the Haftara for Parshas Pinchas is normally about Eliyahu, for well-known reasons.
Yet, when it falls after 17 Tammuz, we read from the first chapter of Yirmiyahu instead, to fit the sad theme of this time of year.
Yet there is also a very strong connection between the Parsha itself and the Haftara from Yirmiyahu.
The first chapter of Yirmiyahu deals with his sanctification as a Navi. In Parshas Pinchas, Yehoshua is sanctified as a Navi in place of Moshe Rabbenu.
It cannot be coincidental that Yehoshua is the one who took us into Eretz-Yisrael , and Yirmiyahu is the one who, in his prophecies of punishment, took us out into exile.
During this period of time, the message is stark: We cannot take Eretz-Yisrael for granted- our rights to it are completely determined on whether we keep our part of the deal.
At the same time as we meet Yehoshua, we also meet Yirmiyahu, and its is up to us to decide, whose message will be fulfilled in our day.

Parshas Shlach- Attitude is everything.

What was wrong with sending spies to check out the land?


Rashi explains, quoting Chazal, that Hashem told Moshe to “send for himself” spies to check out the land, because Hashem himself was not altogether happy with the idea.

And indeed, we know that this action ended in disaster.

Yet, we find that when finally entering the land 40 years later, Yehoshua also went to spy out the land, seemingly forgetting this important lesson.

Furthermore, Moshe gives the spies precise instructions regarding what to look out for, including the nature of the inhabitants and their cities, and they seem to come back with  a report that follows those questions.

What exactly did they do wrong?


It seems to me, that as with many things in life, sending spies was not in itself a bad thing, but completely dependent on the attitude and intentions of the spies.

It is completely acceptable and even advisable not to rely unnecessarily on miracles and to take whatever steps one can take to prepare for whatever situation one might encounter.


Entering the land was not supposed to be subject to debate, but it was still up to the people to plan their strategy as to the best way to conquer it, and that depended very much on the nature of the inhabitants and their cities.

Had the spies had the correct attitude, realized that Hashem’s promise to take us into the land was not subject to question, kept their ultimate faith in Hashem’s ability to so, and merely used the mission as a strategy planning session, hence doing their part and then “letting” Hashem do his, the idea would have been very positive, and Moshe indeed saw It this way.

Yet Hashem, of course, knew their most intimate thoughts and understood that their intentions were not so correct, and thus disassociated “himself” from it.

The Ramban indeed  follows this approach- from the words of Rashi, I think that one can take it a step further as well, focussing not only on strategy, but also on  the importance of positive thinking.


In explaining the instruction to check out the land, Rashi comments :

את הארץ מה היא – יש ארץח מגדלת גבורים ויש ארץ מגדלת חלשיםט יש מגדלת אוכלוסין ויש ממעטתי אוכלוסין:

“There are some lands that breed strong people and some lands that breed weak people. Some lands breed large populations and others limit them.”


It is clear that the spies were instructed to see a large and powerful population as a positive sign, as proof that the land was good to its inhabitants, and would be equally or even better to us.


The spies were expected to go in with positive thinking, and interpret whatever they saw in a positive light, and come back and use the information to encourage and motivate the people – even a large and powerful population was supposed to be seen as a  positive sign.


Yet the spies did exactly the opposite , and used their findings of a strong and powerful population to frighten the people out of entering the land- their words ” we won’t be able to go up  to the nation because they are too strong for us”, gives them away.

Not satisfied with interpreting the people’s strength as a negative, they then proceed to talk bad about the land itself.

Instead of using this holy mission to plan their strategy for the promised entry into the land, and to find information that would help inspire and motivate the people to do so, they use the information they saw to frighten and scare the people and convince them that going to the land was a suicide mission, despite Hashem’s promise.


Our mission is to follow the guidelines Hashem has given us to the best of our ability, and to take whatever practical steps are necessary to help us fulfil that mission.

In addition, whatever challenges we face along the way should be interpreted positively, and used to further motivate ourselves to follow this mission.

Using the challenges  we encounter as excuses to absolve ourselves of this mission is simply not an acceptable option- we need to see the cup as at the least “half full”, not “half empty” appreciate the good in whatever challenges we face, and use it to inspire us to do more good.


This is no small challenge, and indeed, most of the greatest men of the generation failed this test, but it is no excuse not to at least try.

Parshas Vayechi: The dangers of Zealotry

Yaakov Avinu’s final condemnation of unconstrained zealotry
In what seems to be a most unlikely and inappropriate setting- his final words to his children, Yaakov gives a brutally harsh rebuke to his second and third eldest sons, Shimon and Levi.

