Lech Lecha 5778

Rabbi Reznick requested that I remove all divrei Torah that I wrote up from him. He didn’t want them in a public forum. If you would like to see a copy from this week’s parsha, please email contact@parshaponders.com.

Noach 5778

Issues of faith[1]

ויאמר יקוק לנח בא-אתה וכל-ביתך אל-התבה כי-אתך ראיתי צדיק לפני בדור הזה: ויעש נח ככל אשר-צוהו יקוק: ויבא נח ובניו ואשתו ונשי-בניו אתו אל-התבה מפני מי המבול
Hashem said to Noach: “Come to the ark, you and your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation”. Noach did according to all that he was commanded by Hashem. And Noach went, along with his sons, his wife, and his son’s wives, into the ark, due to[2] the flood[3]

Noach was told by Hashem to build an ark for himself and his family. That generation had proven itself to be entirely wicked, so Hashem was going to bring a flood to destroy the world. Noach and his family were the ones chosen to rebuild civilization. When the time finally came to enter the ark, Hashem commanded Noach to do so. The verse then testifies that Noach did all that Hashem had commanded him. Rashi explains[4] that this refers to his coming to the ark. The Torah then says that Noach and his family entered the ark because of the flood. Rashi points out[5] that this teaches us that Noach was of little faith. He believed and he didn’t believe that the flood would occur. He only brought his family into the Ark when the waters forced them inside. How can this be reconciled with the earlier verse, which praised Noach for following Hashem’s command to enter the ark[6]?

Continue reading “Noach 5778”

VeZos HaBeracha 5778

Sometimes the basis of the Torah comes through its annulment[1]

ולא-קם נביא עוד בישראל כמשה אשר ידעו יקוק פנים אל פנים: לכל-האותות והמופתים אשר שלחו יקוק לעשות בארץ מצרים לפרעה ולכל-עבדיו וכל-ארצו: ולכל היד החזקה ולכל המורא הגדול אשר עשה משה לעיני כל ישראל
No prophet arose in Israel like Moshe, who knew Hashem face to face. [As shown by] all the signs and wonders that Hashem sent him to perform in Egypt to Pharaoh, all of his servants, and his entire land, [and all] the mighty hand, as well as all the great astonishments that Moshe performed before the eyes of all of Israel[2]

The conclusion of the Torah describes the uniqueness of the prophecy of Moshe, as well as all the amazing feats that he performed in his life. The last words, לעיני כל ישראל, before the eyes of all of Israel, are understood by Chazal[3] to be hinting to the breaking of the two tablets after the sin of the Golden Calf[4]. Upon witnessing the Jews worship the idol they had made, Moshe took the tablets which contained the Ten Commandments, which he had received directly from Hashem, and smashed them on the ground. The Jews witnessed this dramatic reaction of their leader, and immediately halted their idol worship. One would have expected the Torah to end on a more positive note[5]. The incident of the Golden Calf was one of the lowest points in the Jews’ history in the wilderness. Why did the Torah end with a hint to the breaking of the tablets?

Continue reading “VeZos HaBeracha 5778”

Sukkos 5778

Finding joy in exile[1]

בסוכות תשבו שבעת ימים כל-האזרח בישראל ישבו בסוכות: למען ידעו דורותיכם כי בסוכות הושבתי את- בני ישראל בהוצאתי אותם מארץ מצרים וגו’
You shall dwell in sukkos for seven days; every citizen in Israel shall dwell in sukkos. [This is] in order for your generations to know that I placed the Children of Israel in sukkos when I took them out of the land of Egypt…[2]

During the festival of Sukkos, Jews are obligated to leave their permanent dwelling place and to live for seven days in sukkos[3]. The Torah tells us[4] that this is so we will remember that Hashem placed our ancestors in sukkos when He took us out of Egypt. There’s a tannaic dispute[5] as to the meaning behind the word sukkos in this verse. In general, the word sukkos refers to a temporary booth, usually made of wood[6], with a roof made from the waste from the harvest[7]. Rabbi Akiva holds that Hashem placed the Jews in literal booths when he took them out of Egypt[8]. However, Rabbi Eliezer holds that the verse refers to the Clouds of Glory which Hashem provided them in the wilderness, as a sort of protection from the elements. We are then commanded to make literal sukkos to represent the metaphorical sukkos of the past. The halacha, Jewish law, follows Rabbi Eliezer[9].

Continue reading “Sukkos 5778”