by Rebbetzin Malkah
There is an aggadah (legend) in the Midrash that the Roman Emperor Hadrian asked how man would be revived in the World to Come; Rabbi Joshua Ben Hananiah replied that it would be "From Luz, in the back-bone." "Prove this to me," said Hadrian. Then the Rabbi took Luz, a small bone of the spine, and immersed it in water, but it was not softened; he put it into the fire, but it was not consumed; he put it into a mill, but it could not be pounded; he placed it upon an anvil and struck it with a hammer, but the anvil split and the hammer was broken. (Ecclesiastes Rabbah xii / Genesis Rabbahxviii).
"Yaacov arose early in the morning and took the stone that he place around his head and set it up as a pillar; and he poured oil on its top. And he named that place Beth-el; however Luz was the city's name originally." Bereishis 28:18-19
by Rabbi Jason
G-d must be an engineer. Well, at least I try to tell myself this. We all look at Hashem through the lenses of our own experience. I like to build things, and have done so to varying degrees since I was a child. I know that one of the “hats” Hashem wears is that of Creator, Builder, and Thinker Upper of Stuff. The Torah is filled with stories and accountings of great detail. G-d is a G-d of order, we are all told. But you need only open up the first story to understand the order of creation and start to apply it to your own life.
by Rebbetzin Malkah
"We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true, and the resentment aroused when doubt is cast upon any of our assumptions leads us to seek every manner of excuse for clinging to them. The result is that most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do." James Harvey Robinson, American historian (1863-1936)
A quote like the one above succinctly sums up the tone and the troubles of the Children of Israel throughout the book of Bamidbar. The continuing struggle for a past reality, the misconception that all that there was and is now is all that will be, and the struggle to step forward in faith. As we see all around the world, society is becoming disgruntled over the price of fuel. Not one of us wants to pay more for the substance, but neither does anyone wish to run completely out of petrol on the highway or byway. But perhaps the solution coming our way is quite contrary to what we might expect or desire. Indeed, what we might need is to come to the verge of running out completely in order to spur on a true change and a new hope. As B'nei Yisrael needed to enter the vast desert to run out all of their adverse ways, the future of transportation and our own lives is very much dependent on one thing for change: an empty tank.
The car packed to the hilt, the Thule threatening to burst at the seams atop our car, our family drove with desperation for one purpose only: to be near the mountains. The familiar rental cabin nestled fifteen miles from Mt. Baker in Washington affords five star mountain accommodations: no cell phone access, no wireless internet and no cable TV. In essence, the goal was to set up shop, our own Mishkan, away from the roar of everyday life. While some of the usual technological conveniences were lost, we knew we would not be without the four elements crucial to the Mishkan and considered symbolically essential in any Jewish home: the Ark, the Table, the Menorah and the Incense Altar. Ok, well not literally - they wouldn't fit in the car. However, all of these elements are interconnected to the basic physical elements that still exist in this world: air, fire, earth and water. Being out in the more remote areas at the foot of a mountain, it wasn't hard to see that I was in a larger than life Mishkan model that was vitally connected to all of these natural elements. Perhaps it was noticing on our second day the Holy Smoke bus, clad in gold (or school bus yellow paint) that waited outside the gate of the cabin properties boasting of an eatery just down the road. It sat there, as if some beacon, reminding me that even in this remote area, under the Heavens, we carry our own Mishkans with us today and follow suit with the kohanim: setting up, tearing down, wherever we go, wherever we stay.
by Rebbetzin Malkah
It looks something like this: Esav pulls up to Yaacov's tent exhausted. With reckless ambition, he orders a bowl of lentil stew super-sized, pays with his birthright, and drives off gastronomically satisfied. And there you have it: the first drive-through in history. Sound familiar? While we have Esav to thank for this modern-day invention, more importantly his example is an admonition in preserving our own birthrights : our generations and our destinies. For in casting off his birthright so frivolously, he forfeited not only generational blessing and achievement, but also the chance to merit the world to come. If we can recognize the gravity of preserving and emboldening our present and future toldot (generations) by the very manner in which we feed our lives, not only will our very lives and destinies be impacted, but we will move the Malchut Shamayim (Kingdom of Heaven) ever closer.
by Rebbetzin Malkah
When we think about taking a holiday, we imagine pristine beaches with white sand, blue water, blue skies. Or perhaps it is that mountain vista with ice cold streams bubbling down river rock dotted beds, deer crossing the forest laden roads and the clean quiet. But how many of us imagine a hut topped with branches so we can see the stars, walls for protection from the wind and sun, and a chance to eat and sleep in the outdoors during one of the more unsettling times of the year? Most of us probably don't conjure up such images in the autumn, but it is precisely at this time when we read Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), enter the outdoors, and contemplate our true purpose and the meaning of life: outside the safety and comfort of our home.
By Rebbetzin Malkah
Each one of us has one. It doesn't matter how great or small we may be - we each possess some vehicle upon which we transport our desires in order to see their fruition. This week's parasha illuminates so much more than a talking donkey that transports Balaam and his wicked desires. The rabbis contend that this story of Balaam, as an allegory or prophetic vision, is its own book. Slated almost as a commercial break in the middle of Bamidbar, parasha Balak offers us deep insight into the human psyche and the inner workings of an unhealthy neshama. Taking a break from the troubles of Yisrael, it lays out the tragedy of a soul gone awry and shows us the power of speech, blessing and desire.