Referring to their genocidal elimination of the village of Shechem (כי באפם הרגו איש) , in retaliation for their complicity in the kidnapping and rape of their sister Dina, he refers to their tools as “weapons of Hamas (literally stolen weapons). “

Rashi comments that Yaakov is telling them that they had stolen the tools of Eisav, the man of war, the hunter, in carrying out this impulsive and unacceptable operation.

It could possibly be the equivalent of calling the Jewish Underground, that placed many a bomb in civilian Arab areas, Nazis and worse- the way of the Aryan “Master Race””, not of the Torah’s “Chosen Nation- a light unto the nations.”

His condemnation continues:
בְּסֹדָם֙ אַל־תָּבֹ֣א נַפְשִׁ֔י בִּקְהָלָ֖ם אַל־תֵּחַ֣ד כְּבֹדִ֑י כִּ֤י בְאַפָּם֙ הָ֣רְגוּ אִ֔ישׁ וּבִרְצֹנָ֖ם עִקְּרוּ־שֽׁוֹר:
(ז) אָר֤וּר אַפָּם֙ כִּ֣י עָ֔ז וְעֶבְרָתָ֖ם כִּ֣י קָשָׁ֑תָה אֲחַלְּקֵ֣ם בְּיַעֲקֹ֔ב וַאֲפִיצֵ֖ם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל: ס
“In their council, let my soul not enter, in their assembly, let my honor not participate, for in their anger, they killed a man ,and with their will, they uprooted an ox.”

Those who get offended when extremist Jews who advocate “death to Arabs” or forced transfer, are accused of being Jewish fascists or even Nazis, might take well to note that the first person to accuse fellow Jews of behaving in such a way, appears to be none other than Yaakov Avinu- a frightening thought indeed!

In contrast, the fourth son, Yehuda, is the epitomy of both strong leadership and calculated restraint- a master of strategy, but not afraid to confront the enemy when necessary.

It is he who stopped the brothers from killing Yoseif, he who convinced Yaakov to send Binyomin with him, he who confessed to his misadventure with Tamar and said “she is more righteous than me “, and he who confronted Yoseif with respect but absolute confidence.

He was NO whimp, and certainly had NO “exile mentality”, but he wasn’t a Jewish version of the Ku Klux Clan or the A.W.B.

It is he, who is compared to the lion, and he who is given the sceptre of Kingship.

and it is from him, that the final Mashiach will come.

As is so often the case, the weekly Haftorah is linked to the parsha, not only superficially, in this case with the final words of David haMelech [Melachim 1/2], but also at a deeper level.

Here also, David haMelech condemns his former strongman, Yoav, to death, for his over zealous and violent behaviour, particularly in his assassination of his rival generals: Shaul’s general Avner ben Ner, who David was in the process of making peace with, and Amasa ben Yeter, who David had appointed in his place as general, after that tragic episode.

Despite Yoav’s strong qualities and loyalty till near the end, and the fact that according to Chazal, he was actually a great and hospitable man, this “trigger-happy” style was not to be left unchecked, and was indeed, stolen weapons from a different ideology.

Those of us who have been following both the parsha, as well as last week’s events in Israel, cannot help but be shaken by the timing.
I do not think Moshe Feiglin is Eisav, and I am far from convinced that Netanyahu is a modern day “Yehuda”, but I also truly believe that the Kahanists of this world and their followers make one simple but fatal flaw: the use of stolen weapons- the weapons of Eisav, of the power of the hunt, of survival of the fittest, and forget the basic traits and qualities of the Jewish people, a merciful nation, a people chosen to be a “light unto the nations”, not to oppress the nations.

It is indeed comforting that Likud voters rejected the rash and zealous faction that has tried to turn the Likud into a racist party Menachem Begin would have been ashamed of, and of values that are totally the opposite of the Torah’s ways of דרכיה דרכי נעום וכל נתיבותיה שלום .

It will also be comforting if the victorious faction re-embraces both the “national dignity” and “human rights” values of Begin, who despite not being fully observant, had many values largely consistant with those of the Torah, and learnt the essential balance that Yaakov Avinu taught us this week, one that President Rivlin has done us so proud by publically upholding: One can be a dignified Jewish leader who stands up for our G-d given rights, without trodding on the rights of others, and without making us seem like Nazis in the eyes of the world.

ה עוז לעמו יתן ה יברך את עמו בשלום

the murdered teens-Reading Hashem’s mind and Unity

For just over two weeks, the Jewish people were united, looking, and praying for our missing boys.

Now, every saint and sage is offering their learned opinion on what caused the murder- I have heard superficial , outrageous, and insensitive suggestions ranging from anything from possul mezuzos, to people far away using bad language, to blaming the parents for living in dangerous places- so many people who think they have direct connections to Hashem’s minds.

