The greatness of the student. The greatness of the father
ואלה תולדת אהרן ומשה ביום דבר יקוק את-משה בהר סיני: ואלה שמות בני-אהרן וגו’
These are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe, on the day that Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai. These are the names of the children of Aharon…
The book of Bamidbar earns its English title of “Numbers” by beginning with several numbers. Namely, it details two different censuses that were taken before the Jews departed from Mount Sinai. The Torah introduces the census of the tribe of Levi by listing for us the offspring of Moshe and Aharon. The problem is, the Torah only lists the children of Aharon. What about the children of Moshe? This anomaly prompts our Sages to tell us that we learn from here that one who teaches his friend’s children Torah is looked at as if they had birthed them. Meaning, Moshe taught Aharon’s children Torah, and they are therefore, in a sense, considered Moshe’s children.
Continue reading “Bamidbar 5783”
Quarrelsome quorum quandaries
ולא תחללו את-שם קדשי ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל אני יקוק מקדשכם
Do not profane My Holy Name, and I will be sanctified amongst the Children of Israel; I am Hashem Who sanctifies you
A fundamental principle in Judaism is that declarations of holiness need a quorum. In other words, kaddish, kedusha, Torah reading, the Kohanic blessings, and the like, all require ten adult male Jews be present. The idea is that when we sanctify Hashem’s name, it needs to be done in a public fashion, with a minimum of ten men. How do we know this? A rather ironic source.
Continue reading “Emor 5783”
Regretful royal recalcitration
נחמתי כי-המלכתי את-שאול למלך כי-שב מאחרי ואת-דברי לא הקים וגו’ ויבא שמואל אל שאול ויאמר לו שאול ברוך אתה ליקוק הקמותי את דבר יקוק: ויאמר שמואל ומה קול הצאן הזה באזני וגו’
“I have regretted coronating Shaul to be King, for he has turned away from Me and he did not uphold My words”…Shmuel came to Shaul, and Shaul said to him: “Blessed are you to Hashem! I have upheld the word of Hashem.” Shmuel said: “Then what is this sound of sheep I hear in my ears?”
King Shaul was tasked with the command to eradicate the memory of the wicked nation of Amalek. The entire nation, as well as their animals, were to be destroyed. Shaul was mostly successful, except that he left the King Agag alive, as well as the Amalekite sheep. When the prophet Shmuel came to rebuke Shaul for his failure, Shaul said: “I have upheld the word of Hashem!” This is astounding, for he surely must have realized that he didn’t. He didn’t follow the command as he was told. What was he thinking? Also, he uses an unusual expression. Shouldn’t he have said “I have fulfilled the word of Hashem”? Shmuel responded that he heard the sound of sheep. Why did he choose to rebuke Shaul this way?
Continue reading “Tetzaveh / Zachor 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”
Amazing awe allusions
ולכל היד החזקה ולכל המורא הגדול אשר עשה משה לעיני כל-ישראל
The entire strong hand, and the great awe that Moshe performed before the eyes of the entire Jewish people
Just before Moshe took on the mantle of leadership of the Jewish people, Hashem showed him the famous vision of the burning bush. The Torah describes it as an Angel appearing to him in the flame (בלבת-האש) of the bush. This was to hint to him the two forms of awe of G-d. One comes from a sense of submission, humility, and meekness. The other comes from a sense of pride at the opportunity to serve Hashem. These two ways can be compared to water and fire, respectively. Hashem appeared to Moshe in a mere bush, to allude to meekness and submission, and in a flame, to allude to pride.
Continue reading “VeZos HaBeracha 5783”
זה היום תחלת מעשיך זכרון ליום ראשון
Today is the beginning of Your creation, a commemoration of the first day
There’s a well-known dispute between our Sages regarding when the world was created. Rabbi Eliezer says that the world was created in the month of Tishrei, whereas Rabbi Yehoshua says that the world was created in Nissan. Tosafos are bothered that we rule like Rabbi Yehoshua, and yet on Rosh Hashanah, the first of Tishrei, we say the phrase, “Today is the beginning of Your creation”. According to Rabbi Yehoshua, Tishrei wasn’t the beginning of Hashem’s creation. Nissan was. How can this be reconciled?
Continue reading “Rosh Hashanah 5783”
A bloody habit
רק חזק לבלתי אכל הדם כי הדם הוא הנפש ולא-תאכל הנפש עם-הבשר
Be very strong not to eat blood, for blood is the life-source. Don’t eat the life-source with the flesh
The Torah is very redundant when precluding the consumption of blood. It cautions several times against eating it. Our Sages provide different reasons for each of these instances. One interesting occurrence is when the Torah says רק חזק, be very careful and steadfast against its consumption. Rashi brings a dispute what this is teaching us. One opinion says that the Jews were steeped in blood, so the Torah has to be extra stern in its prohibition. It would seem then that the Jews at the time of the giving of the Torah were accustomed to excessive consumption of blood. This isn’t the case anymore. It would seem the Torah was successful at ridding us of a hazardous lifestyle.
