Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rabbi Kurinsky's Torah Class: Bamidbar

I'm back from my hiatus. This week's Torah portion is Bamidbar, (Numbers 1-4:20.)

G-d is having Moses and Aaron take a census of the Jewish nation. Because of the sin of the golden calf, the birthright of the firstborn son, (tithes) has been given to the Levites. The Jewish people were counted by head of household ages 20 to 60. This was to demonstrate the importance of families.

The Levites however were counted differently. Every single male from the age of one month was counted. Because the Levites resisted the sin of the golden calf, and because they initiated themselves by punishing the idolaters and aligning themselves with Moses, the Egyptians feared them for their zealotry and G-d trusted them to protect the temple and the Jewish people.

G-d set the Levites apart and took the responsibility of educating the Jews away from the firstborn son, and gave this responsibility to the Levites. Maintaining the temple and educating the Jews was a fulltime, holy occupation. The Levites were therefore unable to engage in financially productive activities and therefore received their sustenance from the Jews for their temple service and for their yeshivas,(schools). Their duties included playing music during the holy services.

When the Egyptians tried to force the Levite musicians to play for their entertainment, the Levites cut off their own thumbs in order to make it impossible to play music, even for temple services. This level of holiness and zealotry terrified the Egyptians which explains why they were not forced into slavery.

After their escape through the Sea of Reeds, the Jewish people were counted again. The Levites were not counted because none of them died.

Every word in the Torah serves two purposes,- to teach and to bring peace into the world. What do the Levites teach us today? They teach us that doing a miztvah, (a good deed commanded by G-d,) however small, refines our soul and connects us to G-d. A miztvah functions to create a dwelling place for G-d in this world and ultimately contributes to the coming of the messianic era.

This is our sole purpose for being here. Most mitzvahs are performed at an even higher level by studying Torah, than by the performance of the mitzvah itself. For instance, bringing sacrifices was a mitzvah, but since it is not possible to bring sacrifices today, we observe the mitzvah at a higher level by learning about it.

This is because there is no separation between Torah and G-d. They are one. The Torah is the recorded thoughts of G-d, which is G-d's very essence. When we study Torah, we are actually experiencing G-d.

If we want to get in touch with our "inner Levite", we must study Torah, which leads to the performance of more mitzvahs, which leads to a holier dwelling place for G-d in this world, which leads to the coming of the messianic era.

Kol tuv

p.s. If you want to know more about the mistical teachings of the Torah, specifically as it applies to the non-Jew, check this out: "Kabbalah and Meditation for the Nations" by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh. Amazing!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Finally! A Definitive Resource for Noahides!

This year was an especially meaningful year for me. Rosh Hoshana and Yom Kipper took on a new dimension as I contemplated many struggles that I have had as a Jew.

One of my issues has been my concern for Noahides and what will the future hold if there is no meaningful support for gentiles who want to live a Torah observant life? Where will the next generation of Noahides come from if this generation gives up because the information and the support is not there?

That is the main reason, no the ONLY reason that I started this blog. A Noahide community can add so much, especially for those who are accustomed to having a religious community. In the meantime, to have a resource to use as a guide is truly an answer to prayer for many of us who want to help.

As non-Jews are becoming more interested in the message of the Torah, without necessarily feeling the need to convert, Ask Noah International has recently published "The Divine Code Vol. 1: The Guide to Observing G-d’s Will for Mankind, Revealed from Mount Sinai in the Torah of Moses" by Rabbi Moshe Weiner Edited by Dr. Michael Schulman.

This volume includes the sources for the commandments and discusses the rewards for non-Jews, for following the laws of Noah. This will ultimately be a 4 volume body of work, a long overdue guide for non-Jews.

For those of you who have more questions than I have answers, please check this out. I feel that this is truly a gift in the merit of all the non-Jews who are stepping away from the easy path, and choosing the yolk of Torah. I admire your courage and your determination to find your way to Hashem. May you be blessed accordingly.

You can check out this book and order it here.

Kol Tuv.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bnai Noah: Reflections on Rosh Hashana

This has been a tough year for many people. Me? I jumped from the mortgage industry back into real estate. These industries are imploding and taking the stock market down with them.

