Shemini 5784


Nullification priorities[1]

אל-תשקצו את-נפשתיכם בכל-השרץ השרץ ולא תטמאו בהם ונטמתם בם
Do not abominate your souls with all sorts of the creepy crawlies, and do not contaminate with them, nor become contaminated in them[2]

Our Sages teach us[3] that if we contaminate ourselves with forbidden foods [בהם], our end is to be contaminated in them [בם]. This seems a little redundant. As well, what’s the significance of the pronoun change from בהם to בם‏‎[4]?

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Tzav 5784

Vayakhel 5784


Whose handiwork is it[1]

ויקהל משה את-כל-עדת בני ישראל ויאמר אלהם אלה הדברים אשר-צוה יקוק לעשת אתם: ששת ימים תֵּעָשֶׂה מלאכה וביום השביעי יהיה לכם קדש שבת שבתון ליקוק וגו’

Moshe gathered the entire assembly of the Jewish people and said to them: “These are the matters that Hashem commanded to do. Six days work shall be done, and on the seventh day it will be for you a holy sabbatical Shabbos for Hashem”[2]

Our Sages note[3] an interesting juxtaposition between the commandments regarding Shabbos and the building of the Mishkan. It is understood that the Torah is telling us not to build the Mishkan on Shabbos. This is the basis for the prohibited creative labor on Shabbos, namely any activity involved in the creation of the Mishkan is forbidden to perform on Shabbos.

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Ki Sisa 5784


Independence day[1]

וירא העם כי-בשש משה לרדת מן-ההר ויקהל העם על-אהרן ויאמרו אליו קום עשה-לנו אלהים אשר ילכו לפנינו כי-זה משה האיש אשר העלנו מארץ מצרים לא ידענו מה-היה לו
The people saw that Moshe tarried from descending the mountain, and the nation congregated upon Aharon, and they said to him: “Get up and make for us gods that will go before us, for this man Moshe, who took us out of Egypt, we don’t know what happened to him”[2]

The sin of the Golden Calf is considered one of the worst mistakes of the Jewish people in our history. Forty days after the National Revelation at Mount Sinai, where every Jew heard G-d Himself speak, they resorted to making and worshipping an idol. How could this have happened? What was the cause root of their mistake? Yes, they thought something happened to Moshe, and were looking for some sort of replacement. But, was it something deeper?

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Tetzaveh 5784


Pomegranates, bells, and tzitzis[1]

ועשית את-מעיל האפוד כליל תכלת: ועשית על-שוליו רמני תכלת וארגמן ותולעת שני על-שוליו סביב ופעמני זהב בתוכם סביב
You shall make the me’il of the eiphod entirely techeiles. You shall make on the bottom of it pomegranates of techeiles, argaman, and tola’as shani, on the bottom all around, and golden bells amongst[2] them all around[3]

One of the garments of the Kohen Gadol is the me’il, a type of blue cloak. There’s a dispute about exactly how it looked. Some say[4] it was like a regular long shirt. In contrast, the Rambam describes[5] the me’il as not having sleeves. Rather, it was divided into two corners from the neck downwards. Meaning, it is not attached except adjacent to the neck. This sounds similar to what our tallis katan looks like today, which is a four cornered garment[6]. One of the unique features of the me’il is the bottom of it had threads spun and woven together to resemble pomegranates, as well as golden bells. The latter were there so all would hear the Kohen Gadol as he came[7].

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Terumah 5784


Colorful creature characteristics[1]

וזאת התרומה אשר תקחו מאתם…וערת תחשים
And this is the donation that you shall take from them…the skins of the tachash[2]

One of the fundamental parts of the Mishkan, the portable Temple that accompanied the Jews in the wilderness, was tachash skins. Rashi tells us[3] that they were beautifully composed of many colors. What animal was the tachash? It’s hard to know[4]. Our Sages tell us that it was a creature that only existed at that specific time, never to exist again[5].

