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 18, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Insight 5776-13: Shalom Bayit

For Chanukah

Not yet available on the Nishma website

Study Question

1) One argument for why Rambam is referring to all household lights and not just Shabbat cancles is that he only brings this law down in Hilchot Chanukah and not Hilchot Shabbat. A challenge to this, though, is that this law regarding kiddush is also only presented here and not in Hilchot Shabbat. This is even stranger in that this law that ner beito has priority over kiddush wine really has no connection to Chanukah. If Rambam does not mention this law in Hilchot Shabbat, it would seem that the argument in regard to ner beito is somewhat weakened.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday, November 27, 2015

Insight 5776-11: Struggle

For Vayishlach

Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) Included in the concept that it was the ministering angel of Esav who Yaakov fought that night should be the recognition that even as we fight enemies from without, we are fighting enemies within. There is always a weakness within which allows a force from without to fight us. It is thus important to constantly recognize that our battle with Esav also includes a battle within ourselves.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015

Insight 5776-09: Yitzchak's Directive

For Toldot
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) In that Yishmael did teshuva, we may wonder why Yitzchak directed Yaakov to go to marry one of Lavan's daughters and did not send him to marry one of Yishmael's daughters as Esav actually did. One possibility may be that Yitzchak did not want any influences on Yaakov's family from the family of the wife of Yaakov, which would occur if Yaakov lived close to his wife's family. Another possibility may be that there was something specific to Rivkah's family that Yitzchak wished to be further integrated into Yaakov's family through a marriage to a daughter of Rivkah's brother Lavan. See Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, Emet L'Yaakov, Bereishit 28:8.

2) My statement in the Insight that Esav totally missed the point. What else could he do? The commentators speak of the fact that Esav did not divorce his Canaanite wives but, even if one was obligated to listen to a father in regard to a command not to marry an inappropriate women such as these Canaanite women (and there are those who maintain that even though a father generally cannot intervene in a son's choice of a mate, in regard to a morally unsuitable wife the father can interfere), it could still be questionable if Esav should divorce his wives. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday, October 9, 2015

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Friday, September 25, 2015


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

Study Question

1) The question still exists as to why the Jewish People should have this distinct parental relationship with God.

2) In regard to modern history, we may ask: how would Rav Yaakov understand such acts as the Balfour Declaration? On the other hand, what of much of the world’s present attitude towards Israel? Does the kindness towards the Jewish People that perhaps did exist still exist? Rav Yaakov could contend that the Messianic redemption is still not completed. There, unfortunately, may still be time to despair (although, I believe, that most would say chas v'shalom to this). It should be noted, as well, that those who maintain that the redemption will emerge through natural means -- which, they argue, we are witnessing -- also do not contend that these acts are not possibly the direct acts of God. They point to the fact that Stalin and the Soviet Union voted for the creation of Israel; does that in itself not show God’s direct, and miraculous, intervention? 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Insight 5776-01: DOWN TO EARTH

For Netzavim
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

As we approach Rosh Hashana, I wish to add a short addendum to this Insight. 

It should be noted that there are commentators, including, for example, Ramban, who understand the word mitzvah in Devarim 30:11, and thus the subject of this entire section in the text, to be teshuva, repentance. The phrase Lo b'Shamayim Hee in Devarim 30:12, thus, is also to be understood as informing us, most importantly, that teshuva is within our grasp (just as the other commentators -- who understand the subject of this text to be the overall goal of Torah -- read this phrase, pursuant to its simple understanding, as informing us that general Torah proficiency and scholarship is within our grasp). Lo b'Shamayim Hee informs us that the attainment of the overall goals of Torah is within our reach. Similarly, it is also understood as informing us that we can meet the goals of teshuva. This is an important thought for us to maintain as we enter the Yomim Nora'im, the Days of Awe.

In the same manner, though, the specific thoughts presented in the Insight also can be read in the context of teshuva. Teshuva is a this world activity which demands work in recognition of ourselves. We indeed pray to God for assistance in the process but we must also recognize that Lo b'Shamayim Hee also informs us that success demands our effort in knowing and improving who we are. Teshuva is a difficult but attainable task. May we all, always, be successful in our endeavours in this regard.


Study Question

1) A classic question on the story of Tanor shel Acknai: If we are not supposed to listen to a bat kol, why did God make one?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday, August 14, 2015

Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

Insight 5775-34: Truth and Slander

For Shelach
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) This question is already implied in the Insight itself but we may wonder about the distinctions in thought that exist between the variant presentations. Do the three see the sin of the meraglim differently and how do they then understand the nature of this sin? I, though, still think that, despite their differences in presentation, they may all still see the nature f the sin similarly.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

Insight 5775-32: THE FOCUS OF UNITY

For Bamidbar
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1) There is a slight question that may emerge with the practical application of the theory that is proposed in the Insight. The Insight proposes that one of the ways to further the development of unity is through the inclusion of the diversity in the force of unity. One example of this may be through, in a shiur, for example, including the presentation of different Torah viewpoints even as one is really only going to focus on one. In simple words, the presentation of spectrum should, within this perspective, promote unity. Interestingly, someone once told me many years ago that he would expect me to be requested to speak frequently because I quote from across the board. The fact is, though, that this is not the case. While there may be many reasons for this -- and it may be clearly my own shortcomings -- what dawned on me with this statement was the possible reality of the opposite. Based upon certain experiences that I have experienced, rather than fostering a positive response based on the quoting of different opinions, what has actually occurred was the development of a negative response for how could I even quote that other opinion. People rather than seeing in the presentation of diversity a place of themselves and thus a fostering of unity, will often reject this overture of unity because you dare give value to another viewpoint by mentioning it. This sadly has been my experience. Perhaps this may be the special talent of the Mashiach -- to know how to truly use the force of unity that emerges with a recognition of diversity. In the meantime, it is worthwhile contemplating how to present diversity in a manner whereby people will see it as inclusive rather than referring to it as a reason for separation.

Friday, May 8, 2015

5775-31: Aveilut

For Emor
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question


Friday, May 1, 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Friday, April 3, 2015

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

Insight 5775-20: The Death Penalty

For Mishpatim
Not yet available on the Nishma website.

Study Question

1)To be honest, though, there would also seem to be cases which point in the other direction such as Shmuel's brutal killing of Agag. Balancing these sources is clearly deserving of investigation.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Friday, January 2, 2015