Atlanta Jewish Academy

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Torah and Mitzvos

written by: Elad Asulin, AJA Program Director

 

"These are the reckonings of the mishkan, the mishkan of testimony, which were reckoned at Moshe's bidding." (Ex. 38:21)

The mishkan and all its holy vessels were completed. Moshe gave the Jewish people a calculation of how he had used every single ounce of gold, silver and copper which had been contributed. The verse opens, "These are the reckonings..." which implies that this was considered counting, while some other instance of reckoning was not considered a counting. (1) What is this reckoning coming to reject?

 

The verse is telling us that the only meaningful use of money is for building G-d's sanctuaries or for other heavenly purposes. Only such investments are eternal; others are transitory. (2) When a person dies, his Torah and mitzvos accompany him and provide him merits in the world to come, but the money which he spent all his life working for will be left behind.

 

Before dying, Baron Rothschild handed his children two letters. He instructed them to open one immediately following his death, and the second a month later. They opened the first letter and discovered the following message: "My last request is that I should be buried wearing my socks." Even though his children were perplexed by such a request, they still tried to honor it. They fought hard, but the Rabbis would not allow it and buried him without his socks. After the month had passed, his children anxiously opened up the second letter to discover another message: "I know that you did not bury me wearing my socks as I had requested, since it is against Halacha, Jewish Law. You are most probably wondering why, then, did I request it in the first place. My answer to you, my dear children, is to teach you an eternal lesson: a person can spend his life amassing a great amount of possessions and money, but no matter how hard he tries, he cannot even take his socks with him to the next world! Only the money which he used for Torah and mitzvos will accompany him."

 

 

Shabbat Shalom.

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Parshat Vayakhel: Lighting a Fire

written by: Rabbi Daniel Estreicher, AJA Upper School Judaics Teacher

 

In Parshat Vayakhel, the Torah states, "Do not light a fire in all your dwelling places". Simply speaking, the Torah is teaching us the prohibition of lighting a fire on the Shabbat.

 

Many rabbis derive a very important ethical lesson from these words. Often there may be stress in getting ready for Shabbat because of the numerous preparations that are needed, and this might lead to someone getting upset if everything is not going as planned.

 

Furthermore, on the Shabbat day, when the entire family is around the table eating their meal, unfortunately conversations might lead to one person getting upset with what was said or done. The Torah is therefore especially careful to encourage us to be careful not to get angry, which is represented by the word "fire". We need to make an exerted effort to make it a peaceful and meaningful day, where we grow in our service of Hashem.

 

Let us all take this lesson to heart and the benefits will be great.

 

Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi E

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Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei

Written by our Upper School Girls in the Chagiga cast:

 

In this week's parshah, Parshat Vayakhel-Pekudei, we read about the building of the Mishkan. In previous parshiot, Hashem gave the instructions and guidelines to Bnei Yisrael for building it, but it isn’t until now that they are commanded to physically build it. However, the instructions and prerequisites are just as important as the building. In Vayakhel Pasuk Yud it states:

 

יוְכָל־חֲכַם־לֵ֖ב בָּכֶ֑ם יָבֹ֣אוּ וְיַֽעֲשׂ֔וּ אֵ֛ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר צִוָּ֖ה ה׳

 

“Every wise-hearted person among you shall come and make everything that Hashem commanded.” Essentially, the Mishkan required the energy, preparation, and work from everyone; without it the final building would be incomplete.

 

The same, on a smaller scale, applies for Chagiga, too. Just like Hashem gave the instructions for the building of the Mishkan, the Chagiga play could not have taken place without the tireless effort of Rina and Brooke. As Director, Rina wrote the script, choreographed the dances, and created the backbone of the entire play.  

 

As producer, Brooke took charge in making sure every other aspect was completed. The girls (and a few guys) contributed hours of dedication and effort into building the incredible sets, learning lines, perfecting songs and dances, managing sounds and lights, creating menus, preparing food and putting forth endless hard work. They spent late hours practicing, stressing, and pushing off homework to put together this amazing play for our enjoyment.

 

So in Chagiga, just like in our parsha, you saw the culmination of everyone's hard work.

Shabbat Shalom.

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Parsha Ki-Tisa

 

written by: Natalie Newman, 6th Grader who becomes a Bat Mitzvah on 3/18

I am very excited to have the opportunity to give a D'var Torah on my favorite parsha, Ki-Tisa.
The Parasha begins with the Mitzvah of Machatzit Hashekel:


זֶ֣ה | יִתְּנ֗וּ כָּל־הָֽעֹבֵר֙ עַל־הַפְּקֻדִ֔ים מַֽחֲצִ֥ית הַשֶּׁ֖קֶל ..הֶֽעָשִׁ֣יר לֹֽא־יַרְבֶּ֗ה וְהַדַּל֙ לֹ֣א יַמְעִ֔יט מִמַּֽחֲצִ֖ית הַשָּׁ֑קֶל  לָתֵת֙ אֶת־תְּרוּמַ֣ת יְהֹוָ֔ה לְכַפֵּ֖ר עַל־נַפְשֹֽׁתֵיכֶֽם וְלָֽקַחְתָּ֞ אֶת־כֶּ֣סֶף הַכִּפֻּרִ֗ים מֵאֵת֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְנָֽתַתָּ֣ אֹת֔וֹ עַל־עֲבֹדַ֖ת אֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד וְהָיָה֩ לִבְנֵ֨י יִשְׂרָאֵ֤ל לְזִכָּרוֹן֙ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהֹוָ֔ה לְכַפֵּ֖ר עַל־נַפְשֹֽׁתֵיכֶֽם:

"a half shekel shall be the offering of G-d...The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less. The half-shekel should be designated for the service of the Mishkan - Tent of Meeting; that it may be a memorial to the children of Israel before G-d, to make atonement for your souls."  “זה יתנו” (This they shall give)  - Rashi explains that G-d took a coin of fire from under His throne of glory and showed it to Moshe, saying: "Like this one they shall give."

