Home Seniors Programs Special Needs Mommy and Me Join a Study Group Bat Mitzvah Program for Women of All Ages One on One Learning Giving
Parsha Points About Us Contact Us

The Mitzvah to Acquire Property in Israel Print E-mail
Monday, 25 July 2022

In Parshat Masei (Bamidbar 33:52-53), we learn about the Mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel which includes purchasing property:

You shall drive out all the inhabitants of the Land before you; and you shall destroy all their prostration stones; all their molten images shall you destroy; and all their high places shall you demolish. You shall possess the Land and you shall settle in it, for to you have I given the Land to possess it.

According to Rashi, we must drive out the inhabitants and then we will be able to dwell in it and endure there. If we don’t drive out the inhabitants then we won’t be able to dwell there.

We learn about how buying a home in Israel is connected to the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel in the Talmud, Bava Kama 80b:

In the case of one who is purchasing a house in the Land of Israel (from a non-Jew), we may write a sales contract for it even on Shabbat.

The Gemara asks: Can it enter your mind that the contract is actually written on Shabbat? Rather, it is like what Rava stated: One may ask a non-Jew and he will write it. Here too in our case of purchasing a house in Eretz Yisrael: One may ask a non-Jew to write the contract and he will do it.

The Gemara explains: Even though asking a non-Jew to perform forbidden labor on Shabbat is a Shabbat prohibition, the rabbis did not prohibit it in this case because of the importance of settling the Land of Israel.

Rashi comments (Gitin 8b) that this leniency of writing the document on Shabbat is when one is buying land from an idolater and one can’t wait until after Shabbat to write the document of sale because the idolater wants to leave while it is still Shabbat.

Tosafot clarify that asking a non-Jew to perform a Biblically forbidden labor (such as writing) on Shabbat is permitted only for the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel, but not for other mitzvot.

The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 306:11 states: It is permitted to buy a house from a non-Jew on Shabbat, and seal and go to the non-Jewish courts. The Rama quotes the Or Zarua: In their script (not in Hebrew) since writing in their script is only forbidden Rabbinically, and in the case of settling the Land of Israel, they did not decree.

The Mishna Brura points out that the Jewish person who is buying the property would show the non-Jewish seller where the money is so that he could take it, but the Jew would not handle the money on Shabbat.

We see from here that normally one would not be allowed to ask a non-Jew to write a document for them on Shabbat. However, since the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel is so important, if a Jewish person’s only opportunity to buy a piece of land or a home in Israel would be on Shabbat since the non-Jewish seller would no longer be available later, then one would be permitted to do so.

Can you force your spouse to make aliya? Print E-mail
Friday, 09 July 2021

In Parshat Masei (Bamidbar 33:53) we learn about the mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel:

You shall possess the Land and you shall settle in it, for to you have I given the Land to possess it.

The Mishna in Ketubot 110b discusses the right of a person to require their family to relocate to Israel:

A person can force all the members of his household to make aliya, go up to Eretz Yisrael to live there, but he can force none of them to leave Eretz Yisrael. A person can force all the members of his household to go up to Jerusalem, but he can force none of them to leave Jerusalem. The same is true for both men and women.

A braita records the rulings that apply when a husband and wife disagree about moving to Eretz Yisrael or Jerusalem:

If he wants to go up to Eretz Yisrael or Jerusalem and she wants them not to go up, we force her to go up with him. But if she will not go up with him, then she must accept a divorce without receiving the additional entitlements written in her Ketuba. If she wants to go up and he does not want them to go up, we force him to go up with her. But if he will not go upwith her then he must divorce her and give her the Ketuba payments.

The braita continues regarding a husband and wife who disagree about leaving Eretz Yisrael or Jerusalem:

If she wants them to leave and he wants them not to leave, we force her not to leave. But if she will not remain in Eretz Yisrael or Jerusalem, then she mast leave him (accept a divorce) without receiving a Ketuba. If he wants them to leave, but she doesn’t want them to leave, then we force him not to leave. If he does not want to remain in Eretz Yisrael or Jerusalem, he must divorce her and give her the Ketuba.

We see from here how serious the mitzvah of making aliya and staying in Israel has always been.

It is important that couples who are dating discuss the potential of making aliya in the future. If one of the partners is against aliya, then it may not be a good match. The same is true for those already in Israel. If one has their eye on moving abroad at some point then the relationship may not work out.

May all who strive to make aliya have the opportunity to do so!

Is it permissible to leave Israel? Print E-mail
Friday, 17 July 2020

In Parshat Masei, Bamidbar 33:53, we are commanded to settle the Land of Israel: “Drive out the inhabitants of the Land and settle in it, because I have given this Land to you to possess.”

