Rabbi Yossi's Blog

Welcome to Rabbi Yossi's Blog; where you can expect to find thoughts on current events, Torah learning and Jewish spirituality. And of course, some good Jewish humor.


Birds tweet.jpg Photo by Kyle Head on Unsplash

When the Torah portion converges with current events, you absolutely know that every rabbi is going to discuss it. This week’s Torah portion discusses quarantine - yes, it’s really true, check it up for yourself. 

But in all honesty there’s something else that struck me about the theme of this week’s Torah portion: The power of words. 

While the actual discussion in the portion doesn’t take place today - no one is being affiliated with spiritual ailments that physically manifest the way it’s described in the portion. Nor are we offering sacrifices as part of the process of refinement. That doesn’t mean we can’t glean guidance from the message - on the contrary, it brings it into greater focus. 

Briefly, the portion describes an instance where someone who was engaged in negative speech patterns would be affiliated with a particular skin disease. This would render them impure and would require extended sequestration and quarantine. 

Once the disease had cleared, an indication of the spiritual rectification accomplished by the individual, a peculiar ritual would take place as part of their refinement process. The Torah describes that the Kohen would take two birds (among other items), slaughter one and send the other out into the field. 

The commentaries explain that birds - known to tweet long before humans ever used Twitter - were a reminder that speech shouldn’t be used mindlessly. A person should think before speaking, not simply tweet excessively like a bird.

Why then were there two birds? And why was one slaughtered and the other set free?

Because there are two types of speech: negative, destructive speech and positive, constructive speech. 

Both are extremely powerful and far reaching. Both, once expressed, cannot be taken back. One should be “slaughtered” and removed. The other should be set free, into the field.

Nowadays the power of speech is even more relevant. We can use it to divide, deride and degrade. Or we can use it to unite, elevate and embrace.

Instead of taking to social media to rant about one thing or another, perhaps a better use of our phone and our time is to call someone and check in to see how they’re holding up. Never underestimate the power of speech - especially when employed to bring a smile to someone’s face and warmth to their soul.

Are you feeling inspired nowadays?


Are you feeling inspired nowadays? I often don’t feel terribly inspired myself. 

I know, Passover just ended and I should be inspired by the message of freedom that it contains. Maybe I didn’t connect with it as much due to the current circumstances?

I know, we just began the second week of Sefirat HaOmer; the personal spiritual refinement program that leads to Shavuot. But I’m not sure I’m motivated to work on my spiritual refinement; the Coronavirus seems too distracting.

I can’t connect with people the way I’m used to; I can’t run our services and classes the way that I’m used to; I can’t even workout or take the kids to the park the way that I’m used to. Maybe that’s what’s derailing me?

One thing I know - if I’m expecting circumstances to change before I change my life, I’ll be stuck in a perpetual rut. 

Yes, circumstances have changed and we’ve all needed to make adjustments that are not familiar. But we can’t allow ourselves the comfort of shirking our personal responsibility due to these changes. 

We should acknowledge the changes, recognize the difficulties they might present and then, move forward. Stagnation is unhealthy; physically as well as spiritually. The best antidote for a lack of inspiration is to take a step forward. 

Do something, anything really, rather than just sitting and bemoaning the circumstances.

One step in the right direction is so powerful. It changes our state of being to one of forward motion, however insignificant it might seem. And it helps us channel the infinite power of our soul. 

This time is a true gift, it’s a push to each of us to develop and strengthen our internal selves. It’s an opportunity to prioritize what’s important to us based on our priorities, not just on what is expected from us by others. 

Let’s each take a step in the direction of growth.

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