Accumulation, not Regression
היום שלשה ושלושים יום, שהם ארבעה שבועות, וחמשה ימים לעומר
Today is thirty-three days, which are four weeks and five days of the Omer
Lag BaOmer is the culmination of a mourning period that takes place during Sefiras HaOmer. Why have we been mourning? Our Sages tell us that in the days between Pesach and Shavuos, 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students died. What was the reason? We are told that they didn’t treat each other with כבוד, often translated as respect or honor. How could this be? Furthermore, another version of the story says that עיניהם צרות בתורתם, they were selfish with their Torah. A third version says they didn’t fill the land of Israel with their Torah. How can we make sense of this?
Continue reading “Lag BaOmer 5782”
Admitting the ability to deny
וכי תזבחו זבח-תודה ליקוק לרצנכם תזבחו
When you bring a thanksgiving offering, you shall offer it willingly
When the Torah instructs us regarding bringing a thanksgiving offering, it tells us to offer it willingly. This is quite surprising, as shouldn’t this be true regarding all offerings? In fact, the Torah tells us in general to bring offerings willingly. Why then does the Torah specify this requirement with thanksgiving offerings?
Continue reading “Emor 5782”
Looking beyond the surface: slow growth to actualize potential
וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת מיום הביאכם את-עמר התנופה שבע שבתות תמימת תהיינה
You shall count for yourselves, from the day after the Festival, from the day you bring the waved Omer offering, they shall be seven complete weeks
We find ourselves in the period of the year known as Sefiras HaOmer, literally the Counting of the Omer. From the second day of Pesach, we have a mitzvah to count up every day, leading to the Festival of Shavuos. Coming off the heels of Pesach, you would think this is a joyous time of year. Indeed, the Ramban likens this period to Chol HaMoed, the intermediate Festival days. However, this time period is also known as a time of mourning, as we commemorate the time in which Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students died. Why did they die? Our Sages say it was because they didn’t treat each other with כבוד, usually translated as honor. How could they not honor each other?
Continue reading “Sefiras HaOmer 5782”
The Royal roast and family feasts
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 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 woman! Behold, I know you have sided with the son of Yishai, to your shame and the shame of your mother’s nakedness! 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”
As Shabbos this week coincides with Erev Rosh Chodesh, there is a special Haftarah that is read. 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, 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. The latter is what happened, and David had to remain on the run. This is the simple understanding of the verses, but that didn’t stop the Chasam Sofer from providing an alternate, derush and halachically-oriented reading of the verses.
Continue reading “Machar Chodesh 5782”
Repentance from idol worship
הים ראה וינס הירדן יסב לאחור
The [Reed] Sea saw and ran away, the Jordan River turned backwards
During the holiday of Pesach (as well as every other holiday), we recite Hallel during the morning prayers. It consists of chapters 113 to 118 from Psalms. Chapter 114 describes how when the Jews left Egypt, nature was entirely subservient to them. Nothing stood in their way. Most pronounced was the miracle of the splitting of the sea. On the seventh day of Pesach, we commemorate this event with the Torah Reading being the Song at Sea that the Jews recited after this miracle. In Psalms the sea is described as “running away” from the Jews, meaning that it split in two, after seeing something. What did it see that made it split? Some say that it was Moshe. Others says that it was the coffin of Yosef. A very strange opinion is that the sea “saw” the teaching of the Academy of Rabbi Yishmael. What does this mean?
Continue reading “Shevii shel Pesach 5782”
Different forms of wealth
אילו הרג את בכוריהם ולא נתן לנו את ממונם, דיינו
If Hashem had only killed their firstborns, and not given us their riches, it would have been enough
One of the classic Pesach songs that is enjoyed by all at the Sefer is “Dayeinu”. It proceeds to walk through the entire Exodus story, culminating in us receiving the Torah and entering the Land of Israel. One of the stanzas has the line: “If Hashem had only killed their firstborns, and not given us their riches, it would have been enough”. Upon observation, this seems to be a problematic statement. Hashem explicitly promised Avraham that his descendants would escape slavery in a land not their own with great riches. How could we then entertain the possibility that Hashem wouldn’t have given us the Egyptian’s riches?
