Derech Tzofeh (“The Path of the Scout”) offers commentaries on Judaism from all diverse Jewish Scouting sources to incorporate the values inspired by the Torah, Talmud and Mishnah and relate them to the Scouting program.
We encourage publishing commentaries on this site, from respected rabbinical authorities to individual Jewish Scouts. The National Jewish Committee on Scouting recognizes all branches of Judaism – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist – and considers each of equal importance and worthy of inclusion.
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August 1, 2018 – Parsha Eikev
Greetings from the National Order of the Arrow Conference at Indiana University in Bloomington.
This week, in Parasha Eikev, Moses continues his review of certain important commandments given earlier in the Torah. He emphasizes all that God has done for the Children of Israel in bringing them out of Egypt using signs and wonders, and safeguarding them on their journey to the land promised to the Patriarchs.
Moses tells the people that if they will keep the mitzvot, God will multiply their numbers, and give them cattle, flocks, grain, wine and oil. He tells them not to be afraid of the peoples living in Canaan, and that God will help them settle the Land.
He warns the people that they must not become convinced of their own importance and forget that their material success was not due only to their hard work, but is a gift from God. When the people think, “My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth.” then the people will remember that it was God who gave them the strength to make the wealth, to fulfill the promise God made to the Patriarchs.
As we camp and hike this fall, we will have many chances to appreciate God’s gifts. In the outdoors and close to nature, we sense more clearly God’s influence on our lives – the beautiful landscapes, the weather (whether good or bad), the calm of morning and evening, the beauty of the night sky, the sweet smell of a light rain, the chirping of birds – all created by God.
Our ability to make ourselves comfortable in God’s great outdoors is another gift. Our intelligence, creativity, good sense, strength, senses of sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste – all are divine presents for us to use every day.
So enjoy yourself out on the trail and the many gifts from the Great Master of All Scouts.
June 27, 2018 – Parsha V’Eschanan
Last week, we began the book of Devarim (Deuteronomy) and began a review of the events of the prior 40 years – the redemption from Egypt, wandering in the Wilderness, and many of the events that occurred there.
This week, Parasha V’Eschanan continues with retelling many of the things that happened during our Exodus. It also includes some of the foundations of Judaism – the Ten Commandments (a repetition, with slight variations, of what was given at Sinai) and the Shema.
But there is one part of the parasha that especially appeals to me as a parent and a Scout leader, because it involves interaction between parents and their kids. It is Chapter 6, verses 20 through 25:
If your child asks you tomorrow, saying, “What are the testimonies and decrees and laws that the Lord, our God, commanded you?” You shall say to your child, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and God took us out of Egypt with a strong hand. God placed signs and wonders, great and harmful, against Egypt, against Pharaoh and against his entire household, before our eyes. And He took us out of there in order to bring us, to give the Land that he swore to our forefathers. God commanded us to perform all these decrees, to fear the Lord, our God, for our good, all the days, to give us life, as this very day. And it will be a merit for us if we are careful to perform this entire commandment before the Lord, our God, as He commanded us.”
So here’s a mitzvah – a commandment – that your parents cannot do without you asking them! Of course, your parents could tell you the story without being asked, and that would probably work just as well.
We fulfill this mitzvah every year at the Passover Seder. The part of the four sons (or daughters) is to ask about the Exodus, and the part of the parents is to educate their children about the Exodus, including how God delivered us from slavery to freedom.
But you’ve just performed the mitzvah right now, because you studied about the Exodus and what God did for us. Yasher koach! (More power to
One request – don’t let your parents read this week’s Derech Tsofeh. It’s eight months until Passover, and if your parents read this discussion, they may think they need to start preparing the house again with all the cleaning and cooking. Let them enjoy the last few weeks of summer.
June 21, 2018 – Parsha Chukas
In parasha Chukas this week, we learn a great lesson through the failure of Israel’s greatest leader.
Miriam has passed away, and the well of water that accompanied the people in her merit is no more. The people begin to complain about the lack of food and water.
God tells Moses to take his staff – the one he used to perform miracles such as striking a rock at Horeb to bring forth water for the Israelites – and to take Aaron and speak to a rock for water for the people..
Moses gathers the grumbling people and says “Listen now, O rebels, shall we bring forth water for you from this rock?” Instead of speaking to the rock, he strikes it twice with his staff. The rock yields abundant water and the Israelites and their animals all drink.
God tells Moses and Aaron that because they “did not believe Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel,” they will not lead the people into the Land of Israel.
There is much discussion about exactly what mistake Moses and Aaron made to cause them such a fate – to lead the Israelites from slavery to freedom for 40 years but not to merit to enter the Land.
Most commentators agree somehow Moses and Aaron failed in their leadership: they did not follow instructions, or they failed to set a good example by acting out of anger at the people, or they became confused because another time they did actually strike a rock for water.
A lesson to take from this incident is the high standard to which a leader will be held. Moses and Aaron knew that the people associated them with God’s commandments, and they had a duty to follow the commandments carefully. Leaders who have been chosen by the people – whether a governor, a mayor or a patrol leader – must set a good example, carefully follow the law, and not get distracted by their personal feelings.
Derech Tzofeh, the Path of the Scout, is brought to you by the National Jewish Committee on Scouting. ©2017 Nelson R. Block. Prior Derech Tzofeh are available at the J-Scouts message repository on Yahoo! Groups.