Welcome to the Nishma Insight Discussion Forum blog.


The NISHMA INSIGHT is our popular dvar Torah, distributed almost every week by e-mail, that touches upon an important concept in the Parsha, theme in a holiday or event in contemporary society.

Often, readers respond, via e-mail, with comments that initiate a further dialogue. Through this Discussion Forum, we now wish to open this dialogue to others. If you have a comment on the INSIGHT, we invite you place to your comments here; then we invite everyone to join the discussion.

(If you are not receiving the NISHMA INSIGHT, we invite you join our mailing/e-mail list through completing our sign-up form available at our website.)

Friday, December 30, 2016

Insight 5777-14: YOSEF AND CHANUKAH

For Mikeitz and Chanukah
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Friday, December 23, 2016

Insight 5777-13: The Human Condition

For Vayeshev
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Friday, December 16, 2016

Insight 5777-12: TORAH’S UNIVERSAL ETHIC

For Vayishlach
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Friday, December 9, 2016

Insight 5777-11: THE BACKDROP OF MITZVOT

For Vayeitzei
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Friday, December 2, 2016

Insight 5777-10: BEYOND AND BETWEEN THE LINES

For Toldot
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Friday, November 25, 2016

Insight 5777-09: CHOOSING THE ONE

For Chayei Sarah
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Friday, November 18, 2016

Insight 5777-08: THE NECESSITY OF CARING

For Vayera
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Friday, November 11, 2016

Insight 5777-07: The Real First World War

For Lech Lecha
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Friday, November 4, 2016

Insight 5777-06: Human Ethics

For Noach
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Friday, October 28, 2016

Insight 5777-05: Machloket

For Bereishit 
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Insight 5777-04: Cycles

For Shemini Atzeret, Simchat Torah 
Not yet available on the Nishma website

In a certain way, Moshe Rabbeinu's declaration to the Desert Generation that there will be a time when God will hide His Presence in a similar way. That generation only knew of a reality where God's Presence was obvious but, perhaps, it was important for them to know, just as we should know the opposite, of a time when God's Presence is hidden. Similarly, just as it is most difficult for us to fully comprehend a reality in which God's Presence is obvious, it may have been just as difficult for that generation to comprehend the opposite.
RBH  

Friday, October 14, 2016

Insight 5777-03: POETRY, SENSITIVITY AND GRACE

For Ha'azinu, Succot  
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Friday, October 7, 2016

Insight 5777-02: THE PURPOSE OF CONSEQUENCE

For Vayelech
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Friday, September 30, 2016

Insight 5777-01: The Science of Torah

For Netzavim
Not yet available on the Nishma website

Friday, September 16, 2016

Insight 5776-45: National Ethic

For Ki Teitzei

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

Friday, September 2, 2016

Insight 5776-44: The Nature of Man

For Re'eh

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

Friday, August 19, 2016

Insight 5776-43: ACTION AND STUDY: THE INDIVISABLE UNION

For V'etchanan

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

Friday, August 12, 2016

Insight 5776-42: The Loss of the Temple‏

For Tisha B'Av

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Insight 5776-41: The Variance of Greatness

For Pinchus

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Insight 5776-40: A SINGULARLY UNIQUE NATION

For Balak

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Insight 5776-39: TRULY ENCOUNTERING GOD

For Chukkat

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, July 8, 2016

Insight 5776-38: BUT REALITY CHANGES

For Korach
Not yet available on the Nishma website

I would like to point out that it is also an acceptance of changing reality that could have been a factor in Korach's mistake. Korach challenged Moshe in that he declared that Moshe promised to bring the people to Israel yet the desert generation was now under a Divine edict that they would perish in the desert without entering the land. Was Korach really arguing that Moshe intentionally lied? Another possibility may be that Korach was using this fact as support for a contention that reality had changed and that Moshe's previous status was no longer applicable.
RBH 

 
Study Question

1)

Friday, July 1, 2016

Insight 5776-37: The Question of Choice

For Shelach

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Insight 5776-36: In the Presence of Moshe

For Beha'alotcha

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, June 10, 2016

Insight 5776-35: Shavuot

For Shavuot

Study Question

1)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Insight 5776-34: THE VALUE OF MAN

For Behar

I wish to first mention that for anyone interested in reading more of Rabbi Shkopf's powerful Introduction to Shaarei Yosher, a Hebrew-English copy of the text, with an excellent translation from Rabbi Micha Berger, is available at http://www.aishdas.org/ShaareiYosher.pdf. We highly recommend it.

