The ABC’s of Judaism

The ABC's of Judaism

Embedded deep in our consciousness is the knowledge of life’s precious secrets. The key to access them is the ABCs.

All systems are built on fundamental principles. The building blocks of the English language are the ABCs. So if you want to master reading and writing, you have to first learn the alphabet.

Judaism too has its “ABCs” upon which everything is based.

The “A” of Judaism

Here is a premise we can all agree upon:

Human beings are creatures of society.

If we were born in China, we’d probably be waving little red flags or a book of Mao’s favorite sayings. If we were born into a Catholic family in Sicily, we’d probably be waving rosary beads.

Question the origins of your “life philosophy. “Do you essentially have a Greek approach to life? Roman? Eastern? Jewish?

Ask yourself: “If I had been born into a family of Muslim fundamentalists in Iran, what would I be doing with my life today?” If you don’t ask this question, chances are quite good that today you’d still be a Muslim fundamentalist!

If we are profoundly influenced by society, how do we discern our primal beliefs and identity?

For the most part, unless we’ve done our own thorough investigation, “society” has most likely been our “default philosophy.”

If we are so profoundly influenced by society, then how do we discern our primal beliefs and identity? How do we distinguish between right and wrong? How do we come to an independent conclusion about reality? How can we avoid being mere products of our society?

The “A” of Judaism answers these questions.

The Power of a Children’s Story

Ideas seep into public consciousness in a variety of ways: through literature, schooling, religious practices, etc. One of the most powerful ways is through stories we’re told as children. These stories convey many subliminal messages and make a lasting impression.

Anyone born in America has heard of Little Red Riding Hood. What do you think a young child would do if Grandma came to visit right after hearing this tale? He’d run behind his mother’s skirt until they checked Grandma’s teeth to make sure it’s really her!

What’s the message of this story? On a deep subconscious level, Little Red Riding Hood teaches children to be suspicious of Grandma. You can never really trust who she claims to be…

A Jewish Consciousness Story

Judaism also has its own stories that shape the consciousness of our children. Here’s one from the Talmud:

While we are still in our mother’s womb, the Almighty sends an angel to sit beside us and teach us all the wisdom we’ll ever need to know about living. Then, just before we are born, the angel taps us under the nose – forming the philtrum, the indentation that everyone has. And we forget everything the angel taught us.

What lesson does this story forever imbue in the psyche of a young child?

Education is reaching what we already intuitively understand.

That we can look inside ourselves to learn about life. Embedded deep in our consciousness is the knowledge about the purpose of creation, how to love, how to reach our potential. It’s all there. We just need to make the effort to remember!

This lesson sums up Judaism’s view of education. Nobody can teach anyone anything new. Rather, a teacher conveys information in a way that allows the student to get in touch with what he already knows – and re-discover it on his own.

Define Your Terms and Gain Clarity

Judaism says if you probe into yourself, you can discover the definition of truth, reality, goodness, etc. All it takes is effort.

Let’s illustrate how this works:

“Are you a bafoofstik?”

“What do you mean?! I can’t possibly answer that question without a definition of bafoofstik.”

But what if I ask you, “Are you in love?” Since you use the term “love” in your everyday life, you have some understanding of what I’m talking about.

So why do so many people end up in relationships that they think are “love” – but turn out to be “infatuation”?

Because they don’t have a proper definition of the term “love.” And unless you can clearly articulate a concept, you don’t fully understand it.

The quest for truth is not a journey to the Far East or a climb to the peak of a mountain.

(By the way, the Jewish definition of love is “the pleasure of identifying people with their virtues.”)

When we uncover knowledge that jibes with what the angel taught us, then we’ve found truth.

Inner knowledge is what allows us to rise above the influences of society and become independent. In the quest for truth, you don’t have to journey to the Far East or climb to the peak of a mountain. Truth is right under your nose. Take your finger and place it on that “indentation.” You’ll stop talking and start thinking. The knowledge of reality is within each of us. This is the “A” of Judaism.

The “B” of Judaism

For a complete understanding of life, we need to know what is demanded of us. What were we created for? What is the meaning of existence?

Let’s ask this question: What do all parents want for their children? To be healthy, strong, and full of joy. To be clear, purposeful and accomplished. To have everything good under the sun. Why? So they can get the most pleasure out of life. Only pleasure.

Your son might have a lot of fun playing PacMan, but you won’t let him drop out of college to become a professional PacMan player. You know he deserves better.

God looks at us the same way. As our Father in Heaven, He created us to bestow goodness and pleasure upon us. And He gave us the Torah – our instructions for living – in order to teach us how to derive maximum pleasure from this world.

Human Beings are Pleasure-seekers

A pen is made for writing. But what if somebody told you that your pen is a toothpick? You’d say, “That’s ridiculous. Why would it have ink in it? And it doesn’t fit between my teeth!”

How do you determine the purpose of an object? Examine its construction. You know that a pen is for writing because that’s what all its components indicate, and that’s what it does best.

Judaism says that human beings were designed to have pleasure. In fact we see that every decision a human being makes is based on one final criteria: Will it give me pleasure?

Even when we do something altruistic, we do it because the act gives us pleasure.

Whether it’s what to have for dinner, what to do with spare time, who to marry, or what career to choose – underneath it all, pleasure is the defining criterion. If it looks like pain, we avoid it. If it promises pleasure, we go for it. Even when we do something altruistic, we do so because it gives us pleasure.

God designed the world – and everything in it – in order to give us pleasure. The goal of life is to get that pleasure. Just as parents want their children to enjoy life, so too the Almighty wants His children to enjoy their lives to the fullest. That’s the “B” of Judaism.

The “C” of Judaism

Now… if the Almighty wants us to have pleasure, and we all want pleasure, then what’s gumming up the works? Why aren’t we getting constant pleasure?

Everyone wants to be good. Everyone wants to fulfill his or her responsibilities. That is pleasurable. But we often take short cuts or choose the easy way out. We lose focus on what is real pleasure.

We want our marriage to work, but we don’t invest enough attention and commitment. We want to get along with our parents, but we lack the tools to avoid arguments. We want our lives to be meaningful, but social pressure sways us. We want pleasure, but we make mistakes.

In Hebrew, there is no word for sin. The Biblical word “Chet” appears in reference to an arrow which “missed the target.” The archer is not “bad.” Rather, he made a mistake – due to a lack of focus, concentration or skill.

The problem of mankind is that we are confused about what we want out of life. That’s why God is always trying to get our attention, helping to steer us away from wrong turns. If we’re not aware of that, we miss many important lessons. That is the “C” of Judaism.

The “D” of Judaism

(In Judaism, three ABCs is not enough!)

The worst mistake of all is not getting an education.

What kinds of education do people usually get? Calculus, Shakespeare, planetary orbits, the process of osmosis, the shape of Australia…

If you don’t know yourself, you don’t know much of anything.

But when it is all over, you still don’t know who you are. You don’t know why you were created or what you are living for. And if you don’t know yourself, you don’t know much of anything.

Judaism says: Get an education about LIFE. It’s buried deep inside you. The angel taught you, now find out why you were created. Understand the goal of life – and go get it. That’s the “D” of Judaism.

The “E” of Judaism

When we say that God created us for pleasure, are we talking about a two-week vacation after working hard in the office all year? No. That pleasure will dissipate the moment you touch back down and have to find your lost luggage and fight traffic.

To get maximum pleasure, God gave us the Torah.

You’ve heard the Torah described variously as the law, the ritual, the commandments. But what does “Torah” literally mean?

Torah means “instructions.” For example, Torat Hanehiga means driving instructions. Our Torah is Torat Chaim – “Instructions for Living.”

You do your best to impart to your children all the wisdom you have about life. You tell them:

“You have to learn how to read and write.”

He says: “Who needs it? I’m going to be a major league baseball player!”

“But sometimes you might want to write a letter or read the newspaper.”

“Don’t worry, Mom. When I’m a superstar ballplayer, private secretaries will do all my reading for me. Right now it’s more important that I practice my game!”

So what does a good parent do? You are determined to convey your understanding about how to derive optimum pleasure out of life. You’ll (figuratively) hit them on the head and say: “SIT DOWN AND READ AND WRITE!”

Our Father in Heaven does the same thing. He gave us the Torah – those same instructions for living the angel taught us before birth. Tools for how to have a happy marriage… a satisfying career… spiritual growth.

Focus on the Words

The Torah instructs us to put a mezuzah on our door post. But people often view the mezuzah as a ritual, something to perhaps ward off ghosts.

Open up the mezuzah and read what’s inside. You’ll learn about the greatest pleasures of life: how to be happy, how to love humanity and how to connect with God. Kiss the mezuzah when you go in and when you go out. But don’t kiss it by rote. Ponder the words and you’ll never lose track of the purpose of life.


The “A” of Judaism: The angel taught us everything we need to know. That’s why we recognize truth when we find it.

The “B” of Judaism: The Almighty created us for maximum pleasure.

The “C” of Judaism: We are not sinners, we just make mistakes.

The “D” of Judaism: To avoid mistakes and achieve our potential, get an education about life.

The “E” of Judaism: The Torah is our instructions for living.

As taken from,


Is the Torah Anti-Semitic?

Who would write such negative, detrimental, and destructive descriptions of the Jewish people?

by Rabbi Boruch Leff

The authorship of the Torah has one of two possibilities: either God wrote it, or a human being wrote it. Let’s take for argument’s sake the side that a human being wrote it. If so, we discover a very strange phenomenon.

