The joy of redemption
מלא שבע זאת ונתנה לך גם-את-זאת גו’
Complete this week, and she will be given to you [in marriage] as well…
The Mishnah teaches us that it is forbidden to get married on Yom Tov, as well as the intermediary days of Yom Tov. The reason given is that it is a simcha, a joyous event. Why is that a reason to forbid it on Yom Tov?
Continue reading “Vayeitzei 5780”
Concern for a mishap
אולי ימשני אבי והייתי בעיניו במתעתע והבאתי עלי קללה ולא ברכה: ותאמר לו אמו עלי קללתך בני שמע בקלי ולך קח-לי
Maybe my father will feel me and I will seem like a deceiver in his eyes, and he will bring upon me a curse and not a blessing. His mother said to him: “Your curse [will be] upon me my son. Listen to my voice, go and take [what I told you to]
The climax of this week’s parsha contains Rivka’s dramatic plot to secure blessings for her son Yaakov, preventing her other son Eisav from receiving them. The blind Yitzchak decided Eisav was more worthy of his final blessings, and requested his talented son go and hunt him some game. While Eisav was away, Yaakov was to enter Yitzchak’s tent, pretend to be Eisav, and receive the blessings himself. Yaakov was reluctant at first, explaining to his mother that the plan was dangerous. Eisav was a very hairy man, and Yaakov was smooth-skinned. What if Yitzchak would feel Yaakov’s arms and realize that he’s not really Eisav? Yitzchak would label Yaakov a deceiver. He would receive his father’s curses, not blessings! His mother reassured him, that no curse would befall him.
Continue reading “Toldos 5780”
ויאמר אברהם אל-עבדו זקן ביתו המשל בכל-אשר-לו וגו’
Avraham said to his servant, the elder of his household, the one in charge of all his belongings…
A major part of this week’s parsha is Avraham sending his servant on a mission. He was to go to Avraham’s homeland to find a wife for his son Yitzchak. The Torah tells us few facts about Avraham’s servant, Eliezer. He was the “elder” of Avraham’s household. He oversaw all of his belongings. He ensured everyone in Avraham’s camp had the food they needed. We see his dedication to Avraham’s will from his alacrity to fulfill the mission. He didn’t take credit for anything and attributed his success in the mission to Hashem, solely in Avraham’s merit. Besides that, we don’t really know his background. How did he become the servant of Avraham?
Continue reading “Chayei Sarah 5780”
Stationary teachers, elevated students
ויאמר אדנ”י אם-נא מצאתי חן בעיניך אל-נא תעבר מעל עבדך
[Avraham] said: “My Lord, if I have found grace in your eyes, please do not pass from upon Your servant”
Avraham was amid a prophetic vision of Hashem, when he noticed three potential guests in the distance. Having a burning desire to host them for a meal, he asked a favor of Hashem. He respectfully asked Hashem to wait for him to return after hosting these guests. While this was definitely the proper mode of conduct, from Avraham’s request of “please do not pass from upon Your servant”, it sounds like he was concerned. He was worried Hashem wouldn’t wait for him. What was the concern? Hashem was the one who initiated this prophetic vision. In fact, Hashem knew that Avraham was simply fulfilling the idiom that “greater is greeting guests than greeting the Divine Presence” . Why then did Avraham think Hashem wouldn’t continue the prophetic vision upon his return?
Continue reading “Vayeira 5780”
Gifts of persuasion
אמרי נא אחותי את למען ייטב לי בעבורך וחיתה נפשי בגללך
Please say that you are my sister, so that it will be good for me for your sake, and my life will be spared because of you
Due to a severe famine in the land of Canaan, Avraham and Sarah journeyed to the land of Egypt. Knowing full-well the morality of such a place, Avraham was very concerned. His wife was tremendously beautiful, and if the Egyptians knew they were a married couple, they would have no problem killing Avraham and taking Sarah as their wife. However, if they represented themselves as siblings, they would be safe. They would assume Avraham, as Sarah’s “brother”, was her protector, and could be persuaded to give her away in marriage.
