Acharei Mos-Kedoshim 5778

Blessings from the Almighty[1]

ובשנה הרביעת יהיה כל-פריו קודש הלולים ליקוק
In the fourth year, all of its fruit will be holy; a praise[2] to Hashem[3]

A Rabbinic enactment which is very comprehensive is that of berachos, or blessings[4]. We are required to make a beracha before and after we eat[5]. There are berachos before performing a mitzvah[6]. There are berachos of praise upon experiencing certain events[7], or witnessing certain sights[8]. There are berachos that are part of the daily prayers[9]. Chazal, when they created this enactment, had a basis for their invention. The gemarra asks[10] what that basis was, and one answer given is a verse in this week’s parsha. The Torah, when describing the mitzvah of orlah, the fruit of a new tree, says that the fruit is off-limits for the first three years of its growth. In the fourth year, the fruit becomes sanctified, and is to be eaten exclusively in Jerusalem[11]. The Torah describes the celebration of eating this fruit as a “praise to Hashem”. Chazal saw in this the concept that before one eats, they should make a beracha, which is a form of praise to Hashem[12]. One can ask, why of all places is this where the Torah hints to the concept of berachos? Why not anywhere else? There are other instances where the Torah describes eating food[13]

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Tazria-Metzora 5778

Making the humble proud[1]

וצוה הכהן ולקח למטהר שתי-צפרים חיות טהורות ועץ ארז ושני תולעת ואזב
The Kohen shall command [as follows]: he should take for the one seeking purification two live, kosher birds, a rod[2] from a cedar tree, a thread of crimson wool, and hyssop[3]

This week’s double parsha deals mostly with the laws of tzara’as, most commonly translated as leprosy. While it may be a whitish skin condition, in reality it’s a totally unrelated spiritual malady[4] with physical symptoms. Chazal tell us[5] that someone who contracts tzara’as, known as a Metzora[6], usually committed a certain sin[7]. One example is that of haughtiness. As a result of his sin, he is infected with a disturbing skin condition, and has to have his status established by a Kohen. If the Kohen determines he is spiritually impure, then he is. The opposite is also true. The Torah describes how a Metzora can purify himself once declared impure. It’s an entire ritual that takes place in the Temple, and includes bringing certain offerings. Part of the offering includes a rod from a cedar tree. What is the significance of including this?

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Shemini 5778

The illegitimate Royal candidate[1]

ויהי ממחרת החדש השני ויפקד מקום דוד, ויאמר שאול אל-יהונתן בנו מדוע לא-בא בן-ישי גם-תמול גם-היום אל-הלחם: ויען יהונתן את-שאול נשאל נשאל דוד מעמדי עד-בית לחם: ויאמר שלחני נא כי זבח משפחה לנו בעיר והוא צוה-לי אחי ועתה אם-מצאתי חן בעיניך אמלטה נא ואראה את-אחי על-כן לא-בא אל-שלחן המלך: ויחר-אף שאול ביהונתן ויאמר לו בן-נעות המרדות הלוא ידעתי כי-בחר אתה לבן-ישי לבשתך ולבשת ערות אמך: כי כל-הימים אשר בן-ישי חי על-האדמה לא תכון אתה ומלכותך ועתה שלח וקח אתו אלי כי בן-מות הוא
It was the day after the New Moon, the second day [of Rosh Chodesh], and David’s seat was vacant. Shaul said to his son Yonasan: “Why didn’t the son of Yishai come, neither yesterday nor today to the meal?” Yonasan answered Shaul: “David exceedingly implored me for permission[2] to go to Bethlehem. He said please let me go, as my family’s feast is in the city, and my brother commanded me to be there. Now, if I’ve found favor in your eyes, I’ll slip away and see my family. Therefore, he didn’t come to the King’s banquet”. Shaul became enraged at Yonasan and said to him: “[You are] the son of a rebellious and immoral[3] woman! Behold, I know you have sided with the son of Yishai, to your shame and the shame of your mother’s nakedness[4]! For all of the days that the son of Yishai is on this Earth, your kingdom will never be established. Now, go and send for him to be brought to me, as he is a dead man”[5]

As Shabbos this week coincides with Erev Rosh Chodesh, there is a special Haftarah that is read[6]. It describes the story of David before he became the sole King of Israel, and King Shaul’s growing distrust of him. After Shaul made several attempts to end David’s life[7], David ran away and went into hiding. He met up with Shaul’s son Yonasan, his most trusted friend. Yonasan couldn’t believe his father would try to do such a thing, and they came up with a plan to confirm Shaul’s intentions. The following two days would be Rosh Chodesh, and as usual the King would have a banquet. As one of the King’s attendants, David was expected to attend. Yonasan was to tell the King that David had to be at his family’s feast. If the King was understanding, then would be proof that he didn’t seek David’s life. If he became infuriated, it would show that David must remain in hiding[8]. What is the significance of this test? Why did David choose this method to determine the King’s intentions? Why would this elicit a furious response from King Shaul?

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Pesach 5778 #2

Surrounded by walls of water[1]

הים ראה וינס הירדן יסב לאחור
The Reed Sea[2] saw and ran away, the Jordan River turned backwards[3]

On the seventh day of Pesach, we commemorate the day of the great miracle of the splitting of the sea[4]. On the Jew’s seventh day of their Exodus from Egypt, the sea’s splitting allowed them to escape the Egyptians once and for all. As an expression of their thanks to Hashem for saving them, they sang what is known as the Song of the Sea[5]. One of the chapters of Psalms[6] describes the miracles that occurred during this monumental event. The verse unusually describes the sea as running away. Why didn’t it use the more appropriate term: that the sea split[7]?

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