According to Ramban, Nachmanides, it is a Mitzvah to settle the Land of Israel and inherit it.

Rashbam explains that it is forbidden for a person to move out of the Land of Israel because they will remove themselves from the observance of the Torah’s commandments (as they won’t be able to observe the mitzvot hatluyot baaretz- the mitzvot that only apply in the Land of Israel such as Truma and Shmita).

If we are obligated to settle the Land and live there, are we permitted to leave and move elsewhere?

In the Talmud, Bava Batra 91a the Sages taught: One may not leave the Land of Israel to live in Chutz La’Aretz (outside of the Land of Israel) unless food prices have risen so sharply that two se’ah of wheat cost a sela (double the usual price).

From here it would seem that one could leave the Land if they find the products to be too expensive.

The Gemara then brings Rabbi Shimon’s dispute of the first opinion: When is it permitted to leave Israel? One is permitted to leave if there is no wheat to purchase. But when one is able to find wheat to purchase, then even if the wheat is so expensive that a se’ah costs a sela (four times the original price), one may not leave.

According to Rabbi Shimon, it is about the availability of the wheat, regardless of its price. If food is available, there is no reason to leave. Therefore, if there is enough food available and one can afford to feed their family, they may not leave even if the food is very expensive.

The Gemara continues: Similarly, Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai used to say: Elimelech, Machlon and Chilyon (Naomi’s husband and sons who left the Land of Israel during a famine and moved to Moav where they died) were the great men and caretakers of their generation. Why were they punished? Because they left the Land of Israel to go live outside the Land even though they had grain available to them. As it says (Megilat Ruth 1:19) “And it was when they (Naomi and Ruth) arrived in Bethlehem, that the entire city was in an uproar over them, and they said ‘Could this be Naomi?’”

The Gemara explains: What did they mean when they said, “Could this be Naomi?” Rabbi Yitzchak said: They said, “Have you seen Naomi who left the Land of Israel to go live outside the Land, and what happened to her?

The people were struck by the irony that they had remained in the Land of Israel and survived the famine while Naomi’s family who went to Moav to escape the famine died there.

We see from here that one is only permitted to leave if they can’t afford to put food on the table.

In Israel today, there is plenty of food. Many products such as fruits and vegetables and a lot of the basics are inexpensive yet other items are extremely expensive. If you shop at discount supermarkets and open air markets, you can get some very good deals. On the other hand, if you go to a more local grocery store and buy fancy imported products you will be spending a lot more.

If a person makes aliya and wants to make it work, they may have to give up some products that they are used to which are unavailable in Israel as well as other products that are available but overpriced. For example, a box of Shoprite brand “Crispy Corn Squares” (a generic brand, not even Corn Chex!) is 26 Shekels ($7.50) while a much larger box of Kellogg’s Corflakes is 13 Shekels, half the price! Although I love and miss Corn Chex, I can’t bring myself to spend so much unless they are on a very good sale. Yet I don’t feel like I have to move back to the United States because the cereal is expensive.

Anyone who makes aliya knows that they are not going to have the exact same job that they had abroad (unless they are working remotely from their old company) so they come with an understanding that they must be flexible and may need to be retrained or work in a totally different field including something “below” what they were doing before aliya. Many native Israelis don’t have that transition as they are privileged to have studied in Israel, have connections, speak fluent Hebrew and get jobs in the field that they pursued.

With the onset of the coronavirus, many Israelis are beside themselves after losing the jobs that they have been doing their whole lives. Every day for the last three months, the newspaper, Yediot Achronot has been highlighting Israelis who have lost their jobs and are now sitting around waiting for the government to help them out. It has been extremely sad and depressing to read these articles.

Today, for a change, there was an article about Israelis who can’t work in their regular fields right now due to the pandemic so they are creatively finding other ways to support themselves, even if they are lower paying, less glamorous jobs. I give the people who were featured a lot of credit for finding new ways to support their families. This is what new immigrants do when they get to Israel and this is what our grandparents and great grandparents did when they arrived in the US and Canada over 100 years ago.

If we want to make aliya work, we have to do everything that we can. For many, it will not be the same lifestyle that we left behind although someone must be buying the Crispy Corn Squares or else they wouldn’t be importing them. Those who want to stay must make a plan in order to remain here. But it is possible to make it work, even during a pandemic. If the Zionist dream and the mitzvah of settling the Land is more important to you than a box of cereal, then we hope that you will join us here in the Modern State of Israel.