Last week a friend of mine committed suicide, just days before Rosh Hashana. I know several people who have lost their businesses, their homes, their jobs. It is these things that are easy to look back on and ask "why?"

So what should we reflect on during the High Holy days? It is so easy to look back at the tragedies, the misfortunes, the mistakes. It can be instructive to search our own souls and try to determine how we may have contributed to our own misfortune.

The Torah says that Hashem values a broken, repentent heart over any sacrifice. When we come before Hashem with our prayers of confession and our prayers of contrition, if we are sincere, there is no need to hold on to the mistakes of the past. Hashem has forgotten them and so should we.

Rosh Hashana commemorates the sixth day of the creation of the world. The creation of man was the finishing touch. Once Hashem made man in His own image, He completed His work and rested.

When I think of all the miracles that took place in those first six days, it takes my breath away. Every blade of grass, every minnow, every organ in our body, all infused with Hashem's divine energy. Amazing!

Looking back and reflecting on the good, on the blessings, heightens our awareness of Hashem's love for us, and helps us become more conditioned to recognize and appreciate the current blessings in our lives.

Better to look back at all the blessings in our lives, from our health to our families, to our freedom, and to know with confidence that this coming year has already been recorded on Hashem's calendar. How willing would we be to continue to give someone a gift, if it was greeted with a "that's nice" attitude? Yet Hashem continues to bless us.

I like to take every opportunity to share with you, messages from Torah that are specific to the non-Jew. It is important to remember that although the Jewish people were tapped with the assignment of preserving the teachings of the Torah, the Noahide, or "G-d fearer" is also on the frontlines of bringing the message of one G-d to the world.

During the days leading up to the High Holy Days, Jews are obligated to offer up special prayers in preparation for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kipper. I would like to share some excerpts from those prayers, as well as the actual prayers that are offered during Rosh Hashana.

"You have taught the manner of teshuvah, (return) to the backsliding daughter, [the community of Israel], to return unto You between the appointed day, [Rosh Hashana] and...[Yom Kipper]. Return us unto You, G-D, and we will return!

Then since aforetime, You first made Teshuvah, before you spread out the sky and the foundations of that which was made of clods of soil [the earth]. It is also a balm and healing for all who return, so that those who knock on Your doors will not be turned back empty-handed."

You can see from this part of the prayers, that Hashem had a system in place for allowing us to restore ourselves, our place in the world, and our relationship with G-d, before the world was created. And to emphasize that G-d's love and forgiveness is available to everyone, (regardless of what the "belief police say!), the prayers continue...

"Behold, the first from the world's soil, who was the first to be formed [Adam], whom You tried with a light commandment and he did not keep it: You were indignant and angry with him so as to shorten his years; he returned with teshuvah and was preserved like the pupil of the eye."

So we see from this prayer that Hashem didn't just let Adam slide, or put him on probation. Adam was "preserved as the pupil of the eye," as if his transgression had never happened! How often have we heard someone say that they may forgive, but never forget? Hashem expects us to forget the transgressions of others just as He does, when we forgive. That means, not to hold a grudge, not to wait and see, but to forget as if it never happened.

As a result of Adams's teshuvah, (his return to Hashem and the restoration of his relationship with Hashem), Adam was shown the short lifespan that was decreed for King David. At his own initiative, Adam willingly gave some of his own years to King David, extending the time that King David could lead Israel. Adam's sincere return allowed him to share in the merit of King David's leadership. That is a clear demonstration of genuine, heartfelt teshuvah.

While Adam was given a "light commandment" that he "could not keep", Noah on the otherhand was a righteous man in a corrupt society. His challanges were far greater, and Hashem's love for Noah is mentioned in the actual prayers of Rosh Hashana.

"Happy is the man who does not forget You, the son of man who holds fast to You. For those who seek You will not stumble forever, nor will anyone who places his trust in You be put to shame eternally. For the rememberence of all [Your] works comes before You, and You examine the deeds of them all. And You also remembered Noah with love, and were mindful of him with a promise of salvation and mercy, when You brought the waters of the Flood to destroy all flesh because of the wickedness of their deeds.

