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.
- Homepage Image
- Northeastern Region – Calendar
- Outdoor Adventure
- Western Region – News
April 19, 2019 – Ziessen Pesach!
Greetings from Israel, where I am visiting two of my sons and their families for Passover.
Tomorrow night, Jews all over the world will celebrate Passover by having a seder and reading the Haggadah.
The most obvious meaning of the story of the Exodus is the deliverance of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt to freedom, first into the Wilderness, and then a greater freedom when they entered the Land of Israel.
Many commentators go beyond seeing the slavery as the condition where our ancestors had to toil every day at work forced on them by the ancient Egyptians, for which they received no pay and were treated cruelly. They understand the slavery was also a loss of spirit, caused by living among a people that had bad morals. The freedom was being in a condition where the Children of Israel came to learn the commandments of God and the proper way to treat people, animals, and our natural environment. The climactic spiritual event in this freedom was receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, supported by God’s completion of his promise to the Patriarchs that their descendants – including you and me – would have the Land of Israel in which to practice those commandments.
Using this view, consider what Passover and the ceremony of the seder mean for your spirit. What are the things that harm your spirit? Are you upset with a friend? Do you have a bad habit you would like to break? Did you hurt someone and you don’t know how to make things better? How could you resolve these problems? You don’t have Moses to lead you on this journey, but you have your parents, teachers and friends. Talk to them about the things that bother you. Perhaps together you can find a way to handle them.
Shabbat shalom, and Happy Passover!
April 5, 2019 – Parsha Tazria
This week, we read Parasha Tazria. Much of it deals with tzaraas. Tzaraas was a disease which is usually described as leprosy, because of the way it made human flesh appear to be white and scaled. However, not only people, but also clothing and even houses in the Land of Israel could be afflicted with tzaraas.
The Talmud (Aruchin 15b) explains that tzaraas was a punishment for evil speech (lashan hora). Some famous people in the Torah suffered from tzaraas, including the prophetess Miriam, for having unfairly criticized her brother, Moses.
The punishment for tzaraas included being set outside the camp, because the malady was considered an impurity. Thus, the person who took it upon himself to speak ill of others becomes unsightly and unwelcome. He must be separated from the community. He must stay outside the camp for a week, and then give a sacrifice as part of being cleansed.
It is very easy to say something that is not true, or puts someone in a bad light even if it is true. It is impossible to take back your words once they have been spoken. There’s an old cowboy saying I like: “Never pass up a good chance to keep quiet.”
When explaining the Scout Slogan to “do a good turn daily,” Lord Baden-Powell used to say that a good turn could be simple, even if it was just sticking up for a friend when others were saying bad things about him. You also can do a good turn by not saying hurtful things about people, even if they are true. Remember the advice, “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.”
March 29, 2019 – Parsha Shemini
This week, Parasha Shemini celebrates the completion of the Tabernacle (Mishkan) and the inauguration of the worship services by Aaron and his sons, the Kohanim (Priests). After a week of celebration, the last day – the eighth day – arrives. Aaron blesses the people. The offerings that the Kohanim prepare and place upon the Altar are consumed by a fire sent down by God. “The people saw and sang glad song, and fell upon their faces.”
Then tragedy strikes. Aaron’s two eldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, bring their fire pans with their own fire and place incense on the fire. “A fire came forth from God, and consumed them, and they died before God.”
The Sages give many reasons for their death. A few verses after the description of their death, the Torah teaches that the Kohanim may not come to the Tabernacle if they have been drinking wine, so some rabbis suggest the Nadab and Abihu had been drinking, and were punished. Others suggest that they sinned by bringing their own fire, rather than letting God ignite the incense. Still other say that they were overly proud of their positions, and felt they were too good for any of the Jewish women, and so did not marry.
The interpretation that means most to me is that Nadab and Abihu did, indeed, sin by bringing “strange fire that God had not commanded them to bring” (Leviticus 10:1), but that they did so because they were overcome with the emotions of the consecration of the Mishkan, and wanted to do more to sanctify it.
Viewed this way, Nadab and Abihu made the mistake of making up their own rules for the holiest of places, the Mishkan, when their zest to serve God should have caused them simply to follow the laws God had given them.
We do this, too, in our own lives. We become so attached to an idea or a practice that we forget what it is really about.
Sports and exercise are great ways to have fun and stay healthy. But people who do nothing but exercise until they injure themselves, or are so involved in sports that it takes over their lives, are missing the larger idea of what those activities can do for us.
Ideas are important to think about and discuss. But people who become too convinced of their positions can lose the ability to see the other side of the issue, and may not be open to discussion with people who do not agree with them.
As Scouts, we each have an obligation to watch out for own well-being, because we promised “To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” It’s great to be enthusiastic about things, just make sure you do them in a way that keeps you healthy and balanced.
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.