Parasha Insights


This coming Sunday, June 20, 21 is the fast day of the 17th of Tammuz. It is the day that the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, enabling the enemy's conquest of the holy city, leading to the destruction of the Holy Temple three weeks later on the 9th of Av.

What is the mindset to enter into this period?

Let me share a story, recorded in the gripping autobiography of Rabbi Lau, Out of the Depths. When Rabbi Lau, former chief rabbi of Israel, shuts his eyes and recalls his childhood, his mind is crowded with images of trains, of boots pounding on the pavement, of barking dogs. He hears children wailing, "Mamme! Tatte!" as they are torn from their parent's arms, the Gestapo screaming, "Schnell… Read More »


There was a teacher known for his constant preaching about the need to nurture children with warmth and love.

One time he noticed some children who were playing in the freshly laid concrete outside his newly renovated home, their little feet leaving lasting impressions. He became irritated and started chastising the children.

A congregant asked, "How can you, a person who devoted his entire life to teaching warmth to children, speak this way?"

The teacher replied:  "You must understand. I love children in the abstract, not the concrete."

In this week's Portion Chukat the Torah describes,

at last, the moment had arrived. For 40 years they had wandered together in a wilderness. Most of the older… Read More »


It is one of the stranger stories in the Talmud: A harp was hanging above King David's bed. As soon as midnight arrived, a North wind came and blew upon it and it played of itself. He arose immediately and studied the Torah till the break of dawn. After the break of dawn, the wise men of Israel came in to see King David and said to him: Our master, the King, Israel your people require sustenance! They need to live! He said to them: Let them go out and make a living one from the other.

They said to him: A handful cannot satisfy a lion, You need to bring more earth from elsewhere to fill the pit. David said to them: Then go out in troops and attack the enemy for plunder.

This serene, perhaps mystical, scene is rudely intruded by the… Read More »


I received this message on my Whats-App: Born before Sep. 4, 1998? Congratulations! You are older than Google.

So I just told my kids I’m older than Google. They think I am joking. I told them: Actually, I’m like Google’s granddaddy. Yet Google knows me better than my wife knows me.


The purpose of their journey was to prepare the Jewish people for the subsequent conquest and settlement of the Land.


The mission ended in disaster. The spies inculcated fear and despair among the Jews, resulting in national hysteria and refusal to continue the journey to the Promised Land. Yet there is a sequel to the story, recorded in the second chapter of the book of Joshua, and it is read in the haftarah of Shelach. 39… Read More »

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