Study Question

1)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Insight 5776-33: THE CONNECTION OF RESPONSIBILITY

For Emor

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Insight 5776-32: Seeing the Person

For Acharei Mot

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Insight 5776-31: The Modern Issue of Chukim and Mishpatim

For Acharei Mot

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1) There are, in fact, many issues that could be explored as an  of this Insight. A significant one is the issue of universalism and Jewish distinctiveness. Mishpatim, in reflecting a general ethical perspective, touches more upon the universal nature of Torah and it is not surprising that those who have a more universal reading of Torah, such as Rambam, seem to further stress the mishpatim. Chukim would seem to reflect more the distinction of the Jew and it is not surprising that they are further stressed in other presentations of Torah thought. What the Insight really might further indicate is the complexity of this issue.


2) While I touched upon this in the Insight, I did not really further clarify it. How do we look at the changing nature of the reasoned ethical in its connection with Torah? Many argue for the ultimate value of Revelation because the morality of reason is open to change -- but the Torah still values this morality of reason. The fact is that Torah, unlike more simplistic views of revealed ethics, has always recognized the complexity of ethics. See Hakdama, Iggrot Moshe. There is a reason for why God demanded thoughtful human investigation in the determination of all Halacha.

3) While I framed the question in the Insight in terms of modernity, it may also be interesting to note that the reasons for the destruction of both Batei Mikdashim focused much more on the violation of mishpatim rather than chukim. It is further interesting to note that the prophets, in focusing on how people stressed their observance of karbanot over their ethical behaviour to others, we may find a parallel to our world today in which we find people, in their religious observance, choosing to focus on spirituality rather than ethics.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Insight 5776-30: TWO STEPS OF FREEDOM

For Pesach

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1

Friday, April 22, 2016

Insight 5776-29: LIVING WITH GOD AND NATURE

For Pesach

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1) One may be wondering how the commitment to the Divine ethic connects with the recognition of the Supernatural Essence of the Divine. It is the realization that the Divine is beyond the natural and supersedes the natural that actually yields the overriding nature of the Divine ethic over the natural order. In the realm of the natural, one can always use the argument that the end justifies the means because the overriding concern of the natural must be the conclusion. It is the supernatural nature of Torah ethics that declares that, while there are times that the end does justify the means, this is not an absolute principle. Many times within Torah, the ethic of the means is paramount notwithstanding the result. It is the recognition of the supernatural nature of the Divine that gives weight to the argument that the end may not justify the means. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Insight 5776-28: Halachic Reality

For Metzorah

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1) In regard to the question of why even a Talmud Chacham must state k'nega, like a mark, rather than just call it in a straightforward manner a nega -- after all he knows the criteria -- there are many different answer with significant moral lessons. For example, there is the argument that since the scholar still must wait for the kohain's ruling, this teaches a certain level of humility -- don't run to state the conclusion until you have to. You can always be missing something. On this overall question, see, further, Rabbi Moshe Hochman, Morasha, Parshat Metzorah, K'nega Nireh Li.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Insight 5776-27: The Humanity of Torah

For Tazria

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1) Some may wish to challenge me in regard to my statement about the overall significance of action by referring to the fact that God rewards someone, in various circumstances, for intent even if an action is not concluded. This is, in fact, a principle of Torah albeit within certain parameters. This idea, though, does not challenge what I was stating. I was not discussing reward, especially God's evaluation and response to us. This is the province of God to which I am totally unable to comment. In that realm, motivation, effort and intent matter -- especially in that God knows the truth. In the human realm, though, the basic yardstick of propriety we have is still action. Intent is not a factor that we can objectively employ.