What’s in a name? Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 August 2019

The Talmud in Bava Batra 119b quotes a Braita which teaches:

The daughters of Tzelophchad were wise, they were expounders of the Torah and they were righteous.

We see from here, that the rabbis gave the daughters of Tzelophchad a lot of credit for approaching Moshe and asking if they can inherit their father’s land as they had no brothers to inherit it.

What we don’t see in the Tanach or in the Midrash is an explanation of the meaning of the names of the daughters of Tzelophchad (who are mentioned four times in the Tanach), and listed in Parshat Masei (Bamidbar 36:11) in the following order: Machla, Tirtza, Hogla, Milka and Noa.

Ba’al HaRokeach, Rabbi Elazar of Germaiza (12-13th c.), one of the greatest scholars of Hasidei Ashkenaz, came up with his own interpretation of what their names mean. Professor Ephraim Hazan interprets Ba’al HaRokeach’s commentary:

Machla and Noa mean song with dance. He sees in the names, Machla and Noa movement within song and dance, prayers to God and trust in Him as it says in Tehillim 37:7 “Wait silently for the salvation of God and wait longingly (vehitcholel) for Him…” He adds another explanation for the name Noa, she moves like an instrument that you shake, like it says in Shmuel Bet, 6:5 “And David and all of B’nai Yisrael were rejoicing before God with all kinds of cypress wood instruments, with harps, lyres, drums, timbrels (b’mina’anim) and on cymbals”, in other words, an instrument which is used to praise God. Milka, (from the root melech, king/queen) caused Moshe to be coronated as king by God. When she and her sisters asked the question about their inheritance, Moshe had to consult with God. Hogla, means a circle dance. Tirtza, happy (merutza) and wants (rotza) what God wants (retzon kona), these are all plays on the root (ratza) in her name. She is happy with what she has and respects what God gives her.

Ba’al HaRokeach teaches us that from their names, we learn about their love of God, connection to Him, wisdom, joy, and appreciation of themselves and of God. We can also learn about their agility, diligence and accomplishments.

Unfortunately, Rabbi Elazar’s wife, Dolcea of Worms, whose name means agreeable, pleasant and kind in Latin and their two daughters were murdered in their home, right in front of him. Dolcea was a true woman of valor who ran the home, was a businesswoman and a Torah scholar. In Dolcea’s honor, Rabbi Elazar wrote a tribute to her and her accomplishments.

May we gain strength from learning about the daughters of Tzelophcahad and Dolcea and may there be many more female leaders in Israel.

Why should we specifically settle Israel? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 11 July 2018

In Parshat Masei (Bamidbar33:53) we are commanded: “Drive out the inhabitants of the land and settle in it, because I have given this land to you to possess.”

Ramban (Nachmanides) believes that it is a positive commandment to dwell in the Land of Israel and inherit it. Why? Because God gave it to them and they should not reject the inheritance of God. Thus if the thought occurs to them to go and conquer the land of Shinar or the land of Assyria or any other country and to settle therein, they are thereby transgressing the commandment of God.

Nehama Leibowitz points out that Ramban’s reasoning does not mention that the obligation to settle the Land is because it is a good land, better than the desolate lands of the other nations. Rather, because the Land was given to the Jewish people “and they should not reject the inheritance of God.”

Nehama Leibowitz adds: If you check Sefer Breisheet, you will not find the good properties of the Land or the concept of “a land flowing with milk and honey” mentioned at all to our forefathers. Avraham was not brought to the land to “eat from the fruits and be satisfied from all of the goodness.” Rather, all three of our forefathers encountered a famine during the time that they lived in the Land. The Patriarch’s loyalty to the Land was tested. Avraham left the Land during the famine but learned his lesson when he went down to Egypt and immediately came back. Yitzchak was not allowed to leave, even when there was a famine. The reason: “For unto you, and unto your seed, I will give all these lands.”

Nehama Leibowitz continues, God determines the boundaries of the nations. God allotted Israel its place in the world just the same as He did for the other nations. However, the Jewish people are aware that God granted the Land to them. This is not a matter of history but involves a religious mission, a moral obligation, the responsibility to observe a particular way of life in the Land.

Israel was the Land given to the Jewish people and we are therefore commanded to settle it. Everything else- the delicious fruits, the beautiful scenery etc. is a bonus. This is our gift from God. As the popular song by Ehud Manor goes, “Ein li eretz acheret”, I have no other land, even if my earth is burning.” As we have been watching the fields next to the Gaza strip set on fire by kites from Gaza, that song resonates with us now more than ever. May we see the end to the fires and return to the days when kites were used for fun and not for war.

