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 27, 2013

Insight 74-16: Equality and Inequality

For Va'era
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) We brought up this issue already in the Insight but, as mentioned there, it was not something we could go into at the time. This is the question of whether the Torah challenge against slavery is specifically against Jews being enslaved or is there a general disgust within the Torah perspective toward slavery of all? This, obviously, touches upon the very subject of the relationship between the Jewish People and humanity in general. There is much room for discussion on this topic. The fact that there is a difference between the Torah rules regarding a Jewish slave and those regarding a non-Jewish slave does not, though, inherently point to a necessary distinction in the view of the entire system. This distinction may be for a variety of reasons. It should still be strongly noted that the Torah rules regarding a non-Jewish were still much, much more progressive than the rules in general regarding slavery in that world.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Insight 5774-15: Natural Behaviour

For Shemot
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1)

Friday, December 13, 2013

Insight 5774-14: The Human Element

For Vayechi
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) If this was the first case of illness, we must really wonder about how everyone responded to it. How did they know what was going to be, specifically that Yaakov was going to die? This question is especially striking in regard to the Anaf Yosef, who presents a view similar to Torah Temima but who states also that this was not the first case of illness but rather the first case of illness leading to death. How would anyone know this until the death of Yaakov -- so why the concern over the illness potentially leading to death? Trying to fit the midrashic explanation into what happened raises many questions.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Insight 5774-13: The Bond to Israel

For Vayigash
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Insight 5774-12: The Ethic of Introspection

For Miketz
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Insight 5774-11: Pride and Acknowledgement

For Vayeshev
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Insight 5774-10: The Limits of Hate

For Vayishlach
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1)While it is only mentioned in passing within the Insight, Rashi and Bereishit Rabbah state that the episode with Shechem was punishment for what Yaakov did in not connecting Dina with Esav. Why would this be so? Given the concept of midda kneged midda, that the punishment fits the crime, how was the event with Shechem a result of what Yaakov did with Esav? And how does Dina fit into this cause-and-effect?

2) Aside from Torah Temima's answer, there are many different approaches to explain why Yaakov was punished for keeping Dina away from Esav. You may want to consider this basic question.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Insight 5774-09: Lessons From Between The Lines

For Vayeitzei
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) In the Insight, we present but one example of a lesson from omission. Can you think of other ones? In this week's parsha, you may want to look also at the dialogue between Yaakov and Rachel after the latter challenges her husband to give her a child. There would seem to be something missing there as well.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Insight 5774-08: Prudence

For Chayei Sara
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Insight 5774-07: Conclusion and Evidence

For Vayeira
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Insight 5774-06: The Nature of Mitzvot

For Lech Lecha
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) Can you think of other possible answers to the question of why Avraham postponed fulfilling the mitzvah of milah? Do you agree, though, with Rabbi Hochman's assertion that the answer of the Mizrachi is the most straightforward one?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Insight 5773-05: The Torah of Noach

For Noach
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Insight 5774-04: What is Torah?

For Succot
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Insight 5774-03: Ushpizin

For Succot
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1)It may be interesting to investigate such verses as Vaykra 23:43 -- is the succah to remind us of the Exodus or of the sojourn in the desert?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Insight 5774-02: Jewry Relates to God

For Yom Kippur
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) In the Insight, we presented how the Melech concept connects to the relationship-contractual aspect of Yom Kippur. The King demands of us to reach our potential, How, however, does this relationship aspect connect to Kingship? How is God, as Judge of the world, different due to Yom Kippur?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Insight 5774-01: God Rules Humanity

For Rosh Hashana
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) Why do we listen to commands? Why do we listen to anyone telling us something to do? There could be many different reasons and what we will find is that all of them would impact on our understanding of our relationship to God Who commanded mitzvot. This subject is worthy of further investigation.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Insight 5773-43: Avoteinu

For Ki Tavo
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) While the Insight presents a way to understand the Rambam and his extension of the gemara, the actual language of the gemara may still be something that one would still like to investigate. Why does the gemara only present the verse regarding Avraham?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Insight 5773-42: The Structure of Government

For Shoftim
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) We see from the case of Shlomo Hamelech with the two women arguing that the baby was her's, that it would seem that the the king's court must have had a pretty extensive schedule. How do you think it was determined if one when before this court or the regular court?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Insight 5773-41: Kadesh Atzmecha B'Mutar Lach

For Re'eh
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) In regard Rashi's view, how is one to look at Rabbinic enactments? Would one now say that they are but necessary deviations from the idea?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Insight 5773-40: Bonded to God

For V'etchanan
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) How do you understand what would seem to be the absolute requirement that such study will necessarily lead to such love of God? It would seem to be a powerful statement in regard to the psychology of human beings. How would you explain the case -- if there is one -- of a person who has undertaken such study but does not experience this love of God?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Insight 5773-39: The Mitzvah to Judge

For Pinchus
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) How do you think the mechanism words to consider justice in connection with technical halachic details? Could this be a source for trying to promote peshara, mediation, between the litigants?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Insight 5773-38: Retaliation

For Pinchus
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) We can look at the two verses -- Bamidbar 25:18 and Bamidbar 31:2 -- demanding action against the Midianites as two poles with the material in between serving as a language of connection. The language them emerges as to the nature of this language. How are these two verses connected through this material? In this regard, there are various comments of Rashi that connect one section to another and it may be worthwhile to look at these in formulating an answer.