Continue reading “Pesach 5782”
Correctional bird manipulation
וצוה הכהן ולקח למטהר שתי-צפרים חיות טהרות וגו’
The Kohen shall instruct, and two pure, live birds shall be taken for the one seeking purification…
A large segment of the parsha deals with the spiritual contamination of one who spoke wrongly about his fellow, known as a Metzora, and his process of purification. One of the requirements the Torah prescribes is to take two birds, one to be slaughtered, and one to be released into the wild. Why does he need to bring birds? Rashi explains because birds are known to “tweet” all day long, which symbolizes this guy’s constant “tweeting” gossip about his fellow. According to this reasoning then, why is there a need for two birds? Seemingly one should be sufficient. Furthermore, now that there are two birds that are required, why is one slaughtered, and one sent away? Finally, there’s a law that this bird must be sent out specifically in an open field. Why is that?
Continue reading “Metzora 5782”
The mixed blessing of familiarization
ובבא עם-הארץ לפני יקוק במועדים הבא דרך-שער צפון להשתחות יצא דרך-שער נגב והבא דרך-שער נגב יצא דרך-שער צפונה לא ישוב דרך השער אשר-בא בו כי נכחו יצא
When the people would come before Hashem for the Festivals, one who came through the North Gate to prostate should exit through the South Gate, and one who came through the South Gate should exit through the North gate. A person shouldn’t return through the gate that they had come through, but should exit through the opposite one
Similar to last week, parshas Parah, where we read a special Torah reading and haftarah, the same is true for this week, known as parshas HaChodesh. On it we recite verses connected to the Passover offering, in anticipation for the upcoming Festival of Pesach. The special haftarah follows a similar theme, and addresses various laws and customs associated with the Temple. One of the practices described is that visitors to the Temple were instructed to enter through one gate, and to leave through a different one. They were not to leave through the same gate they had entered from. Why should this be? What can we learn from this practice?
Continue reading “Tazria / HaChodesh 5782”
The puzzling paradox of the crimson cow
זאת חקת התורה אשר-צוה יקוק לאמר דבר אל-בני ישראל ויקחו אליך פרה אדמה תמימה אשר אין-בה מום אשר לא-עלה עליה על
This is the decree of the Torah, which Hashem commanded, saying: “Speak to the Children of Israel, and take for yourselves a completely red heifer, that has no blemish, one which has not had a yoke placed on it”
The shabbos after Purim is called parshas Parah, the parsha of the cow. It receives this title because on it we read about the parah adumah, the red heifer. Before the holiday of Pesach, the Jewish people would need to become spiritually pure. Sometimes it would be necessary to use the ashes of a completely red heifer. The sprinkling of these ashes onto the impure person would enable them to bring their Pesach offering. We read this parsha to remind the Jewish people to become pure before the Festival.
Continue reading “Shemini / Parah 5782”
Thoughts of denial
…זאת תורה העלה…
…This is the law of the Olah offering…
Of the many offerings that can be brought in the Temple, the one that is entirely consumed in flames is known as the Olah offering. While some offerings are brought voluntarily, and some to atone for immoral actions, our Sages teach us that an Olah offering is brought to atone for improper thoughts. What’s the source for this idea? They tell us that it’s an explicit verse, which says: והעלה על-רוחכם היו לא תהיה, אשר אתם אומרים נהיה כגוים, That which goes up in your mind shall never come to pass, that you say that you’ll be like all the nations. Now, the word for “that which goes up” is the same word as an Olah offering, which entirely “goes up” to Hashem. As such, we see the Olah offering associated with thoughts, and in the context of the verse, bad ones. Now, it’s hard to call this an explicit verse for this idea. It’s more of an allusion than anything else.
Continue reading “Tzav 5782”