Therefore his rememberence came before you, Lord our G-d, to make his descendants as numerous as the dust of the earth, and his offspring as the sand of the sea; as it is written in Your Torah: G-d remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark, and G-d caused a wind to pass over the earth and the waters calmed. (Gen. 8:1) And it is stated that G-d heard their outcry, and G-d remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob."(Ex. 2:24)

The fact that the righteous gentile is made part of the holiest days of the year demonstrates that Bnai Noah, (children of Noah) are an integral part of the Torah community, and like Adam, the "pupil of the eye!"

May you be inscribed for a sweet New Year, full of health, a good livelihood and joy!

Kol tuv.


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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bnai Noah Weekly Torah Class: Parsha Ki Savo

Rabbi Kurinsky solves the mystery this week, of what it means to walk in Hashem's ways. While we often find it difficult to follow the examples of people that we greatly admire, it would seem impossible as mere mortals, to try to emulate something that we cannot see. Or can we?

This week's parsha, Ki Savo, is covered in Deuteronomy 26:1-29:9. Its central theme is found in Deuteronomy 28:9. "Hashem will establish you as His Holy people as He swore to you, if you observe the commandments of Hashem, your G-d, and walk in His ways."

Indeed, Hashem has established the Jews as a distinct people, against all odds. Noahides, as an extension of the Torah community are also expected to "walk in G-d's ways." But what does that mean?

The rabbi explained that while we cannot know the mind of Hashem, we can know that He operates out of perfect justice and mercy, completely objective and devoid of emotion. Sounds kind of cold to me, but when we look further, we can see how this works to our advantage.

An example would be that if someone wrongs us, if they sincerely apologize, we are usually able to forgive them. A second time, yes, we may be willing to give them a second chance. A third time is pushing it, and by the fourth time, probably not.

Hashem on the other hand, completely forgives our wrongdoing on a whole other level, when we make teshuvah, (meaning when we return to the person we are intended to be.)

This explains why Hashem forgave the Jewish people over and over and over, no matter how many times they rebelled, no matter how many times they disappointed Hashem.

When we do something wrong, even if is for the millionth time,- if we are genuinely sorry, and committed to turning away from our wrongdoing, Hashem forgives us as if it was the first time. No keeping score. No holding grudges. Isn't this the kind of forgiveness that we want for ourselves, but have trouble granting to others?

Hashem does this because He does not operate out of passion, but out of pure justice and mercy.

So how can we explain the many instances described as Hashem's "anger", and "jealousy" and "wrath"?

The Torah uses language that we can relate to in our limited ability to understand the idea of an omnipotent, omnipresent G-d. That's why it compares the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people to a marriage, the most complex of all human relationships. It may not be a reasonable analogy, but it is a close as we can come to understanding Hashem's love for us, despite our complaining and disappointing Him.

So back to anger, jealousy and wrath,- oh yeah, and love. When Hashem sent the flood during the time of Noah, when Korach and his followers were swallowed up in the earth for rebelling against Moses's rabbinic authority, when Egypt was assaulted by plague after plague, it wasn't from the emotion of anger. Hashem was putting a stop to behavior that was spiralling out of control. You could call it, "taking care of business", or "behavior modification". But Hashem was not expressing anger in the same sense that we know anger.

These labels of emotion are used to describe the appropriate behavior that we should emulate when we see wrongs that need to be set right. When someone robs a bank, we need not get angry. But we do need to protect society from the robber by taking him off the street.

As we are created in the image of Hashem, of course we cannot be speaking of a physical image. We are speaking of His attributes of kindness, mercy, generosity, forgiveness, strength. These are the attributes that we should manifest in our daily lives. In this way, we can walk in the ways of Hashem.

And as always, Rabbi Kurinsky welcomes your questions at

Kol tuv.

Welcome to the Bnai Noah associate
program. Happy surfing for Judaism's
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Friday, August 22, 2008

Bnai Noah: Hurricane Fay? Try 40 Days and 40 Nights!

Yesterday, when I was supposed to be showing houses to a client, Hurricane Fay was blowing some wind and rain in our area here in northeast Florida. Many of the bridges were closed due to high winds, so, since I couldn't show houses I decided to check out the beaches where I live.