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Yisro 5784


Respect, honour, and small steps[1]

ולא-תעלה במעלת על-מזבחי אשר לא-תגלה ערותך עליו
Don’t make steps on My altar, such that you don’t reveal your nakedness upon it[2]

The Torah prohibits us from building steps for the Temple altar. The reason for this[3] is so that the Kohanim would not be forced to take large steps during their ascent. Large steps over its stones is, in a way, considered improper, almost profane. Our Sages draw[4] a logical deduction from this. If the Torah was particular about the disgrace of these stones, which don’t have intelligence to notice, your friend, who was created in the image of G-d, all the more so you should be careful not to disgrace them.

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Beshalach 5784


Realistic roundabout reclining[1]

ויהי בשלח פרעה את-העם ולא-נחם אלקים דרך פלשתים כי קרוב הוא וגו’ ויסב אלקים את-העם דרך המדבר ים-סוף וגו’‏
And it was that Pharaoh sent the [Jewish] nation. Hashem didn’t let them travel through the land of the Philistines, for it was [too] close…Hashem circumvented the people to go through the way of the wilderness to the Sea of Reeds…[2]

Our Sages connect[3] the verse in this week’s parsha, which says Hashem circumvented [ויסב] the people, with a well-known practice during Seder night: “From this verse our Sages said that even a poor person in the Jewish people shouldn’t eat unless they recline [שיסב][4], for this is what Hashem did for them.” However, it’s hard to understand how the mitzvah of haseibah, reclining while eating matzah and drinking the four cups on Seder Night is connected in any way to the circumventing described in this verse. The latter is merely referring to traveling in a long, out of the way fashion. Some suggest that the verse is merely an allusion to the idea later created by the Sages, but perhaps there’s more going on here.

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Bo 5784


Sabbatical locust respite[1]

ויעל הארבה על כל-ארץ מצרים וינח בכל גבול מצרים כבד מאד לפניו לא-היה כן ארבה כמהו ואחריו לא יהיה-כן
The plague of locusts came up upon all of the land of Egypt. They rested in all of the region of Egypt. It was very dense. Never before was there such a number of locusts and there never will be like it[2]

The Torah, when describing the plague of locusts, uses an interesting verb. It says וינח, they rested. In fact, this verb appears one other time in Tanach[3]. When else? In the context of Shabbos. The Torah says[4] Hashem rested (וינח) on the seventh day of creation, and therefore commanded the weekly mitzvah of Shabbos. What’s the significance of this shared word usage? This teaches us that the locusts rested on Shabbos[5]. The plague of locusts was that they consumed all of the crops of the entirety of Egypt. It would seem that they refrained from doing so on Shabbos.

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Va’eira 5784


The loyal spokesman[1]

וידבר משה לפני יקוק לאמר הן בני-ישראל לא-שמעו אלי ואיך ישמעני פרעה ואני ערל שפתים: וידבר יקוק אל-משה ואל-אהרן ויצום אל-בני ישראל ואל-פרעה מלך מצרים להוציא את-בני-ישראל מארץ מצרים
Moshe said before Hashem, saying: “Behold! The Jewish people won’t listen to me; how will Pharaoh listen to me? [For] I have blocked lips.” Hashem said to Moshe and to Aharon, and commanded them regarding the Jewish people and to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, to take out the Jewish people from the land of Egypt[2]

Moshe famously had a speech impediment. He told Hashem that he would have no chance of convincing the Jews of their upcoming freedom, nor Pharaoh that he should let the Jews free. He was of blocked lips. The problem is, Moshe already made this argument in last week’s parsha[3]. When Hashem told Moshe to lead the Jews out of Egypt, he told Hashem that he was heavy of speech. He was unfit for the job. Hashem responded that his brother Aharon would be his spokesman. Moshe would tell Aharon the messages delivered to him from Hashem, and Aharon would tell the people or Pharaoh what was said. Why then is Moshe repeating this argument[4]?

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