Respect for the past, acclimating to the future
דברו אל-בני ישראל לאמר זאת החיה אשר תאכלו מכל-הבהמה אשר על-הארץ: כל מפרסת פרסת ושסעת שסע פרסת מעלת גרה בבהמה אתה תאכלו: אך את-זה לא תאכלו ממעלי הגרה וממפריסי הפרסה את-הגמל כי-מעלה גרה הוא ופרסה איננו מפריס וגו’ ואת-החזיר כי-מפריס פרסה הוא ושסע שסע פרסה והוא גרה לא-יגר טמא הוא לכם
Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: “These are the animals that you shall eat, from all the animals on the Earth: Any animal with completely split hooves, which chews its cud, you shall eat. However, these you shall not eat from those that chew their cud and have split hooves: The camel, although it chews its cud, its hooves aren’t [completely] split…And the pig, although its hooves are completely split, it doesn’t chew its cud. It is impure to you”
The basic laws of kosher animals are introduced in this parsha. The rules are simple: animals with the Torah’s two kosher signs are permissible to eat. They need to have their hooves be completely split and chew their cud. If the animal has only one of these signs, like a camel or a pig, and for sure if it has neither of these signs, like a horse or a lion, then it is not kosher. However, sheep, lambs, cows, and deer, have both signs. These are permissible animals to eat.
Continue reading “Shemini 5780”
Elevation with ash removal
צו את-אהרן ואת-בניו לאמר זאת תורה העלה היא העלה וגו’ ואש המזבח תוקד בו: ולבש הכהן וגו’ והרים את-הדשן וגו’ והאש על-המזבח תוקד-בו וגו’
Command Aharon and his sons, saying: “This is the law of the Olah offering. It is the Olah…the fire of the altar should be ignited by it. The Kohen will adorn…he will lift the ash [off the alter]…The fire on the altar shall remain burning…
The Olah offering is one of the many kinds of offerings in the Temple. It’s called an Olah offering because of what makes it unique. It’s entirely consumed by the altar fire. No person is permitted to eat from its flesh. Olah means elevation, as the offering is considered to entirely elevate towards Heaven. The Torah states that it is about to detail the laws of the Olah offering, and then proceeds to discuss something else entirely. There’s a mitzvah for the Kohen to scoop up the ash from the altar once a day and place it on the side of the altar. This is known as terumas hadeshen. There’s also a mitzvah to put wood on the altar so the fire doesn’t extinguish. Instead of the Torah describing the laws of the Olah, it details these two mitzvos. Why then does it give this seemingly misleading introduction?
Continue reading “Tzav 5780”
The delightful smell of improvement
…עולה אשה ריח ניחוח
…an elevated fire offering, a pleasant smell
As we begin the book of Leviticus, it’s worthwhile to investigate the deeper meaning behind Temple offerings. Throughout the Chumash, offerings are referred to as a ריח ניחוח, a pleasant smell. These verses suggest that offerings are something positive, something to be encouraged. However, we find verses in the later prophets that discourage offerings. Hashem tells the people: “For what purpose do I need your abundant offerings?”. Hashem sounds like He isn’t interested in us bringing offerings. What changed?
Continue reading “Vayikra 5780”
Filling a need or needing to fill
והנשיאם הביאו את אבני השהם ואת אבני המלאים לאפוד ולחשן
The princes brought the shosham stones and the filling stones for the Eiphod and the Choshen
This week’s parsha describes the construction of the Mishkan. It starts with a detailed listing of the donation of the materials towards building it. The entire Jewish people jumped at the opportunity to donate towards the Mishkan. There came a point when donations had to be turned down, as all of the necessary materials had already been collected. The princes, the leaders of each tribe, are described as bringing precious stones for the garments of the Kohen Gadol.
Continue reading “Vayakhel/Pekudei 5780”
שלש פעמים בשנה יראה כל-זכורך את-פני האדן יקוק וגו’ ולא-יחמד איש את-ארצך בעלתך לראות וגו’
Three times a year, all of your men shall be seen by the countenance of the L-rd, Hashem…no man will covet your land when you go up to be seen
One of the mitzvos of the Torah is known as aliya leregel. Three times a year, there’s a mitzvah for all men to make a pilgrimage to the Temple. These three times occur on Passover, Shavuos, and Sukkos. By appearing in the Temple, the Jewish men are so-to-speak being “seen” by G-d. One could be nervous keeping such a mitzvah. If all the men converge towards Jerusalem, who will guard the borders? Who will protect their homes from invasion? To curb these concerns, the Torah promises us that at the times of the pilgrimage, no one will covet our land. There will be no need to fear foreign invasions.
