Honey and leaven; the golden rule
כל-המנחה אשר תקריבו ליקוק לא תעשה חמץ כי כל-שאר וכל-דבש לא-תקטירו ממנו אשה ליקוק: קרבן ראשית תקריבו אתם ליקוק וגו’
All flour offerings that you bring to Hashem should not become leaven. For all leavening and honey shall not be burned on the altar as a fire for Hashem. [However], you shall bring [from] them [for] first offerings
The Rambam teaches us what’s become known as his golden rule. Extremes are never good. A person should always act in a balanced way, neither leaning to one extreme or the other. Arrogance is abhorrent, but a lack of self-worth can lead to depression. Someone who gives things away uncontrollably is unstable, yet someone stingy is looked down upon. A healthy balance is key. The Rambam suggests that if someone is leaning to one extreme, they should act in the other extreme, in order to end up somewhere in the middle.
Continue reading “Vayikra 5783”
Kindling traits of passion
לא-תבערו אש בכל משבתיכם ביום השבת
Do not kindle a flame on the Sabbath day in any of your dwelling places
Of all of the 39 forbidden categories of creative activities which are forbidden on Shabbos, the Torah finds the need to specify one of them. It says that it is forbidden to kindle a flame. Why was this activity singled out? Rashi brings that it’s a dispute amongst our sages. One opinion is that it’s to teach us that kindling a fire is for whatever reason considered a lower-level prohibition in comparison to the other forbidden creative activities. It gets downgraded to a regular transgression. The other opinion says it’s to teach us that even someone who performed one creative labor has desecrated Shabbos, as opposed to thinking it takes performing all of them to be guilty. This latter opinion still requires analysis. If this is the intent of the Torah, why was specifically the activity of kindling a flame chosen to teach this lesson? Seemingly the Torah could have chosen any other of the 38 forbidden activities.
Continue reading “Vayakhel/Pekudei 5783”
Wrongful Rabbinic reservations
ויוצא משה את-העם לקראת האלקים מן-המחנה ויתיצבו בתחתית ההר
Moshe took the people out from the camp to greet Hashem, and they stood at the foot of the mountain
Before the great revelation of the Divine at Mount Sinai, when the Jews were given the Ten Commandments, the Torah says that the Jews stood בתחתית ההר, “at the foot” of the mountain. However, literally read, the verse says that they stood “under” the mountain. Chazal learn from here 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 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?
Continue reading “Purim 5783”
Regretful royal recalcitration
נחמתי כי-המלכתי את-שאול למלך כי-שב מאחרי ואת-דברי לא הקים וגו’ ויבא שמואל אל שאול ויאמר לו שאול ברוך אתה ליקוק הקמותי את דבר יקוק: ויאמר שמואל ומה קול הצאן הזה באזני וגו’
“I have regretted coronating Shaul to be King, for he has turned away from Me and he did not uphold My words”…Shmuel came to Shaul, and Shaul said to him: “Blessed are you to Hashem! I have upheld the word of Hashem.” Shmuel said: “Then what is this sound of sheep I hear in my ears?”
King Shaul was tasked with the command to eradicate the memory of the wicked nation of Amalek. The entire nation, as well as their animals, were to be destroyed. Shaul was mostly successful, except that he left the King Agag alive, as well as the Amalekite sheep. When the prophet Shmuel came to rebuke Shaul for his failure, Shaul said: “I have upheld the word of Hashem!” This is astounding, for he surely must have realized that he didn’t. He didn’t follow the command as he was told. What was he thinking? Also, he uses an unusual expression. Shouldn’t he have said “I have fulfilled the word of Hashem”? Shmuel responded that he heard the sound of sheep. Why did he choose to rebuke Shaul this way?
Continue reading “Tetzaveh / Zachor 5783”