This human being could not have been a Jew! Can we actually believe that a Jew would write such negative, detrimental, and destructive descriptions of his ancestors?

Listen to what the author of the Torah describes: That his patriarch, Jacob was a liar and tricked his father, Isaac; that the sons of Jacob kidnapped and sold their brother Joseph into slavery; that the Jews of the Desert preferred slavery in Egypt rather than freedom; that the Jews are a stiff-necked people; that Moshe, the true prophet of God, complains to Him and does not want to be the leader of what he describes as such a rebellious nation; that the Jews of the Desert worshiped a golden calf; that they showed a lack of trust in God by believing the spies’ evil reports concerning Israel.

The list goes on and on.

Included in this list is the event in Parshat Chukat (Bamidbar 20:7-13) that tells the story of Moshe and Aharon’s failure in hitting the rock instead of speaking to it, in order to draw water to quench the people’s thirst. Moshe and Aharon are punished and not permitted to enter the Land of Israel.

Of course, the real meaning and interpretation of these difficult passages are explained by all the commentaries and they are not as negative as they seem. Sometimes the verses are simply misunderstood at the surface level and not meant negatively at all (as is the case with Jacob seeming to trick Isaac). But no Jew would ever risk the tarnishing of his ancestors’ reputations even if only at the superficial level of understanding.

Why would a Jew write such terrible things about his ancestors? No other nation records an unfavorable history of their ancestors. One cannot read of a single defeat of Egypt in Egyptian history books. One must turn to the Assyrian texts to read of Egyptian failures, and vice versa. Even today, there are major distinctions between British and American history books in their accounts as to what happened in the American Revolutionary War. But somehow the fact that descendants generally look at their ancestors with reverence in their historical writings is not true when it comes to the Jews and the Torah.

So which human wrote the Torah? It could not have been a Jew! The only possibility then is that an anti-Semite wrote it! But then we are left perplexed as to how this anti-Semite could have persuaded the Jews to accept it!

To suggest that a human wrote the Torah is not a realistic possibility.

If God wrote it, then we understand how the Jewish people accepted it. They knew what God writes is true and they trusted that He, at times, writes negative and critical descriptions only in order to teach important lessons. God, in writing such fact, does so to engage in constructive criticism.

This unique aspect of revealing negative-sounding ancestral history makes us stop and realize that God must have written the Torah. But there are other distinct facets described in the Torah that also lead to the conclusion of its Divine authorship.

The Torah makes prophecies that have come true. Now, there are many books that have made prophecies of the future such as Nostradamus, that some claim to have been true. But a close examination of these prophecies reveals them to be ambiguous and it is virtually impossible to prove their accuracy. Any ‘prophecy’ that can only be understood after an event has already taken place cannot be accepted as prophecy.

True prophecy is clearly comprehended before an event takes place and then we can see for ourselves whether the prophecy came to fruition or not. We find exactly such prophecies in the Torah. These prophecies are impossible for a human being to have predicted.

The fate of the Jewish nation, if they are to abandon God, is specifically described in horrid detail (See Vayikra 26, Devarim 28:15-68, 29:17-28, 30:1-10, 31:16-21, much of Yeshaya and Yechezekel). Sure enough, all of the details have indeed occurred throughout history. The Torah writes that the Jews will be thrown out of their land, return, and then thrown out again. It then foretells that the Jews will come back to Israel much later. The Jews held on to their faith in the Torah’s promises of their return to Israel for 2,000 years. And now in modern times, the Jews have come back. It is surely not coincidental that there have been no other nations who have not assimilated into their occupying or host nation after hundreds of years of exile and destruction. Moreover, not only did the Jews survive 2,000 years of exile, but they did so despite being scattered among various nations without a common language or culture.

This was all stated way in advance! The Torah, written over 3,000 years ago, teaches that the Jews will be dispersed to all the corners of the earth but would maintain their distinct identity. What human being would write such nonsense? How could he expect the Jews to accept it and live with faith in it?

But if God wrote it, it is obviously understandable. He can know that the Jews would never assimilate into the nations of the world. And if the Jews knew God wrote it by their witnessing God speak to them at Sinai, their faith in their eventual return to Israel is comprehended.

(There are more points to ponder concerning the veracity of the Torah’s claim that it was written by God. See Kol Yaakov V’etchanan and Behar)

If one takes the time to stop and think about the unique aspects of the Torah, one is inevitably drawn to the conclusion that the Torah could not have been written by a human being. It must have been authored by God.

As taken from,

Moshé Pegándole a la Piedra…

por Rav Avi Geller

Jacobo se frotó los ojos. Cada camino que había tomado era un callejón sin salida. Él tenía hambre, estaba cansado y en ese momento ¡parecía como si fuera a permanecer en ese laberinto para siempre! “Si el rey quiere divertirse al poner un laberinto tan complejo, en el cual, sólo uno de los caminos conduce al palacio, ¿por qué tengo yo que sufrir?”, pensó Jacobo para sí mismo mientras nuevamente se enfrentaba a un camino sin salida y tenía que cambiar de dirección.

De repente sintió que alguien llamaba su nombre desde arriba, “¡Jacobo, Jacobo! ¡Mira hacia arriba!”. El sol lo cegó mientras trataba de mirar de reojo desde donde provenía la voz. Finalmente, pudo ver a un sabio anciano de barba encaramado en el techo del palacio, que le indicaba de forma frenética el camino que debía tomar.

“¿Por qué debo escucharlo?”, pensó Jacobo. “¿Quién se cree que es, diciéndome qué debo hacer?”. ¡Es un país libre y yo puedo equivocarme en cuantas calles sin salida yo quiera! (¡Y también sufrir las consecuencias!)”.

Luego Jacobo escuchó las palabras del sabio. “Yo he estado en el laberinto del rey y he encontrado el único camino que conduce al palacio. Desde mi posición ventajosa aquí en el techo, puedo ver todos los caminos que están frente a ti. Si sigues mi consejo, estarás muy pronto en el palacio y recibirás un jugoso premio. ¡Si rechazas mi consejo, puedes permanecer en el laberinto por el resto de tu vida!”.

Esta analogía es sobre cómo todos nosotros tratamos de atravesar el laberinto de la vida, sin embargo muy pocos tienen éxito. Entonces, cuando los sabios nos dan un consejo, no debemos reaccionar diciendo, “¡Ocúpense de sus propios asuntos!”. Ellos sólo están tratando de ayudar al dar a conocer su entendimiento de la vida.

En la parashá Jukat leemos, “Los gobernantes proclamaron: ¡Vengan a Jeshbón!” (Números 21:27) – extendiendo aparentemente una invitación a visitar su ciudad. Sin embargo, nuestros sabios interpretan este verso de manera exegética: “Los gobernantes (es decir: los que estánen control de sus deseos) proclamaron: ¡Vengan al Jeshbón!” (recuento) – como diciendo, hagamos un recuento de la vida. Evaluemos los pros y los contras de los vicios y las virtudes. Tu conclusión necesariamente será que “¡el crimen no lleva a nada!”. Este es el único camino que nos lleva fuera del laberinto y hacia el palacio. (Rabino Moshé Jaim Luzzato, Camino de los Justos)

La parashá de esta semana continúa registrando eventos de los 40 años que los israelitas vagaron por el desierto de Sinai. La parashá Jukat comienza con las leyes de la “Vaca Roja” y también nos cuenta sobre el gran error de Moshé.

* * *

La Vaca Roja

El contacto con la muerte causa impureza espiritual (ver Números 5:1). Alguien que está espiritualmente impuro tiene prohibido entrar al Sagrado Templo o participar de los sacrificios hasta que lleve a cabo el proceso de purificación. El proceso consiste en seleccionar una vaca roja (café rojiza, un color normal en las vacas):

1. que no tuviera más de un pelo negro,

2. que nunca hubiera cargado nada para un humano

3. y que no tuviera ningún defecto físico.

La Vaca Roja representaba la idea del animalismo puro. La vaca era llevada fuera del santuario (no había lugar para ese animalismo bruto en el Templo de Dios), donde era sacrificada y totalmente quemada, junto con una rama de madera de cedro, hisopo y un pedazo de lana roja teñida con la sangre de un gusano – simbolizando el nivel más alto y el más bajo de las especies del mundo animal y vegetal. Las cenizas eran mezcladas con agua de un manantial vivo (simbolizando que la Torá fluye como el agua), y luego eran rociadas sobre la persona impura o sobre la vasija impura en el tercer y séptimo día. En ese momento, la persona se purificaba.

La paradoja era que aquellos que preparaban las cenizas se impurificaban, hasta el día siguiente. Eso exige que nos preguntemos: ¿Cómo puede algo que purifica lo impuro, al mismo tiempo, contaminar lo puro? Incluso el Rey Salomón, el más sabio de todos los hombres, dijo que él no pudo descifrar el secreto de la Vaca Roja. Esto lo llevó a concluir que todas las otras 612 mitzvot – que pensó que entendía – también estaban por sobre la comprensión de los mortales.

Los Sabios trazan un paralelo entre la Vaca Roja y el Becerro de Oro. Los dos fueron quemados y mezclados con agua y los dos contaminaban espiritualmente a aquellos que entraban en contacto con ellos. La analogía es que cuando un niño ensucia el palacio, su madre debe limpiarlo. Entonces, así también, la Vaca Roja (la madre) expía por el Becerro de Oro (el niño).