What was so difficult for Moshe to understand about the half shekel? Did Hashem actually need to show it to him? And how does the “coin of fire” resolve this difficulty?

Moshe could not understand: How could a mere coin be "a ransom for his soul to G-d"? G-d answered him by showing him a "coin of fire." The Rebbe of Kotzk explains this to mean the following: when a person performs even a modest act of charity with the fire of passion and enthusiasm, he is indeed giving a piece of his soul.

It’s not just what we do; it’s how we do it.

The Chasidic master Reb Elimelech further explains that money is fire. Like fire, it can destroy, or illuminate, depending on how it is used. 

Why only a half coin and not a complete coin?

The verse states: “The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less.” This teaches us that rich and poor are all equal in G-d’s eyes.

People differ in their smarts, character, talents, and in the quantity of their material resources. Yet all are equal in their bond with G-d. Our commitment to Him resides at the core of our souls. While everyone contributed to the making of the various components of the Mishkan in accordance with their individual capacity, all gave equally of the silver of which its foundation was made.This is the foundation of the relationship between us and Hashem, the "rich man" cannot give more, and the "poor" cannot give less.  

Another reason is To teach us that no person is a complete entity unto him or herself. Only by joining with another can a person become a "whole thing".

This connects with my Hebrew name Chaya which means life! Chasidic teachings indicate that LIFE happens when we make room for others.

Thank You, and Shabbat Shalom.

 

 

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Parsha Tetzaveh

 

Written by: Rebecca Felgin (6th grade) who becomes a Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat, 3/11/17

 

This week's Parasha is Tetzaveh. The word “Tetzaveh” means command. The beginning of the Parasha begins with the following commandment that Hashem gave to Moshe:

 

וְאַתָּ֞ה תְּצַוֶּ֣ה | אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל וְיִקְח֨וּ אֵלֶ֜יךָ שֶׁ֣מֶן זַ֥יִת זָ֛ךְ כָּתִ֖ית לַמָּא֑וֹר לְהַֽעֲלֹ֥ת נֵ֖ר תָּמִֽיד:

 

Hashem tells Moshe,“Command the children of Israel that they should bring to you PURE OLIVE OIL, to light the menorah.

 

Hashem is very specific that it needs to be only “pure olive oil”, only the cleanest purest part of the oil can be used.

 

What can we learn from the fact that Hashem specifically commands only PURE OLIVE OIL to be used?

 

1)    In order to get the purest olive oil, the olives go through a crushing process. The first few drops of oil are the most pure. Only this oil is used for the Menorah.

 

The lighting of the menorah symbolizes lighting up the souls of the people around us. Sometimes we may feel like we are “crushed” - tested with hardships and challenges. Just like the olives have to go through a crushing process in order to get oil that is pure and good, when we as people are “crushed”, and go through a challenge or tough time, if we make a choice to have a good attitude and not wallow in self-pity, we not only turn it into a good situation, we also affect the people around us through our positive attitude.

 

2) Olive oil does not mix with any other liquid. It separates and rises to the top. The Torah symbolizes the light in a world of darkness. It guides us on how to live a spiritual and meaningful life. The pure olive oil that we use for the Menorah teaches us a very important message: We, as Jews, are unique and we should follow the Torah and Jewish religion and should not assimilate with other religions. Like the oil, we should float to the top.

 

3) Another lesson from the crushing process is that just like the crushing of the olive brings out the best in it, so to the more we push ourselves to follow the Torah and do what Hashem wants, the more we will succeed.

 

4) In the Mishkan, the tabernacle, we used the finest olive oil to light the menorah, and we used the cheaper oil to prepare meals. Usually for lighting, regular oils are used and for baking & cooking, we use more expensive and pure oils.

 

Why in the Mishkan was it the opposite?

 

The menorah symbolizes spirituality. It represents Torah and Mitzvot, like it says: כי נר מצוה ותורה אור Neir Mitzvah VeTorah Or - A candle is a mitzvah and Torah is light. The meal offerings represents the more material and physical needs of a person. The lesson is that we should use more and the best of what we have for spiritual items more than we do on material things.

 

A personal lesson I can learn from all this is: When I play piano it’s very challenging but I still overcome it by practicing many times and letting my parents watch me play. But when my parents push me and make me practice I get better and better than I would be if I didn’t  practice.

 

I see that I can make Judaism a part of my life by: Praying to Hashem, celebrating Shabbat and learning the weekly Parasha. By pushing myself as much as I can I can bring out the best just like the oil.  

 

 

Shabbat Shalom!

 

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