The Importance of Open Spaces Print E-mail
Wednesday, 19 July 2017

In Parshat Masei we read about the land that will be given to the Leviim, Levites (Bamidbar 35:2-5):

Instruct B’nei Yisrael and have them give to the Leviim for their hereditary possession, cities in which to settle; and open space (migrash) for the cities all around you shall give to the Leviim. These cities shall be theirs for dwelling, and their open space shall be for their animals, their property and all of their necessities to live. The open space for the cities that you shall give to the Leviim shall extend from the walls of the city outward…This shall be the open spaces for the cities.

We see the word migrash (open space or clearing) used four times in these four sentences.

Rashi explains that a migrash is an empty area surrounding the city, to beautify the city. One is not permitted to build a house there or plant a vineyard or sow seeds.

The last mishna in Arachin teaches:

We may not make a field into a clearing nor a clearing into a field, nor a clearing into a city nor a city into a clearing. Rabbi Elazar said: With regards to what cities are these rulings stated? They are stated with regard to the cities of the Leviim. But with regard to the cities of the Yisraelim, we can make a field into a clearing, a clearing into a field and a clearing into a city but not a city into a clearing lest they destroy the cities of Israel.

We see here the importance of urban planning even in Biblical times. It was crucial not to destroy the farmland on the one hand, and not to impair the beauty of the city on the other hand. It is also important to make sure that people have a place to live. Therefore, we are not permitted to turn a city into a clearing (even when it comes to other cities in the Land of Israel that do not belong to the Leviim).

The Biblical term migrash refers to an empty piece of land outside the city where the shepherds took their sheep to graze.

In Modern Hebrew, a migrash means a plot of land that can eventually be built on. Migrash is also the word used for a field that is used to play sports.

For the past two weeks many of Israel’s fields were put to good use by the Maccabiah games. It was a pleasure to meet so many dedicated athletes who chose to combine their love of sports and their love of the Land of Israel out on our playing fields.

What makes Israel so beautiful is the fact that there are many open spaces. It is important that when new cities are built that the beaches and nature reserves are preserved and that parks and playing fields are constructed for the community.

How laundry stains were removed in Biblical days Print E-mail
Monday, 08 August 2016

This week’s Haftara (Yirmiyahu 2:4-28, 3:4, 4:1-2), the second of the three Haftarot of destruction speaks about how God is bitter and angry at the Jewish people for worshiping other gods.

They are told in 2:22, “Even were you to wash yourself with neter and use much borit upon yourself, your iniquity is the mark of a stain before me, says the Lord, God.”

Both neter and borit were laundry detergents that were used at the time of the Tanach and Talmud which were able to remove the toughest of stains such as bloodstains.

There is a dispute as to what exactly neter is. According to Yerushalmi, Shabbat 9:5, neter is natron, a naturally occurring form of sodium carbonate (commonly used in Egypt). Rashi in Avodah Zarah identifies neter as alum (which is white). Rambam translates neter as tafal in Arabic which is a type of chalk.

There is also a question as to what exactly borit is. The Talmud, Nida 62a states that it isn’t sulpher, as it is a plant. The Talmud suggests that it may be a type of aloe (not the common aloe), an herbal cleanser (possibly Mesembryanthemum). Rashi in Sanhedrin 49b says that neter is soapwort (Saponaria), a plant which is used to make soap.

The metaphor from Yirmiyahu 2:22 leaves no hope for repentance. No matter how much we scrub our laundry with the best detergents, we are not going to get the stains out. No matter how much we try to repent, our sins will still not be forgiven, the stains will remain.

This is very different from the quote that we find two chapters later in Yirmiyahu 4:14, “O Yerushalayim, wash your heart from wickedness, that you may be saved. How long shall your thoughts of calamity lodge within you?”

Abravanel explains the difference: If you are wicked in secret but pious in public, God will know your inward evil and it will not count as repentance.

Nehama Leibowitz points out that 4:14 refers to washing your heart (true repentance that God will accept) while 2:22 depicts the laundering of a garment.

The nine days leading up to Tisha B’Av which begin today are a time that we traditionally refrain from washing our garments. Wouldn’t this be an appropriate time to focus on spiritually cleansing our hearts from any wrong that we may have committed?

Stop complaining about the Chief Rabbinate & start making a difference! Print E-mail
Wednesday, 15 July 2015

In loving memory of David B. Schwartz,  Dov Ber ben Tzvi Zev z"l, 

on his Yahrzeit, 29 Tammuz 

Sponsored by his sister, Judy Schwartz Floam


In Parshat Masei, Bamidbar 33:53 we are commanded: “Drive out the inhabitants of the land and settle in it because I have given this land to you to possess.”


