Vayechi 5783


The temporary temple[1]

לא-יסור שבט מיהודה ומחקק מבין רגליו עד כי-יבא שילה ולו יקהת עמים
The scepter shall not depart from Yehuda, nor the leader[2] from between his feet. Not until Shiloh will come, for he shall congregate nations[3]

The Ramban shares with us[4] an interesting insight into Jewish history. While there was still a Jewish monarchy, there were many generations of kings which were not from the tribe of Yehuda. They were in fact violating the blessing, and really the last will and testament[5], of Yaakov. How so? Yaakov, upon his deathbed, prophetically blessed his twelve sons. Regarding Yehuda, he said that the scepter shall not depart from Yehuda. Meaning, the kingship. All Jewish kings are to come from Yehuda. This wasn’t a promise that the kingship would never leave his tribe, as we see it didn’t come true. Rather, it was in essence a command that only Judean kings are valid, and all others are violating this directive.

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Vayigash 5783


Yaakov’s divine blessing[1]

ויברך יעקב את-פרעה ויצא מלפני פרעה
Yaakov blessed Pharaoh, and left his presence[2]

The epic meeting between Yaakov and Pharaoh was short and sweet. They exchanged pleasantries, and Yaakov shared a bit about his life. Upon his departure, the Torah tells us that Yaakov blessed Pharaoh. Rashi asks[3]: What did Yaakov bless Pharaoh with? That the Nile River should rise to his feet. Meaning, Egypt’s climate doesn’t allow it to survive off rainwater. Instead, the Nile River would overflow and water the fields. After Yaakov’s blessing to Pharaoh, whenever the latter would go to the Nile, it would overflow and water the fields[4]. There are few questions on this Rashi. First of all, why does Rashi ask what blessing did Yaakov give Pharaoh? Does it really matter? Couldn’t it be anything? Maybe he blessed him with a long life, or lots of children. Since it could be anything, why bother asking the question? Also, Rashi didn’t need to go on a whole long explanation of the intricacies of the blessing and how it manifested. What’s going on?

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Mikeitz 5783


Sin leads to foolishness, which leads to blindness[1]

‏…ויצא לבם ויחרדו אל אחיו לאמר מה זאת עשה אלוקים לנו
…They went out of their minds and trembled amongst themselves, saying: “What is this that Hashem has done to us!”[2]

All of the interactions between Yosef, the disguised viceroy of Egypt, and his brothers, is astounding. How is it that the brothers didn’t recognize Yosef? How did they not realize that he was the brother they had sold, and that he had risen to be the second command of Egypt? If we are exacting with the verses and how our Sages interpret them, we’ll find literally a dozen reasons why they should have realized who they were interacting with.

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Vayeishev 5783


Recorded righteousness rewards[1]

ויאמר אלהם ראובן אל-תשפכו-דם תשליכו אתו אל-הבור הזה אשר במדבר ויד אל-תשלחו-בו למען הציל אתו מידם להשיבו אל-אביו
Reuven said to [his brothers]: “Don’t spill blood! Cast [Yosef] into this pit that’s in the wilderness, and don’t send a hand against him”, in order to save [Yosef] from their hands, to return him to his father[2]

An interesting Midrash is taught[3] about Reuven, Aharon, and Boaz. Reuven unsuccessfully tried to save Yosef from the hands of his brothers by suggesting they (temporarily) throw him into a pit. The Midrash says that if Reuven had known that his actions would be recorded in the Torah, he would have carried Yosef on his shoulders home to their father. Aharon, when he heard that his younger brother Moshe was chosen by G-d to lead the Jewish people, went out to greet Moshe[4]. Had Aharon known his actions would be recorded in the Torah, he would have greeted Moshe with tambourines and dancing[5]. Boaz gave Rus some toasted grain to eat[6]. Had Boaz known his actions would be recorded in the Torah, he would have given her fatted calves[7].

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Vayishlach 5783


Two hips, two nerves, two types of mitzvos[1]

וירא כי לא יכל לו ויגע בכף ירכו ותקע כף ירך יעקב בהאבקו עמו: על כן לא יאכלו בני ישראל את גיד הנשה וגו’ כי נגע בכף ירך יעקב בגיד הנשה
[The angel] saw that he could not overcome [Yaakov], so he touched the socket of his hip, and he dislodged the socket of Yaakov’s hip in his wrestling with him. Therefore, the Jewish people do not eat the sciatic nerve…for [the Angel] touched the socket of the hip of Yaakov, in his sciatic nerve[2]

One of the more famous episodes of the Bible is the wrestling match between Yaakov and the Angel. The Torah describes him as an unknown man who attacked Yaakov unprovoked, and our Sages tell us[3] this was the guardian Angel of Eisav, Yaakov’s brother. Yaakov was able to hold his own, so the Angel decided to fight dirty and dislocate Yaakov’s hip socket. In doing so, he affected Yaakov’s sciatic nerve. The Torah then testifies that this is the reason why it is forbidden for Jews to consume the sciatic nerve.

