Vayeitzei 5783

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Why did Yaakov go to sleep?[1]

ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע וילך חרנה: ויפגע במקום וילן שם כי-בא השמש וגו’ וישכב במקום ההוא: וייקץ יעקב משנתו ויאמר אכן יש יקוק במקום הזה ואנכי לא ידעתי
Yaakov left from Be’er Sheva and journeyed to Charan. He encountered The Place, and he lodged there, for the sun had set…and he slept in that place. [Then] Yaakov awoke from his sleep, and said: “Behold, there Hashem in this place, and I didn’t realize”[2]

Yaakov’s journey to his uncle Lavan to seek a wife wasn’t a simple one. It actually involved a fourteen-year detour in the academy of Shem and Ever[3]. After that, we are told that he encountered The Place. Unbeknownst to him, this was the site of the future Temple in Jerusalem[4]. The Torah then tells us that since the sun set, he slept in that place. Why does the Torah stress in that place? This teaches us[5] that for the fourteen years that he was studying in the academy, he didn’t sleep, as he learned day and night. This was the first time he had slept in all these years. While this sounds like a supernatural feat, let’s take it at face value. If this is what the Torah is teaching us, why indeed did Yaakov choose to sleep that night? What was different about that night than all the nights prior? Why didn’t he learn Torah[6]?

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Toldos 5783

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Suspicion acquisition[1]

ויתרצצו הבנים בקרבה ותאמר אם-כן למה זה אנכי ותלך לדרש את-יקוק
The children struggled within her, and she said: “If so, why am I thus?“ [So] she went to inquire of Hashem[2]

Rivka, the wife of Yitzchak, became pregnant with twin boys. These twins would eventually become Yaakov and Eisav. The Torah tells us that Rivka was having a difficult pregnancy. The children were very agitated within her. The next few words are phrased very vaguely. Literally read, it says that she said: “If so, why am I thus?” Rashi explains[3] that what she meant was if pregnancy is so difficult, why did she even pray to conceive? She had been unable to have children for ten years, and her and her husband prayed profusely for her to become pregnant. Now it seems she was having second thoughts[4].

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Lech Lecha 5783

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The trusting servant[1]

ויהי רעב בארץ וירד אברם מצרימה לגור שם כי-כבד הרעב בארץ
There was a famine in the land, and Avram descended to Egypt to settle there, for the famine was very severe in the land[2]

Right after Avraham was told to go to the land of Israel, a place where he would prosper, a major famine hit the country. Rashi tells[3] us that it was that land alone which was struck by famine. Our Sages tell us[4] that Hashem tested Avraham ten times. This was one of the tests[5]. Will Avraham question Hashem? He was just told that he would prosper in the land of Israel, and soon after arriving, he is forced to leave. Isn’t this a bit strange? Avraham triumphed, and had full faith in Hashem. He went to Egypt without any complaints. Soon afterwards, the famine ended, and he was able to return.

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Noach 5783

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Dor HaMabul’s flaunting of Hillel’s golden rule[1]

ותשחת הארץ לפני האלקים ותמלא הארץ חמס
The world became corrupted before G-d, and the world was filled with violent theft[2]

Everyone knows about the flood in the generation of Noach. However, what’s less known is that our Sages tell us that despite all of the lewd, corrupt behavior, and idol worship that occurred during that generation known as the dor hamabul, their fate was only sealed due to their sin of violent theft[3]. They would forcefully take things from their fellow, sometimes even paying for it[4], but without permission. Why is this the sin which would cause the destruction of all of mankind?

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Bereishis 5783

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Man’s best friend[1]

ויאמר לו יקוק לכן כל-הרג קין שבעתים יקם וישם יקוק לקין אות לבלתי הכות-אתו כל-מצאו
Hashem said to him: “Therefore, anyone who kills Cain will be avenged sevenfold.” Hashem placed a sign for Cain, so that no one who finds him will harm him[2]

Hashem severely punished Cain for murdering his brother. In response, Cain stated that his sin was too great to bear[3] He admitted the error of his ways. In response, Hashem promised justice against anyone who harms Cain. To assuage his fears from foreign attackers, the Torah says that Hashem gave Cain a “sign”. We aren’t told what this is. One opinion of our Sages[4] is that Hashem gave Cain a dog. This seemingly was meant to bea guard dog, which would fight off any foe. The problem is, it’s hard to fit this into the verse. How could placing a sign mean a dog? It should have said that Hashem gave Cain protection, or something similar.