According to the Ramban (Nachmanides) we learn from this verse that settling the Land of Israel is one of the 613 commandments from the Torah.


Nechama Leibowitz points out that “there can be no complete observance, in all spheres of life of the mitzvoth of the Torah outside of the Land of Israel. The Torah cannot be observed in its entirety except in a society wholly governed by its precepts and not in an alien framework ruled by other ideals. There are personal religious obligations that can be observed anywhere…but the Torah as a whole implies a complete social order, a judiciary, national, economic and political life. That can only be achieved in the Holy Land and not outside it.”


In an ideal world, this would bring about a Kiddush HaShem (sanctification of God’s name). However, today there is an abuse in power in Israel and instead of the ideal there is also corruption which ends up causing a Chilul HaShem (desecration of God’s name).


Many of the religious problems in Israel today have to do with the Chief Rabbinate being stricter than necessary in the areas of conversion, marriage, divorce, funerals, Kashrut and the Temple Mount.


In Jewish law there is a range of varying opinions which can all be valid. It doesn’t make sense that only a few opinions are accepted and everyone else is shut out.


In fact, that is one reason why we have both a Sepahrdic and an Ashkenasic Chief Rabbi.


Israel has a lot to learn from the Diaspora where members choose their own community rabbi who presides over the conversions, weddings, divorces, funerals etc.


An individual who is converting, getting married or divorced will not be comfortable going through this process with a rabbi that they have no connection to.


There are a wide variety of points of view in the laws of keeping kosher, some stricter and some more lenient. There is no reason that every restaurant has to conform to more rigid and more expensive standards than Jewish law requires.


There are also different viewpoints on the issue Jews ascending the Temple Mount. Both assessments should be respected without the Chief Rabbinate choosing sides.


The good news is that many Jewish leaders who are originally from North America are bringing American values to Israel.


Rabbi Seth Farber of Itim is helping sincere converts handle the bureaucracy of dealing with the Chief Rabbinate and the Ministry of Interior.


Rabbi Aaron Leibowitz started an independent kosher certification called Hashgacha Pratit (pivate supervision) with his own set of mashgichot that certify that the food is Kosher.


Tzohar Rabbis help make brides and grooms who are not necessarily observant feel comfortable having a religious wedding service.


Rabbi Yehuda Glick has been active in trying to ensure that Jews can observe Jewish law while visiting the Temple Mount.


Rabbi Shlomo Riskin trains toanot (female rabbinic advocates) to represent women who are going through a divorce in the rabbinic courts.


The list can go on and on…


What we learn from here is that it is no use to sit around complaining about the Chief Rabbinate. Those who want to make a change must come and settle the Land of Israel and help make changes from within.

The Commandment to Drive Out the Inhabitants in order to Settle the Land Print E-mail
Thursday, 24 July 2014

In Bamidbar 33:50-56 we read:

God spoke to Moshe in the plains of Moav along the Yarden near Yericho saying:


“Speak to B’nai Yisrael and say to them: ‘When you cross the Yarden to the Land of Cnaan, you must drive out the inhabitants of the land before you. You must destroy all their carved stones and demolish all of their cast metal idols and tear down their altars. Drive out the inhabitants of the land and settle in it because I have given this land to you to possess. You shall give the land as an inheritance to your family by means of a lottery; to the large family you shall increase its portion, to the small family you shall decrease its portion. To whomever the lottery system ordains, it shall be his; according to the paternal tribes shall you shall inherit. But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land before you, those whom you will leave over will be spikes in your sides and they will persecute you upon the land which you settle. And it shall be that what I intended to do to them I will do to you.’”


According to Rashi, the words “Drive out the inhabitants of the land” mean make it vacant of its inhabitants and then “you shall dwell in it”, you shall be able to endure there. If not, you shall be unable to endure there.


It is not enough to just conquer the Land of Israel. After we conquer it we must settle it so that the Land of Israel will remain in our hands.


According to Rabbi Saul Berman, today, those who are not Jewish are viewed as observers of the Seven Mitzvot of Noach. They are in the category of Ger Toshav (Resident Alien). They are not forced out of the Land of Israel and are welcome to live peacefully with us.


However, according to the law of Ger Toshav, those who transgress the Seven Mitzvot of Noach (which include not committing murder) may not remain in the Land of Israel.


The Torah is very specific with the fact that if we allow these inhabitants to stay they will be “spikes in your sides and they will persecute you upon the land which you settle.”


