ולקחתם לכם ביום הראשון פרי עץ הדר כפת תמרים וענף עץ-עבת וערבי-נחל ושמחתם לפני יקוק אלקיכם שבעת ימים: בסכת תשבו שבעת ימים כל-האזרח בישראל ישבו בסכת
You shall take for yourselves on the first day [of Sukkos] a beautiful fruit (an esrog), date-[palm] fronds, braided branches (hadassim), and willows of the brook. You shall rejoice before Hashem your G-d for seven days. You shall dwell in Sukkos for seven days; every citizen of Israel shall dwell in Sukkos
It’s Sukkos time. The two main mitzvos associated with the Festival are the mitzvah to dwell in a Sukkah for seven days, and to take the four species, namely the lulav (palm frond), esrog (citron), aravos (willow), and hadasim (myrtle). What’s surprising is that, although these two mitzvos are adjacent to each other in the Torah, and they coincide on the same festival, they are polar opposites of each other. Jews are so careful about their four species that they are so perfect. Some spend hours making sure they are blemish free and as beautiful as can be.
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Yeravam’s David Dilemma
ומל יקוק אלקיך את-לבבך ואת-לבב זרעך לאהבה את-יקוק אלקיך בכל-לבבך ובכל-נפשך למען חייך
Hashem, your G-d, will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your children, to love Hashem, your G-d, with all of your heart and all of your soul, so that you will live
A theme of this week’s parsha is that of repentance. Quite apropos for the time of year that we’re in. Hashem promises that He will circumcise our hearts. The idea being that just like the male organ has a physical barrier that must be removed, so too our heart has a metaphorical barrier that must be removed. The heart being the seat of emotions, Hashem tell us that what gets in the way of us serving Him properly is our uncircumcised hearts.
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Birds, chicks, and bris milah
כי יקרא קן-צפור לפניך בדרך וגו’ והאם רבצת על-האפרחים או על-הביצים לא-תקח האם על-הבנים: שלח תשלח את-האם ואת-הבנים תקח-לך למען ייטב לך והארכת ימים
When you chance upon a bird’s nest while on the way…and the mother is perched on her chicks or on her eggs, don’t take the mother upon the children. [Rather] send away the mother bird and take the children for yourself, in order to be good for you and that you’ll lengthen your days’
A popular mitzvah nowadays is the mitzvah to send away the mother bird. Perhaps because of the Torah’s promise of a long life, people yearn for an opportunity to fulfill this mitzvah. The Torah tells us not to take the chicks or eggs when the mother bird is perched upon them. Rather, send away the mother bird, and then take the children for yourself.
Continue reading “Ki Seitzei 5783”
את-הברכה אשר תשמעו אל-מצות יקוק אלקיכם אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם היום: והקללה אם-לא תשמעו אל-מצות יקוק אלקיכם וגו’
The blessings [you’ll receive] for your listening to the mitzvos of Hashem your G-d, that I command you all today. And the curses [you’ll receive] if you don’t listen to the mitzvos of Hashem your G-d
The parsha begins with instructions to the Jewish people which they are to follow upon entering the land. They are to divide onto two mountains, one called Har Gerizim and one called Har Eival, and a series of blessings and curses are to be enunciated. These blessings are to follow upon proper Torah observance, and the curses for the opposite. However, many note an inconsistency in the verses which describe this ceremony. When describing the blessings, it says they are to follow “for listening to the mitzvos”. However, when describing the curses, it says they are to follow “if you don’t listen”. The curses sound conditional, and the blessings more definite. What gives?
Continue reading “Re’eh 5783”
והיה עקב תשמעון את המשפטים האלה ושמרתם ועשיתם אתם ושמר יקוק אלקיך לך את-הברית ואת-החסד אשר נשבע לאבתיך
It will be Eikev you listen to these judgments and safeguard and fulfill them, Hashem your G-d will guard you, the covenant, and the lovingkindness that He swore to your forefathers
Our verse uses an unusual expression. “It will be Eikev you listen” to Hashem’s commandments. Eikev usually is translated as heel. Targum Onkelos translates it in this case as “in return for your listening to these judgments”. Meaning, the verse is telling us a reward we’ll receive for our mitzvah observance. However, our Sages were bothered why didn’t the verse use the traditional word בעבור, meaning due to our loyalty, we’ll receive reward. Why use the same word for heel? Furthermore, the verse sounds like it’s encouraging us to serve Hashem to receive reward. The problem is, our Sages adjured us to do just the opposite!
