Vaeschanan 5782


Superficial reward[1]

ומשלם לשנאיו אל-פניו להאבידו וגו’‏
He repays His enemies to their face, to destroy them…[2]

The Torah makes a vague statement regarding Hashem and His enemies. This is seemingly referring to wicked individuals who brazenly commit crimes and atrocities against Hashem and His Torah. The Torah says that Hashem repays them to their face, to destroy them. What is this referring to? We are taught[3] that it means that Hashem repays the wicked for their mitzvos in this world, so that they don’t receive any reward in the next world. Consequently, when they die, they’ll be destroyed, as they won’t have access to the World to Come.

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Tisha B’Av 5782


The redemptive undertones of Megillas Eichah[1]

איכה ישבה בדד העיר רבתי עם היתה כאלמנה רבתי בגוים שרתי במדינות היתה למס
Alas! [Jerusalem] sits alone. The city [that once] was filled with many, has become a widow. The greatest amongst the nations, an officer amongst the countries, has reverted for plunder[2]

Megillas Eichah, the book of Lamentations, contains within it a description of the horrible tragedies that befell the Jewish people during the destruction of the First Temple. Who wrote it? Our tradition has it that it was written by the prophet Yirmiyahu, Jeremiah[3]. In fact, he prophetically[4] wrote it before the gruesome disaster even occurred[5]. He knew that the destruction was imminent and tried his best to get his generation to improve their ways. Unfortunately, they did not take kindly to his rebuke, and ultimately, he witnessed the very prophecy he had foretold come to fruition. We recite Megillas Eichah every year on Tisha B’Av, as the most fitting way to recall the destruction, which took place on that very day.

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Devarim 5782


A thousand times over[1]

יקוק אלקי אבותכם יסף עליכם ככם אלף פעמים ויברך אתכם כאשר דבר לכם
Hashem, the G-d of your forefathers, should increase you a thousand times over, and He should bless you as He said He would[2]

Moshe, as part of his goodbye speech to the people, blessed them that they should increase a thousand times over. Then, he said that Hashem should bless them as He already said He would. Why did Moshe finish his personal blessing by referring to Hashem’s blessing? Rashi explains[3] that the Jewish people, upon hearing Moshe’s blessing of the thousandfold increase, began to protest. “Moshe our teacher! How can you limit your blessing to just a thousand! Hashem’s blessing knows no limits, and He already promised us that we will be so numerous that we’ll impossible to count[4]!” Moshe’s response was that this blessing was from himself, but for sure Hashem’s blessing is still in effect. However, this doesn’t really answer the question. If the thousandfold increase was Moshe’s personal blessing, why indeed did he limit it to a thousand?

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Mattos/Masei 5782


The torn garments; the torn tribe[1]

ויתן להם משה לבני-גד ולבני ראובן ולחצי שבט מנשה בן-יוסף את-ממלכת סיחן מלך האמרי ואת-ממלכת עוג מלך הבשן וגו’‏
Moshe gave to the tribe of Gad, the tribe of Reuven, and half of the tribe of Menashe, the son of Yosef, the kingdom of Sichon, the king of the Emorites, and the kingdom of Og, king of the Bashan…[2]

The Torah describes an interesting interaction between the tribes of Reuven and Gad[3]. They had abundant flock, and noticed that the recently conquered land on the East side of the Jordan river was suitable for flock. They requested to Moshe that they stay on that side of the river, and not join their brothers into the Land of Israel proper, on the west side of the Jordan. After a whole back and forth, Moshe eventually agreed to their request. Seemingly out of nowhere, Moshe also decided to allocate some of this land for half of the tribe of Menashe. They seemingly didn’t request this, so why did Moshe do this[4]? Also, why only half the tribe, and not the whole tribe?

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Pinchas 5782


Beyond our assumptions[1]

אלה בני בנימין למשפחותם ופקודיהם חמשה וארבעים אלף ושש מאות: אלה בני דן למשפחותם וגו’ ארבעה וששים אלף וארבע מאות
These are the children of Binyomin according to their families: their count came to 45,600. These are the children of Dan according to their families…64,400[2]

Parshas Pinchas contains yet another census. No wonder this is called the book of Numbers[3]. If we analyze the counts of the individual tribes, we’ll notice some interesting patterns and observations. Something noteworthy is the adjacent counts of the tribes of Binyomin and Dan. The total number for the tribe of Binyomin was forty-five thousand, whereas the total number for the tribe of Dan was sixty-four thousand. Why is this significant?

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Balak 5782


A Greedy nature[1]

ויען בלעם ויאמר אל-עבדי בלק אם-יתן-לי בלק מלא ביתו כסף וזהב לא אוכל לעבר את-פי יקוק אלקי לעשות קטנה או גדולה
Bilaam answered and said to the servants of Balak: “[Even] if Balak gave me the entirety of his treasury, silver and gold, I wouldn’t be able to transgress the word of Hashem, my G-d, to do something small or large”[2]

The Moabite King Balak had a plot to hire the sorcerer Bilaam to curse the Jews. Besides his occult abilities, Bilaam was a renowned non-Jewish prophet. He had direct communication with G-d. When Bilaam heard that Balak wanted his help, he responded in the negative. He stressed that even if Balak would give him all of the riches in the world, Bilaam admitted he couldn’t go against Hashem’s will. Rashi, quoting our Sages, tells us[3] that this teaches us that Bilaam had a greedy nature.