En un nivel más profundo, el pecado de Adam y Eva trajo la muerte al mundo. El pecado de Adam fue rectificado con la aceptación de la Torá en Sinai, que habría permitido a los judíos vivir para siempre. Sin embargo, el Becerro de Oro reinstituyó la mortalidad. La Vaca Roja sirve para expiar por el Becerro y eliminar la impureza.

Aún más profundo, el pecado de Adam fue sucumbir ante “el Árbol del Conocimiento” que Dios había prohibido, pero que la serpiente garantizó que iba a darles todo el conocimiento. La expiación por esta arrogancia es una ofrenda cuyo significado profundo nadie puede comprender – enseñándonos que este mundo está mucho más allá de nuestro entendimiento.

* * *

El Gran Error de Moshé

El hecho de que la Torá registre el error de Moshé (así como muchas otras grandes figuras bíblicas) es en sí misma una prueba de la autenticidad de la Torá. ¡Nadie escribiría un libro que lo haga ver mal a si mismo!

El judaísmo enseña que nuestros antepasados no eran “santos con aureola”, sino mortales que cometían errores. Por otra parte, los errores de estas grandes personas requieren mucho estudio para entender exactamente lo que hicieron mal, para poder obtener una lección apropiada.

Cuando murió Miriam, el pozo de agua que acompañaba al pueblo judío, se secó. El Talmud dice: El agua era por el mérito de Miriam, el maná era por el mérito de Moshé y las Nubes de Gloria eran por el mérito de Aarón. De esta manera, el agua se secó al morir Miriam, y luego regresó por el mérito de Moshé y Aarón. Cuando murió Aarón, las Nubes se fueron y regresaron por el mérito de Moshé. Y cuando murió Moshé, cesaron los tres milagros.

Cuando los judíos reclamaron por la sequía (¡una queja justificada!), Dios le dijo a Moshé que tomara su bastón, reuniera a toda la nación alrededor de la piedra (¡un hecho milagroso en sí mismo!) y le hablara a la roca, que en respuesta le daría agua.

Moshé seleccionó la roca incorrecta (aparentemente la roca se movió) y el resultado fue que no pasó nada. El pueblo reclamó y Moshé se enojó.

Moshé consultó luego con Aarón. Ellos decidieron que “tal vez había que pegarle a la roca igual que la primera vez” y procedieron a pegarle a la roca correcta. Sin embargo, la roca sólo soltó algunas gotas. Moshé le pegó una segunda vez y finalmente brotó el H2O.

En este punto, Dios estaba enojado con Moshé y con Aarón, quienes no “creyeron en Mí para santificarme delante del pueblo” (Números 20:12). Su castigo fue que ellos mismos no entrarían a la Tierra de Israel.

Los comentaristas citan varias opiniones sobre cuál fue el verdadero error de Moshé:

a. Le pegó a la roca en vez de hablarle.

b. Le pegó dos veces.

c. Se enojó.

d. Menospreció al pueblo.

Pregunta: ¿Por qué se le dijo a Moshé que tomara su bastón si supuestamente sólo tenía que hablarle a la roca?

Respuesta: Dios quería demostrar que una vez que los judíos entraran a la Tierra de Israel, el período de los ‘milagros abiertos’ terminaría. Entonces, Dios le dijo a Moshé que tomara su bastón – ¡pero que no lo utilizara! Desde ese momento en adelante, es la palabra de Moshé, así como está establecida en la Torá, en la que debemos confiar. (Rabino S.R.Hirsch)

Si una roca – que no tiene libre albedrío y no tiene motivación de premio y castigo – “escucha” la palabra de Moshé, entonces ¡ciertamente nosotros debemos hacerlo! Sin embargo, cuando Moshé le pegó a la roca, ese efecto se perdió. (Rashi)

Pregunta: ¿Por qué le ordenó Dios a Moshé que le pegara a la roca en Éxodo 17:6, y aquí sólo le ordenó que le hablara?

Respuesta: Pegarle a la roca con el bastón simbolizaba un nuevo milagro, tal como las Diez Plagas en Egipto que también fueron ejecutadas con el bastón. En el Libro de Éxodo, Dios le dice a Moshé que le pegue a la roca para crear inicialmente esta fuente de agua. Ahora, sin embargo, al término de los 40 años, no era necesario pegarle a la roca. El agua se había detenido sólo temporalmente para demostrar el mérito de Miriam. En otras palabras, “Sabemos que necesitan agua, está justo aquí, sólo déjenme hablarle a la roca”. Cuando Moshé le pegó a la roca, se vio como que “Oh, nos olvidamos que necesitan agua. Dado que reclamaron, ahora haré un nuevo milagro y le voy a pegar a la roca para que provea el agua”. Ese fue el sutil error de Moshé. (Rabino S.R. Hirsch)

Dado que el mensaje que “desde ahora en adelante debemos seguir las palabras de Moshé” no fue aprendido de la manera fácil, entonces, debía ser aprendido de la manera difícil. Moshé y Aarón no entrarían a la tierra y el pueblo tendría que darse cuenta que el “bastón de Moshé” se había ido – y que en su lugar estaba el legado de “la palabra de Moshé”.

* * *

Bitácora del Viaje por el Desierto

(1) Emisario a Edom – Moshé envío un mensaje a Edom (los descendientes de Esav): “Así dice tu hermano Israel: Estás consciente de nuestra historia. Fuimos esclavos en Egipto y los egipcios nos trataron muy mal. Clamamos a Dios y Él nos salvó. Ahora permítenos tomar un atajo a través de tu tierra” (Números 20:17).

La razón de la introducción histórica era porque el decreto de esclavitud era sobre todos los descendientes de Itzjak, incluyendo a Esav. Los judíos estaban de hecho diciendo: “Nosotros pagamos tu deuda también. Lo menos que puedes hacer es dejarnos pasar a través de tu tierra”.

A pesar de que a Esav no le interesaba, los judíos mencionaron el poder del rezo que fue la bendición que recibieron de Itzjak: “La voz es la de Yaakov” (Génesis 27:22). Edom, sin embargo, se negó a darles permiso, citando su propia bendición de Itzjak: “A través de tu espada vivirás” (Génesis 27:40). Edom enfatiza: “¡No entres a mi tierra o iré a encontrarme contigo con mi espada!” (Números 20:18).

(2) La Muerte de Aarón – Moshé le dio gentilmente la noticia a Aarón, mientras lo conducía hacia la cima del monte Hor. Aarón aceptó el decreto de Dios con amor. Las santas prendas de vestir de Aarón fueron transferidas a su hijo Elazar (algo que Moshé, cuyos hijos no tenían ninguna distinción, no mereció). Entraron a un cuarto, que tenía una cama y una mesa con una vela ardiendo. Moshé le dijo a Aarón que se acostara en la cama, que extendiera sus extremidades y que cerrara su boca y sus ojos. Aarón se murió tal como uno se queda dormido. Esto fue llamado “el beso de la muerte” y Moshé pidió morir de la misma manera. (Midrash mencionado por Rashi)

(3) El Ataque de Amalek – Cuando los judíos iban a entrar a Israel después de salir de Egipto, fueron atacados por su archienemigo Amalek (ver Éxodo 17:8). Ahora, 40 años después, nuevamente a la entrada de Israel, Amalek ataca otra vez. Sin embargo, estando conscientes del poder del rezo judío, los Amalekitas cambiaron su lenguaje a un dialecto Canaanita para engañar a los judíos, de esta manera los judíos rezarían para ser salvados de los Canaaneos. Por eso el verso se refiere a ellos como Canaaneos (Números 21:1). Los judíos, perplejos por la vestimenta de los Amalekitas y por el habla Canaaneo, le pidieron a Dios que los salvara de “esta nación” (Números 21:2) – como diciendo, quienquiera que sean ellos. Y sus rezos tuvieron respuesta.

Pregunta: ¿Por qué no cambiaron los Amalekitas también su vestimenta, para poder realmente engañar a los judíos?

Respuesta: Porque si te vistes y hablas como Canaanita, ¡te conviertes en un Canaanita! Entonces los rezos de los judíos ciertamente habrían sido aceptados.

(4) La Serpiente de Cobre – Cuando los judíos nuevamente se quejaron por el maná, Dios decidió dejarles probar la vida normal en el desierto sin intervención Divina. Ellos fueron atacados por culebras y serpientes que mataron a muchos judíos.

Los Sabios hacen ver que las culebras no tienen papilas gustativas por lo que toda la comida les sabe igual. Cuando le preguntan a una culebra por qué muerde si no tiene ningún placer, ella simplemente responde, “¿Y qué placer físico recibe un calumniador?”. El castigo medida-por-medida por reclamar por el maná (que sabía a lo que tú quisieras), fue ser mordidos por culebras – para la que toda la comida sabe igual.

Moshé hizo una serpiente de cobre. Las víctimas de la mordida de culebra podían ver la serpiente, elevar sus ojos al Cielo, y esperar sobrevivir y prosperar. El Talmud registra que cientos de años después, el rey judío Jizkiyahu destruyó la serpiente de cobre, porque el pueblo estaba idolatrándola y perdiendo su fe en Dios (ver Reyes II 18:4).

