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.

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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