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Chukas 5782


Fiery snake bites[1]

וידבר העם באלקים ובמשה למה העליתנו ממצרים למות במדבר וגו’ וישלח יקוק בעם את הנחשים השרפים וינשכו את-העם וגו’ ויבא העם אל-משה ויאמרו חטאנו כי-דברנו ביקוק ובך התפלל אל-יקוק ויסר מעלינו את-הנחש ויתפלל משה בעד העם: ויאמר יקוק אל-משה עשה לך שרף ושים אתו על-נס והיה כל-הנשוך וראה אתו וחי: ויעש משה נחש נחשת וישמהו על-הנס וגו’‏
The nation spoke against G-d and Moshe: “Why did you take us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?!”… Hashem sent against the nation the nechashim haserafim (stinging snakes), and they bit the people… The nation came to Moshe and said: “We have sinned! For we have spoken against G-d and you. Pray to G-d to remove from us the snakes”. Moshe prayed on behalf of the nation. Hashem said to Moshe: “Make for yourself a saraf (snake; lit. burning/stinging), and place it on a staff, and it will be that all who were bitten will look at it and live.” Moshe made a copper nachash (snake), and placed it on the staff…[2]

As the verses describe, the Jewish nation spoke rudely against Hashem and against His servant Moshe. The resulting punishment was Hashem unleashed against them a swarm of snakes, described in the verse as the nechashim haserafim, the stinging snakes. They bit the people, and many died. The nation repented, and Moshe prayed that the threat be removed. Hashem told Moshe to make some sort of statue of a snake, and called it a saraf. The verse then tells us that Moshe made a copper nachash, which means snake. How did Moshe know to make the statue out of copper? Rashi tells us[3] that since Hashem told Moshe to make a nachash, His intent must have been a copper one, since the Hebrew word for copper is nechoshes, etymologically related to nachash. The obvious question on this is that Hashem told Moshe to make a saraf, not a nachash[4]. If they’re the same thing, why is the Torah inconsistent in its terminology[5]? If they’re not the same thing, what is Rashi saying[6]?

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Korach 5782


Desperation salvation[1]

ויאמרו בני ישראל אל-משה לאמר הן גוענו אבדנו כלנו אבדנו: כל הקרב הקרב אל-משכן יקוק ימות האם תמנו לגוע
The Children of Israel said to Moshe, saying: “Behold! We have perished, we’re lost; we’re all lost[2]! Anyone who comes close[3] to the Mishkan of Hashem will die! Will we stop perishing?”[4]

After a series of devastating blows, the morale of the Jewish people had reached a new low. Many had died at this point, due to unwarranted complaints or all out acts of rebellion. Those that remained were scared for their lives. They came to Moshe essentially expressing their complete despair. While this is a tragic point in the history of the Jews, we can perhaps glean an inspiring message.

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Shelach 5782


The benefits of a righteous wife[1]

ועבדי כלב עקב היתה רוח אחרת עמו וימלא אחרי והביאתיו אל-הארץ אשר-בא שמה וזרעו יורשנה
My servant Kalev, since he had a different spirit with him, and he was completely after Me, I will bring him to the land to which he is coming, and his offspring will inherit it[2]

Parshas Shelach tells of the tragic failure of the ten spies, and the people’s acceptance of their slanderous report. They were sent to scout out the land of Israel, and their assessment was that it was not conquerable, nor worthwhile. Yehoshua and Kalev were the only spies to defend the land, and insisted on following Hashem’s command to conquer it. Hashem responded by punishing the ten spies, and rewarding Yehoshua and Kalev. Hashem stresses that Kalev “had a different spirit with him”. What is this referring to? Furthermore, how was it that Yehoshua and Kalev maintained their faith? How did they not succumb to peer pressure? The spies had a point; the enemy occupying the land of Israel was fierce and mighty. Why wasn’t this a concern for Yehoshua and Kalev? True, we are told that Moshe prayed that Yehoshua not be influenced by the spies[3]. However, Kalev got no such prayer. What made Kalev special, such that he didn’t need a prayer and was nevertheless successful?

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Beha’alosecha 5782


The proper attitude towards mitzvos[1]

ויסעו מהר יקוק וגו’ זכרנו את-הדגה אשר-נאכל במצרים חנם וגו’ וישמע משה את-העם בכה למשפחתיו וגו’ ויאמר משה אל-יקוק למה הרעת לעבדך וגו’ האנכי הריתי את כל-העם הזה אם-אנכי ילדתיהו וגו’‏
[The people] journeyed from the Mountain of Hashem… “We remember the fish which we ate in Egypt for free”… Moshe heard the nation crying amongst their families…Moshe said to Hashem: “Why have You done evil to Your servant? … Did I bear this nation? Did I give birth to it?!”[2]

Parshas Beha’alosecha is a depressing section of the Torah. It begins a series of sins that the Jews committed while they were in the desert. After the Torah describes three episodes of sins[3], Moshe abruptly starts complaining to Hashem. It appears like he was throwing in the towel, expressing his inability to deal with the people. This is quite surprising, for we know that when the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf, Moshe gave it his all to defend them[4]. What’s different about these sins which were too much for Moshe to handle?

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