(5) Emboscada en los Barrancos – Mientras los judíos se acercaban a la tierra de Canaan, los Emoritas planearon una emboscada. La ruta de viaje serpenteaba hasta llegar a un valle entre dos puntiagudos barrancos con cuevas adentro. Los Emoritas se escondieron en las cuevas y esperaron que los judíos pasaran por debajo, para atacarlos repentinamente.

Dios salvó a los judíos milagrosamente al empujar los dos barrancos uno hacia el otro, aplastando a todos los que estaban adentro de las cuevas. Los Israelitas, que se habían desviado alrededor de los barrancos, ni siquiera se habían dado cuenta del peligro en el que estaban. Para informarles, el pozo de Miriam pasó entre los dos barrancos, y se llevó sangre, extremidades y armas. Cuando el pueblo vio esto y se dieron cuenta de la extensión del milagro, cantaron alabanzas. (Midrash citado por Rashi)

(6) La Canción del Pozo“Luego Israel cantó esta canción, ¡Levántate oh pozo!” (Números 21:17). En contraste a la canción del Mar Rojo (ver Éxodo 15:11), no se hace mención a Moshé o a Dios. Entendemos que Moshé no sea mencionado ya que tenía una relación negativa con el pozo. El pozo había causado que el tuviera que morir en el desierto, pero ¿por qué no se menciona el nombre de Dios?

La analogía dada es la de un rey que está invitado a una fiesta. El rey pregunta si su mejor amigo estará ahí. “Si mi amigo no va, ¡entonces yo tampoco!”. Dado que Moshé no fue mencionado, el nombre de Dios tampoco es mencionado.

Pregunta: ¿Por qué no cantaron los judíos al recibir la Torá tal como lo hicieron por el pozo y por la apertura del Mar Rojo?

Respuesta: El pozo de agua simboliza la “Torá”, una fuente constante de espiritualidad para el mundo, La canción del pozo es básicamente una canción para la Torá, a la que también se le llama “una canción” (ver Deuteronomio 25:19). (Escuchado del Rabino Asher Weiss)

(7) Los Gigantes Guardias – Sijón y Og son dos reyes gigantes que controlaban la orilla oriental del Río Jordán. Cuando Moshé les pidió permiso para pasar gratis, ambos gigantes se rieron de él. “Nosotros cobramos impuestos para proteger nuestro país de los enemigos (es decir, de ustedes) – y ahora ,¡¿esperas que te dejemos pasar gratis?!”.

El final de la parashá menciona que la tierra que los israelitas tomaron de Sijón, originalmente pertenecía a Moab. Los judíos tenían técnicamente prohibido atacar a Moab (un descendiente de Lot), pero dado que esa tierra fue conquistada en la batalla por Sijón (con la ayuda de la maldición del profeta Bilaam, ver parashá Balak), ahora estaba permitido que los israelitas la adquirieran. En la batalla, Moshé eliminó a Sijón y a Og.

Según tomado de,

Raising Jewish Children

Jewish Education

What Is Jewish Education?

According to biblical law, a child is not obligated to observe mitzvot until reaching adulthood. Nevertheless, there’s a mitzvah of rabbinic origin, known as chinuch, for parents to educate their children to do mitzvot and to avoid doing things that the Torah forbids.

The mitzvah of chinuch kicks in for each mitzvah as soon as the child is capable of observing that mitzvah. Traditionally, we start teaching children from the age of three to recite the blessings on various foods and some basic prayers. That is when a little boy begins covering his head and wearing tzitzit, and at about that age girls begin lighting Shabbat candles.

Though the “carrot and stick” method is mentioned in Jewish literature as an effective chinuch technique, ultimately the goal is to teach children to value each mitzvah for itself and the connection to G‑d that it engenders.

Hit the Books!

There’s a Torah obligation for a father to teach his sons Torah.

The goal is to teach children to value each mitzvah for itself and the connection to G‑d that it engenders

As soon as a child begins to speak, he is taught key passages of Torah, such as the verse “The Torah that Moses commanded us is the inheritance of the congregation of Jacob,” and the Shema. And from there, education takes off . . .One who is unable to personally fulfill this obligation may delegate the honor to a teacher or school. Nonetheless, as a sage once proclaimed: “It is an absolute duty for every person to spend a half hour every day thinking about the Torah education of children, and to do everything in his power—and beyond his power—to inspire children to follow the path along which they are being guided.”

Although technically the obligation to teach Torah rests upon the father, the most effective educating is often done by the mother. As she is the one who usually spends more time with her children, and she has the advantage of a softer, feminine approach to imparting information, she is in the best position to transmit morals and Jewish values.

As taken from,

The Curse of Religious Coercion

by Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo


The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Since you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly to the Land which I have given them.

Bamidbar 20:12

For centuries, commentators have struggled with and argued about the incident of the Me Meriva (the waters of strife). After the Children of Israel complained about the lack of water in the desert, God ordered Moshe to speak to a rock and draw forth water, but, as is well known, he hit the rock instead.[1]

Moshe was punished harshly for his failure to adhere strictly to the details of this command. Indeed, his ultimate dream to enter and live in the Land of Israel was shattered because of this one seemingly small mistake, and in spite of all his pleas for forgiveness, God did not allow him to lead the Israelites across the Jordan.

God’s severity in this narrative is unprecedented. Four times the Torah refers to this divine expression of “anger,” and five times God condemns Moshe for this sin: 1) “Because you did not have faith in Me”[2] 2) “You defied My word”[3] 3) “You disobeyed My command”[4] 4) “You betrayed Me”[5] 5) “You did not sanctify Me in the midst of the Children of Israel.”[6]

The sin is even more perplexing when one considers that causing water to gush forth from a rock by hitting it is no less miraculous than producing the same effect via speech. Only one slight blow produced enough water to quench the thirst of millions of people. No scientific explanation could ever account for this! What was it in Moshe’s actions that reflected such flagrant disbelief and rebellion as to warrant that harsh response? What changed as a result of Moshe’s decision to hit the rock rather than speak to it? And why did God insist that water be produced miraculously by speech and nothing else? Why not leave this seemingly small decision in Moshe’s hands? After all, Torah “lo bashamayim he.”[7] The Torah is no longer in Heaven, and its rulings are up to humans to decide.

To Paraphrase Sophocles in his Philoctetes: I see that everywhere among the race of men, it is the tongue that wins and not the coercive act. Hitting implies coercion—a brute force that leaves the other no option but to follow the orders of the attacker. Obedience, therefore, does not demonstrate any real willingness, or agreement with the resulting action. Even the threat of physical coercion casts suspicion on one’s deeds, and usually implies a complete lack of authenticity.

Speech, on the other hand, is a means of persuasion that does not bypass or disable the listener’s decision-making process. Any response to speech will therefore be genuine. This is actually alluded to in Meshech Chochma.[8]

In many ways, the revelation at Sinai was an intensely coercive event. This position is borne out by the Talmud’s famous remark that God threatened to drop the mountain on the Israelites if they chose not to accept the Torah.[9] Rabbi Acha ben Yaakov protests this divine intimidation, saying that God indeed threatened to kill the Jews if they refused to be party to the covenant, and therefore the legality of the agreement, which was reached under coercion, is called into question. This implies that perhaps the Jewish people are not really obligated to keep the commandments in the Torah! Some Chassidic masters even suggest that it was this threat and this feeling of having been forced that led to the sin of the golden calf.[10] If so, it would seem that the harsh coercion was too much for the Israelites to bear and at a certain level became counterproductive.

That said, it was of utmost importance that the Jewish people accept the Torah. Sometimes coercion can be beneficial to people, serving as an essential ingredient for their education. Homines enim civiles non nascuntur, sed fiunt (Civil men are not born, but made), said Spinoza,[11] reflecting an old Jewish truth. But Law must ultimately lead to moral freedom.

This means that liberty is primarily an issue of education. To be an agent of freedom, and not constraint, lawful coercion must lead to awareness in people that had they understood the values inherent in the laws, they would have accepted them with even the gentlest forms of persuasion.

King David expressed this concept when he said: “I will walk in freedom, for I have sought out Your laws.”[12] Using a beautiful exegetical wordplay, the Sages read the description of the tablets, on which God wrote the Ten Commandments, not as “the writing of God engraved (charut) on the tablets,” but as “freedom (cheirut) on the tablets.”[13] Only when we engrave the laws into our hearts do we experience absolute freedom—self-expression in the deepest and truest sense.[14]

When standing at the border of the Land of Israel, the Jewish people underwent a radical change of “weltanschauung.” At Sinai, and during their years of wandering in the desert, God used coercion as a necessary device to prepare them for lives as Jews. Suddenly, as they entered the land and became more spiritually independent, they began to understand that the survival of Judaism would depend upon the effectiveness of gentle persuasion. While bound by the Law, they realized that to build a deeply religious society, Jewish educators would need to use the power of the word—gentle and inspiring—and not the rod, if they hoped to foster conditions in which Jews would be willing and feel privileged to live their lives according to the Torah’s mandate.

Had this not become clear at the inception of the first Jewish Commonwealth, the nation’s government could have become a tyrannical and fundamentalist dictatorship. This mode of leadership would have been a sign of weakness: Do the Jews have to be beaten into observing God’s law? It would have called into question the inherent truth and persuasive powers of the Torah, thereby profaning God’s name.

