doing mitzvas will help us train-
 
For a better time and a better life!
 
 
Shabbat Shalom - Health and Safety
 
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Be Choo Ko Tai - Two Rabbis' Concepts getting closer?

Portion Be Choo Ko Tai - Two Rabbis' Concepts getting closer?
 
Here I am a bit jetlagged and a bit confused in the Jerusalem Quarantine for Recent Arrivals where I lost my cell phone. Miraculously I am able to get a new one deliverd in 6 hours, and figure out how to set it up in 4 hours, and still teach a Hebrew School class on Zoom in NY, and - get some sleep.

Next miracle - when I wake up - I get a whatsapp from a teacher-friend which reminds us the Portion tells us about "the 50 year ..." - what?
 
The Almighty says: "Proclaim Liberty throughout the Land..." - the Yovel 50th year release! And we are in the middle of counting the 50 days to Shavuot and Mount Sinai's Torah experience.
 
And the Rabbi reminds us the Gematria (numerology) of 50 means :YAM (meaning ocean) or ME (meaning who). So he quotes a Torah line saying "who (ME) will heal us?" Also that YAM is pure water like a Mikvah to be Cleansed Spiritually.
 
This week before I left New York to get back to Israel I was in touch with a few people who soon will be celebrating 50 year wedding anniversaries! Mazel Tov to them all! How does that connect to this Portion? Just the number 50?
 
Many people are really flipping out over the last 50 days of "corona-lockdown". WE NEED SOME INSPIRATION AND HOPE to help get us all through! What's better than ancient miracles? Why :
 
The miracle of 50 yovel years and the promise of freedom for all ...
 
and G-d bless those approaching or Who made the miracle of 50 years of marriage
 
and may the Almighty keep well those of 50 Age (or plus - or minus)
 
And Bless those who did or didn't go SO crazy during the last 50 days of this crazy shut down!
 
So, Bless the G-d of Abraham and all of us
 
with prayers for health and Shabbos and love and connections and friendships ...


Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz
 
 
Reb Shlomo - simchat shlomo - ishbitz - cry from the heart chakuk emuna
 
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Emor and Pesach Sheni - an extra Chance to Live

Portion Emor and Pesach Sheni - an extra Chance to Live
 

One is struck by this portion which is occurring in the time period between Pesach Sheni and Lag B Omer.
 
Both spiritual "minor" holidays are too often ignored in the rush to live "business as usual" .
 
Then at the end of the portion we are presented with all the holidays in one place.
 
With us all being between two holidays of "about face" (Lag B Omer) and "making up" (Pesach Sheni)  the Torah implies and reminds us that with hope we can fix all and celebrate our holidays together - and with the Almighty.
As per the prophets in the haftora - we can all hope to be celebrating the holidays soon in the rebuilt Beit Hamikdosh.
From the kabbala on this portion, we learn that there is a spiritual energy to each of the holidays - and if we connect and pray for that energy, it will surely help us all to get past the current difficulties in the world.
I just ordered a ticket to get back to Israel in a couple of days - so things are very hectic here right now -
 
but as a kabbalist once wrote: If it’s not in our consciousness, it cannot succeed. Without our consciousness, nothing can happen.
 
So I am praying to bring some holy good news for the next holy Shabbat from the Holy Land of our holy people.
 
Shabbat Shalom
 
Pesach Sheni Samayach, and
for Lag Ba Omer grab some of that "infinite" G-dliness that we all need.
 
Stay well
 
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Double Portion Achrei Moass and Kedoshim Get us Above the Today

Double Portion Achrei Moass and Kedoshim Get us Above the Today   

Firstly there is an old Torah joke about this double portion
 
Achrei Moass  means "after death" and
Kedoshim means "holy"
 
So like the old joke goes -  "after you die ... everyone says how holy you WERE!"
 
Truth is that is NOT the objective.
 
We read a lot of this portion on Yom Kippur. Is it too "heavy" for a regular Shabbos?
 
What? Can this be "too heavy" for us in the middle of this Pandemic Crisis? Can anything be?
 
After 9/11 a lot of people "pulled together". Now WE ARE PREVENTED FROM BEING TOGETHER!
 