I do not have the honour of such a connection, so I will not be offering my explanation, but I will ask one question:
Do we have really have to be hit on our heads in order to be united?


Why the D.A. lost Gauteng- lessons from Khayalitsha


Much hoped was placed in the opposition “Democratic Alliance’s” David vs Goliath campaign to take South Africa’s wealthiest province from the A.N.C.

In a province where the local A.N.C. branch opposed President Zuma’s re-election as A.N.C. president, and where frequent power outages, the e-tolling debacle, and crimehave had a serious impact on home and business alike, the charismatic and black Mmusi Maimane should have been swept to victory.

However, those of us who feel shocked and disappointed that despite some growth in Soweto and Alexandra, the masses in those great bastions of the anti-Apartheid struggle stuck with the comfort-zone of the party they know and trust, despite its failings and corruption, should look to the province we all jealous of for some guidance.

the DA has been in power for no short time in Cape Town and the Western Cape, and has had plenty of opportunity to garner support and loyalty by changing the lives of the impoverished masses in its own black townships like Khayalitsha and Gugulethu- it certainly promised much in this area.

It even promised a rapid transport system between Khaya and the city before the last local elections, which does not seem to have materalized.

Yet the results speak for themselves- the DA won the Western Cape again due to its non-black majority, in fact with an increased majority.

in this ward in Khaya, however ,and many others, it coudln’t even manage 2% of the vote:


ANC 17 191 88.77%
EFF 1 309 6.76%
DA 256 1.32%

If in a province where the black minority is a relatively small percentage of the population, the DA has been unable to change the lives and loyalties of the urban poor blacks of the townships, and certainly hasn’t got the votes to show for it, how could we honestly have expected their cousins up on the Highveld to swallow Helen and Mmusi’s promises of free rent and 6 million jobs?

It is only when the D.A. is able to win the black vote in its own “success story”, the Western Cape, that it will have a chance of convincing the masses in Soweto and Alex to give it a try too, and this should be its focus in the next 5 years, not just planning for the coming local elections.

The ANC might be corrupt, but at least it gave its people water,electricity,and hope, so their monopolistic tyranny and arrogance has been given yet another 5 years, not because of their greatness, but because of the lack of real alternatives that people can trust.

Maybe the people aren’t as stupid as some think?


Why the big deal-Introduction

It is a biblical offense to eat “Sherotzim” (literally- creeping things)  , and one who intentionally eats one could transgress up to 5 different prohibitions.

sherotzim are a broad category that includes insects, worms, rodents and other species with short or no legs. These are divided into three main categories:

i. sheretz ha’of  (flying sherotzim), such as bees, flies, mosquitoes, hornets etc

ii. sheretz hamayim (water sherotzim), such as water-borne worms and insects, and water  mammals such as dolphins and seals

iii. sheretz ha’aretz  (land sherotzim), such as snakes, mice, all insects , etc

Not all sherotzim are actually forbidden by the Torah- insects and worms that grow in a fruit once it has been detached from the ground and have not yet left the fruit  are in fact permitted, and this distinction has relevance to later discussion on the subject.

As many types of produce tend to be infested with forbidden insects and worms, it is therefore sometimes  necessary to check such produce before eating it in order to avoid unintentionally consuming forbidden sherotzim.


There are 3 categories of such produce:


i. “Rov Muchzak betolaim”- If the majority of produce has been shown to be infested with halachically forbidden sherotzim  , it is generally agreed that there is a biblical prohibition to eat the produce before one has checked it, and that if one is unable to check  or clean the produce in a way that removes this majority of infestation, it is very hard to permit such produce. This will be the topic of a future post, Imyirtse Hashem.


ii. “Miut haMatzui”- If there is a significant minority of produce that is known to be infested with forbidden sherotzim, then although one a biblical level, one is permitted to follow the rule of “majority” and eat the produce without checking, there is a Rabbinic obligation to check the produce before eating if possible- where not possible, one may eat without checking. The definition of ” Miut haMatzui” will be the subject of a seperate post, but it is most commonly accepted to be 10% of portions eaten at one time.

iii. muchzak naki- if  less than a “miut hamatzui” is known to be infested, there is no need to check the produce at all before eating it and if one happens to unknowingly swallow a sheretz in the course of eating permitted produce, this is considered “misaseik”  [unintentional transgression] and one is not liable at all.



[based Y.D. 84]]


[ All Halacha blogs are summaries of my own learning and  subject to further self-editing  and user- correction- they are not psak halacha, unless specifically classified as such, and are for the purpose of study and discussion only]