I put on a nylon windbreaker, camera in pocket, and stepped out of my car. As I got closer to the oean, the wind filled my windbreaker, and I found myself being blown sideways, toward some concrete steps. Fortunately there were several concrete pillars in the walkways. I wedged myself between two of the concrete posts and held on for dear life.

I saw others walking around, and realized that it was my nylon windbreaker that was causing me to be a potential, if reluctant para-sailor! As I looked around at the news vans, at the ocean which was churning white foam as far as I could see, at water that was coming up the steps of the red cross station, at the royal palm trees bending at the waist, I realized how little control we have in the face of the Almighty Creator of heaven, earth, wind, rain,- and mankind!

I made it back safely to my car, with some pictures, and went home and counted my blessings. As my granddaughter said, I had no right to worry my family like that! All day the newscasts were consumed with weather updates. The rain poured and the wind howled all night. Today it was tornado warnings.

In the place where I stood, clinging to the concrete post, I earlier saw four young men, two of them in swim trunks, milling around. Later that day, my daughter informed me that a surfer had drowned at that very beach. It most likely was one of those young men who were there for adventure.

I cannot imagine the terror of the men, women, children and animals at the onset of the flood during the time of Noah. At what point did they realize that Noah had truly received revelation from Hashem? And Noah and his family on the ark, surrounded by the evidence of G-d's power and wrath, trusting but fearful. I can't imagine witnessing this event nonstop for 40 days and 40 nights.

Because of this one event, we are here to tell the story of Noah, a "righteous man who walked with G-d." We are here, free to do utterly stupid things like surf or take pictures during hurricanes. When I think of the unimaginable wrath that Hashem unleashed with mighty waters and mighty winds, enough to destroy the earth and everything on it, I marvel that His wrath was dwarfed by the measure of His love and mercy.

The fact that Hashem thought it was important to preserve one man and his family and life on earth, in the merit of one man, is astounding to me. That Hashem could be bothered to save the world for the sake of one individual is beyond reason. If a single life is so precious to Hashem, how much more precious should life be to each of us. Every person is important to Hashem. We are all created in His image. So of course we should cherish each other, nourish and encourage each other, always give each other the benefit of the doubt, and love each other.

The Torah doesn't tell us that Noah's family was particularly righteous, only that Noah was. This is a pattern that we see in the Torah where Hashem saves many for the sake of a few. In this situation, it was only for the sake of one,- Noah.

I know that Bnai Noah often feel a loss of community, and difficulty in finding their place in the g-d fearing world. How awesome it is to know that the first Noahide was a community of two- Noah and Hashem. The winds may blow and the rain may fall, but with Hashem in charge, Bnai Noah should feel nurtured and cherished in the most holy and fundamental way. Community? It is for your sake that the community of mankind exists today.

Kol tuv.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bnai Noah: 7 Reasons Not To Convert to Judaism

The discussion came up this week, as to why a person should NOT convert to Judaism. Overwhelmed, a prospective convert was looking for reasons to turn back, and asking who SHOULD convert. For now, I will answer the first question.

(1.)You will terrify people who love you. Xtian family and friends will spend the rest of their lives trying to persuade you back into the fold and to “pray” you out of the fires of hell. As bnai Noah, it is much easier to fly under the radar, to live your life and to let others live theirs. While the occasional confrontation may be inevitable, the odds for fractured relationships over religious beliefs rise dramatically upon conversion to Judaism.

(2.)Unless you work from home or have a skill that allows you to earn a living primarily within the Jewish community, and unless you are a social recluse, you will spend a lot of awkward moments devising ways to refrain from shaking hands with the opposite sex, or explaining your reluctance. This hampers both social and business relations.

(3.)You may find it difficult to work for large corporations unless you are well established and/or have unusually cordial and influential relationships with supervisors and corporate power brokers. Even working for smaller companies may involve discussions and arguments ad nauseum about the number of Jewish holidays on which you are prohibited from working.

(4.)If your family relationships and your longtime friendships are not troubled enough, wait until you tell family and friends that you can’t eat in their home unless you bring your own food and utensils, and a place mat or other barrier to keep your meal untainted from their treif table! And unless you live in an area where kosher restaurants are conveniently located, forget business lunches with clients and coworkers.