Continue reading “Lech Lecha 5780”
Children of good deeds
אלה תולדות נח נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו את-האלקים התהלך-נח
These are the offspring of Noach – Noach was perfectly righteous in his generation; Noach walked with Hashem 
This week’s parsha begins by introducing Noach and his family. However, when the Torah starts to list Noach’s offspring, it immediately changes topic and sings his praises. The Torah tells us that Noach was perfectly righteous, and walked with G-d. Only afterwards are his children’s names mentioned. Why did the Torah introduce these praises by saying “These are the offspring of Noach”? Rashi explains that “the main offspring of the righteous are their good deeds”. Rashi didn’t fully explain himself. Why indeed are good deeds called “offspring”?
Continue reading “Noach 5780”
The eclipsed relationship
ויאמר אלקים יהי מארת ברקיע השמים להבדיל בין היום ובין הלילה והיו לאתת ולמועדים ולימים ושנים
G-d said: “Let there be luminaries in the sky to separate between day and night, and they will be for signs, set times, days and years”
On the fourth day of Hashem’s Six Days of Creation, we are taught that Hashem created what we know today as the Sun and the Moon. These celestial bodies, besides their other purposes, serve as practical time indicators. They’re used to distinguish between day and night, and to tell how far along it is during the day and night. As well, the Jewish Calendar is set up to rely on the lunar cycle, and the stage the Moon is in indicates how far along it is in the month. Many festivals occur during the full Moon, and the New Moon indicates the start of a new month. The Torah says that the luminaries are also for “signs”. What signs is the Torah referring to?
Continue reading “Bereishis 5780”
The weapon of prayer
ואני נתתי לך שכם אחד על-אחיך אשר לקחתי מיד האמרי בחרבי ובקשתי
I have given you one portion over your brothers, which I took from the Amorites with my sword and my bow
As Yaakov realized his time on this Earth was almost at an end, he had some final messages to share with his son Yosef. He was rewarding him with an extra portion in the land of Israel over his eleven brothers. Yaakov described his conquering this land using his sword and his bow. However, Targum Onkelos translates the words “sword” and “bow” as בצלותי ובבעותי, my prayer and my supplication. What is the difference between prayer and supplication, and how are they implied by the words “sword” and “bow”?
Continue reading “Vayechi 5779”
ויאמר אליהם אל תרגזו בדרך
…[Yosef] said to [his brothers]: “Do not quarrel on the road”
After Yosef revealed to his brothers that he was now the viceroy of Egypt, he requested they bring their father from the land of Canaan. The seven-year famine was still ongoing, and their family was starving. Yosef had secured enough food to last through the famine, and was offering his family safe haven in Egypt. Before they departed on their journey, Yosef warned them against quarreling on the road. The simple meaning of the verse is that Yosef was concerned that his brothers would discuss their sale of Yosef as a slave. Now that Yosef was in a position of power, and he was their savior, they might argue about whose fault it was that Yosef was sold. This discord could prove dangerous on their long journey home. He therefore cautioned them against discussing such matters.
Continue reading “Vayigash 5779”
A kiss from above
והנה אורחת ישמעאלים באה מגלעד וגמליהם נושאים נכאת וצרי ולט הולכים להוריד מצרימה
…behold an Arab caravan was coming from Gilad, and their camels were carrying spices, balm, and lotus; they were taking them to Egypt
The gemarra asks the innocent question: What was the miracle which prompted the establishment of the holiday of Chanukah? It answers that the Greeks, after they conquered the land of Israel, entered the Holy Temple and defiled all the oil that was to be found. When the Jews defeated them, they searched all around for sanctified oil to be used for the Menorah. All they could find was a single vessel that was still sealed. However, there was only enough oil in the vessel to last for one day. They used it anyways, and a miracle happened where the oil lasted for eight days. The following year they established that time of year as a season of rejoicing, with songs of praise and thanks.
Continue reading “Vayeishev and Chanukah 5779”