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Vayeitzei 5783


Why did Yaakov go to sleep?[1]

ויצא יעקב מבאר שבע וילך חרנה: ויפגע במקום וילן שם כי-בא השמש וגו’ וישכב במקום ההוא: וייקץ יעקב משנתו ויאמר אכן יש יקוק במקום הזה ואנכי לא ידעתי
Yaakov left from Be’er Sheva and journeyed to Charan. He encountered The Place, and he lodged there, for the sun had set…and he slept in that place. [Then] Yaakov awoke from his sleep, and said: “Behold, there Hashem in this place, and I didn’t realize”[2]

Yaakov’s journey to his uncle Lavan to seek a wife wasn’t a simple one. It actually involved a fourteen-year detour in the academy of Shem and Ever[3]. After that, we are told that he encountered The Place. Unbeknownst to him, this was the site of the future Temple in Jerusalem[4]. The Torah then tells us that since the sun set, he slept in that place. Why does the Torah stress in that place? This teaches us[5] that for the fourteen years that he was studying in the academy, he didn’t sleep, as he learned day and night. This was the first time he had slept in all these years. While this sounds like a supernatural feat, let’s take it at face value. If this is what the Torah is teaching us, why indeed did Yaakov choose to sleep that night? What was different about that night than all the nights prior? Why didn’t he learn Torah[6]?

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Toldos 5783


Suspicion acquisition[1]

ויתרצצו הבנים בקרבה ותאמר אם-כן למה זה אנכי ותלך לדרש את-יקוק
The children struggled within her, and she said: “If so, why am I thus?“ [So] she went to inquire of Hashem[2]

Rivka, the wife of Yitzchak, became pregnant with twin boys. These twins would eventually become Yaakov and Eisav. The Torah tells us that Rivka was having a difficult pregnancy. The children were very agitated within her. The next few words are phrased very vaguely. Literally read, it says that she said: “If so, why am I thus?” Rashi explains[3] that what she meant was if pregnancy is so difficult, why did she even pray to conceive? She had been unable to have children for ten years, and her and her husband prayed profusely for her to become pregnant. Now it seems she was having second thoughts[4].

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Lech Lecha 5783


The trusting servant[1]

ויהי רעב בארץ וירד אברם מצרימה לגור שם כי-כבד הרעב בארץ
There was a famine in the land, and Avram descended to Egypt to settle there, for the famine was very severe in the land[2]

Right after Avraham was told to go to the land of Israel, a place where he would prosper, a major famine hit the country. Rashi tells[3] us that it was that land alone which was struck by famine. Our Sages tell us[4] that Hashem tested Avraham ten times. This was one of the tests[5]. Will Avraham question Hashem? He was just told that he would prosper in the land of Israel, and soon after arriving, he is forced to leave. Isn’t this a bit strange? Avraham triumphed, and had full faith in Hashem. He went to Egypt without any complaints. Soon afterwards, the famine ended, and he was able to return.

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Noach 5783


Dor HaMabul’s flaunting of Hillel’s golden rule[1]

ותשחת הארץ לפני האלקים ותמלא הארץ חמס
The world became corrupted before G-d, and the world was filled with violent theft[2]

Everyone knows about the flood in the generation of Noach. However, what’s less known is that our Sages tell us that despite all of the lewd, corrupt behavior, and idol worship that occurred during that generation known as the dor hamabul, their fate was only sealed due to their sin of violent theft[3]. They would forcefully take things from their fellow, sometimes even paying for it[4], but without permission. Why is this the sin which would cause the destruction of all of mankind?

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Bereishis 5783


Man’s best friend[1]

ויאמר לו יקוק לכן כל-הרג קין שבעתים יקם וישם יקוק לקין אות לבלתי הכות-אתו כל-מצאו
Hashem said to him: “Therefore, anyone who kills Cain will be avenged sevenfold.” Hashem placed a sign for Cain, so that no one who finds him will harm him[2]

Hashem severely punished Cain for murdering his brother. In response, Cain stated that his sin was too great to bear[3] He admitted the error of his ways. In response, Hashem promised justice against anyone who harms Cain. To assuage his fears from foreign attackers, the Torah says that Hashem gave Cain a “sign”. We aren’t told what this is. One opinion of our Sages[4] is that Hashem gave Cain a dog. This seemingly was meant to bea guard dog, which would fight off any foe. The problem is, it’s hard to fit this into the verse. How could placing a sign mean a dog? It should have said that Hashem gave Cain protection, or something similar.

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