HaAzinu 5782

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The plan to save Moshe[1]

וידבר יקוק אל-משה בעצם היום הזה לאמר: עלה אל-הר וגו’ ומת בהר אשר אתה עלה שמה וגו’‏
Hashem spoke to Moshe on that very day, saying: “Go up the mountain…and you will die on the mountain that you will ascend…”[2]

The Torah says that Hashem told Moshe on that very day to go up the mountain to meet his demise. Rashi brings[3] that the Torah says the expression “on that very day” three differnent times. The first is with Noach[4], when he entered the ark he had built as a salvation from the flood. The second is when the Jews left Egypt. The third is in this week’s parsha with Moshe. Rashi says that all three of these instances of this expression are teaching us the same thing.

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Yom Kippur 5782

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Two seemingly indistinguishable goats[1]

ומאת עדת בני ישראל יקח שני-שעירי עזים לחטאת וגו’ ונתן אהרן על-שני השעירם גורלות גורל אחד ליקוק וגורל אחד לעזאזל: והקריב אהרן את-השעיר אשר עלה עליו הגורל ליקוק ועשהו חטאת
From the congregation of the Children of Israel, he shall take two goats for a sin offering…Aharon shall place on the two goats lots: one lot [to designate the goat] for Hashem, and one lot [to send it to] Azazel. Aharon will then offer the goat whose lot designated it to Hashem, and he shall make it a sin offering[2]

A major part of the Yom Kippur service in the Temple involved two identical[3] goats. They had to look the exact same, be the same size, and be sold for the same price[4]. One of them was to be brought as an offering to Hashem, and the other was to be sent off a cliff[5]. What was unique about these goats is the fate of each one was determined by a lottery. A box would contain two pieces of paper, one saying, “for Hashem”, and one saying, “for Azazel”. The paper saying “for Hashem” would determine which one would be brought as an offering, and the paper saying “for Azazel” which one for the cliff. The Kohen would stick his hands in the box and each one would grab a paper. The fate of the goat to his right would be determined by the paper in his right hand. The same for his left. What can we learn from this unique and unusual procedure[6]?

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Vayeilech 5782

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Resurrection of the dead and knowledge of the future[1]

ויאמר יקוק אל-משה הנך שכב עם-אבתיך וקם העם הזה וזנה אחרי אלהי נכר-הארץ וגו’‏
Hashem said to Moshe: “Behold, you will lie with your ancestors, and this nation will get up and sway after the gods of the inhabitants of the land…”[2]

A non-Jewish matron[3] once asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chananya a theological question[4]. Two basic tenets of the Jewish faith are that Hashem knows the future, and that in the final redemption there will be a resurrection of the dead. This matron asked for a source to these two beliefs. He responded from a verse in this week’s parsha. Hashem told Moshe הנך שכב עם אבותיך, you will lie with your ancestors. Moshe was told he was about to perish. Then it says וקם העם הזה וזנה אחרי אלהי נכר הארץ, the nation will get up and serve idols. Rabbi Yehoshua said to read the verse as if וקם, “will get up”, as if it was referring to Moshe[5]. Meaning, Moshe will die, but then he will get up. We see the dead will be resurrected. Furthermore, the verse says that the nation will serve idols, which they did. This shows Hashem knows the future.

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Rosh Hashanah 5782

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The difference between trust in Hashem and complacency[1]

אם תקטלני – לך אייחל, ואם תבקש לעווני – אברח ממך אליך
If you kill me, to you I will commence. If you seek out my sin, I will run away from you, to you[2]

Our Sages tell us[3] the difference between the judgment of Rosh Hashanah and that of a secular court. People who have a court appearance for a capital crime will wear dark clothing, look disheveled, and fear for their life. They will be utterly stressed beyond belief. Rosh Hashanah, the day that Hashem judges the whole world, is different. Jews dress in fine, white clothing, and are cleanly groomed. What’s the reason for this? We are confident that Hashem will perform a miracle and give us a positive judgement.

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Nitzavim 5781

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Angels and repentance[1]

כי המצוה הזאת אשר אנכי מצוך היום לא-נפלאת הוא ממך ולא רחקה הוא
For this mitzvah that I command you is not beyond you, nor is it far from you[2]

The subject of this verse is a matter of dispute. Rashi says[3] that it’s referring to the Torah, its fulfillment and study. Ramban however says[4] it’s referring to something very apropos to the time period we are in. It’s referring to the mitzvah of teshuva, repentance[5]. There’s an interesting Midrash about this verse[6]. It says that “this mitzvah” is not removed from us, but it is removed from the Angels. At first glance[7], this would sound more like Rashi’s interpretation. The Torah was given to humans and not the Angels, so it is in a sense “removed from them”[8]. Is there any way to understand this Midrash according to the Ramban, that “this mitzvah” is referring to teshuva?