This, then, was at the core of Moshe’s sin. For the sake of later generations—who would need to know that the ways of the Torah are ways of pleasantness, of the gentle word and not the hard strike—God denied Moshe the merit of living in the land. In this way, He made it clear to all that leaders who seek to turn Israel into a holy nation by way of threat or by force may very well bring disaster to themselves and their people.


[1] Bamidbar 20:1-11.

[2] Bamidbar 20:12.

[3] Ibid. 20:24.

[4] Ibid. 27:14.

[5] Devarim32: 51.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Devarim 30:12.

[8] ad loc. See also Maharal.

[9] Commentary on Bamidbar 20:11.

[10] See, for example, Chiddushei HaRim on Parshat Yitro.

[11] Thomas Hill Green, Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1895) p. 53.

[12] Tehillim 119:45.

[13] Pirkei Avot 6:2.

[14] This is not what the British philosopher Isaiah Berlin calls “negative liberty” (i.e., freedom from…), but rather a constitutional freedom in which one’s own freedom automatically respects that of the other, and for which one is prepared to make sacrifices. Otherwise, “Freedom for the pike is death for the minnow.” Berlin explains this at great length in “Two Concepts of Liberty,” Four Essays on Liberty (Oxford University Press, 1969) pp. 118–173.

As taken from,

Rudolf Höss, comandante de Auschwitz, ¿cómo pudo hacerlo?

El comandante nazi poseía un cierto grado de empatía y era un hombre cuerdo. ¿Era un inconsciente, o simplemente un lacayo? ¿Banalizó el mal?

Ignacio Morgado Bernal
Rudolf Höss, segundo por la izquierda, junto a Mengele (a su derecha), Josef Kramer (La Bestia de Belsen) y otro oficial, en un descanso en Auschwitz.
Rudolf Höss, segundo por la izquierda, junto a Mengele (a su derecha), Josef Kramer (La Bestia de Belsen) y otro oficial, en un descanso en Auschwitz. EE UU Holocaust Memorial Museum

Rudolf Höss era un hombre cuerdo, con conocimientos y sentimientos, que razonaba con frecuencia sobre su propio comportamiento y el de los demás, y que poseía un cierto grado de empatía. A esa conclusión he llegado después de estudiar detenidamente sus memorias y la historia del exterminio, además de haber visitado el lugar de los hechos: los campos de Auschwitz y Birkenau, a unos 60 kilómetros al oeste de la ciudad polaca de Cracovia.

Su hija, Brigitte Höss, que sobrevivió a la tragedia, recuerda que su padre “parecía el mejor hombre del mundo, siempre dulce y amable con quienes le rodeaban”

Con tan formidable éxito que se amplía hasta octubre el plazo para visitarla, está teniendo lugar en el Centro de Arte Canal de Madrid la exposición Auschwitz. Es este, por tanto, un buen momento para tratar de penetrar en la mente de su comandante, Rudolf Höss, y preguntarnos: ¿cómo pudo hacerlo?, ¿cómo puede un ser humano dirigir el cruel exterminio de tantos hombres, mujeres y niños, incluso después de mirar a la cara a muchos de ellos?, ¿era un loco inconsciente que no sabía lo que hacía?, ¿era tal vez un sádico, un hombre malvado y cruel o un psicópata que disfrutaba con el sufrimiento ajeno? ¿era simplemente un lacayo, inculto y sin sentimientos, que sin pensar ni razonar se limitaba a cumplir órdenes? ¿banalizó el mal Rudolf Höss?

En el diccionario de la Real Academia Española de la lengua, la palabra banal es equiparada a “trivial, común o insustancial”. Trivial, a su vez, es equiparado a “vulgarizado, común y sabido de todos”. Pero el mal que hacían los nazis no parece ni vulgar, es decir, ni impropio de personas cultas ni común ni sabido de todos. No obstante, podemos ir más lejos al interpretar la banalidad que postuló Hannah Arendt para el nazismo en 1961. Si banalidad significa reducción de la empatía y del sentimiento de culpa, la mayoría de gerifaltes nazis acabaron siendo banales; pero si banalidad significa dejar de considerar al mal como mal o quitarle importancia, dudo que hubiese muchos dirigentes nazis cultos banales.

Rudolf Höss, a punto de ser ejecutado en Auschwitz en 1947.
Rudolf Höss, a punto de ser ejecutado
en Auschwitz en 1947.

El que Heinrich Himmler, como leíamos en un artículo de EL PAÍS, se despidiera de su esposa en 1942 con un “Viajo a Auschwitz. Besos: tu Heini”, no prueba que el sentimiento del Reichsführer fuera banal en el sentido de quitarle importancia al asesinato de judíos. Lo vemos mejor en el caso de su subordinado, el comandante de Auschwitz, Rudolf Höss, responsable de la matanza de millones de personas y cuyo comportamiento con su propia familia era tan correcto que también podría denotar banalidad. Su hija, Brigitte Höss, que sobrevivió a la tragedia, recuerda en una entrevista en The Washington Post que su padre “parecía el mejor hombre del mundo, siempre dulce y amable con quienes le rodeaban”. Pero la procesión iba por dentro, como puede comprobarse en las memorias del propio Höss, escritas mientras esperaba su muerte en una cárcel de Cracovia (Ediciones B, Barcelona 2009).

La prueba de su conocimiento del mal es especialmente patente en algunos de sus propios relatos: “Cuando el espectáculo me trastornaba demasiado no podía volver a casa con los míos. Hacía ensillar mi caballo y, cabalgando, me esforzaba por liberarme de mi obsesión”. “A menudo me asaltaba el recuerdo de incidentes ocurridos durante el exterminio; entonces salía de casa porque no podía permanecer en el ambiente íntimo de mi familia”. “Desde el momento en que se procedió al exterminio masivo dejé de sentirme feliz en Auschwitz”. Cuando recibió la consigna de suprimir discretamente a los enfermos y los niños llega a decir: “Nada resulta más difícil que ejecutar tales órdenes fríamente, anulando todo sentimiento de piedad”.

Höss era pues consciente del horror que se cometía en su campo pero trataba de mantener a raya cualquier emoción perturbadora: “Yo no hacía más que pensar en mi trabajo y relegaba a un segundo plano todo sentimiento humano”

En otro momento habla también del terror que le imponía la orden de liquidar a los gitanos, por quienes sentía una especial consideración. Höss era pues consciente del horror que se cometía en su campo, pero trataba de mantener a raya cualquier emoción perturbadora: “Yo no hacía más que pensar en mi trabajo y relegaba a un segundo plano todo sentimiento humano”. Comentando la orden de exterminio masivo de judíos que recibió de Himmler en 1942, Höss se supera a sí mismo y llega a afirmar: “En aquella orden había algo monstruoso que sobrepasaba de lejos las medidas precedentes”. Esto no solo implica razonamiento, sino también juicio sobre las intenciones del nazismo.

Al leer con detalle sus memorias uno descubre que la aparente y calculada frialdad emocional del comandante de Auschwitz ocultaba en realidad su más intenso sentimiento: la ambición del éxito y el poder. No fue un individuo movido por inercia. Supo siempre lo que hacía y conocía muy bien las consecuencias de sus actos, pero asumió el riesgo de llevarlos a cabo convencido de que eso le reportaría grandes beneficios. No era un simple elemento de un engranaje que alguien mueve desde fuera, pues, aunque nunca reconoció su culpabilidad, era consciente de su responsabilidad en una empresa cuyas consecuencias positivas serían proporcionales a su dimensión “justiciera” y al esfuerzo para realizarla superando debilidades personales, que las tenía, aunque no las manifestara. Sin sentirse responsable de lo que hizo no hubiera podido acreditar los beneficios que esperaba obtener por ello.

Acostumbrarse a vivir con el mal no necesariamente significa banalizarlo. Si así fuera, quienes vivimos en países desarrollados también lo haríamos al aceptar con cierta normalidad el estado de pobreza y calamidad en otras partes del mundo e incluso en nuestro propio entorno

Acostumbrarse a vivir con el mal no necesariamente significa banalizarlo. Si así fuera, quienes vivimos en países desarrollados también lo haríamos al aceptar con cierta normalidad el estado de pobreza y calamidad en otras partes del mundo e incluso en nuestro propio entorno, pues no dejamos de tomar un café caliente con tarta de manzana en una cafetería porque haya un pobre mendigo muriéndose de hambre y frío junto a su puerta. Lo hacemos, no porque creamos que eso no es algo malo, sino porque remediarlo es algo que en general consideramos fuera de nuestro alcance. Nos acostumbramos a vivir con el mal, pero no dejamos de sentirlo como tal. Pero la inevitabilidad no es la única interpretación alternativa a la banalidad, pues también hay quien sin ser un malvado acepta a veces un mal, como la pena de muerte o incluso la cadena perpetua, por considerarlo remedio o terapia de otro mal supuestamente mayor. Es posible también que muchos nazis, como Rudolf Höss, fuesen, además de malvados, cobardes, y aceptasen el mal y se habituasen a él no por banalizarlo, sino por verlo como un remedio terapéutico para lo que ellos consideraban males mayores, o, por encima de todo, como un instrumento para obtener gloria y beneficios personales.

Ignacio Morgado Bernal. Director del Instituto de Neurociencia de la Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona. Autor de Emociones corrosivas: Cómo afrontar la envidia, la codicia, la culpabilidad y la vergüenza, el odio y la vanidad (Ariel, 2018)

Según tomado,

¿Cómo es que el agente de la destrucción se convierte en un agente curativo?