Yes, some people are sending food for the overworked "front liners".
Others are bringing food to the elderly or underprivileged.
Some people even drop off food for Rabbi A in quarantine! Emoji
 
Yes in the portion at the beginning  G-d reminds us "my sanctuary dwells in your midst", and
 
the next portion mentions we are here to Be Holy or Become Holy
 
BUT ARE WE BECOMING HOLIER? I see different approaches in the following:
 
Rabbi David Aron of Israelite proposed the idea this week of "different kinds of selfishness"- that
create  different objectives of individuals - who are all wanting to be closer to G-dliness - that is, holiness.
 
Rabbi Neria's writings on this portion proposed the idea of "universal holiness" as the objective of:
 
Yom Kippur
These two portions - and -
Every Jewish person - that is to change the world.
 
Are these ideas "too heavy" for today.? Do We ALL JUST WANT TO SURVIVE THIS!? Is that enough?
 
I believe the G-dly objectives today can be learned from the wisdom in this double portion.
 
Acharei means after
 
Moass means the death of ... The children of Aron ... priestly leadership
 
The portions come in the middle of "sacrifices   temple worship  ... etc...
 
Rav Neria - wrote - that after the "Yom Kippur closeness" to Hashem -
 
not only must we BE HOLY - but the Torah implies is a Promise:
 
That there will always be an "after acharei moass" - after the destruction "we" will be here -
 
 
but who will "we" "be" then? 
 
Shabbat Shalom - health love and goodness to all
 
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz
 
 
 - draft on all cases   ...  dvar  like neria (closeness to hashem - like YK andy:every day, like rebb shlomo
 

Double Portion Tazria Metzora Plus - Plus What? Joy for Whom?

Double Portion Tazria Metzora Plus - Plus What? Joy for Whom?
 
 
In brief, the Double Portion comes at a great time to understand today's issues
and ALSO to - look forward to BETTER THINGS:
 
Tazria talks about childbirth - and also about SOCIAL DISTANCING
 
Metzora talks about Disease - and also(with the Medrash) about FINDING HIDDEN TREASURE!
 
And Friday and Saturday we are supposed to SING HALLEL for Rosh Chodesh - the new Jewish lunar month
 
And next week is Israel Independence Day - Yom HaAtzmaut - so a LITTLE ABOUT EACH below, and
 
please take time to study the HIDDEN TREASURES in the TORAH!
 
(Thanks for that extra inspiration from my friend Zev in Israel)
 
Next week is Israel Independence Day - Yom HaAtzmaut -
and on the bright side:
you don't have to take the family to go to any parades or cookouts this year!
 
Seriously now,
It says in Tazria
AFTER GIVING BIRTH YOU BOTH NEED A LITTLE SOCIAL DISTANCING
 
BUT for A LITTLE DEEPER look:
 
Rashi reminds us the Bris for a boy is on the 8th day -
and even if a twin girl is born too - the 8th day is the Bris
 
Why think different? Because Jewish SOCIAL DISTANCING AFTER A GIRL'S CHILDBIRTH IS 14 DAYS
so maybe we should delay the Bris to "Day 14"?
 
THE MEDRASH said Yitzchak was born with a twin sister Bakol -
 
BUT THE BRIS WAS ON THE 8TH DAY - because THAT IS THE COMMANDMENT!
 
 
It says in METZORA - the Israelites coming into Israel will find some houses were plagued-
 
Hashem wanted the Kohain to have you to wait and see before fixing because-
 
You don't curse it yet! .... Why?   You Shouldn't see all the negatives only -
 
BECAUSE THE MEDRASH TEACHES:
 
SOMETIMES THE KOHAIN WILL HELP YOU FIND A HIDDEN TREASURE THERE!
That Hashem wanted you to see the potential! Always Look and Think About Hidden Treasures
 
ALSO ABOUT SMALL GIFTS

Hassidism wants us to THINK: How can we all “LIVE” the Parsha this week.

Hopefully – Please G-d - we don’t have leprosy – and I bless you also for nothing similar.

Not all of us gave birth this week - especially the guys out there