 2) This is more applicable to the latter statement of Rashi, Bamidbar 31:2 in that Na'amah is mentioned here while not mentioned in his earlier comment, yet one may still wonder why Na'amah is mentioned at all. Ammon and Moav are clearly connected but they were not specifically connected in the events here. Thus the question.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Insight 5773-37: The Lesson for Bilaam

For Balak
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) One may wish to further consider the place of a prohibition on animal cruelty may have within the Noachide Code. This would involve a further recognition that those laws to which we refer to as the Seven Laws of Noach may not be the only element within the Noachide Code.

2) Another question worth investigating may be the exact nature of the influence a recognition of human limitations may have within our moral judgements. We are still called upon to basically act pursuant to our decision making capabilities -- how then is the recognition of our limitations to affect us?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Insight 5773-36: The Lesson of Miracles

For Korach
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) A similar issue could be raised in last week's parsha, Shelach, in regard to those who chose, after the case of the spies, to attempt to go up to Israel immediately. Their frame of reference led them to reject Moshe's warning not to go. In this case, it would seem, there was also no chance for further education. How would you understand that?

2) So what happened in Egypt? What was the real effect of the miracles on belief?

Friday, May 31, 2013

Insight 5773-35: A Context of Spying

For Shelach
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) There is a question as to when Moshe changed Yehoshua's name. While the name change is mentioned by the meraglim, clearly he is referred to by this name earlier. There is an interesting Ntziv which maintains that the change really happened before the war with Amalek but it didn't stick so Moshe did it again -- this time more permanently -- in the case of the spies. To me, this only furthers my belief that there is a connection between the war with Amalek and the case of the spies. This connection is something worth investigating.

2) Further to the above question, it would seem to me that the question of the balance between nature and God's miraculous involvement in life is part of both stories. My further question would thus be: if this question was already dealt with in regard to Amalek, why did it have to be addressed again in the case of the spies? 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Insight 5773-34: Forging A Nation

For Beha'alotcha
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) The next question, following the Insight, would seem to then focus on the variant themes of the three divisions alluded to by Rebbi. Simply, given the manner by which we describe the theme of Bamidbar in general, what would be the specific themes of the three divisions marked by the Nunim Hafuchim?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Insight 5773-33: Even Dovid HaMelech

For Bamidbar
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1)The real question is: How does someone make a decision of what is appropriate for him/her when the Torah seems to give choice?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Insight 5773-32: Balancing Values

For Emor
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) When the Torah presents many different solutions to a problem, it also generally indicates which solution applies in what situation. For example, it will inform us, in specific circumstances, if the subjugated value is still existent or not. Of course, as with all matters of Torah, disagreements in this regard may exist but that is still part of the limud haTorah process with the determination of the solution also being part of the process. The issue for me, however, is when the articulation of a solution is not so clear. How are we to determine which Torah principle to apply in a situation where the Torah is not clear about how to balance the values? In one case the Torah does this but in another case the Torah actually does the opposite. Which solution are we then to apply in a case in which the Torah is not clear?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Insight 5773-31: Context

For Achrei Mot / Kedoshim
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) There are times that context and consequence applies, and times when they do not. Is there a pattern or rule that can be applied in understanding when they do apply and when they do not?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Insight 5773-30: Tumah and Tahara

For Tazria / Metzorah
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) We can go back to the original issue that bothers me: what do tumah and tahara really represent?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Insight 5773-29: The Underlying Weakness

For Shemini
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Questions

1) In offering that the midrashic explanations touch upon the underlying character trait weaknesses that led to the bringing of the strange fire, the need arises to further explain these connections. Rav Yaakov presents some possible connections. It may be of interest to determine these connections in regard to all the midrashic connections.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Insight 5773-28: Another's Freedom

For Pesach
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Questions

1) While I did not further discuss this issue in the Insight itself, it may be interesting to consider the impact of slavery on a master. How can we understand the perception of a master that frees his/her slaves? Pursuant to the idea developed in the Insight, this would also be freeing for a master -- how can we understan?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Insight 5773-27: Command

For Tzav
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Questions

1) I believe that the idea presented in this Insight is very applicable to Pesach. I was actually hoping to express this in the Insight proper but ran out of room This is something, though, that you may wish to explore.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Insight 5773-26: Derech Eretz

For Vayikra
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Questions

1) One may wish to consider how derech eretz compares to the concept of  mitzvot suchliyot [technically: rational commandments] or, in more general terms, natural morality.

