Thursday, July 23, 2015

"Pour out my heart like water" – thoughts for Tisha b’Av 5775

image

Sitting here in Toronto, the big difference between Israel and the world I grew up in is obvious.  I heard this in a shiur yesterday from Rabbanit Chana Henkin, who said, "There's nothing like water to emphasize the difference between inside and outside Israel."

Toronto, in particular, is a deliciously watery place.  Perched on the brink of Lake Ontario, nestled between two (kinda, used-to-be) mighty rivers. 

image

The water here makes me happy.  Sort of.

But you know where else had a lot of water?

Babylon.  (Again, this is not my idea, it’s Rabbanit Henkin’s; I just wrote it down.)

Friday, July 10, 2015

Why Jewish reincarnation matters (even if you don’t believe in reincarnation) - a dvar Torah for Parshas Pinchas

image

Do you know what Judaism teaches about reincarnation? Many people are surprised to hear that this is even part of our worldview.

I read on Chabad.org that the reason we aren’t aware of previous incarnations is because if we were, we wouldn’t be able to have complete free will.

Because of this, learning what Judaism teaches about reincarnation might seem useless, since it has no practical benefit. Also, there’s an idea that these mystical concepts can easily be misunderstood, or carried to misleading conclusions. That, it said, was “why this and similar subjects are only hinted at in scripture.”

So what does this all have to do with this week’s parsha?

Everything. Because those hints are there, once you start looking for them.

This week’s parsha starts with a throwback to last week’s parsha. The parsha is actually named after a guy who did a really brave but slightly shocking thing in last week’s parsha. His name is Pinchas, and he killed a man named Zimri.

 

Who the heck are these people?

Pinchas appears first, and the parsha is named after him. He was the son of Eleazar, the son of Aharon who became kohein gadol (high priest) in last week’s parsha. Aharon, of course, was a descendent of the tribe of Levi.

The man he killed was Zimri, the son of Salu, and he was from the tribe of Shimon. In fact, to be entirely accurate, he was the leader of the tribe of Shimon. A pretty important guy.