Mikeitz 5782

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Previous ingratitude[1]

וידבר שר המשקים את-פרעה לאמר את-חטאי אני מזכיר היום
The Minister of the Cup Bearers said to Pharaoh, saying: “I bring up my sins today”[2]

When Pharaoh had two troubling dreams, it distressed him greatly[3]. He searched all over Egypt, but no one could satisfactorily interpret the dreams. The Minister of the Cup Bearers, commonly referred to as Pharaoh’s Butler, recalled that Yosef two years earlier had interpreted the former’s dreams. Yosef told the Butler while they were both in jail that the Butler would soon be freed. Yosef requested that the Butler upon his release tell Pharaoh of his innocence. Yosef was framed and didn’t deserve to be in jail. The Butler was indeed released, and failed to give Pharaoh Yosef’s message. Pharaoh’s predicament reminded the Butler of all of this, and he was forced to tell Pharaoh of Yosef’s abilities.

The Butler began by admitting to Pharaoh that this recommendation had negative connotations for himself. It recalled the fact that he was once in jail for sinning against the king. Nevertheless, due to Pharaoh’s need for his dream to be interpreted, the Butler was willing to take the personal hit. However, if we analyze what he says, we’ll be surprised. Instead of him saying that he has to bring up his sin to Pharaoh, he says sins. This means by mentioning Yosef, he was recalling multiple sins. What else did the Butler do wrong? Our Sages say[4] he was referring to two additional[5] sins: that he forgot of Yosef’s existence, and that he failed to keep his promise to him. If so, why would the Butler feel the need to mention this to Pharaoh? What does Pharaoh care about the Butler’s wrongdoing to Yosef?

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Vayeishev / Chanukah 5782

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Snakes, Scorpions, and Chanukah Celebrations[1]

ויאמר אלהם ראובן אל-תשפכו-דם השליכו אתו אל-הבור וגו’ למען הציל אתו מידם וגו’ ויקחהו וישלכו אתו הברה והבור רק אין בו מים
Reuven said to [his brothers]: Don’t spill blood. [Instead,] throw him into the pit…[this was] in order to save [Yosef] from their hands…They took him and threw him into the pit. The pit was empty; it didn’t have water[2]

After sensing their brother Yosef as a threat to their family’s wellbeing and Divine mission, the sons of Yaakov sentenced him to death. They intended to kill him and hide his death from their father. Reuven, the firstborn, knew this was the wrong move. Instead, he insisted that they throw Yosef in a pit. The Torah testifies that Reuven’s intent was to save Yosef. He seemingly wanted to stall for time, with the hope that the brothers would calm down and not act rashly. Unfortunately, while he was momentarily away from his brothers, they sold Yosef as a slave to Egypt, and the rest is history.

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Vayishlach 5782

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Tests of one’s nerves[1]

על-כן לא-יאכלו בני-ישראל את-גיד הנשה אשר על-כף הירך עד היום הזה כי נגע בכף-ירך יעקב בגיד הנשה
Therefore, the Children of Israel do not eat the sciatic nerve, which is on the hip of the thigh, until this very day. This is because Yaakov was injured on his hip, in his sciatic nerve[2]

One of the most mysterious encounters in the Chumash is Yaakov’s wrestling match with an unknown man. Their fight lasted the entire night. Our Sages tell us[3] that it was an Angel. Not just any Angel, but the guardian angel of Yaakov’s brother Eisav. Although Yaakov emerged victorious from the struggle, he didn’t escape unscathed. The Angel managed to injure Yaakov’s hip socket. The Torah concludes this episode with the words: “This is why the Jews to this day do not eat the sciatic nerve”. Indeed, this is one of the 613 mitzvos[4], not to eat the sciatic nerve of a kosher animal. What’s the reasoning behind this mitzvah? What are we to learn from it?

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Vayeitzei 5782

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Good intentions[1]

ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע וילך חרנה
Yaakov left Be’er Sheva and went to Charan[2]

After successfully preventing Eisav from receiving Yitzchak’s blessings, Yaakov had to flee for his life. His parents instructed him to go to his relatives in Charan, where he’ll find refuge, and perhaps even a wife. The thing is, our Sages inform us[3] that he took a not so slight detour. He spent fourteen years in the yeshiva of Shem and Eiver before finally journeying to Charan. How did they know this?

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Toldos 5782

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Two perspectives on Yitzchak[1]

‏…והיה כאשר תריד ופרקת עולו מעל צוארך
…It shall be, that when the Jews don’t keep the Torah[2], you shall remove his yoke from upon your neck[3]

There’s an interesting verse in the book of Isaiah. It says[4]: “You (Hashem) are our Father, since Avraham didn’t know us, and Yisrael didn’t recognize us.  Forever Your name is Hashem, our Father, our Redeemer.” What’s interesting about this verse is Yitzchak is strangely absent. We also find two different explanations from our Sages to this verse. At first glance, they appear to be total contradictions, one saying the exact opposite of the other. However, if we delve into their proper meaning, it will become clear that they are actually saying the same idea, just from different vantage points.