These verses ring true today. Nine years ago, for the sake of peace we gave away the Gaza strip. Instead of bringing safety and security we were rewarded with endless rockets being shot at Israel as well as numerous terror tunnels being dug to try to murder as many Israelis as possible. The Hamas leadership that has taken over Gaza is clearly not acting as a Ger Toshav, rather they are acting as murderers that must be removed from the Land of Israel.


Unfortunately, we lost many wonderful soldiers this week while fighting the war against Hamas. Three of the soldiers who specifically stand out are St.-Sgt. Jordan Bensemhoun z”l, 22, Sgt. Sean (Nissim) Carmelli z”l, 21 and St.- Sgt. Max Steinberg z”l.


These three young men were lone soldiers. Jordan was from France and Sean and Max were from the United States. Each of them made a decision to leave their families behind and join the Israeli army. They understood the importance of conquering the land so that we may settle in it.


Some were afraid that very few people would attend their funerals. Despite the security situation, over 5,000 people attended Jordan’s funeral in Ashkelon, a coastal city that has been pounded by rockets. Sean’s funeral was in Haifa, a relatively safe area and was attended by over 20,000 Israelis from all over the country. Max’s funeral was in Jerusalem which thankfully has not been hit by rockets and was attended by over 30,000 people.


Israelis are in awe of the fact that someone who is not required to fight on behalf of Israel would join the Israeli army. They appreciate the fact that someone from overseas would want to help and even ultimately give their life in order to insure the safety and security of all Israelis.


As we read this week’s Parsha, we must remember that in order to observe the mitzvah of dwelling in the Land of Israel we must drive out the inhabitants who want to destroy us no matter what the rest of the world might think. 

My Favorite Book of Maps Print E-mail
Saturday, 21 July 2012

One of my favorite books is called Eleh Mas’ei by Dan Schwartz.


Why do I love this book so much?


Eleh Mas’ei is a collection of maps and satellite photos depicting the precise location of the places mentioned in the Torah. When we read Parshat Masei without the help of a Biblical map book it is very hard for us to understand where B’nai Yisrael traveled and camped when they were in the desert as well as the exact Biblical borders of the Land of Israel. Reading Parshat Masei with this book of maps really makes the Torah come alive.


When we sit in shul and listen to the Torah reading we hear a list of places, some that we may be familiar with, for example, Yam Hamelach (the Dead Sea), The Yarden (Jordan River) and The Kineret and many other places that we may not be familiar with. Living in Israel, we may recognize the names of some of the places mentioned such as Atzmon (a Yishuv) and Maaleh Akrabim from encountering them in our daily lives.


When we follow Parshat Masei with the maps, we have the opportunity to focus on the fact that the Sinai desert is not very big depite the long list of places where B’nai Yisrael camped and that the only reason that they spent 40 years circling the desert was because of the sin of the spies when B’nai Yisrael declared that they didn’t want to enter the Land of Israel and they therefore received the punishment that their generation would die in the desert and that they would not enter the Land of Israel.


The maps also help us focus on the fact that the Biblical Land of Israel is not very big and that the modern State of Israel is even smaller.


What do I like even more than reading Parshat Masei with my book of maps? I enjoy traveling the Land of Israel with a TaNaCh in hand, watching history unfold before my eyes, seeing the Torah truly come alive.


The next time that you are in Israel, I challenge you to find some of the places that you have never been to from this week’s Parsha. For those of you who are already here, you are welcome to join me, the Midreshet Devora students and some of Israel’s top scholars on out next TaNaCh Tiyul!

The Parting of the Jordan River Print E-mail
Tuesday, 02 August 2011

In Parshat Masei, Bamidbar 33:50-52 we read: “God spoke to Moshe in the plains of Moav along the Yarden (Jordan) near Yericho (Jericho) saying: Speak to B’nai Yisrael and say to them: when you cross the Yarden to the land of C’naan, you must drive out all of the inhabitants of the land before you…”


Rashi asks: How many times do B’nai Yisrael have to be warned to drive out the inhabitants and not worship their idols?


Rashi’s answer is that specifically while they are crossing the Yarden there is a condition: If you want to cross the Yarden on dry land (as opposed to drowning in it) you will have to have the intention that you plan on driving out the inhabitants.


In Masechet Sotah 34a, we read a Braita which fills in what Yehoshua said to B’nai Yisrael when they were actually crossing the Yarden: “Know on what condition God is miraculously parting the waters to allow you to cross. It is on the condition that you will drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you. If you do this, good; but if not, then the water will come and drown both me and you.”


