The temporary temple
לא-יסור שבט מיהודה ומחקק מבין רגליו עד כי-יבא שילה ולו יקהת עמים
The scepter shall not depart from Yehuda, nor the leader from between his feet. Not until Shiloh will come, for he shall congregate nations
The Ramban shares with us 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, 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.
Continue reading “Vayechi 5783”
Yaakov’s divine blessing
ויברך יעקב את-פרעה ויצא מלפני פרעה
Yaakov blessed Pharaoh, and left his presence
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: 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. 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?
Continue reading “Vayigash 5783”
Sin leads to foolishness, which leads to blindness
…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!”
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.
Continue reading “Mikeitz 5783”
Recorded righteousness rewards
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
An interesting Midrash is taught 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. Had Aharon known his actions would be recorded in the Torah, he would have greeted Moshe with tambourines and dancing. Boaz gave Rus some toasted grain to eat. Had Boaz known his actions would be recorded in the Torah, he would have given her fatted calves.
Continue reading “Vayeishev 5783”
Two hips, two nerves, two types of mitzvos
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
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 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.
Continue reading “Vayishlach 5783”
Why did Yaakov go to sleep?
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”
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. After that, we are told that he encountered The Place. Unbeknownst to him, this was the site of the future Temple in Jerusalem. 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 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?
Continue reading “Vayeitzei 5783”
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
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 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.
Continue reading “Toldos 5783”
The trusting servant
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
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 us that it was that land alone which was struck by famine. Our Sages tell us that Hashem tested Avraham ten times. This was one of the tests. 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.
Continue reading “Lech Lecha 5783”
Dor HaMabul’s flaunting of Hillel’s golden rule
ותשחת הארץ לפני האלקים ותמלא הארץ חמס
The world became corrupted before G-d, and the world was filled with violent theft
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. They would forcefully take things from their fellow, sometimes even paying for it, but without permission. Why is this the sin which would cause the destruction of all of mankind?
Continue reading “Noach 5783”
Man’s best friend
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
Hashem severely punished Cain for murdering his brother. In response, Cain stated that his sin was too great to bear 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 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.
Continue reading “Bereishis 5783”