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Chayei Sarah 5782

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The Guardian Angel[1]

ויאמר אברהם אל-עבדו זקן ביתו וגו’ ואשביעך וגו’ לא-תקח אשה לבני מבנות הכנעני וגו’ ויאמר אליו העבד אולי לא-תאבה האשה ללכת אחרי וגו’ ויאמר אליו אברהם וגו’ יקוק אלקי השמים וגו’ הוא ישלח מלאכו לפניך ולקחת אשה לבני משם
Avraham said to his servant, the elder of his household…I command you through an oath…do not take a wife for my son from the Canaanite women…The servant said to him: “Perhaps the woman will not want to go with me…” Avraham said to him: “…Hashem, the G-d of Heaven…will send His Angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there[2]

Avraham tasked his trusted servant Eliezer[3] to find a wife for his son Yitzchak. Avraham didn’t want Yitzchak to marry one of the local Canaanite women, so he sent Eliezer to Avraham’s homeland. Perhaps a distant relative would be better suited for his son. Eliezer was concerned his mission would prove unsuccessful, and expressed his doubts. Avraham responded that Hashem would send an Angel to help him on his mission. In the end, Eliezer successfully found a wife for Yitzchak. He met the family of Besuel and his wife, the latter being Avraham’s niece, and found that their daughter was a perfect match for Yitzchak[4]. Yet, we don’t see any mention of an Angel throughout his journey. Where was the Angel?

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Vayeira 5782

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Precious time[1]

ותרא שרה את-בן-הגר המצרית אשר-ילדה לאברהם מצחק: ותאמר לאברהם גרש האמה הזאת ואת-בנה כי לא יירש בן-האמה הזאת עם-בני יצחק
Sarah saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, who [she] had born to Avraham, playing. [Sarah] said to Avraham: “Expel this maidservant and her son, for the son of this maidservant shall not inherit with my son Yitzchak”[2]

Reading a rudimentary translation of the Torah would yield quite a shocking result. Sarah sees Yishmael, the son of her maidservant Hagar and her husband Avraham, playing. Her response? Kick him out! How can Sarah be so harsh? She also says that Yishmael shall not inherit with Yitzchak. What does this have to do with his playing? This is why it’s so important to read the Torah in its original language.

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Lech Lecha 5782

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Misplaced priorities[1]

ויקחו את-לוט ואת-רכשו בן-אחי אברם וילכו והוא ישב בסדם: וישב את כל-הרכש וגם את-לוט אחיו ורכשו השיב וגם את-הנשים ואת-העם
They captured Lot and his possessions, the nephew of Avram, and he [had been] dwelling in Sedom. [Avraham] rescued all the property, and he rescued Lot his nephew and his property, and the women and the people[2]

The Torah describes[3] what is likely the first world war. It was a war of four kings against five kings. Avraham’s nephew Lot got caught in the rampage. As the enemy captured the city of Sedom and all of its inhabitants, Lot and his family were kidnapped. All of his property was seized as spoils of war. When Avraham heard what had happened to his kin, he gathered his troops[4] with the intent to fight. Avraham and his measly army managed to defeat the enemy and rescue the captives. Lot was a free man and regained his stolen property.

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Noach 5782

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Noach in a fur coat[1]

אלא תולדת נח נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו את-האלקים התהלך-נח
These are the chronicles of Noach. Noach was a perfectly righteous individual in his generations[2]; Noach walked with Hashem[3]

One of the more famous comments by Rashi is at the beginning of parshas Noach. He is bothered[4] by the Torah’s qualification that Noach was perfectly righteous in his generations. What is the message being conveyed? He says that some understand it to be in his praise. Noach was so righteous in such a wicked generation. Just imagine how great he would have been had he lived amongst a generation of other righteous individuals! Others say that it’s stated to his detriment. He was only righteous because of the generation that he found himself in. Had he been in the generation of Avraham, Noach wouldn’t have been considered so special.

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Bereishis 5782

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Adam, the first vegetarian?[1]

ויאמר אלקים הנה נתתי לכם את-כל-עשב זרע זרע אשר על-פני כל-הארץ ואת-כל-העץ אשר-בו פרי-עץ זרע זרע לכם יהיה לאכלה: ולכל-חית הארץ וגו’
G-d said: “Behold, I have given to you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the earth, and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit. They shall be yours for consumption, and for all the animals of the land…”[2]

Our Sages make an interesting inference[3] from the way Hashem gave permission to Adam and the animals to consume the plant-life that surrounded them. He said that the plants shall be for you and the animals to consume, with the inference being that, in contrast, the animals shall not be for you to consume. Meaning, only plant-life was permitted, but not animals. This seemingly would make Adam the first vegetarian. It was only during the times of Noach, after the flood, that meat became permissible for humans to consume. The gemarra asks on this from a different teaching. We are informed that while Adam was in Gan Eden, the Angels would roast meat and strain wine for him[4]. The primordial snake saw this and grew jealous, and the rest is history. From this accounting, he seemingly did consume meat. What’s the resolution?

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