Nasso 5778

It’s the thought that counts[1]

ויקריבו נשיאי ישראל ראשי בית אבתם וגו’ ויהי המקריב ביום הראשון וגו’ ביום השני הקריב וגו’
The princes of Israel, the heads of their tribes, brought offerings…The one who offered on the first day…On the second day he offered…[2]

The day that the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, was completed, was a day of great celebration[3]. The princes of Israel, one for each tribe, were tremendously inspired. They wanted to express their gratitude for Hashem resting His presence among His people. They decided to bring offerings, including animals and fancy vessels, all with an ornate presentation. Part of their motivation was to make up for the last time there were donations given towards the Mishkan[4]. Every member of the Jewish people was overjoyed for the opportunity to give of their own towards Hashem’s future resting place. The princes decided to let the people have their chance, and when the collection finished they would make up for anything that was lacking. By the time the collection finished, there was too much donated[5]. This means there was almost nothing left for the princes to donate. When the Mishkan was finally constructed, they pledged to be the first to show their thanks. They got up and brought their various offerings.

Continue reading “Nasso 5778”

Shavuos 5778 part two

Coerced acceptance, part two[1]

וישלח את-נערי בני ישראל ויעלו עלת ויזבחו זבחים שלמים ליקוק פרים
[Moshe] dispatched the lads of Israel, and they brought up offerings; they slaughtered bulls as peace offerings to Hashem[2]

Before[3] the giving of the Torah, the Jews had tremendous anticipation for the Divine Revelation at Mount Sinai. Moshe dispatched the important members[4] of Israel to bring offerings to Hashem, as a sign of thanks for this momentous occasion. The verse refers to them as נערים, implying they were young lads. Indeed, when the Jews were forced by King Ptolemy to translate the Torah to Greek[5], they were concerned about this implication. Knowing the verse really spoke about the important members of the Jews, they used the Greek translation of the word זאטוטי, which means dignitaries[6]. This avoided any misunderstandings of the correct meaning of the verse. However, if this is what the verse means, why is it written this way? Why doesn’t it just say what it means[7]?

Continue reading “Shavuos 5778 part two”

Shavuos 5778 part one

Coerced acceptance, part one[1]

ויוצא משה את-העם לקראת האלקים מן-המחנה ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר: ויקח ספר הברית ויקרא באזני העם ויאמרו כל אשר-דבר יקוק נעשה ונשמע
Moshe took the people out from the camp to greet Hashem, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. [Moshe] took the book of the Covenant and called out to the ears of the people. They all said: “All that Hashem says, we will fulfill and we will listen!”[2]

The holiday of Shavuos celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people[3]. It’s when the Ten Commandments were stated. Before the great revelation of the Divine, the Torah says that the Jews stood “at the foot” of the mountain. However, literally read, the verse says that they stood “under” the mountain. Chazal expound[4] that this teaches us that Hashem picked up the mountain, and held it over their heads. He said to them: “if you accept the Torah, good. But if not, then this[5] will be your burial place”. Thankfully, the Jews accepted the Torah. In fact, they later accepted it anew in the days of Achashverosh, out of love. However, this shows us that initially it was only through coercion. This seems to contradict a different verse, where the Jews proudly announced that they will do whatever Hashem commands them. This sounds like they were initially happy to accept the Torah. If so, why then did Hashem force them to accept it? How do we resolve this contradiction[6]?

Continue reading “Shavuos 5778 part one”

Behar-Bechukosai 5778

Ensuring the redemption[1]

וזכרתי את-בריתי יעקוב ואף את-בריתי יצחק ואף את-בריתי אברהם אזכר והארץ אזכר
I will remember my covenant with Yaakov; as well, my covenant with Yitzchak, and I’ll remember my covenant with Avraham, and I’ll remember the land[2]

Parshas Bechukosai describes all the devastating things that will happen when the Jews will be exiled from their land. After all these events are described, Hashem assures us that we will not be forgotten. We are assured[3] that we will evade total annihilation, despite our enemies’ plans otherwise. Hashem tells us that He will recall the covenant He made with our forefathers: to be an eternal nation[4], living peacefully in our homeland[5]. When the Torah writes the name of Yaakov, it is written as יעקוב, with an extra “ו”. Rashi points out[6] that this happens five times[7] in Tanach. This is to correspond to the five times[8] that Eliyahu the prophet’s name is written אליה, missing the final “ו”. This is to teach us[9] that Yaakov, so-to-speak, “took” a letter from Eliyahu’s name as collateral, to ensure that Eliyahu will come and announce to Yaakov’s children the imminence of their final redemption[10].  If this is the lesson of the extra letter in Yaakov’s name, then why did it need to be demonstrated five times[11]? If this had happened just once, it would have been sufficient.

Continue reading “Behar-Bechukosai 5778”

Emor 5778

Receiving life for giving life[1]

ובקצרכם את-קציר ארצכם לא-תכלה פאת שדך בקצרך ולקט קצירך לא תלקט לעני ולגר תעזב אתם אני יקוק אלקיכם: דבר אל-בני ישראל לאמר בחדש השביעי באחד לחדש יהיה לכם שבתון זכרון תרועה מקרא-קדש
When you reap the harvest of your land, don’t finish off the corners of your fields as you reap, and don’t collect the gleanings of your harvest; leave them for the poor and the convert, I am Hashem your G-d. Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: “In the seventh month, in the first of the month, it will be for you a day of rest, of remembrance, of shofar-blasts, [and] a holy convocation[2]

The end of this week’s parsha describes the various Jewish holidays. In between the holidays of Shavuos and Rosh Hashanah, the Torah mentions[3] the mitzvos of peah (lit: corner) and leket (gleanings). When a Jewish farmer is harvesting his crop, there are special mitzvos of tzedakah that he must fulfill. He must leave a corner of his field unharvested, allowing the poor to take as they need. Likewise, when harvesting crops, sometimes some of the produce falls to the ground, known as gleanings. The farmer is commanded to leave those on the ground for the poor to collect. In addition to commanding the farmer not to harvest peah and leket, the Torah adds the injunction to specifically leave them for the poor and the convert. Why are these mitzvos placed here? It seems to serve as some sort of an introduction to the holiday that follows it, Rosh Hashanah[4]. What is this teaching us?

Continue reading “Emor 5778”