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5781 Elul Aseres Yemei HaTeshuva

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The beginning or the end[1]

טוב אחרית דבר מראשיתו וגו’
The end of something is better than/from its beginning…[2]

The period of time leading towards Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur can be looked at in different ways. In one aspect, it’s the end of the year. It’s also the preparation period for the Days of Awe. Finally, it’s the beginning of the year. There’s a verse which can be read to say that the end of something is better than its beginning. Simply put, we could say that the month of Elul is so special because it is the end of the year. Everything is defined by how it ends[3].

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Ki Seitzei 5781

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Honoring parents, chasing birds, and long life[1]

שלח תשלח את-האם ואת-הבנים תקח-לך למען ייטב לך והארכת ימים
You shall surely send away the mother bird, and [then you can] take the chicks, in order that it will be good for you, and you will have long life[2]

כבד את-אביך ואת-אמך כאשר צוך יקוק אלקיך למען יארכן ימיך ולמען ייטב לך על האדמה אשר-יקוק אלקיך נתן לך
Honor your father and your mother, as Hashem commanded you, in order that you have long life and in order that it be good for you[3] on the land which Hashem your G-d gives you[4]

There are two mitzvos in the Torah which are often compared. The mitzvah to honor one’s parents, commanded in the Ten Commandments, and the mitzvah of sending away the mother bird, which appears in this week’s parsha. What they share in common[5] is the promise of a long life for those who observe them. Our Sages teach us[6] that we should not be misled into thinking these mitzvos promise us long life in this world. The proper interpretation is that their fulfillment promises long life in the World to Come. What’s so special about these two mitzvos that they share this quality?

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Shoftim 5781

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Matters of doubt[1]

על-פי התורה אשר יורוך ועל-המשפט אשר-יאמרו לך תעשה לא תסור מן-הדבר אשר-יגידו לך ימין ושמאל
You shall do according to the Torah that they rule for you, and the judgement that they tell you. Do not turn left or right from the matter that they tell you[2]

The Rambam, also known as Maimonidies, learns from this verse[3] the obligation to listen to the Rabbis. It comes out then that every Rabbinic mitzvah, obligation, or prohibition, are all included in the commanded not to turn from the matter that they tell you. That should make them all obligatory on a Biblical level in some way. To this asks[4] the Ramban, also known as Nachmanidies, how could it be then that we have a rule in a Biblical matter of doubt that one must be stringent, but in a Rabbinic matter of doubt one may be lenient? If every Rabbinic matter is really Biblical, how could there be this distinction?

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Re’eh 5781

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A committed relationship[1]

לא תשמע אל-דברי הנביא ההוא או אל-חולם החלום ההוא כי מנסה יקוק אלקיכם אתכם לדעת הישכם אהבים את-יקוק אלקיכם בכל-לבבכם ובכל-נפשכם
Do not listen to that prophet, or the one who dreamed a dream, for Hashem your G-d is testing you, to know if you really love Hashem your G-d with all your heart and all your soul[2]

The Torah introduces the interesting topic of the false prophet. The Torah declares that after Moshe is gone, there will be new prophets to lead and inspire the people. However, amongst these prophets there will be charlatans who prophesize falsely. Worse of all, some of them will be miracle performers. They will at first appear to be real prophets, accurately predicting real events which will occur. What makes them false is they will command things in the name of Hashem which He never commanded.

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Eikev 5781

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Pearls of gratitude[1]

ובאהרן התאנף יקוק מאד להשמידו ואתפלל גם-בעד אהרן בעת ההוא

Hashem became incredibly enraged towards Aharon, in order to destroy him. I prayed on Aharon’s behalf that that time[2]

Our Sages relate[3] a very unusual interaction between Moshe and Aharon. When Aharon was inaugurated as the Kohen Gadol, he was anointed with special sanctified oil. After doing so, Moshe and Aharon noticed that two pearls of oil remained on Aharon’s beard[4]. Upon realizing this, Moshe was very concerned he had committed מעילה, misappropriated sanctified property[5]. Immediately, a heavenly voice declared that there was nothing to be concerned over. Aharon then started worrying that perhaps he himself had committed מעילה, by getting inappropriate pleasure from the remaining oil on his beard, desecrating its sanctity. Immediately, a heavenly voice declared that there was nothing to be concerned over. That’s the entirety of the story. There are many questions here. First and foremost, what’s the significance over these two pearls of oil? Why is this story worth relating?

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