When asked what her favorite part of her year in Israel was, one of my students at Midreshet Devora mentioned having the opportunity to get her feet wet in the Jordan River and study these passages from the TaNaCh at the spot where they actually took place.


How much more meaningful must it have been for B’nai Yisrael to see the splitting of the Jordan River and trust in God that they would make it to the other side.


We learn from here that each person who comes to Israel comes on a condition that they will do their part to help our homeland. There is so much that still needs to be done and every person can make their own contribution but if we work together we can make an even larger contribution.


The Gemara in Sotah adds: We have an oral tradition that the burden a person is capable of lifting onto his shoulder by himself is 1/3 of the weight  of the burden he can support if others help him load it on.


Lets all work together in helping build up and hold on to the modern State of Israel.

The Contributions that New Immigrants Can Make Print E-mail
Friday, 09 July 2010

In Parshat Masei we are commanded to settle the Land of Israel: Bamidbar 33: 53 states: “And you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the Land and dwell in it: for I have given you the land to possess it.”


In the days of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, when there was a famine in The Land of Israel, God promised Yitzchak in Breisheet 26:2-3 “…Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the Land which I will tell you about: sojourn in this Land, and I will be with you, and I will bless you for unto you, and unto your seed, I will give all of these lands.”


Nehama Leibowitz asks the following question: What is the difference between B’nai Yisrael’s relationship to their homeland and the other nations relationship to theirs?


Nechama Leibowitz answers that B’nai Yisrael are aware that the Land of Israel was granted by God. This is not just history, it involves a moral obligation, the responsibility to observe a particular way of life in that Land. According to Ramban, B’nail Yisrael were specifically commanded to take possession of the Land of Israel and live there to fulfill their religious mission.


Today, we see individuals making a conscious decision to make aliya in order to observe the mitzvah of settling the Land as well as to observe the many mitzvoth that can only be performed in the Land of Israel such as the Shmittah year (the Sabbatical year).


As well, there are those who feel that instead of just mentioning Jerusalem in their prayers three times a day they would rather take action and actually move to Israel.


Six years ago, when I made aliya, I had the honor of being greeted at the airport by Natan Sharansky.


Natan Sharansky, now chief of the Jewish Agency addressed the olim (new immigrants) that arrived from North America this week as well. In his speech, Natan Sharansky said, “From my own experience, I can tell you there is nothing like being the first generation in Israel…There is nothing like an oleh – a new immigrant to Israel – to go up, up, and up- you don’t have a word in English for this…Now you are becoming Israelis – but don’t be in a hurry to drop everything you brought from America...We still need your passion for social activism, for small government, for clean politics… that’s your contribution.” 

In addition to taking on more mitzvot between themselves and God, the new olim also have the opportunity to perform mitzvot between themselves and their fellow Israelis and make contributions to improve Israeli society.

The Aliya Revolution Print E-mail
Tuesday, 05 August 2008

Chapter 34 of Parshat Masei begins with the following words (Bamidbar 34:1-2): “God spoke to Moshe saying: Instruct (Tzav et) B’nai Yisrael and say to them: “When you come to the Land of C’naan, this is the land which will fall to you as hereditary property, the Land of C’naan according to its borders”.

In Bamidbar Raba, Naso, Section 7 we see two Rabbi’s opinions on what the word “Tzav” refers to:

1. Rabbi Yehuda Ben Betira said: “The word Tzav means urging (ziruz) as it says in Devarim 3:28 ‘You shall command (Tzav et) Yehoshua and strengthen him and give him resolve, for he shall cross before the people and he shall cause them to inherit the Land that you will see”.

2. Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai says: “The word Tzav implies loss of money as it says in Bamidbar 35:2: “Instruct (Tzav et) B’nai Yisrael and have them give to the Levi’im from their hereditary possession, cities in which to settle; and open space for the cities all around you shall give to the Levi’im’. The only time that Tzav means urging as opposed to loss of money is in Bamidbar 34, 1-2 in reference to the inheritance of the Land of Israel”.

Rabbi Shaul Yedidya Elazar MiModzitz explains that although when people make aliya (immigrate to Israel) they are often leaving their businesses and properties behind, in the end it is not a monetary loss since Jewish property in the galut (exile) often doesn’t endure after a few generations (which we have seen throughout history). Therefore the command implies urging immediately and for the generations to follow: Come to the Land of Israel and inherit it! The command does not imply that part of making aliya is not having a lot of money or possessions.

