שלש פעמים בשנה יראה כל זכורך אל פני האדון יקוק
All of your males shall appear, three times a year, before The Lord, Hashem
In conjunction with the three major Festivals, Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos, there is a mitzvah to “appear” in the Temple, before G-d. That is, all males should make the effort to personally bring a special offering in the Temple, in honor of the Festival. The gemarra makes an in interesting derivation. The Torah uses the word יראה, which could be read “shall be seen”, and also read “shall see”. As such, we derive that just like we “shall be seen” so-to-speak by Hashem with “two eyes”, so too we “shall see” with two eyes. Namely, someone who is blind in one eye is exempt from this mitzvah, for whatever reason.
Continue reading “Mishpatim 5782”
Problematic pronouns and family dynamics
ויצא משה לקראת חתנו וישתחו וישק-לו וישאלו איש-לרעהו לשלום ויבאו האהלה
Moshe went out to greet his father-in-law [Yisro]. He bowed [to him] and kissed him, and one asked the other how they were doing, and they went into the tent
As Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law, came to join the Jewish people, Moshe greeted him with a grand welcome. As the two reunited, we are presented with a vague verse. It says that “he” bowed to “him”. Rashi confirms the confusion by asking how can we know who bowed to whom? The answer is derived from the fact that the verse says, “one asked the other”, by using the word איש, literally man. This word teaches us that it was Moshe who did the bowing. How so? We see elsewhere that Moshe is referred to as “איש”, from the verse והאיש משה עניו מאד, Moshe was exceedingly humble. The Torah uses this word to hint to us that it was Moshe who bowed to Yisro.
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Hashem’s question for Moshe
ויאמר יקוק אל-משה מה-תצעק אלי דבר אל-בני-ישראל ויסעו
Hashem said to Moshe: “Why are you crying out to Me? Speak to the Jews, and journey”
As the Jews reached the Reed Sea, they panicked. They were supposed to be freed from Egypt, but there was a barrier of water in their way. The Egyptian army was quickly approaching. We aren’t told how they reacted, but presumably they were terrified for their lives. The Torah doesn’t tell us what they did, but we are told Hashem’s response. Hashem asked Moshe why he was crying out to Him. Rashi explains that Moshe was praying to Hashem that they be saved. Hashem responded that this wasn’t a time for prayer. They should journey towards the sea, and they shall find salvation. Indeed, the sea miraculously split, allowing their salvation.
Continue reading “Beshalach 5782”
New Moon dilemmas
החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה
This month shall be for you the beginning of the months. It is the first for you for the months of the year
Our Sages learn from this verse the mitzvah of Sanctifying the New Moon. Unlike our current calendar, which is fixed, the Jewish months originally weren’t set in stone. For the new month to begin, two witnesses had to declare in a Jewish Court that they had seen the Moon after the New Moon occurred. Three judges would interrogate the witnesses, and after confirming that they weren’t mistaken, the judges would declare the month sanctified, and the new month would begin.
Continue reading “Bo 5782”
The three Shauls
ובני שמעון ימואל וימין ואהד ויכין וצחר ושאול בן-הכנענית אלה משפחת שמעון
[These are] the children of Shimon: Yemuel, Yamin, Ohad, Yachin, Tzochar, and Shaul the son of the Canaanite. These are the families of Shimon
As Moshe began his mission to rescue the Jewish people from bondage and release the devastating ten plagues on Egypt, the Torah lists the descendants of the first three children of Yaakov. The purpose is to show us just exactly who Moshe and his brother were, and their prominent lineage. It starts with Yaakov’s firstborn Reuven, then Shimon, and ends with Levi, who formed Moshe’s tribe of Moshe. When listing the sons of Shimon, we are told that one of his sons was called “Shaul, the son of the Cananite”. Why is he referred to this way? Was his mother really a Canaanite?
Continue reading “Va’eira 5782”
Impoverishment and blemishes
ויאמר יקוק אל-משה במדין שב מצרים כי-מתו כל-האנשים המבקשים את-נפשך
Hashem said to Moshe in Midian: “Return to Egypt, for those who seek your life have perished”
Moshe spent half of his life in Midian as a fugitive. He killed an Egyptian to save the life of a fellow Jew. He took refuge in Midian and raised a family. To his surprise, Hashem tasked him with the mission to release the Jewish people from slavery. As a form of reassurance, Hashem told him that those who sought his life have perished. Our Sages teach us that this can’t be understood literally, as we know that those who reported Moshe to the authorities were Dasan and Aviram. They were among those who were part of Korach’s rebellion in the wilderness. What does it mean that they died? Our Sages tell us that they became impoverished. As such, since they lost their prestige and influence, Moshe no longer needed to feel threatened by them.
