Parshah Columnists

Guest Columnists
Being Honest Should be Completely Obvious
The summary verse of the first part of Matot appears to omit the most salient point!
The Empowering Art of Framing
Why is it important to list the journeys? The Torah isn’t a history book, nor is it a travelogue, so what’s the purpose of this list?
Low-Speed Travel
Where are we headed at such breakneck speed?
I can't believe I find myself in the same position, doing the same task: packing. Again, we're moving. We've moved five times in seven years...
A Kabbalist's Guide to Hieroglyphics
This thing about the Jews “wandering” through the desert is a misconception. They were no more wandering through the desert than a spelling bee champion wanders through the alphabet.
Two Rabbis Came to the Door
I had been a seeker for many years by the time I knocked on the door of Lubavitch House...
The Expanding Land of Israel
Discover how Reuben and Gad's settlement east of Jordan led to the spiritual spread of Judaism's values.
The Daughters of Zelophehad
“Why should our father’s name be eliminated from his family because he had no sons? Give us a landholding among our father’s brothers!”
The Temple Guards and Their Mystical Meaning
Rabbi Levi Yitzchak devotes 25 pages of dense Kabbalistic text to explaining this discrepancy through the lens of Jewish mysticism.
Forging Ahead, Leading the Way
Did the nation of Israel transform? Have the people integrated lessons learned? And are they ready to become independent, mature, individuated human beings, leading themselves through their life journeys?
Cities of Refuge Demystified
Learn about the ancient cities in Israel where killers and priests rubbed shoulders
The cities of refuge were only for those who killed accidentally, not knowing the consequences of their actions.
Do the Jews Deserve the Land of Israel?
The Land of Israel is Heaven’s perfectly suitable gift suited for the Jewish people. By the same token, it is beyond what the Jews can ever deserve.
Hot Lava or Holy Living?
When darkness creeps into your life, turn on the light.
Weekly Sermonette
Priorities and Price Tags
A fellow who somehow got himself locked in a department store over a holiday weekend decided to vent his frustrations by swapping price tags on the merchandise....
The Power of Prayer
Now this is very strange. Here is a man who, though not a murderer, is not entirely innocent of having caused the loss of a person's life. Opposite him stands the High Priest of Israel, noble, aristocratic and, arguably, the holiest Jew alive. Do we really have reason to fear that the prayers of this morally tainted prisoner will have such a negative effect on the exalted High Priest, to the extent that the High Priest may die?
Flirting With Futility … or Embracing the Truth?
Jeremiah pleads with us to embrace the eternal spring of living waters—the authentic truths of Torah and the way of G‑d.
Through the Eyes of a Woman
Life’s Journeys
Parshah Musings
Apathy or Good Manners?
When you give up something you want in order to make someone else happy, that is commendable. But when you ignore something because you don’t value it sufficiently, that is inexcusable.
How Many Roads Must A Man Stumble Down?
The answer is easy: 42. It's the question that's more difficult to ascertain.
The First Day Of The Rest Of My Life
A smoker once told me that quitting was dead easy; he personally had stopped dozens of times...
Someone appointed by a group must decide policy from the perspective of the group as a whole. The leader with the Divine mandate can thus be most responsive to the individualized needs of his flock.
Just Passing Through
The Jews of the desert may have remained relatively undisturbed for years at a stretch, but they had no way of knowing, from one day to the next, how long they could expect to stay where they were.
Petty Theft
Morality is not relative; it just feels that way sometimes.
Forbidden Love
Inner Stream
The Anchored Journey
People often tell me wistfully how they wish they would have been raised in a Torah-observant home. They imagine that I am already at the destination that they are journeying towards...
Peace by Choice
Do we always need a common enemy in order to rise above our differences?
Reflections on the Parshah
"Your brothers go into battle and you will sit here?"
Moses' dismay at the request of several tribes to remain on the eastern bank of the Jordan is a powerful lesson in Jewish communal responsibility.
Our forty-year desert sojourn is a metaphor for our long national history of wandering. It also infuses us with hope and purpose.
Parshah Blog
The Blood Avenger and the Cities of Refuge
Isn't encouragement of vengeance precisely what the City of Refuge system does? Doesn't the American system do a better job of dealing with such a sad episode, discouraging vigilante justice?
What the Rebbe Taught Me
Milestones or Tombstones
Why are these forty-two pit stops referred to as “journeys,” rather than “encampments”? Weren’t each of these destinations milestones reached, not just locations left behind?