Bien oculto

El veneno de la serpiente mamba negra africana es uno de los más mortíferos para el ser humano. La mordida se siente al principio como una ligera picadura, luego como un hormigueo. Luego de unos pocos minutos, el sistema nervioso comienza a apagarse, lo que culmina en una parálisis, convulsiones y una muerte sofocante.

Investigadores han descubierto recientemente que este veneno letal también contiene dos potentes analgésicos, conocidos como mambalgins, tan efectivos como la morfina. Además, a diferencia de la morfina, los mambalgins no generan tolerancia ni adicción, y no tienen efectos colaterales peligrosos. La misma serpiente que causa una muerte horrible también tiene la clave para un alivio extraordinario.

De manera similar, en la parashá de esta semana, cuando el pueblo judío está rodeado de serpientes venenosas, Di-s le dice a Moshé que fabrique una serpiente de cobre y la coloque en el campamento. Todos aquellos que contemplaran a la serpiente estarían curados. (Esta es la fuente de la conocida imagen de la serpiente en una vara).

¿Cómo es que el agente de la destrucción se convierte en un agente curativo?

Sucede que no hay maldad absoluta. Cada manifestación de la maldad lleva oculta en sí el potencial para el bien. Un ejemplo excelente de esto es que la guematria (el valor numérico) de la palabra hebrea para “serpiente”, najash, equivale al valor de la palabra Mashíaj. El mashíaj dará fin al exilio y reparará el daño hechos en el mundo a partir del pecado del Árbol del Conocimiento, provocado por una serpiente.

“Muy bonito”, dirás tú, “pero no lo veo. Lo que veo es un mundo lleno de maldad y dolor. ¿Por qué Di-s crearía la maldad sólo por la potencialidad del bien?”

Podría argumentar que el sufrimiento nos ennoblece, nos vuelve más compasivos y sensibles al sufrimiento de los demás. Podría sostener que el sufrimiento provee el contraste que nos permite apreciar el bien. Podría afirmar que necesitamos descender si queremos ascender. Incluso podría aseverar que el sufrimiento en realidad es una forma sublime y oculta del bien.

Pero esto no te satisfaría. “Di-s es el amo del universo”, dirías. “Él diseñó este mundo y todo lo que hay en él. Nos podría haber permitido alcanzar el ascenso sin el descenso, el perfeccionamiento sin el sufrimiento, la redención sin el exilio. Fue su elección crear el mal, o al menos aquello que percibimos como el mal. Él creó el veneno, y Él creó el antídoto”.

Y yo no podría responderte.

Cuando el Rebe de Lubavitch, rabí Menajem Mendel Schneerson, de bendita memoria, habló de este concepto durante una reunión jasídica, las lágrimas afectaron su voz: “¿Por qué debemos tener esta aflicción… la Shejiná en el exilio… el Mashíaj en el exilio… todos los judíos en el exilio, sin final a la vista?”.

El Rebe concluyó que no podemos entender el dolor porque Di-s no quiere que lo entendamos. Él no quiere que lo aceptemos, lo justifiquemos o lo racionalicemos bajo ningún concepto. Quiere que protestemos contra él y que trabajemos para acabar con él. Y si entendiéramos el dolor, incluso en lo más mínimo, se reduciría nuestra motivación para acabar con él.

En el libro de Ieshaiau está escrito que cuando venga el Mashíaj nosotros diremos: “Gracias, Di-s, por haber estado enfadado conmigo”.1 En otras palabras, nos daremos cuenta entonces de que los sucesos dolorosos que hemos experimentado, las manifestaciones de la ira de Di-s, eran en realidad el bien supremo.

Pero aún es muy pronto para valorarlo. Mientras el sufrimiento siga vigente, mientras haya alguna criatura viva que sufra o esté en el exilio, no estaremos listos para agradecer a Di-s por el dolor. Sólo cuando el exilio acabe tendremos el lujo de mirar hacia atrás y agradecer a Di-s por todas las bendiciones ocultas. Por ahora, sólo podemos pedirle que cumpla su promesa de “destruir la muerte para siempre; y enjugar las lágrimas de todos los rostros”.2

(Basado en una charla del Rebe, Hashaná Rabá 5744).

Según tomado de,

Notas al Pie
  1. Ieshaiau 12:1.         2. Ieshaiau 25:8.

Moses Strikes the Rock: The Full Story

Moses Strikes the Rock: The Full Story

The “Waters of Strife” (Mei Meribah) is among the most famous and enigmatic stories in the Torah. It goes like this: There is a water crisis, and G‑d’s commands to Moses to draw water from the rock. Moses fails to sanctify G‑d’s name and strikes the rock instead. G‑d punishes him by not allowing him to enter the Land of Israel.1

The exact chain of events, what Moses wrongdoing was, and a host of other details are unclear, and the story of Moses hitting the rock has baffled many a student for thousands of years. Let us recount the story, analyze the explanations of the classic commentators, and interpret the story with a chassidic spin. First, let’s get some context.


In the year 2488 from creation, the 40th year of the Jews’ sojourn in the desert, Miriam, prophetess and sister of Moses, passed away. With her passing, the rock that supplied the Jews with water dried up. The Jews had this miraculous well in Miriam’s merit, so when she passed on, the well ran dry, and the Jews were left in the desert without water.2

This was not the first time the Jews had no water. It is actually the third time the Torah records such a story.This was not the first time the Jews had no water. It is actually the third time the Torah records such a story.

The first time was when the Jews were fresh out of Egypt. They arrived in a place called Marah, where all the water was bitter. G‑d told Moses to throw a bitter tree branch into the water, and it miraculously sweetened the water and made it drinkable.3

The second time4 was shortly after the first, when the Jews were in Refidim and also ran out of water. Moses called on G‑d for help, and G‑d commanded him strike a particular rock with his staff. The rock split open and water gushed forth. This rock came to be known as “Miriam’s Well,” for, as mentioned, the miracle was done in her merit. For 40 years, this rock traveled with the people and served them faithfully, providing water for them and their animals, its tributaries serving as borders between the tribes when they camped.5

The Story

Our story begins close to 40 years later, on the eve of the Jews’ entry to the Promised Land. The Torah records that the Jews camped in Kadesh and that Miriam died:6

The congregation had no water; so they assembled against Moses and Aaron. The people quarreled with Moses, and they said, “If only we had died with the death of our brothers before the L‑rd. Why have you brought the congregation of the L‑rd to this desert so that we and our livestock should die there? Why have you taken us out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place; it is not a place for seeds, or for fig trees, grapevines, or pomegranate trees, and there is no water to drink.”

Moses and Aaron moved away from the assembly to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and they fell on their faces. [Then] the glory of the L‑rd appeared to them. The L‑rd spoke to Moses, saying: “Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and your brother Aaron, and speak to the rock in their presence so that it will give forth its water. You shall bring forth water for them from the rock and give the congregation and their livestock to drink.”

Moses took the staff from before the L‑rd as He had commanded him. Moses and Aaron assembled the congregation in front of the rock, and he said to them, “Now listen, you rebels, can we draw water for you from this rock?” Moses raised his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, when an abundance of water gushed forth, and the congregation and their livestock drank.

The Story Behind the Story

This passage requires a lot of explanation. G‑d told Moses to speak to the rock, so why did He also tell him to take the staff? Also, what did Moses mean when he said, “Can we draw water for you from this rock”? The Jews had watched him bring water from a rock for 40 years, and G‑d had just commanded him to do precisely that. Why the hesitation? Additionally, why did Moses call the Jews “rebels,” and why did he hit the rock twice?

The classic commentator Rashi fills in some important background information: G‑d told Moses to speak to the rock, but the rock had rolled away and rested among other rocks. Moses didn’t know to which rock he should speak, and the one he addressed was the wrong one. Nothing happened, and the Jewish people began to mock Moses, demanding that he draw water from any rock. Moses grew angry and called them rebels for insinuating that he had the power to perform a miracle where G‑d had not willed it (i.e., with a rock other than the one G‑d had specified).

When speaking did not produce results, Moses remembered that 40 years previously G‑d had commanded him to hit the rock to draw water. And this time, G‑d had also instructed him to take the staff with him. He therefore reasoned that he should strike the rock. Meanwhile, the wrong stone rolled away, and the correct one rolled into place. Thus when Moses’ staff came down, it was on the right rock. The first time he struck it only droplets appeared, so Moses struck it again, and then water gushed forth.7

The Sin

At this stage in the story, all seems pretty standard. No water, people complain, Moses prays, G‑d performs a miracle. Seems like a regular day for the Jews in the desert. The next verse is where the story takes a turn:8

The L‑rd said to Moses and Aaron, “Since you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly to the Land which I have given them. These are the waters of dispute [Mei Meribah] where the children of Israel contended with the L‑rd, and He was sanctified through them.

In an instant, Moses and Aaron’s dreams were crushed. Their life’s goal, to bring the Jews to the Promised Land, dissolved to dust. Why? Of what sin were they guilty? And why such a harsh punishment?

In the thousands of years that the Torah has been studied, tens, if not hundreds, of interpretations have been offered on this story. We will focus on seven major interpretations, one less literal analysis, and one chassidic explanation.

