Devotionals

The word hevel (הבל), ‘futile,’ appears many times throughout Megillat Kohelet as a description of the pursuit of various physical pleasures. Although the word is translated as ‘futile,’ it literally means ‘vapor’. Vapor has the power to distort what a person sees. For example, the hot air rising from desert sands creates the mirage of… Read more »

According to the Sages, the phrase, “a time for throwing stones” is a reference to the destruction of Yerushalayim, when its grand walls were reduced to a heap of rocks. The phrase, “and a time to gather stones” refers to the second stage of exile, when King Yechonya, and those exiled with him, carried the… Read more »

In a number of places throughout Shir Hashirim in addition to this verse, the “maidens” or “daughters” of Yerushalayim represent the nations of the world (see 1:5, 2:7, 3:5, 5:8, 8:4). The medieval commentator Rashi explains that this is because in the future, Yerushalayim will be the metropolis of all countries, and all people will… Read more »

The Children of Israel are God’s chosen people, and the Land of Israel is His chosen land. The people’s conduct directly influences what happens in the land, since Hashem responds to them with reward or punishment as appropriate. As such, the people feel a great attachment to the land, since it is through the land… Read more »

Previously (Joshua 3), the Yarden river split to allow the Children of Israel to cross into Eretz Yisrael. Now, the Yarden is again part of a miracle, as it cures Naaman of his affliction. The Land of Israel has amazing powers to provide spiritual, emotional and physical healing. The Sages teach (Bava Batra 158b) that Israel’s… Read more »

In Yechezkel’s final apocalyptic vision, Gog and Magog make their evil preparations to invade Israel. They see the people dwelling in the land in security and prosperity, and feel that the time is ripe to attack. Hashem tells Gog and Magog that through their evil, they will be destroyed, and God’s name will be sanctified… Read more »

We often think how grateful we would be to have wealth or abundance. This verse points out that often, riches do not lead people to gratitude, but rather to smugness and self-satisfaction. If we have too much of a good thing, we may come to believe we have earned it, and forget Hashem’s hand in… Read more »

Psalm 23 has stood by the Jewish people as their support through the darkest days of persecution and exile. Over the centuries, no evil murderer or terrible tragedy has been able to crush the resilient spirit of the Jews, when they remember that “You are with me” (verse 4). King David certainly has a difficult… Read more »

Chapter 24 begins four chapters which describe the total destruction of the earth, for it to then be replaced by a more righteous and just world. Yeshayahu explains why this will occur — it is the same reason that led God to bring about the flood in the times of Noach. Due to man’s wicked… Read more »

Yirmiyahu pens a letter to the exiles in Babylonia. He tells them to disregard the false prophecies, according to which they will return to Israel soon. Instead, they are to settle in Babylonia and raise families there, as they will remain there for seventy years, and only after that will they be permitted to return… Read more »

King David’s psalms can be applied to every situation in a person’s life, capturing one’s joy and grief, disappointments and hopes. Since King David himself experiences the travails of every person and expresses his feelings through the verses of his psalms, a person can always find words to respond to his own experiences within Tehillim’s… Read more »

Yeshayahu begins a series of prophecies against the nations (chapters 13-23) with a message to Babylon. He calls on Hashem’s army to assemble on a mountaintop against the Babylonians. The word that describes the mountain is nishpeh (נשפה), which means ‘bare.’ The selected mountaintop is bare and empty of trees — most likely so that… Read more »

Moshe is commanded to count the Nation of Israel. However, he is not to count individuals. Instead, each person being counted is to make a donation of half a shekel to the Mishkan, and the half shekel coins are to then be counted. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the symbolism of this method: Merely existing… Read more »

For thousands of years, Jews read these prophecies and believed them, yet wondered how and when they would actually take place. During the past century, Jews have returned to the Land of Israel from literally all parts of the earth: from Asia and Russia, Europe, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand. This section… Read more »

Purim is the only Jewish holiday that is observed on two different days, depending on one’s location. The residents of cities that were walled at the time that the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel with Yehoshua celebrate on the fifteenth of Adar, while the rest of the world celebrates on the fourteenth. Pracitically,… Read more »