(5.)You will not be able to attend the weddings and funerals of loved ones if the services are conducted in a church or other non-Jewish religious building. And if they are held in secular locations you will not be able to hug or comfort loved ones of the opposite sex unless they are immediate family members, (siblings, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren.)

(6.)You may not be able to live near family or work, or in a neighborhood that is affordable. You will need to live within walking distance of your shul, in order to be able to fulfill the mitzvah of being part of a minyan on Shabbos (if you are male), and to be part of a Jewish community. This can sometimes come at great emotional and financial sacrifice and should not be taken lightly.

(7.)There are many reasons not to convert to Judaism. The most important reason is because it is not necessary to be Jewish in order to live a Torah observant life and to bring godliness into the world. The message of Torah was given to Adam long before the birth of the Jewish nation. Hashem saved the world and promised never to destroy it, in the merit of a righteous gentile, Noah and his family. In many ways, Bnai Noah can deliver the message of Torah much more efficiently than the Jewish people, by their ability to live their faith every day, while interacting with other gentiles in social, family and work situations. Better to explore and appreciate what Hashem has available to you now, than to struggle on a path that may not be for you. Better to learn the 7 Laws of Noah, to apply them, to appreciate their beauty, and to share them with the world. If later it becomes obvious that Hashem has another assignment for you, you won’t need to ask why a person should or should not convert to Judaism.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Bnai Noah Weekly Torah Class: Parasha Masei

Bnai Noah have a history of Torah study that dates back to Noah's son Shem, and Shem's great grandson, Ever, who together founded the first yeshiva, (school for Torah studies.) Jacob was a student of Shem and Ever.

Though bnai Noah don't have the extensive list of obligations that bind Jews, the study of Torah is a long standing, if unspoken obligation.

Oral tradition teaches that even Adam and Eve knew the laws of Torah. Otherwise they would not have been ashamed of their nakedness. Cain would not have been aware of the wickedness of murdering his brother Abel.

Jewish people around the world study the entire Torah every year. These studies are broken down into weekly segments called the parasha, which is a small section of the five books of Moses. The parasha is also broken down further into daily readings.

While there is no mandated method of learning for bnai Noah, studying the weekly parasha is a time tested, manageable system of study for everyone. My thanks again to Rabbi Kurinsky for allowing me to include you in his weekly Torah class.

This week's parasha is called Masei which covers Numbers 33:1-36:13

"These are the journeys of the Children of Israel, who went forth from the land of Egypt according to their legions, under the hand of Moses and Aaron. Moses wrote their goings forth according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem, and these were their journeys according to their goings forth..." Numbers 33:1-2

The parasha proceeds to document the journeys in order to demonstrate Hashem's kindness. While they were called "journeys" they were actually stops along the way out of Egypt to the promised land.

When Moses sent a team to spy out the land of Israel, most of the spies came back with a negative report. As punishment for impugning Hashem's gift, the Jewish people were made to "wander" for forty years in the desert. It was during this time that the Jewish people were completely dependent on the kindness of Hashem, and never lacked for food, water or clothing.

The importance of recording these journeys was to record the miracles that took place daily, and miracles that were specific to each of the journeys in particular. These eye witness accounts and personal experiences are crucial to the credibility of the testimony of the Jewish people. There are no other explanations for our survival in the wilderness, no nearby cities with sources of water and indigenous, edible plant life. And so the Torah faithfully records that this miracle happened here and that miracle happened there, just as today we might record memorable events in a travel journal.

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement, teaches that the 42 travels are compared to the spiritual journeys incumbent upon us today. Our birth is compared to leaving Egypt, and is just the first of our journeys on this earth. The rest of our journeys include the necessary steps to free ourselves from the inclinations and challenges that separate us from Hashem, and enable us to bring g-dliness into the world. Rabbi Simon Jacobson enumerates these journeys on

So when our journeys feel like punishment, we can know that Hashem is always close by and that there is a purpose for every challenge. Study, prayer and miztvos (obeying Hashem's directives) are what will keep us connected to Hashem and will ultimately bring about the coming of Moschiach.

Again, Rabbi Kurinsky invites you to send him an email with any questions about this week's Torah class at