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אלה הדברים אשר דבר משה אל-כל-ישראל בעבר הירדן בערבה מול סוף בין-פארן ובין-תפל ולבן וחצרת ודי זהב
These are the words that Moshe told all of Israel, across the Jordan River, in Aravah, across from the Reed Sea, between Paran and Tofel, and Lavan, and Chatzeiros, and Di Zahav
In the beginning of Sefer Devarim we are told that Moshe spoke to the entire Jewish people. The Torah is extremely precise with the location of this speech. Rashi explains that in fact, the Torah is not telling us geographical information. Really, Moshe was rebuking the people. The places that the Torah is telling us are allusions to prior sins that the Jews committed. Focusing on the last one, Di Zahav, we are told that it is a reference to the sin of the Golden Calf. The hint is that the Jews had so much gold from the Egyptians, that they yelled out “Dai”, meaning “Enough!”. They didn’t know what to do with it, so they ended up making a Golden Calf as an idol.
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ויתן להם משה לבני-גד ולבני ראובן ולחצי שבט מנשה בן-יוסף את-ממלכת סיחן מלך האמרי ואת-ממלכת עוג מלך הבשן וגו’
Moshe gave to the children of Gad, the children of Reuven, and to half the tribe of Menashe the son of Yosef the kingdom of Sichon, the King of the Amorites, and the kingdom of Og, the king of Bashan…
After the defeat of Sichon and Og, the Jewish people had conquered a large amount of land to the east of the Jordan River. The tribes of Reuven and Gad requested that instead of acquiring a portion of the land of Israel proper, they wanted this conquered land to be divided amongst them. After swearing that they’d help their brethren conquer the land of Israel, Moshe agreed to their request. The Torah tells us that Moshe gave them the land, as well as some of the tribe of Menashe. Why did Moshe give part of Menashe as well, when we aren’t told that they requested this land?
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A good thought
ובני קרח לא-מתו
And the sons of Korach did not die
Parshas Pinchas contains yet another census. The Torah lists all the different families by tribe and states their total numbers. In the midst of this listing, the Torah mentions the family of Korach, the one who started a failed rebellion against Moshe. The Torah wanted to emphasize that although Korach’s children were part of his rebellion, they did not perish like their father did. Rather, they had thoughts of repentance, and Hashem spared their lives.
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Hashem’s curious questioning
ויבא אלקים אל-בלעם ויאמר מי האנשים האלה עמך
G-d “came” to Bilaam and said: “Who are these men with you?”
Bilaam, the non-Jewish prophet, was sought after by the Moabite King Balak. Balak intended to hire Bilaam to curse the Jews. Bilaam foolishly thought that he could get Hashem to curse His own people. When Balak’s men first came to Bilaam, Hashem asked Bilaam a simple question: “Who are these people with you?” Bilaam responded that they were Balak’s men, etc. Rashi explains that obviously Hashem knew who these men were. Why then did He ask this to Bilaam? The intent was to trick Bilaam into thinking that Hashem isn’t completely omnipotent, Heaven forbid. Bilaam thought that Hashem only sometimes knows what’s going on, but doesn’t know everything. Bilaam thus felt empowered to try to “trick” Hashem into cursing the Jews, which ended up backfiring, as the story shows.
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Cheshbono shel Olam
על-כן יאמרו המשלים באו חשבון תבנה ותכונן עיר סיחון
Therefore, the conquerors say: “Let’s go to the city of Cheshbon; the city of Sichon should be built and established”
After the Jews successfully captured the city of Cheshbon, the city of King Sichon, the Torah tells us a vague verse. It describes what “the conquerors” said after the Jews’ victory. Perhaps since it is unclear why we need to know this information, our Sages interpreted the verse in a homiletic way: “The conquerors”, this is referring to those who have conquered their yetzer hara, their evil inclination. They say, “let’s go to Cheshbon”, this refers to calculating the accounting of the world: the loss incurred when fulfilling a mitzvah versus its gains, and the gains of transgressing a prohibition versus its losses.
Continue reading “Chukas 5783”