Rashi: Hitting Instead of Speaking

As mentioned above, Rashi’s commonly accepted explanation is that Moses hit the rock when G‑d instructed him to speak to it. G‑d specifically wanted him to speak to the rock so the Jewish people would realize that if even an inanimate rock listens to the word of G‑d, how much more so should they. They would have been so inspired, they would never have sinned again. Moses disobeyed G‑d and hit the rock, and an opportunity to glorify G‑d was missed. Therefore he and Aaron were punished.

The Rebbe expands on this explanation, that their sin was due to the public nature of their infraction, saying that the reason the sin was treated so severely was because it happened publicly. Although they committed a minor infraction, Moses and Aaron were punished severely because they desecrated G‑d’s name before the eyes of all. This teaches us a how seriously we should take the desecration of G‑d’s name in public.9

Nachmanides: Ascribing Powers to Themselves

Unlike Rashi, Nachmanides (Ramban) learns that since G‑d told Moses to take the stick, there was no problem with him hitting the rock. The miracle was to be accomplished through either medium. Rather, Moses and Aaron’s sin was that they said, “ Can we draw water for you from this rock?” implying that they had the power to perform the miracle, and not that their power came from G‑d.10

Nachmanides supports his explanation with G‑d’s opening words to Moses, “Because you did not believe in Me,” implying that this was a failure of faith rather than a lapse of obedience or a surrender to anger.

Maimonides: Moses’ Anger

Maimonides has an altogether different take on the story. His explanation is that Moses’ sin was his anger. The Jews were distressed over the lack of water, a justifiable concern. Moses anger and his branding them “rebels” was wrong. He was therefore punished.11

Ibn Ezra: The Double Striking

Ibn Ezra explains that Moses was supposed to hit the rock only once, and the water would have flowed. The problem was that Moses got angry so he did not hit the rock in the manner he was supposed to. In order for the water to actually issue forth, he was forced to hit it a second time, this time correctly. The necessity to hit it twice was a desecration of G‑d’s name, so he was punished.12

Midrash: Four Sins

Basing it on the four expressions of G‑d’s rebuke, the Midrash Yalkut Shimoni learns that Moses was culpable for four sins: a) He hit the rock when he should have spoken to it. b) He should have brought water from all the other rocks as well. c) He said, “Can we draw water for you from this rock?” d) G‑d wanted him to say words of Torah over the rock and he did not.13

Sefer Ha’ikrim: Lack of Initiative

Rabbi Joseph Albo, in his Sefer Ha’ikrim (Book of Principles)writes that a tzaddik, a righteous person, has the ability to affect the elements and manipulate the forces of nature according to his will. Therefore, when the Jews came to Moses demanding water, Moses should not have prayed to G‑d. He should have struck the rock of his own volition. Because he did not, he caused people to lessen their opinion of tzaddikim, which in turn made them lessen their opinion of G‑d, so he was punished.14

Abarbanel: Cover Up for Other Sins

The fifteenth century commentator Isaac Abarbanel takes issue with all these explanations, pointing out the flaws in each one. One of his primary concerns is that whichever way one learns the story, Moses and Aaron’s sin was not enough to warrant them being barred entry into the Land. He therefore takes a unique approach, saying that Moses and Aaron’s sin was not particularly terrible; they merely made a mistake. However, G‑d did not want them entering the Land for other reasons. Moses, because he sent the spies, and Aaron because of his involvement, albeit unwilling, with the sin of the Golden Calf. G‑d wanted to protect Moses and Aarons’ honour, so He pretended that the rock was the reason for their punishment, to cover up the true reason.

The Rogatchover Gaon: Impure Mikvehs

Rabbi Joseph Rosen, the Rogatchover Gaon (Genius) provides a fascinating alternative explanation, which requires the following preface.

In addition to drinking, the Jews needed the water of the well to serve as a mikveh, a ritual immersion pool. The laws of niddah, ritual purity, dictate that, once a month, a woman must separate from her husband for a period of time. Afterwards, she immerses in a mikveh, and only then is the couple permitted to be together.

One of the many laws of mikveh states that when drawing water from a stream or well to a mikveh, any tool that is susceptible to becoming impure may not be used. Only vessels that could never become impure (e.g. stone) may be used in directing the water flow. Otherwise the mikveh is invalid.

The Rogatchover Gaon explains that Moses’ sin was that he took the wrong stick. G‑d wanted him to hit the rock with his own stick, but in his humility, Moses thought G‑d meant Aaron’s stick. Whereas Moses stick was made of precious stone,15 Aaron’s was wood. Wood is susceptible to becoming impure, and so when Moses hit the rock with Aaron’s stick, the water that flowed from the rock was not kosher for a mikveh.

Until a few months later when the Jews found a different water source that was kosher for mikveh, Jewish couples were not intimate with each other. This breakdown in the family unit was Moses’ fault, and therefore he was punished.16

The Motive

Notwithstanding all the above-mentioned explanations, one thing remains unclear. Why did Moses, the greatest prophet and tzaddik, disobey G‑d? Obviously, such a man would not sin out of spite or rebellion.

In a chassidic discourse, the fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Dovber of Lubavitch, answers this question. Revolutionizing the entire story by casting it in the light of Chassidut, he explains Moses’ intention:

Tikunei Zohar states, “The rock represents Torah. Had Moses (spoken and) not hit the rock, the Jews would not have to toil in the study of Torah.17 Moses’ hitting the rock caused the Torah to descend from its place of purity and exaltedness, and descend into the falsehood of this world.” Striking the rock caused the Torah’s light to become concealed, making it difficult to connect with G‑d. Had Moses spoken to the rock, as he was commanded, the waters of Torah would come out freely and flowing. One would not need to toil and struggle to understand the Torah, for its light would shine openly and simply. Had Moses spoken to the rock, the Jews would see G‑dliness openly, and connect with G‑d easily.

Moses struck the rock because he recognized that only if Jews toiled would their connection to G‑d and his Torah be real. Nevertheless, Moses struck the rock because he recognized that only if Jews toiled would their connection to G‑d and his Torah be real. If everything were to come easy, there there would never be a genuine connection; the Jews would never break out of their comfort zones to connect with G‑d, and they would never become truly one.

G‑d, the Jews’ loving father, wanted Moses to speak to the rock, wanted Torah and G‑d to be easily accessible. Nevertheless, Moses, whose entire existence was about connecting Jews with G‑d, knew that we must toil to connect, and thus he struck the rock.

Based on this explanation, perhaps we can understand why Moses and Aaron had to die before they could enter the Land of Israel. This was not as a punishment, heaven forbid, but rather the first step in the fulfillment of Moses’ goal. Moses and Aaron represented pure G‑dly revelation; their very existence revealed G‑dliness and inspired people to serve Him. Living in their presence made it easy to connect with G‑d. Therefore, Moses and Aaron could not enter the Land, so that their own plan to create a strong bond between G‑d and the Jewish people could come to fruition.

The Good Sin

Bearing this in mind, it is understood that Moses’ sin was not as a rebellion against G‑d; it wasn’t even a mistake. Moses’ sin against G‑d was for G‑d’s sake.

Moses did not listen to G‑d because he knew that were he to disobey Him, in the long run the unity between Jews and G‑d would be more real. Ultimately, G‑d would be glorified and served in an infinitely greater manner. In striking the rock, Moses made a conscious decision that, for the sake of genuine connection, he must disobey G‑d.

1. Numbers 20.
2. Taanit 9a.
3. Exodus 15:22.
4. Exodus 17:1.
5. Tanchuma, Chukat 21.
6. Numbers 20:1.
7. Rashi, Numbers 20:11.
8. Numbers 20:12.
9. Likkutei Sichot, vol. 28, pp. 124-131.
10. Nachmanides, Numbers 20:8.
11. Shemonah Perakim, end of ch. 4.
12. Ibn Ezra, Numbers 20:8.
13. Yalkut Shimoni, Chukat, Remez 763-764. See Ohr Hachayim, Numbers 20:8, for a lengthy explanation.
14. Sefer Ha’ikrim, Maamar 4, ch. 22.
15. Rashi, Exodus 17:6, Mechilta.
16. Responsa, Tzafnat Panei’ach 119:7; Tzafnat Panei’ach, Chukat 20. This explanation posits that the stick Moses was supposed to take was his own. See Chizkuni and Kli Yakar for alternative opinions.
17. Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 21, p. 53:b.

¿Dar o no dar?

Jukat(Números 19:1-22:1)

Uno de los dilemas más difíciles que enfrentan los seres humanos es sopesar las necesidades propias frente a las ajenas. Esta situación se presenta en muchos escenarios. Por ejemplo: ¿Cuánto debemos dar para caridad? ¿Podemos ir a menudo a comer en restaurantes si por ello se verá disminuida nuestra capacidad para ayudar a los menos afortunados? Cuando una persona que vive en la calle nos pide dinero, ¿debemos darle? ¿Acaso los Estados Unidos, donde la mayoría de sus ciudadanos se benefició de una política de migración relativamente liberal, deben restringir ahora la inmigración?

¿En dónde trazamos la línea entre los intereses personales legítimos y nuestra preocupación por los demás?

Jukat, la parashá de esta semana, describe uno de estos dilemas. El pueblo judío, después de mucho vagar por el desierto, finalmente está a punto de entrar a la Tierra de Israel. Como necesitan atravesar el territorio edomita, Moshé envía emisarios para preguntarles si los israelitas pueden atravesar su tierra. Edom es plenamente consciente de las dificultades que los israelitas sufrieron (el ataque de Amalek, el fiasco de los espías, la rebelión de Kóraj). De todas maneras, los edomitas rechazan el pedido de Moshé e incluso amenazan atacarlos si intentan ingresar a su territorio.