Parshah Messages
Oh, My Gad
Gad's battle victims were readily identifiable. With one fell swoop of the sword they would cut off the head together with the arm. The ability to strike such a blow is an indication of tremendous lion-like strength.
A Timely Yahrtzeit
What is so remarkable about the timing of Aaron's yahrtzeit that it merits explicit mention in the Torah?
What Do You Think?
I Found a Leader!
G‑d commanded Moses to wage battle against the Midianites, after which he would pass away. But when it came time for Moses to forward the commandment to the Jewish people, the instruction went through some editing . . .
Living through the Parshah
Brother of Peace
The clouds represented everything that Aaron stood for—millions of people can be shielded by the same cloud, unlike food or water that can’t be shared by even two people simultaneously. Like the clouds, Aaron protected and cherished everyone equally...
Torah for Now
First Things First
The tribes had put sheep first, then children. But can it then be that that they actually loved their sheep more than their children?
For Friday Night
Firmness and Movement
When we stand up to the negative pressures around us, holding our own, we are really moving forward and discovering new dimensions.
The Moses Within
The battle against Midian described in the Torah is a crucial struggle which continues in our own time...
Difficulties Strengthen
"Mateh" is the same slim branch, but now detached from the tree. Despite this, or because of this, the mateh becomes hard and strong, and can be used a supporting staff or as a symbol of leadership...
Balancing the Spiritual and the Practical
Sometimes the question is raised whether the Torah scholar is “escaping” from the real world.
Phases Of Freedom
Are we searching for freedom? Then the Torah will help us in our search...
The Prayers of the High Priest
The high priest should have been praying for his generation in a way which would have prevented such negligent accidents. Thus the accident indicates a flaw in the spiritual service of the high priest.
Life's Passages
Personal journeys. Relationship journeys. Our national cosmic journey . . .
The Parenting Rod
"One who spares the rod, hates his child" -- what is the parctical meaning in this adage for today's parent?
Weekly Torah
Ethical Behavior
Which is more important--Torah precepts or ethical concepts? It is a well-meaning but misguided question
Journeying Through Life
This Torah reminds us that even though we may have reached our destination, we should always be cognizant of the path which brought us there, and not take for granted those who have encouraged and guided us.
A Thought for the Week
So Long in the Desert
The wilderness is “where man does not dwell”; on the highest level this refers to Adam HaElyon (“Supernal Man”)—G‑d. One who finds himself in such a state must transform the desert into a place where G‑d does dwell . . .
Higher and Higher
But today we cannot be satisfied with yesterday's standards of accomplishment. Not only is yesterday's liberation insufficient, imperfect--it is, for today, a strait, a limitation, an Egypt from which an exodus must be experienc
Does G-d Want Us To Enjoy Ourselves?
The message is mixed
I Love You More Than You Love Me
You can always tell a married couple by their arguments. You won’t see these arguments anywhere else, for the simple reason that they don't make any sense anywhere else.
Life on the Inside
The penimi appreciates the differences between important things and things of lesser importance, between means and ends, between journeys and destinations. But in whatever he is involved, he is fully there. When he's on the way to something, he's fully invested in being on the way to something
Is tribalism good or bad for the soul? How are we to weigh our loyalties to family, community and "tribe" against our role as a partner in the mission and destiny of the entirety of the Jewish people?
Parshah Recovery
Holy Spirits
Abstention is a humbling admission of defeat – "There's something in the world that G‑d created for a purpose; other people are capable of using it for that purpose; I cannot."
Higher and Higher
During our recovery, chemical sobriety may have been the beginning of our Exodus. But "getting dry" is not the end of our journey to freedom.
Covenant & Conversation
Miles to go Before I Sleep
History and destiny had combined to make Jews aware of the temporariness of any dwelling outside the Holy Land. To be a Jew is to be on a journey.
The Danger of Suspicion
Had they learned nothing from the sin of the spies who, by de-motivating others through their behavior, condemned an entire generation to forty years of wandering in the desert?
The Prophetic Voice
Jeremiah, the most passionate and tormented of all the prophets, has gone down in history as the prophet of doom. Yet this is unfair. He was also supremely a prophet of hope.
Beyond Speech
On the Haftarah: What's so Terrible About Broken Wells?
For the haftarah of Matot-Massei, From the Teachings of the Rebbe
Distressed Wood
Together in Friendship
When we are together in unity, we are even stronger. We help each other overcome obstacles.
Let's Be Like the Daughters of Tzelafchad
The Torah here mentions them by name for the third time, an honor bestowed on very few.
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