Continue reading “Shemos 5782”
Bad intentions, Good results
ויאמר אלהם יוסף אל-תיראו כי התחת אלקים אני: ואתם חשבתם עלי רעה אלקים חשבה לטבה וגו’
Yosef said to [his brothers]: “Do not fear. Am I instead of G-d? You thought to do evil to me, but G-d considered it for the good…”
After Yaakov’s funeral, his sons were worried that Yosef bore a grudge against them for their selling him into slavery. They made up a whole story that Yaakov requested that Yosef forgive them. What was Yosef’s response? He reassured them. He asked rhetorically: “Am I instead of G-d?” He explained that although they had bad intentions by selling him, Hashem was behind the scenes. The whole sale was a way to get Yosef to Egypt, so that he could be promoted to viceroy. With his prestigious position, he was able to secure food for the Egyptian empire despite a devastating famine. This ended up being the salvation for Yaakov’s whole family. So, despite their intentions, it was for the best. What was Yosef stressing by saying that “am I instead of G-d”?
Continue reading “Vayechi 5782”
ויגדו לו לאמר עוד יוסף חי וכי-הוא משל בכל-ארץ מצרים ויפג לבו כי לא-האמין להם: וידברו אליו את כל-דברי יוסף אשר דבר אלהם וגו’
[The brothers] said to [Yaakov]: “Yosef is still alive! He is the ruler over the entire land of Egypt!” [Yaakov] was skeptical, as he didn’t believe them. They told him everything Yosef had told them.
Yosef had been missing for twenty-two years. He was presumed dead, but it was never confirmed. His father Yaakov had given up on ever seeing him again. Now, Yosef had become the viceroy in Egypt. After revealing his identity to his estranged brothers, he arranged for them to bring their father Yaakov and their entire family to move to Egypt. When the brothers told Yaakov what had happened, and that Yosef was alive, he initially wouldn’t believe them. Why not?
Continue reading “Vayigash 5782”
וידבר שר המשקים את-פרעה לאמר את-חטאי אני מזכיר היום
The Minister of the Cup Bearers said to Pharaoh, saying: “I bring up my sins today”
When Pharaoh had two troubling dreams, it distressed him greatly. He searched all over Egypt, but no one could satisfactorily interpret the dreams. The Minister of the Cup Bearers, commonly referred to as Pharaoh’s Butler, recalled that Yosef two years earlier had interpreted the former’s dreams. Yosef told the Butler while they were both in jail that the Butler would soon be freed. Yosef requested that the Butler upon his release tell Pharaoh of his innocence. Yosef was framed and didn’t deserve to be in jail. The Butler was indeed released, and failed to give Pharaoh Yosef’s message. Pharaoh’s predicament reminded the Butler of all of this, and he was forced to tell Pharaoh of Yosef’s abilities.
The Butler began by admitting to Pharaoh that this recommendation had negative connotations for himself. It recalled the fact that he was once in jail for sinning against the king. Nevertheless, due to Pharaoh’s need for his dream to be interpreted, the Butler was willing to take the personal hit. However, if we analyze what he says, we’ll be surprised. Instead of him saying that he has to bring up his sin to Pharaoh, he says sins. This means by mentioning Yosef, he was recalling multiple sins. What else did the Butler do wrong? Our Sages say he was referring to two additional sins: that he forgot of Yosef’s existence, and that he failed to keep his promise to him. If so, why would the Butler feel the need to mention this to Pharaoh? What does Pharaoh care about the Butler’s wrongdoing to Yosef?
Continue reading “Mikeitz 5782”
Igniting the flames of the past
ברוך אתה יקוק אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וציונו להדליק נר (של) חנוכה…שעשה ניסים לאבותינו בימים ההם בזמן הזה
Blessed are you Hashem, our G-d, King of the Universe, who sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to ignite the light of Chanukah…Who performed miracles for our ancestors in those days, at this time
The Sefas Emes makes an interesting observation regarding the blessing we say when we light the Chanukah candles. We say אשר קדשנו במצותיו וציונו להדליק נר (של) חנוכה, Who sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to ignite the light of Chanukah. If we were composing the text of the blessing, what would it say? Probably something more like וציונו להדליק נרות בחנוכה, that He commanded us to light candles on Chanukah. What does it mean to ignite the light of Chanukah? It sounds like there’s some pre-existing light of the festival of Chanukah, and we’re somehow tapping into it…Another question we can ask is on the second blessing, which says that Hashem performed miracles for our ancestors in those days, at this time. Why do we end with the phrase “at this time”? What does that add to the blessing?
Continue reading “Chanukah 5782”