Moshé es persistente y envía otro mensaje. Les asegura a los edomitas que cuando el pueblo judío atraviese su tierra, permanecerá “en un camino aislado de todo centro habitado” (como explica Najmánides). Más aún, los israelitas prometen pagar todo alimento o agua que consuman. A pesar de eso, los edomitas vuelven a negarles el ingreso.

Por un lado, la obstinación de los edomitas no era completamente irracional. Permitir que una masa de tres millones de personas atraviese tu territorio es arriesgado, incluso si permanecen fuera de las áreas pobladas. Más aún, como explica el Abarbanel, si los edomitas hubieran asistido a los israelitas de alguna forma, eso hubiese disgustado a los canaanitas, ya que los judíos iban camino a atacarlos.

Entonces, ¿por qué la tradición judía considera que la respuesta edomita es cruel? A tal grado que la Torá prohíbe aceptar a un edomita que quiera convertirse al judaísmo.

Una explicación posible se basa en un versículo de Deuteronomio que se refiere a los edomitas como hermanos. Los edomitas no son extraños para los israelitas, porque ambas naciones descienden de Itzjak. Por ser familia, deberían haber actuado de otra forma.

Otra explicación se enfoca más en la falta de compasión de los edomitas. En lugar de expresar pena y explicarles a los judíos que no podían asumir riesgos geopolíticos, los edomitas simplemente los amenazaron de muerte si llegaban a cruzar la frontera. ¿No podían en cambio haberse acercado con alguna expresión de bondad y ofrecerles alimento o bebida?

¿Cuál es la lección para nosotros? Cuando preocupaciones legítimas no nos permiten ayudar a los demás como nos gustaría, al menos debemos buscar una forma alternativa para expresar nuestra preocupación. No ofrecer ninguna clase de bondad es repetir las duras y egoístas acciones de Edom.

Según tomado de,

The Consolations of Mortality

by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Chukat is about mortality. In it we read of the death of two of Israel’s three great leaders in the wilderness, Miriam and Aaron, and the sentence of death decreed against Moses, the greatest of them all. These were devastating losses.

To counter that sense of loss and bereavement, the Torah employs one of Judaism’s great principles: The Holy One, blessed be He, creates the remedy before the disease.[1] Before any of the deaths are mentioned we read about the strange ritual of the red heifer, which purified people who had been in contact with death – the archetypal source of impurity. That ritual, often deemed incomprehensible, is in fact deeply symbolic.

It involves taking the most striking emblem of life – a heifer that is pure red, the colour of blood which is the source of life, and that has never been made to endure the burden of a yoke – and reducing it to ash. That is mortality, the fate of all that lives. We are, said Abraham, “mere dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27). “Dust you are,” said God to Adam, “and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19). But the dust is dissolved into “living water,” and from water comes new life.

Water is constantly changing. We never step into the same river twice, said Heraclitus. Yet the river maintains its course between the banks. The water changes but the river remains. So we as physical beings may one day be reduced to dust. But there are two consolations.

The first is that we are not just physical beings. God made the first human “from the dust of the earth”[2] but He breathed into him the breath of life. We may be mortal but there is within us something that is immortal. “The dust returns to the earth as it was but the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).

The second is that, even down here on earth, something of us lives on, as it did for Aaron in the form of his sons who carry the name of the priesthood to this day, as it did for Moses in the form of his disciples who studied and lived by his words as they do to this day, and as it did for Miriam in the lives of all those women who, by their courage, taught men the true meaning of faith.[3] For good or bad, our lives have an impact on other lives, and the ripples of our deeds spread ever outward across space and time. We are part of the undying river of life.

So we may be mortal, but that does not reduce our life to insignificance, as Tolstoy once thought it did,[4] for we are part of something larger than ourselves, characters in a story that began early in the history of civilisation and that will last as long as humankind.

It is in this context that we should understand one of the most troubling episodes in the Torah, Moses’ angry outburst when the people called for water, for which he and Aaron were condemned to die in the wilderness without ever crossing into the Promised Land.[5] I have written about this passage many times elsewhere, and I do not want to focus on the details here. I want simply to note why the story of Moses hitting the rock appears here, in parshat Chukat, whose overarching theme is our existence as physical beings in a physical world, with its two potentially tragic consequences.

First, we are an unstable mix of reason and passion, reflection and emotion, so that sometimes grief and exhaustion can lead even the greatest to make mistakes, as it did in the case of Moses and Aaron after the death of their sister. Second, we are physical, therefore mortal. Therefore, for all of us, there are rivers we will not cross, promised lands we will not enter, futures we helped shape but will not live to see.

The Torah is sketching out the contours of a truly remarkable idea. Despite these two facets of our humanity – that we make mistakes and that we die – human existence is not tragic. Moses and Aaron made mistakes, but that did not stop them being among the greatest leaders who ever lived, whose impact is still palpable today in the prophetic and priestly dimensions of Jewish life. And the fact that Moses did not live to see his people cross the Jordan did not diminish his eternal legacy as the man who turned a nation of slaves into a free people, bringing them to the very brink of the Promised Land.

I wonder if any other culture, creed or civilisation has done greater justice to the human condition than Judaism, with its insistence that we are human, not gods, and that we are, nonetheless, God’s partners in the work of creation and the fulfilment of the covenant.

Almost every other culture has blurred the line between God and human beings. In the ancient world, rulers were usually thought of as gods, demigods, or chief intermediaries with the gods. Christianity and Islam know of infallible human beings, the son of God or the prophet of God. Modern atheists, by contrast, have tended to echo Nietzsche’s question that, to justify our dethronement of God, “Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”[6]

In 1967, when I was just beginning my university studies, I listened to the BBC Reith Lectures, given that year by Edmond Leach, professor of anthropology at Cambridge, with their opening sentences, “Men have become like gods. Isn’t it about time that we understood our divinity?”[7] I recall that as soon as I heard those words, I sensed that something was going wrong in Western civilisation. We are not gods, and bad things happened when people thought they were.

Meanwhile, paradoxically, the greater our powers, the lower our estimate of the human person. In his novel Zadig, Voltaire described humans as “insects devouring one another on a little atom of mud.” The late Stephen Hawking stated that “the human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate size planet, orbiting round a very average star in the outer suburb of one among a billion galaxies.” The philosopher John Gray declared that “human life has no more meaning than that of slime mould.”[8]  In his Homo Deus, Yuval Harari reaches the conclusion that, “Looking back, humanity will turn out to be just a ripple within the cosmic data flow.”[9]

These are the two options the Torah rejects: too high or too low an estimate of humankind. On the one hand, no man is a god. No one is infallible. There is no life without error and shortcoming. That is why it was so important to note, in the parsha that deals with mortality, Moses’ sin. Likewise it was important to say at the outset of his mission that he had no special charismatic endowments. He was not a natural speaker who could sway crowds (Ex. 4:10). Equally the Torah emphasises at the end of his life that “No one knows his burial place,” (Deut. 34:6) so that it could not become a place of pilgrimage. Moses was human, all-too-human, yet he was the greatest prophet who ever lived (Deut. 34:10).

On the other hand the idea that we are mere dust and nothing more – insects, scum, slime mould, a ripple in the cosmic data flow – must rank among the most foolish ever formulated by intelligent minds. No insect ever became a Voltaire. No chemical scum became a chemist. No ripple in the data flow wrote international bestsellers. Both errors – that we are gods or we are insects – are dangerous. Taken seriously they can justify almost any crime against humanity. Without a delicate balance between Divine eternity and human mortality, Divine forgiveness and human error, we can wreak much destruction – and our power to do so grows by the year.

Hence the life-changing idea of Chukat: we are dust of the earth but there is within us the breath of God. We fail, but we can still achieve greatness. We die, but the best part of us lives on.

The Hasidic master R. Simcha Bunim of Peshischke said we should each have two pockets. In one should be a note saying: “I am but dust and ashes.”[10] In the other should be a note saying: “For my sake was the world created.”[11] Life lives in the tension between our physical smallness and our spiritual greatness, the brevity of life and the eternity of the faith by which we live. Defeat, despair and a sense of tragedy are always premature. Life is short, but when we lift our eyes to heaven, we walk tall.

Shabbat Shalom.


[1] Megillah 13b; Midrash Sechel Tov, Shemot 3:1.
[2] Or as we might put it today: from the same source of life, written in the same genetic code, as everything else that lives.
[3] See the essay on ‘Women and the Exodus,’ in The Rabbi Sacks Haggadah, 117-121.
[4] See Tolstoy’s parable of the traveller hiding in a well, in his Confessions; and his short story, ‘The Death of Ivan Ilyich.’ See also Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death, Free Press, 1973.
[5] Num. 20:1-13.
[6] Nietzsche, The Gay Science, section 125.
[7] Edmund Leach, A Runaway World?, Oxford University Press, 1968.
[8] I owe these quotes to Raymond Tallis, ‘You chemical scum, you,’ in his Reflections of a Metaphysical Flaneur, Acumen, 2013.
[9] Yuval Harari, Homo Deus, Harvill Secker, 2016, 395.
[10] Gen. 18:27.
[11] Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5.

As taken from,