2) It is also interesting to note how the same concept is expressed in the discussion regarding milah. Notwithstanding the great joy in the performance of this fundamental mitzvah, the pain of the child in being circumcised, and even the pain in the father in seeing his child hurt, is noted...and with halachic significance.


Friday, April 1, 2016

Insight 5776-26: Rabbinic Legislation

For Shemini

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1) It may be important for me to clarify that the distinction in our relationship to Biblical law and Rabbinic law may not really be as heavy as I present in the Insight. It was presented that way in order to clarify the point and to emphasize a difference in nature that is often overlooked. The call of na'aseh v'nishma indeed permeates the entire system of Torah law. We are expected to follow Rabbinic enactments even as we do not understand them and the observance of Torah laws is also enhanced with understanding (that is actually the call of nishma). The difference in what is to exist in regard to our relationship to Biblical and Rabbinic laws is, as such, somewhat slight. But, nonetheless it still exists -- and this presentation was the purpose of this Insight.
RBH

 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Insight 5776-25: Ad D'lo Yada

For Purim

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Insight 5776-24: Positive Duty of Care

For Vayikra

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, March 4, 2016

Insight 5776-23: Shabbat and the Temple

For Vayakhel

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Insight 5776-22: RESPONDING TO TORAH

For Tetzaveh

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, February 12, 2016

Insight 5776-21: Desire and Action

For Terumah

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1) One area in which a recognition of the underlying motivations is of significance is often in our relationships with others. i have heard in the name of the Rav that in our practice of the laws bein adam l'chaveiro, amongst people, there is always the random factor of the person. As such, for example, the actual definition of honourable behaviour in regard to commands of this nature must consider the personal perceptions of what is honourable. Undertaking an act that a person would not define as honourable to him/her, even if the act is objectively presented as honourable within the halachic literature, as such, may have its limitations. This is something to consider.i

Friday, February 5, 2016

Insight 5776-20: The Mishpat of Chok

For Mishpatim

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1) The question referred to in the Insight in regard to why Rashi mentions both Parah Adumah and honouring parents in Shemot 24:3 but only mentions the former in Shemot 15:25 is clearly a matter worth investigating. Rav Yaakov seems to maintain that the focus of the latter verse is the value of Torah study and thus the specific mention, by Rashi, of Parah Adumah. The focus of Rav Yaakov, though, is really why the gemara does not mention Parah Adumah in commenting on the former verse. He explains that the focus of this verse may have been practical laws and Parah Adumah would not have been practical yet without the Mishkan. What may be of particular interest to us, though, may be the different natures imbedded in the commands at Marah.

2) It is interesting to note that the two opinions mentioned in the Mechilta present, as examples of a chok, Shabbat and the arayot. Such classifications may be matters of further discussion. In regard to the issue of whether the arayot should be classified at a chok or mishpat, please see my Homosexuality: Is There a Unique Torah Perspective?, Nishma Update, June 1992.   

Friday, January 29, 2016

Insight 5776-19: Yirei Elokim

For Yitro

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Insight 5776-18: The Challenge of Theism

For Beshalach

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, January 15, 2016

Insight 5776-17: Religious Beliefs

For Bo

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Insight 5776-16: Free Choice

For Va'era

Not yet available on the Nishma website

To expand upon the theory presented in the Insight, Free Choice does not necessarily involve definite conclusions but demands of us to see the full intellectual perspective. It may be that even one accepting hatra'ah may still believe his/her behavour is correct but to do so after accepting the hatra'ah must demand of the person to at least question his/her thoughts. How could someone declare that he/she knows that this law is from God and then just ignore this idea? And if the person did not believe that the law was from God, why did this person accept the hatra'ah? The concept of Free Choice is about this type of thought and recognition. It is about not declaring the black-and-white, especially when one alternative is in one's interest, but seeing the issues.
This idea may also explain why one who is greater is held more responsible for their actions and decisions. There are times where we really, due to our limited perceptions, do not know what to do. Our ability to make a Free Choice decision can be limited. One greater would have more Free Choice ability and this is the reason that such a person could be more responsible.
 

Study Question

1)

Friday, January 1, 2016

Insight 5776-15: Yocheved

For Shemot

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1)