Continue reading “Re’eh 5782”
The Royal roast and family feasts
ויהי ממחרת החדש השני ויפקד מקום דוד ויאמר שאול אל-יהונתן בנו מדוע לא-בא בן-ישי גם-תמול גם-היום אל-הלחם: ויען יהונתן את-שאול נשאל נשאל דוד מעמדי עד-בית לחם: ויאמר שלחני נא כי זבח משפחה לנו בעיר והוא צוה-לי אחי ועתה אם-מצאתי חן בעיניך אמלטה נא ואראה את-אחי על-כן לא-בא אל-שלחן המלך: ויחר-אף שאול ביהונתן ויאמר לו בן-נעות המרדות הלוא ידעתי כי-בחר אתה לבן-ישי לבשתך ולבשת ערות אמך: כי כל-הימים אשר בן-ישי חי על-האדמה לא תכון אתה ומלכותך ועתה שלח וקח אתו אלי כי בן-מות הוא
It was the day after the New Moon, the second day [of Rosh Chodesh], and David’s seat was vacant. Shaul said to his son Yonasan: “Why didn’t the son of Yishai come, neither yesterday nor today to the meal?” Yonasan answered Shaul: “David exceedingly implored me for permission to go to Bethlehem. He said please let me go, as my family’s feast is in the city, and my brother commanded me to be there. Now, if I’ve found favor in your eyes, I’ll slip away and see my family. Therefore, he didn’t come to the King’s banquet”. Shaul became enraged at Yonasan and said to him: “[You are] the son of a rebellious and immoral woman! Behold, I know you have sided with the son of Yishai, to your shame and the shame of your mother’s nakedness! For all of the days that the son of Yishai is on this Earth, your kingdom will never be established. Now, go and send for him to be brought to me, as he is a dead man”
As Shabbos this week coincides with Erev Rosh Chodesh, there is a special Haftarah that is read. It describes the story of David before he became the sole King of Israel, and King Shaul’s growing distrust of him. After Shaul made several attempts to end David’s life, David ran away and went into hiding. He met up with Shaul’s son Yonasan, his most trusted friend. Yonasan couldn’t believe his father would try to do such a thing, and they came up with a plan to confirm Shaul’s intentions. The following two days would be Rosh Chodesh, and as usual the King would have a banquet. As one of the King’s attendants, David was expected to attend. Yonasan was to tell the King that David had to be at his family’s feast. If the King was understanding, then would be proof that he didn’t seek David’s life. If he became infuriated, it would show that David must remain in hiding. The latter is what happened, and David had to remain on the run. This is the simple understanding of the verses, but that didn’t stop the Chasam Sofer from providing an alternate, derush and halachically-oriented reading of the verses.
Continue reading “Machar Chodesh 5782”
The puzzling paradox of the crimson cow
זאת חקת התורה אשר-צוה יקוק לאמר דבר אל-בני ישראל ויקחו אליך פרה אדמה תמימה אשר אין-בה מום אשר לא-עלה עליה על
This is the decree of the Torah, which Hashem commanded, saying: “Speak to the Children of Israel, and take for yourselves a completely red heifer, that has no blemish, one which has not had a yoke placed on it”
The shabbos after Purim is called parshas Parah, the parsha of the cow. It receives this title because on it we read about the parah adumah, the red heifer. Before the holiday of Pesach, the Jewish people would need to become spiritually pure. Sometimes it would be necessary to use the ashes of a completely red heifer. The sprinkling of these ashes onto the impure person would enable them to bring their Pesach offering. We read this parsha to remind the Jewish people to become pure before the Festival.
Continue reading “Shemini / Parah 5782”
New Moon dilemmas
החדש הזה לכם ראש חדשים ראשון הוא לכם לחדשי השנה
This month shall be for you the beginning of the months. It is the first for you for the months of the year
Our Sages learn from this verse the mitzvah of Sanctifying the New Moon. Unlike our current calendar, which is fixed, the Jewish months originally weren’t set in stone. For the new month to begin, two witnesses had to declare in a Jewish Court that they had seen the Moon after the New Moon occurred. Three judges would interrogate the witnesses, and after confirming that they weren’t mistaken, the judges would declare the month sanctified, and the new month would begin.
Continue reading “Bo 5782”