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David Hamelech & Batsheva – Part 2:’What’s the story?’

Where did David go wrong? Find out with Rabbi Dov Levy

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Parashat Balack – Self made destruction

Thoughts from the Parasha
Self made destruction

Quoting our sages, Rashi says that Bileam was a prophet, so the nations could not have the excuse of favouritism by Hashem to the Jewish people who benefited from several prophets whilst they didn’t. Why did He choose Bileam and why did it go wrong for Bileam?

On paper, technically Bileam was well qualified to be a non-Jewish prophet. He was respected amongst the Moabites and Midianites as a man with special magical powers. So much so that a frightened Balak the King of Moav at the time promised him great riches and honour if he successfully cursed the children of Israel. Further, Bileam also demonstrated that he was able to connect to Hashem through the meditation rites and ruses he utilised.

He was however quite unsuccessful. Instead of cursing Israel, Hashem on three occasions put words of blessings in his mouth. Bileam completely understood from this the omnipotence of Hashem and how powerless he was to influence. Still he persevered – according to our Sages – advising Balak to use Moabite and Midianite girls to entice the Israelite men to sin and commit idolatry. Bileam himself was killed in the vengeance carried out by Israel on the Midianites.

It is difficult to believe that Hashem set Bileam up for failure, for surely he had free will like any other man. Indeed, the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot (5:19) suggests that it was his poor character traits which led to his doom. Contrasting Bileam directly with Avraham, the Mishna accuses Bileam of having ‘an evil eye, a haughty spirit and a proud soul’ עין רעה, ורוח גבוהה, ונפש רחבה. As Rav Kahati points out in his commentary on the Mishna, this parallels the […]

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How to befriend the King – Balak

Rabbi Netanel Skypes in for a great Shiur.

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Aaron and the rock – Chukat 5777

30/06/2017

Our Parasha relates the death of Aaron at the age of 123 and that the children of Israel mourned him for 30 days. Rashi emphasises in his commentary the love the whole people (men and women) had for him. As a lover and pursuer of peace אוהב שלום, רודף שלום he had intervened to help resolve multiple disputes between man and wife and between arguing rivals.

Just two paragraphs before, the Parasha speaks of the event which prevented Aaron and his brother Moshe entering the promised land before passing to the next world. With the congregation lacking water, Moshe hits the rock when Hashem asked him to speak to it resulting in both Moshe and Aaron being accused of not believing in and sanctifying Hashem יען לא האמנתם בי להקדשני. But what did Aaron do to be blameworthy? It was Moshe who took the staff (as commanded), who hit the rock (instead of speaking to it), chose which rock to hit (instead of asking the people), became angry and insulted the people calling them rebels. Aaron did none of this.

Whilst our commentators give a plethora of reasons for Moshe’s sin, they are relatively silent on Aaron’s role. We might suggest that  it is indeed Aaron’s silence which was his misdemeanour in this case. He should have protested his brother’s actions. This was of course not the only situation the Torah relates that Aaron acquiesced when challenged with a moral dilemma. The golden calf is one example and another is when Myriam his sister “spoke to him about” Moshe, he simply listened. He should have stopped her.
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Aaron’s pursuit of peace and silence in adversity (for example when his sons Nadav and Avihu died וידם אהרון) made […]

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Don’t let the snake bite! – Parashat Chukat

28/6/2017

Rabbi Netanel Skypes in for another great shiur

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Do we want Hashem to test us? Part 1 – David Hamelech & Batsheva

Jewish Concepts Shiur.

Rabbi Levy delves into life’s tests, by taking a look at David Hamelech.

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Destructiveness of undermining behaviours – Shelach Lecha 5777

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16/06/2017
The request of the tribes to send spies to view the Land of Canaan was it would seem supported by both Hashem and Moshe. Hashem as the name of our Parasha  שלח לך  indicates tells Moshe to “send for you”. It is true He is saying “for you” but as shown in other cases where spies are used (Moshe sent spies to Yazer an Amorite town (Bemidbar 21:32); Joshua sending two spies to Jericho as related in our Haftara), He is not averse to the use of spies. Similarly, Moshe when he recounts the story in Devarim says that he was happy וייטב בעיני הדבר. Ramban says that Moshe was right as we shouldn’t rely on miracles. So what went wrong?

Moshe sends the 12 spies with two objectives. Firstly, he is interested militarily in the lay of the land, where the enemy’s strengths and weaknesses are. Secondly, he is looking for a report back to the people on how good the land and its fruits are, probably as a morale booster. 10 of the 12 spies however fundamentally undermine the mission’s objectives.

Instead of providing information to help with military tactics, they conclude that it is mission impossible. They grudgingly accept that the land is plentiful but then negate its value when they mendaciously say that the land consumes its inhabitants והארץ אוכלת את יושבה. Furthermore, instead of thrashing out their concerns privately with Moshe they go to the people initially in front of Moshe and then also behind his back creating a populist frenzy.

There are a number of lessons here. Firstly, in general whilst it is legitimate to have concerns, they need to be aired and talked through in […]

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TNS – What will you find in hidden Miracles – Shelach 5777

Rabbi Netanel Skypes in for another fantastic Shiur.

Uploaded on Jun 13, 2017

 

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TNS – What did Miriam do Wrong – Lashon Hara Shiur

Rabbi Netanel Skypes in for another fantastic Skypes shiur

Uploaded on Jun 7, 2017

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Bamidbar Sedra Sheet – 5777

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26/05/2017

 
Thoughts from the Parasha 
Neutralising the influence of the Evil Eye

Our Parasha במדבר, begins with the second census of the Jewish people as they prepared militarily to enter the Land of Israel. In contrast to the census which King David ordered which resulted in a plague and many Israelites dying, there was no such occurrence in the wilderness. Ramban gives a number of explanations for the difference. One of the reasons he gives is that in our parasha’s census there was a reason that is to prepare to enter the land whilst David only ordered the census so he could glorify himself in the size of the population and by doing so gave power to the “evil eye”.

Our sages tell us to be very careful in counting people to avoid the evil eye. Hence, when counting a minyan we typically recite a verse with ten words rather than count to 10.  So, what is the evil eye, how does it have power and what should we do to confront it?

Whilst the evil eye is only alluded to in the written Torah in Yaacov’s blessing to Yoseph, בן פורת יוסף, בן פורת עלי עין (Bereshit 49:22), the Talmud is more explicit with Rav suggesting that 99% of deaths are caused by it (Bava Metzia 107b) and legislation for damages linked to sight נזק ראייה (Bava Metzia 30a). Whilst Rambam explains this as a protection of an individual’s privacy, most commentators put the damages down to the evil eye.

Ribbi Eliezer Ben Hyrcanus one of Ribbi Yochanan Ben Zaccai’s students suggests the evil eye is the worst trait someone can have (and equally a good eye as the best trait) (Pirkei Avot 2:9). This […]

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