Korach 5784


Moshe’s mechila measurement[1]

‏…רב לכם בני לוי
…It’s too much for you, sons of Levi![2]

This week’s parsha chronicles the tragic rebellion of Korach, the Levi, and his band of supporters. Korach claimed that the entire nation was Holy, and was against this whole caste system. Everyone is worthy to be the Kohen Gadol. He also challenged the leadership of Moshe, and the authenticity of his transmission of the word of G-d.

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Acharei Mos 5784


The prohibition of a woman’s sister[1]

ואשה אל-אחתה לא תקח לצרר לגלות ערותה עליה בחייה
A woman, do not take her sister in marriage, to cause quarrelling, to reveal her nakedness upon her in her lifetime[2]

At the end of the parsha, we are taught a series of forbidden relationships, one of which is the prohibition of marrying one’s wife’s sister. However, the verse is expressed in a strange way. It says, “a woman, do not take her sister in marriage”. Now, the prohibition isn’t to marry any woman who is a sister. Only one’s wife’s sister. Why doesn’t it say don’t marry your wife’s sister? Or your sister-in-law?

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Terumah 5784


Colorful creature characteristics[1]

וזאת התרומה אשר תקחו מאתם…וערת תחשים
And this is the donation that you shall take from them…the skins of the tachash[2]

One of the fundamental parts of the Mishkan, the portable Temple that accompanied the Jews in the wilderness, was tachash skins. Rashi tells us[3] that they were beautifully composed of many colors. What animal was the tachash? It’s hard to know[4]. Our Sages tell us that it was a creature that only existed at that specific time, never to exist again[5].

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Vayechi 5784


Donations, lifespans, and mummies[1]

ויצו יוסף את-עבדיו את-הרפאים לחנט את-אביו ויחנטו הראפים את-ישראל
Yosef commanded his servants, the doctors, to mummify his father. The doctors mummified Israel[2]

The Torah tells us something, which to our 21st century eyes is quite surprising. Yosef commanded the Egyptians[3] to mummify his father, Yaakov. We view mummification as an ancient tribal ritual of the Egyptians; not something that Judaism usually promotes. In fact, our Sages[4] say that Yosef was punished for mummifying his father. Even though he was one of the youngest in his family[5], he died before all of them. This seems like a rather harsh punishment. Why was this considered to be such a terrible crime, worthy of premature death[6]?

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Vayigash 5784


Parental priority punishment[1]

וישלח את-אחיו וילכו ויאמר אלהם אל-תרגזו בדרך
[Yosef] sent off his brothers and they went. He said to them: “Don’t quarrel on the road”[2]

After finally revealing himself to his brothers, the long-thought dead or enslaved Yosef had reunited with his family. Yosef told them to return to Canaan to bring their father to Egypt, where there was salvation from the global famine. Before they left, Yosef cautioned them not to quarrel on the road. The simple explanation is[3] that he was telling them not to argue about whose fault it was that Yosef was sold as a slave in the first place, as Hashem had engineered everything to bring Yosef to political power.

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Vayishlach 5784


Angelic sightings[1]

וישלח יעקב מלאכים לפניו אל-עשו אחיו ארצה שעיר שדה אדום
Yaakov sent Malachim ahead of him, to his brother Eisav, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom[2]

Yaakov was finally returning home after his long asylum from his murderous brother Eisav. The problem was, Eisav seemingly hadn’t changed a bit. The Torah says that Yaakov sent Malachim ahead of him, to present gifts and tributes to Eisav. The hope was to avoid confrontation. These Malachim would seemingly be messengers, which is a valid translation of the term[3]. However, Rashi stresses[4] that he sent literal Malachim. The Term Malach is usually reserved for Angels. This means, according to Rashi, that Yaakov sent Angels ahead of him to Eisav. Why? What was the purpose?

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Bereishis 5784


Fatty logic[1]

ויהי מקץ ימים ויבא קין מפרי האדמה מחנה ליקוק: והבל הביא גם-הוא מבכרות צאנו ומחלבהן וישע אל-הבל ואל-מנחתו: ואת-קין ואל-מנחתו לא שעה ויחר לקין מאד ויפלו פניו
And it was at the end of some days that Kayin brought from the fruit of the land as an offering to Hashem. Hevel also brought from the firstborn of his flock and from their fats, and Hashem accepted Hevel and his offering. [Yet] Hashem didn’t accept Kayin nor his offering, and this upset Kayin very much, and his face fell[2]

Our Sages note the contrast between the offerings brought by Kayin and his brother Hevel. Hevel brought from the firstborn of his flock, and the fattiest parts of them, as a slaughtered offering to Hashem. On the other hand, Kayin simply brought from the produce of his land[3]. Why didn’t he also bring an animal offering, like his brother did?

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Beshalach 5783


Songs of praise, songs of death[1]

ויבא בין מחנה מצרים ובין מחנה ישראל וגו’ ולא-קרב זה אל-זה כל-הלילה
[The Angel] went between the Egyptian camp and the Israelite camp…and they didn’t get close to each other the entire night[2]

As the Jews were journeying towards the Reed Sea, the Egyptians were following closely in pursuit. Hashem prevented the Egyptians from reaching the Jews by sending an Angel to act as a sort of interposition between the two camps. The Torah testifies that the two camps didn’t get close to each other the entire night. What’s interesting to note is the expression זה אל זה, to each other, appears only twice in all of Tanach. One instance is here, in reference to the fact that the two camps did not get close to each other (לא קרב זה אל זה) the whole night. The other instance appears in the Kedusha prayers, and is a quotation from Isaiah’s description of the Angels. The verse says that the Angels call to each other (וקרא זה אל זה) and sing praises of G-d[3]. Is there any connection between these two instances?

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