Shemos 5779


Decreeing their future salvation[1]

ויקם מלך חדש על-מצרים אשר לא-ידע את-יוסף
A new King arose over Egypt that did not know Yosef[2]

As we begin the book of Exodus, the Torah describes how a new Pharaoh became the ruler over Egypt, after Yosef and his brothers had died. The Torah says that this Pharaoh didn’t know of Yosef. Some say[3] what this really means is he annulled the decrees of Yosef. What does this refer to? Yosef, while he was viceroy in Egypt, decreed that all the Egyptians had to become circumcised[4]. This was their prerequisite to get food to eat during the ravaging famine. Yosef’s intention was that he that knew his family would be exiled to Egypt, and he didn’t want his circumcised brethren to feel alienated. With this decree, everyone would be the same. After Yosef died, Pharaoh annulled this decree[5]. While this may be an interesting historical fact, why is it placed in the middle of the story which describes the beginning of the Egyptian slavery?

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Vayechi 5779


The weapon of prayer[1]

ואני נתתי לך שכם אחד על-אחיך אשר לקחתי מיד האמרי בחרבי ובקשתי

I have given you one portion[2] over your brothers, which I took from the Amorites[3] with my sword and my bow[4]

As Yaakov realized his time on this Earth was almost at an end, he had some final messages to share with his son Yosef. He was rewarding him with an extra portion in the land of Israel over his eleven brothers. Yaakov described his conquering this land using his sword and his bow. However, Targum Onkelos translates[5] the words “sword” and “bow” as בצלותי ובבעותי, my prayer and my supplication. What is the difference between prayer and supplication, and how are they implied by the words “sword” and “bow”?

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Vayigash 5779


Careful judgement[1]

ויאמר אליהם אל תרגזו בדרך
…[Yosef] said to [his brothers]: “Do not quarrel on the road”[2]

After Yosef revealed to his brothers that he was now the viceroy of Egypt, he requested they bring their father from the land of Canaan. The seven-year famine was still ongoing, and their family was starving. Yosef had secured enough food to last through the famine, and was offering his family safe haven in Egypt. Before they departed on their journey, Yosef warned them against quarreling on the road. The simple meaning of the verse[3] is that Yosef was concerned that his brothers would discuss their sale of Yosef as a slave. Now that Yosef was in a position of power, and he was their savior, they might argue about whose fault it was that Yosef was sold. This discord could prove dangerous on their long journey home. He therefore cautioned them against discussing such matters.

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Chanukah 5779

Why is Chanukah night different than every other night[1]

נר חנוכה עדיף משום פרסומי ניסא
Lighting the menorah for Chanukah is better, for it publicizes the miracle[2]

On Chanukah we light the menorah to commemorate the miracle of the jug of oil. The Maccabees found one uncontaminated jug of oil for the Menorah, which was only enough to last for one night. It ended up lasting for eight nights. However, on Chanukah we don’t officially discuss the miracle. On Pesach we read the Torah portions which describe the Exodus from Egypt. We have the Seder night where we discuss all the miracles occurred when Hashem took us out of Egypt. On Purim we recite the Megillah, which describes all the events which lead to the miraculous salvation of the Jews. All of these rituals are to fulfill a specific religious mandate that we are supposed to publicize the miracle[3]. Chanukah’s version of publicizing the miracle solely involves lighting the menorah[4]. Why don’t we have as part of the prayers any mention of the miracle? Why don’t we read the book Megillas Antiochus, which describes the Chanukah story[5]? Sure, we do mention in the prayer Al Hanisim the Chanukah story, but there’s no mention of the miracle itself. Why is Chanukah different than the other holidays?

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