Continue reading “Ki Sisa 5780”
ואלה הבגדים אשר יעשו חשן ואפוד ומעיל וגו’ ועשית את-מעיל האפוד כליל תכלת: והיה פי-ראשו בתוכו שפה יהיה לפיו סביב מעשה ארג כפי תחרא יהיה-לו לא יקרע: פעמן זהב ורמון פעמן זהב ורמון על-שולי המעיל סביב: וגו’ ונשמע קולו בבאו אל-הקדש
These are the garments that you shall make: The Choshen, the Eiphod, the Me’il…You shall make the Me’il of the Eiphod completely [dyed] techeiles. Its head-opening will be within it. It shall have a lip sewed around it’s opening. It shall have like the opening of scale armor, [so that] it will not tear. [It should have] alternating golden bells and pomegranates on the bottom, going around…its sound will be heard as he enters the Holy
This week’s parsha describes the manufacturing of the various garments that the Kohanim were to wear during the Temple Service. The gemarra explains that each of these garments had some significant purpose, besides serving as a standard uniform for them to wear. Each garment atoned for a particular sin. We are taught that the Me’il, a techeiles-dyed tunic, atoned for the sin of improper speech. Can we find any allusion to this connection between these two seemingly unrelated things?
Continue reading “Tetzaveh / Zachor 5780”
וזאת התרומה אשר תקחו מאתם זהב וכסף ונחשת: ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם: ועשו ארון עצי שטים וגו’
This is the contribution that you shall take from them: gold, silver, and copper. Make for Me a sanctuary, such that I will dwell amongst them. Make an Ark of acacia wood…
After reading the Torah’s delineation of all the various parts of the portable Temple known as the Mishkan, we notice something strange. The Torah first lists all the vessels that are part of the Mishkan, detailing all of their dimensions and materials. Then, the Torah describes how to construct the Mishkan itself, with all its hooks and the tapestries that are used as partitions. Why did the Torah list them this way? Describing the structure of the Mishkan, and only then the vessels, would seem to be more logical. Usually one builds a house before you figure out the furniture.
Continue reading “Terumah 5780”
The merciful Judge
ואלה המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם
These are the laws that you shall place before them
This week’s parsha contains many different types of laws, ranging from monetary to ritual. The monetary laws are primarily directed towards the Jewish judges, known as dayanim. These dayanim are to follow the Torah’s rules and considerations in order to rule properly. Chazal teach us that any dayan that judges a case properly and rules correctly becomes a partner in creation. What exactly is this referring to? How it is possible to be a partner with Hashem, so-to-speak?
Continue reading “Mishpatim / Shekalim 5780”
The Fourteen Commandments
לא-יהיה לך אלהים אחרים על פני: לא-תעשה לך פסל וכל-תמונה אשר בשמים ממעל ואשר בארץ מתחת ואשר במים מתחת לארץ: לא-תשתחוה להם ולא תעבדם כי אנכי יקוק אלקיך קל קנא פקד עון אבת על-בנים על-שלשים ועל-רבעים לשנאי: ועשה חסד לאלפים לאהבי ולשמרי מצותי
You shall not have other gods before Me. Do not make for yourselves any image that is in the sky from above, that is on the earth from below, and that is in the water below the earth. Don’t prostate before them nor serve them, for I am Hashem your G-d, a zealous G-d, who holds for My enemies the iniquity of the fathers on the children, for three and four generations. And who performs loving-kindness for a thousand [generations] for those who love Me and fulfill My commandments
This week’s parsha contains the epic revelation at Mount Sinai. Millions of Jews gathered to meet the G-d who took them out of Egypt in order to make them His nation. As part of this grand revelation, Hashem taught the Jews what is today known as the Ten Commandments. These commandments are essentially ten umbrella mitzvos in which you can categorize all the 613 mitzvos. Classically, in Rabbinical literature they’re referred to as the Ten Statements, or Ten Utterances. Each statement is its own idea, and the statements are separated in a sefer Torah by a noticeable space.
Continue reading “Yisro 5780”
A false united front
ופרעה הקריב וישאו בני-ישראל את-עיניהם והנה מצרים נסע אחריהם וייראו מאד וצעקו בני-ישראל אל-יקוק
Pharaoh brought [himself] close. The Jews raised their eyes and behold! The Egyptians are traveling after them! They were very afraid, and the Jewish people cried out to Hashem
The climax of the Exodus was about to begin. The Jews hit a dead end in their escape from Egypt, at the shores of the Reed Sea. They turned around and saw that their dreaded enemy the Egyptians were fast approaching. The Torah describes the Egyptians’ travels in the singular, using the word נוסע instead of the plural נוסעים. Rashi explains that they were בלב אחד כאיש אחד, with one heart, like one person. This shows their complete unity in their plot to annihilate the Jews.
Continue reading “Beshalach 5780”