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Masay 5771

Masay (Numbers 33-36 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! We intuitively believe in free will.  That is why we hold others responsible for their actions -- and why we hold ourselves responsible for own actions.  Desire and the ability to rationalize our decisions may not be the enemy of free will, but they certainly challenge us to use our free will!  An FBI agent once said, "I never saw a serial killer who was so compelled to kill someone that he killed while a policeman was standing next to him."

The Almighty commands us to use our free will: "See, I have put before you, life and good, death and evil ... choose life so that you may live..." (Deuteronomy 30:19).  Why choose life so that you may live rather than choose good? To choose life is to choose to live in reality and to accept the pain of living in reality rather than seeking comfort, indulgence, escape.  Free will is about moral choices of right and wrong -- not about which flavor of ice cream you wish to eat.



1) Be aware. We are making decisions all of the time.  Once you become sensitive to that fact, then you can monitor your choices.  Don't let your decisions just happen.  Take control.  Ask yourself: Is this the decision that I want to be making?  If it isn't, then change it.  At this point, you'll be using your free will actively and not passively.

2) Be your own person.  Don't accept society's assumptions as your own unless you've thought them through and agree with them.  Take responsibility for your decisions.  It's amazing that during the Civil War in the United States virtually everyone north of the Mason-Dixon line was against slavery and virtually everyone south of the Line was pro-slavery.  What happened?  Did all of the pro-slavery people gravitate to the South like to a magnet (or like snowbirds to Florida ...)?  We are all products of our society.

Likewise, don't be a slave to a past decision; just because you once thought that you couldn't do something, doesn't mean that the decision still applies.  Start each day anew.  Constantly reevaluate where you are in life in order to be sure that what you chose then is what you would still choose now.  Make sure it's you who is guiding your decisions, not your decisions that are guiding you.

3) Understand that the battle is between the desires of the body and the aspirations of the soul.  There are times when you know objectively that something is good for you, but your physical desires get in the way and distort your outlook.  The ultimate desire of the body is to take it easy --to escape and exist in perpetual comfort rather than make the effort to confront life head-on.  The ultimate desire of the soul is to live fully, vibrantly with every fiber of your being to do what's meaningful, what's right, what's productive.

4) Identify with your soul.  Your soul is the real you!  Therefore, if you can identify with the desires of the soul, it will satisfy the needs of the real you. Your task is to train the body and coax it to reflect the reality of the soul.  Use the same strategy that the body uses on you!  The body says "Just one bite of cake."  You respond, "Sure!  In just 10 minutes" and then you push it off another 10 minutes.  Don't say, "I am hungry" say "My body is hungry."  Identify with your soul and make your body a reflection of your soul.  If you do that, you'll have real inner peace.

5) Ask: "What does God want?"  You are using your power of choice to merge with the most meaningful and powerful Force in the universe: the transcendental!

For more on "Free Will" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

Masei includes the complete list of journeys in the desert (the name of each stop hints at a deeper meaning, a lesson learned there).  God commands to drive out the land's inhabitants, to destroy their idols and to divide the land by a lottery system.  God establishes the borders of the Land of Israel.  New leadership is appointed, cities of the Levites and Cities of Refuge (where an accidental murderer may seek asylum) are designated.  Lastly, the laws are set forth regarding accidental and willful murder as well as inheritance laws only for that generation regarding property of a couple where each came from a different tribe.  And thus ends the book of Numbers!

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And they traveled from Ailim and they encamped by fYam Suf" (Numbers 33:10).

What insights can we learn from the names of the places they camped?

Ailim hints to the word alimus which means "violence."  Yam Suf hints to the word sof which means "the end."  The hint being that they traveled from the trait of violence by coming to the trait of looking at the end of a person -- that we all die.

Violence includes both actions and words.  There is the physical violence of hitting or pushing someone; there is the verbal violence of shouting at someone or putting him down.  Any form of violence not in self-defense is against the principles of Torah.

What is the main cause of violence? Frustration and anger!  When one becomes frustrated and angry, he is likely to lash out at someone. When one remembers his true purpose in this world -- to perfect himself, perfect the world and to be like God -- most things will not get him angry.  When he remembers his own end and that he will have to give a judgment and accounting for his life, he will be less inclined to become angry.  The more one appreciates life and feels joyous, the less angry he will become.

By remembering the end of each person, you will gain a greater appreciation for life.  You will value your time and utilize every opportunity for growth.  This awareness will keep you far away from any form of violence.


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