Vayishlach 5778

Learning from one’s teacher[1]

ויאמר אם-יבוא עשו אל-המחנה האחת והכהו והיה המחנה הנשאר לפליטה
[Yaakov] said: “If Eisav comes to one of the camps and strikes them, the remaining camp will survive”[2]

During the sovereignty of Achav, the wicked King of Israel, the prophet Ovadiah had to protect himself and all the other prophets from his reign of terror. The verse says[3] Ovadiah took one hundred prophets and hid fifty of them in a cave. Chazal ask[4] why didn’t he put them all in the cave? Rabbi Elazar answers that Ovadiah learned this strategy from Yaakov. When Yaakov and his family were about to confront his wicked brother Eisav, he divided his camp into two. This tactic was in case of the horrible event that one of the two camps is killed, at least the other one would survive. Why did the gemarra need to say that Ovadiah learned this strategy from Yaakov? Simply say that he thought of the idea himself[5]!

Continue reading “Vayishlach 5778”

Vayeitzei 5778

The Torah is not in Heaven[1]

ויעש יעקב כן וימלא שבע זאת ויתן-לו את-רחל בתו לו לאשה
Yaakov [celebrated his marriage to Leah][2]. [When] the week was complete [Lavan] gave his daughter Rachel to [Yaakov] to be his wife[3]

After working seven years for Lavan for the right to marry his daughter Rachel, Yaakov was tricked. He thought he was being given Rachel as a bride, but after all was said and done he realized he had married Leah[4], Rachel’s sister. Lavan tried to justify his treachery, and concluded that Yaakov could marry Rachel as well once the week of celebrations ended. Yaakov did so, and thus was married to both sisters. Many authorities assume the Avos, the patriarchs, kept the entirety of the Torah before it was given[5]. This is based on various allusions to such an idea[6]. However, many struggle[7] to reconcile this with the fact that the Torah explicitly prohibits[8] a man from marrying two sisters. How then could Yaakov marry two sisters, which the Torah explains usually leads to strife?

Continue reading “Vayeitzei 5778”

Toldos 5778

The way of tzaddikim; the way of the Torah[1]

ועתה שא-נא כליך תליך וקשתך וצא השדה וצודה לי ציד
Now, please carry your vessels, your sword[2], and your bow; go out to the field and capture me some game[3]

Once Yitzchak approached the age that his mother was when she passed, he felt it was time to settle his affairs[4]. He decided to give incredibly powerful berachos, blessings, to his favorite son Eisav. However, to get into the proper state of mind to give these blessings, Yitzchak wanted to have a meal made up of his favorite delicacies. Eisav was an expert trapper[5]. So before receiving these blessings, Yitzchak sent him on a hunting mission. He told Eisav to take his instruments with him and go. Rashi is bothered[6] that one doesn’t need to tell an expert hunter to take along his weapons, just like a plumber doesn’t need to be told to bring his wrench[7]. Therefore, he interprets[8] the command שא-נא, literally please carry, as השחזה, sharpen. Yitzchak was telling Eisav to sharpen his knives. Why? Yitzchak was worried that when Eisav did shechitah, ritual slaughter on the animals he catches, the knife might have a blemish which would go unnoticed. Slaughtering with this knife would render the food forbidden to eat[9].

Continue reading “Toldos 5778”

Chayei Sarah 5778

Disobeying your host[1]

ויישם לפניו לאכל ויאמר לא אכל עד אם-דברתי דברי ויאמר דבר: ויאמר עבד אברהם אנכי
They placed before [Eliezer] food to eat and he said: “I will not eat until I have spoken my mind”. They said to him: “Speak”. He said: “I am a servant of Avraham”[2]

The time had come for Yitzchak to get married. Avraham asked his trusted servant Eliezer[3] to go to his birthplace to find a suitable mate. After determining that Rivka was the proper wife for Yitzchak, Eliezer requested a meeting with her family. They offered him food to eat, but he adamantly refused. He didn’t want to eat until he had fulfilled his mission[4]. He then proceeded to tell them the entire story of how he came to their land and why he felt Rivka was the one to marry Yitzchak. For some reason he started his speech with the phrase: “I am the servant of Avraham”. Why did he need to give this introduction? They knew who he was; Rivka had already told them[5]. What was Eliezer emphasizing?

Continue reading “Chayei Sarah 5778”

Vayeira 5778

The value of having guests[1]

ויאמר אדנ”י אם נא מצאתי חן בעינך אל נא תעבור מעל עבדך
[Avraham] said: “My Lord, if I have found grace in Your eyes, please[2] do not pass by from Your servant”[3]

On a hot day, Avraham was waiting outside his tent for prospective guests[4]. Hashem appeared to him in a vision, although what the vision consisted of we aren’t told[5]. Soon after, three Angels in the garb of Arab nomads[6] approached Avraham’s tent. Avraham, not wanting to pass up the opportunity to greet these potential guests, politely asked Hashem for permission to be excused[7]. The gemarra[8] learns from here that greater is taking care of guests than greeting the Divine presence. Since Avraham interrupted his vision of Hashem to greet the guests, we see it was of greater value[9].

Continue reading “Vayeira 5778”