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Shemini Atzeres 5783

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Immediate joy[1]

‏…והיית אך שמח
…and you shall be only joyous[2]

There’s an interesting Midrash[3] that compares the time between Pesach and Shavuos, and the time between Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres. The time between Pesach and Shavuos is fifty days, whereas there is no break between Sukkos and Shemini Atzeres. Why is this so? The Midrash answers with a parable. This is similar to a king with many kids. Some are married[4] and live far away, and some are married and live close by. When those who live close by come to visit, when came time to depart the King would let them go without difficulty, since anyways they live close by. However, those who live far away, when they would visit and it came time to leave, the King would hold them back. He would plead with them to stay one more day, due to the distance between them.

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VeZos HaBeracha 5783

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Amazing awe allusions[1]

ולכל היד החזקה ולכל המורא הגדול אשר עשה משה לעיני כל-ישראל
The entire strong hand, and the great awe that Moshe performed before the eyes of the entire Jewish people[2]

Just before Moshe took on the mantle of leadership of the Jewish people, Hashem showed him the famous vision of the burning bush. The Torah describes[3] it as an Angel appearing to him in the flame (בלבת-האש)[4] of the bush. This was to hint to him the two forms of awe of G-d. One comes from a sense of submission, humility, and meekness. The other comes from a sense of pride at the opportunity to serve Hashem. These two ways can be compared to water and fire, respectively. Hashem appeared to Moshe in a mere bush, to allude to meekness and submission, and in a flame, to allude to pride.

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Sukkos 5783

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Adorned Sukkah; beautified Temple[1]

זה קלי ואנוהו התנאה לפניו במצות עשה לפניו סוכה נאה ולולב נאה ושופר נאה צצית נאה ספר תורה נאה
This is my G-d ve’anvehu: Become beautified before Him in mitzvos: Make before Him a nice Sukkah, nice Lulav, a nice Shofar, nice tzitzis, a nice sefer Torah[2]

An interesting question is brought[3] in the name of the Avnei Nezer. We find special emphasis given to decorating our Sukkas[4]. There’s a category in halacha known as noi sukkah, which discusses the status of the decorations of the Sukkah. Stores try their utmost to stock up on all the greatest posters and streamers and sparkly glitter, and the like. Presumably, this is in order to beautify the mitzvah. We do find such a concept, of beautifying our mitzvos. However, as the principle sounds, this applies to all mitzvos[5], not just decorating our Sukkah. Why then is there this extra emphasis, specifically with regards to the mitzvah of Sukkah?

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Rosh Hashanah 5783

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Creating disputes[1]

זה היום תחלת מעשיך זכרון ליום ראשון
Today is the beginning of Your creation, a commemoration of the first day[2]

There’s a well-known dispute between our Sages regarding when the world was created. Rabbi Eliezer says that the world was created in the month of Tishrei, whereas Rabbi Yehoshua says that the world was created in Nissan[3]. Tosafos are bothered[4] that we rule like Rabbi Yehoshua[5], and yet on Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei, we say the phrase, “Today is the beginning of Your creation”[6]. According to Rabbi Yehoshua, Tishrei wasn’t the beginning of Hashem’s creation. Nissan was. How can this be reconciled?

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Ki Seitzei 5782

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The famous Taz and the bread of Ammon and Moav[1]

לא-יבא עמוני ומואבי בקהל יקוק גם דור עשירי לא-יבא להם בקהל יקוק עד-עולם: על-דבר אשר לא-קדמו אתכם בלחם ובמים בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים וגו’‏
An Ammonite or a Moabite may not marry into the congregation of Hashem. Even the tenth generation shall not marry into congregation of Hashem, forever. [This is] for the matter in which they didn’t greet you with bread and water as you departed from Egypt…[2]

Although marriage with a non-Jew is forbidden, obviously if someone converted to Judaism they can marry into the fold. However, some nations have restrictions on who or when they can marry. For example, an Egyptian or an Edomite may only marry into the congregation after three generations of being Jewish. In contrast, the Torah forever forbids the nations of Ammon and Moav from marrying into the Jewish people, even if they converted sincerely. Even their descendants are restricted. Why is this? The Torah says it’s because they didn’t greet us with bread and water. The implication is that had they given it to us, we would have been permitted to eat it[3].

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