Today, many people continue to run businesses outside of Israel after making aliya thanks to technology that was never before available. With the option of bringing a “lift”, olim (immigrants) can bring almost all of their possessions (except for their house and land of course).

For those who have made aliya already and feel that they are losing a lot of money (or not earning much) we must keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be that way, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and the most precious possession and inheritance that we have is the Land of Israel, a place that many Jews only dreamed about for thousands of years.

Israel- How You Can Help Print E-mail
Thursday, 20 July 2006

This past week in Israel we have unfortunately heard the term "miklat", shelter used over and over again. Each time that a rocket is about to fall, the residents of the city under attack have to seek refuge in the shelters which were built specifically for this purpose. In some cities, residents are living in the shelters because they don't know when the next rocket will be launched. Some shelters are empty rooms packed with people, others are equipped with exercise equipment and many have been turned into day camps and mini amusement parks during the day to keep the children occupied during this difficult time.

Where does the term "miklat" come from?

It is actually from this week's Parsha, Parshat Masei, Bamidbar 35:9-15. "God spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to B'nai Yisrael and say to them: When you cross the Jordan into the land of C'naan you shall designate cities for yourselves, "arei miklat", cities of refuge shall they be for you and a murderer shall flee there- one who takes a life unintentionally. The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, so that the murderer will not die until he stands before the assembly for judgment. As to the cities that you shall designate, there shall be six cities of refuge for you. Three cities shall you designate on the other side of the Jordan, and three cities shall you designate in the land of C'naan; they shall be cities of refuge. For B'nai Yisrael and the convert and resident among them shall these six cities be a refuge for anyone who kills a person unintentionally to flee there."

Only the court had the right to decide if a murder was committed by accident or on purpose. Until the trial would take place, there was a fear that a close relative of the person who was murdered would want to kill the perpetrator. To prevent him from doing this, the Torah provides these cities of refuge where the perpetrator is safe and cannot be harmed.

How unfortunate is it that today innocent residents of Israel, men, women and children, Jews and non-Jews alike who have not even committed an accidental crime have to leave their homes, hide out and fear for their lives? How fortunate are we that we understood this reality and built buildings which include "miklatim" so that we can protect our citizens during this difficult time.

What can each of us do to help Israel at this time?

  1. Recite appropriate chapters of Tehilim (Psalms) such as Psalms 20, 83, 121, 130, 142.
  2. Attend synagogue services on Shabbat and pray with added kavana, intent/focus specifically during the Prayer for the State of Israel, the Prayer for the Soldiers, Sim Shalom and Oseh Shalom.
  3. Call friends and family in Israel to show your support.
  4. Attend pro-Israel rallies to show the world that you care.
  5. Respond to media that is clearly biased.
  6. Support Israel financially. Torat Reva Yerushalayim, in addition to our annual campaign which is currently underway is working on organizing special shiurim, Torah study classes for residents of Northern Israel who have been forced to evacuate their homes due to rocket attacks and are now staying in Jerusalem.

Please contribute to this special project! Checks can be made payable to Torat Reva Yerushalayim. Please earmark your contributions "Evacuated Israelis". All donations are fully tax deductible.

The Biblical Significance of Settling Israel Print E-mail
Thursday, 04 August 2005

The source for the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, Settling the Land of Israel can be found in Parshat Masei.

Vehorashtem et HaAretz Viyashavtem Ba Ki Lachem Natati et HaAretz Lareshet Otah”,

You shall inherit the land and you shall settle it for to you I have given the land to posses it”.

According to Ramban, Nachmanides, it is a Mitzvat Aseh, a positive commandment to live in the land of Israel and inherit it.

The mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael is actually made up of two components:

Lashevet Baaretz- to live in the land.

Liyashev et HaAretz- to settle the land, build it up and make it fruitful.

Those who perform the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael will receive a great reward.

The Avnei Nezer, Rabbi Avraham Bornstein suggests that the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael is not just to physically live in the land. The Mitzvah includes contributing to the economy and improving society as well.

How can those who are not ready to make Aliya at least partially observe the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael?

Visit Israel- The Magen Avraham brings the opinion that we may partially be observing the Mitzvah by visiting Israel, depending on the length of our stay.

Buy Land in Israel- Rabbi Yaakov Reines, founder of the Mizrachi party in the early 20th century said that buying land in Eretz Yisrael is an act of great merit and those who do so participate in this holy endeavor.

Planting trees in Israel- Most of the forests in Israel today have been planted since the beginning of the 20th century. Since 1948, 196 million trees have been planted.

Supporting Israel.

By supporting Torat Reva Yerushalayim you can become a partner in the mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael