Vayechi 5778

Correcting a blemish[1]

ויקרא יעקב אל-בניו ויאמר האספו ואגידה לכם את אשר-יקרא אתכם באחרית הימים
Yaakov called out to his sons: “Gather together and I will tell you what will happen to you in the end of days”[2]

When Yaakov fell ill, he knew his end was near. He decided that as this might be his final opportunity, he would reveal to his children their ultimate fate[3]. As they gathered to hear his words, his power of prophecy suddenly left him[4]. Yaakov was disturbed how this could happen. He felt it must be because of one of his children. Just like Avraham had two sons, Yitzchak and Yishmael, one good and one bad, and Yitzchak had two sons, Yaakov and Eisav, one good and one bad, Yaakov worried maybe one of his children had turned rotten[5]. He asked if any of them had any complaints against Hashem[6]. Perhaps their faith wasn’t as strong as he thought. His children responded in unison: “Hear O Israel[7]! Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One”[8]. “Just like in your heart there is only One, so too in our hearts there is only One”. “Just like you have nothing in your heart against Hashem, neither do we”. Yaakov, delighted at this response, called out “Blessed is the name of His Glorious Kingdom forever!”. When Yaakov suspected his children of wrongdoing, why did he specifically suspect them of having a faith problem? Maybe it was something else?

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Vayigash 5778


Words of comfort[1]

ועתה אל-תעצבו ואל-יחר בעיניכם כי-מכרתם אתי הנה כי למחיה שלחני אלקים לפניכם
Now, don’t be upset or feel guilty[2] that you sold me, since G-d sent me [to Egypt] before you as a salvation [from the famine][3]

After Yosef revealed to his brothers that not only was he alive, but he had become the viceroy in Egypt, they were taken aback. They couldn’t find the words to respond. Yosef sensed they felt guilty for selling him as a slave twenty-two years earlier. To make them feel more at ease during this long-awaited reunion, he offered them words of comfort. In reality, their act of selling him was for a blessing. The known world had been plagued by a famine for already two years. Only Egypt had food to survive, as Yosef had made the necessary preparations after he properly interpreted Pharaoh’s prophetic dream. He succeeded in securing enough food for the nation to last through the seven year-long famine. Yaakov and his family had managed to survive this long with their savings, but they had run out of food. Only because Yosef was sent to Egypt was there salvation from starvation. Therefore, the brothers shouldn’t feel guilty for selling him. However, upon further inspection these words of comfort seem to be superficial.

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Vayeishev 5778

It wasn’t a coincidence[1]

…הכר-נא הכתונת בנך הוא אם-לא: …הכר-נא למי החתמת והפתילים והמטה האלה
Yehudah[2]: “…Please identify if this coat belongs to [Yosef] or not”.
Tamar: “… Please identify who owns this seal, cloak and staff”[3]

After Yaakov’s sons decided to sell their brother Yosef into slavery, they had to create a coverup story to tell their father[4]. They decided to take Yosef’s coat, dip it in goat’s blood, and show it to their father. He would hopefully intuit Yosef was dead. Yehudah asked his father if he recognized the coat, and Yaakov assumed a wild animal had eaten Yosef. He was devastated by this news, and refused to accept any comfort from his family. Twelve years later[5] a seemingly unconnected story occurs with Yehudah[6].

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Vayishlach 5778

Learning from one’s teacher[1]

ויאמר אם-יבוא עשו אל-המחנה האחת והכהו והיה המחנה הנשאר לפליטה
[Yaakov] said: “If Eisav comes to one of the camps and strikes them, the remaining camp will survive”[2]

During the sovereignty of Achav, the wicked King of Israel, the prophet Ovadiah had to protect himself and all the other prophets from his reign of terror. The verse says[3] Ovadiah took one hundred prophets and hid fifty of them in a cave. Chazal ask[4] why didn’t he put them all in the cave? Rabbi Elazar answers that Ovadiah learned this strategy from Yaakov. When Yaakov and his family were about to confront his wicked brother Eisav, he divided his camp into two. This tactic was in case of the horrible event that one of the two camps is killed, at least the other one would survive. Why did the gemarra need to say that Ovadiah learned this strategy from Yaakov? Simply say that he thought of the idea himself[5]!

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Vayeitzei 5778

The Torah is not in Heaven[1]

ויעש יעקב כן וימלא שבע זאת ויתן-לו את-רחל בתו לו לאשה
Yaakov [celebrated his marriage to Leah][2]. [When] the week was complete [Lavan] gave his daughter Rachel to [Yaakov] to be his wife[3]

After working seven years for Lavan for the right to marry his daughter Rachel, Yaakov was tricked. He thought he was being given Rachel as a bride, but after all was said and done he realized he had married Leah[4], Rachel’s sister. Lavan tried to justify his treachery, and concluded that Yaakov could marry Rachel as well once the week of celebrations ended. Yaakov did so, and thus was married to both sisters. Many authorities assume the Avos, the patriarchs, kept the entirety of the Torah before it was given[5]. This is based on various allusions to such an idea[6]. However, many struggle[7] to reconcile this with the fact that the Torah explicitly prohibits[8] a man from marrying two sisters. How then could Yaakov marry two sisters, which the Torah explains usually leads to strife?

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Toldos 5778

The way of tzaddikim; the way of the Torah[1]

ועתה שא-נא כליך תליך וקשתך וצא השדה וצודה לי ציד
Now, please carry your vessels, your sword[2], and your bow; go out to the field and capture me some game[3]

Once Yitzchak approached the age that his mother was when she passed, he felt it was time to settle his affairs[4]. He decided to give incredibly powerful berachos, blessings, to his favorite son Eisav. However, to get into the proper state of mind to give these blessings, Yitzchak wanted to have a meal made up of his favorite delicacies. Eisav was an expert trapper[5]. So before receiving these blessings, Yitzchak sent him on a hunting mission. He told Eisav to take his instruments with him and go. Rashi is bothered[6] that one doesn’t need to tell an expert hunter to take along his weapons, just like a plumber doesn’t need to be told to bring his wrench[7]. Therefore, he interprets[8] the command שא-נא, literally please carry, as השחזה, sharpen. Yitzchak was telling Eisav to sharpen his knives. Why? Yitzchak was worried that when Eisav did shechitah, ritual slaughter on the animals he catches, the knife might have a blemish which would go unnoticed. Slaughtering with this knife would render the food forbidden to eat[9].

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Chayei Sarah 5778

Rabbi Reznick requested that I remove all divrei Torah that I wrote up from him. He didn’t want them in a public forum. If you would like to see a copy from this week’s parsha, please email

Vayeira 5778

The value of having guests[1]

ויאמר אדנ”י אם נא מצאתי חן בעינך אל נא תעבור מעל עבדך
[Avraham] said: “My Lord, if I have found grace in Your eyes, please[2] do not pass by from Your servant”[3]

On a hot day, Avraham was waiting outside his tent for prospective guests[4]. Hashem appeared to him in a vision, although what the vision consisted of we aren’t told[5]. Soon after, three Angels in the garb of Arab nomads[6] approached Avraham’s tent. Avraham, not wanting to pass up the opportunity to greet these potential guests, politely asked Hashem for permission to be excused[7]. The gemarra[8] learns from here that greater is taking care of guests than greeting the Divine presence. Since Avraham interrupted his vision of Hashem to greet the guests, we see it was of greater value[9].

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Lech Lecha 5778

Rabbi Reznick requested that I remove all divrei Torah that I wrote up from him. He didn’t want them in a public forum. If you would like to see a copy from this week’s parsha, please email

Noach 5778

Issues of faith[1]

ויאמר יקוק לנח בא-אתה וכל-ביתך אל-התבה כי-אתך ראיתי צדיק לפני בדור הזה: ויעש נח ככל אשר-צוהו יקוק: ויבא נח ובניו ואשתו ונשי-בניו אתו אל-התבה מפני מי המבול
Hashem said to Noach: “Come to the ark, you and your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation”. Noach did according to all that he was commanded by Hashem. And Noach went, along with his sons, his wife, and his son’s wives, into the ark, due to[2] the flood[3]

Noach was told by Hashem to build an ark for himself and his family. That generation had proven itself to be entirely wicked, so Hashem was going to bring a flood to destroy the world. Noach and his family were the ones chosen to rebuild civilization. When the time finally came to enter the ark, Hashem commanded Noach to do so. The verse then testifies that Noach did all that Hashem had commanded him. Rashi explains[4] that this refers to his coming to the ark. The Torah then says that Noach and his family entered the ark because of the flood. Rashi points out[5] that this teaches us that Noach was of little faith. He believed and he didn’t believe that the flood would occur. He only brought his family into the Ark when the waters forced them inside. How can this be reconciled with the earlier verse, which praised Noach for following Hashem’s command to enter the ark[6]?

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