2) In a similar vein, one may want to look at the relationship of derech eretz to the Noachide Code.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Insight 5773-25: Forging Unity

For Vayakhel
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Questions

1) Within the Insight, the argument for unity is based upon the agreement of the collective in regard to specific, disparate action. The idea being that while one may not personally agree to such behaviour, as part of the collective this individual will agree to it as part of the collective. This touches upon the concept of Eilu v'Eilu which defines a behaviour as part of Torah even as one disagrees with it. The question is: how do we set such a standard?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Insight 5773-24: Aharon's Involvement

For Ki Tisa
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Questions

1) With Rashi's reference to torture, this matter is now introduced into any discussion regarding the propriety of a person's response if forced to act because of torture. This question can be both personal and halachic. How culpable is someone for a transgression undertaken to avoid torture? An interesting starting point for such an investigation may be T.B. Ketubot 33b.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Insight 5773-23: The Excellent Mystery Writer

For Tetzaveh
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Questions

1) The kal v'chomer presented by the gemara to derive a need to be conscious of tefillin from the Tzitz truly is worthy of further contemplation. If the gemara was discussing the normal case of inner consciousness of the wearer -- which would be the simple way of approaching the subject -- why would the fact that the name of God on the Tzitz is publicly displayed matter

Friday, February 15, 2013

Insight 5733-22: The Three Crowns

For Terumah
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Questions

1) In the Insight, I presented a way of possibly showing how the Mizbe'ach could be seen as both connected to Malchut and the Kehuna based upon a distinction in focus between effect and basis of honour. One may wish to consider how this approach could be applied to the Shulchan.

2) Rabbi Hochman continues in his discussion with a focus on the final statement in the mishna regarding how the crown of a good name is superior to the other three. His question is: why is this fourth crown not then included in the count, namely the mishna should have began with a statement that there are four crowns? 
See comment from Rabbi Hecht

Friday, February 8, 2013

Insight 5773-21: The Significance of Civil Law

For Mishpatim
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) There was a technical question regarding one of the ideas presented in the Insight which I wanted to include in a footnote but did not have the space. The Rav speaks of the intellectual strength of Nezikin to which he brings a proof text from the gemara in Baba Batra. I further built upon this idea with the statement of the Torah Temima. In fact, the Torah Temima uses the word da'at, somewhat applying it to our issue, but I put his words together with the words of the Rav to further substantiate the intellectual value of Nezikin. The problem is that T.B.  Shabbat 31a states that if one wants to develop da'at, one should learn Taharot. According to the gemara, the motivation for studying Nezikin is yeshu'ot which literally means salvation which Rashi understands to mean in this case pragmatically how one can stay away from paying for damages, etc. I do not believe this completely challenges the idea of the elite Torah intellectual nature of Nezikin but it is something to ponder in regard to this question.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Insight 5773-20: Yitro's Conversion

For Yitro
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) The major question of the Insight actually still remains: What did motivate Yitro to convert? According to the three opinions cited: What did Yitro see in each event that led him to wish to become a member of Klal Yisrael

The one hint that I offered that might assist in this search is that, it is my belief, within the three events Yitro saw something unique in how the Universal God related to this specific nation. This was not like all the other nations each having their own specific deities nor was it like all other universal theologies who project one form of Divine connection for all humanity (albeit making distinctions on actual theological yardsticks such as between believer and non-believer). In each event he saw the absolute benefit of being a Jew -- and this is what he now desired. And most significantly this desire was actually very unique. The challenge is to define this pursuant to the three variant opinions -- if they, in fact, are different or only simply different reflections of the same idea (which is one approach in the commentators).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Insight 5773-19: Why Were You Bothering Us?

For Beshalach
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) The theory expressed in this Insight would seem to challenge the Chassidic view of the rebbe. This is something you may wish to investigate.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Insight 5773-18: The Pattern of the Makkot

For Bo
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) One question is the one mentioned in the footnote: why would hatra'ah apply here in the case of Divine punishment? A warning ensures the court that the sinner knew that his/her activity was against the Torah law, i.e. a sin. God would know this in any event, so why the warning in this case? A possibility is that a warning also informs the individual that the intended behaviour is a sin -- thus the warning before sin actually is intended also to possibly prevent the sin. Was that the case here? Or could we say, in this case, it was simply intended to inform Pharaoh of the law, one of which he may not have known?

2) We postulated a possible sin for Pharaoh in rejecting "specific aspects of the knowledge of God." Can there be a sin in not knowing something?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Insight 5773-17: The Challenge of Biblical History

For Va'era
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) The resultant basic question is thus: how do we then fully understand bechira? The fact is that it does not just represent the possibility of choice but the possibility of choice between good and evil. The further problem with a definition of bechira that is predicated on the possibility of alternative explanations of events would be the need to define one of the choices as evil. If one explains such an event as magic, for example, rather than the action of God -- given a world in which magic exists -- why would such a choice necessarily be an evil one? Has would someone thereby know that they are choosing evil? Simply arguing that bechira is possible because of alternative explanations actually continues the complication for there is still the need to understand not only what is evil but that the one making this choice knows it to be evil.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Insight 5773-16: Moshe and Yitro

For Shemot
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) Regarding the footnote in which I refer to the other views that have Moshe spending the vast majority of his time outside of Egypt as king of Kush, why do you think those of chazal who adopted this view were motivated to do so? Are there any indications in the verses that there is much more to all this than what is written?