Sibling love, disgrace, and quarrels
ואיש אשר-יקח את-אחתו בת-אביו או בת-אמו וראה את-ערותה והיא תראה את ערותו חסד הוא ונכרתו לעיני בני עמם ערות אחתו גלה עונו ישא
A man who will take his sister, the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother, and will see her nakedness, and she will see his nakedness, it is chesed, and they will be cut off from before the eyes of the nation. For he has uncovered his sister’s nakedness, and he shall carry his sin
The Torah, in its list of the forbidden relationships, gives the incestuous relationship with one’s sister a special descriptor. The union is referred to as chesed. Normally, this word refers to loving kindness. It seems highly out of place in this context. Rashi therefore says that in this context it’s the Aramaic word for disgrace. Such a union is a disgrace to both parties. However, why did the Torah use this unusual word, instead of the normal Hebrew word for disgrace? Rashi therefore brings the homiletic interpretation, that this verse is alluding to the answer to an age-old question.
Continue reading “Kedoshim 5779”
The conditional promise
דבר נא באזני העם וישאלו וגו’ כלי כסף וכלי זהב
Please tell the people to borrow…silver and gold vessels 
Just before the Exodus was about to take place, Hashem made an unusual request of Moshe. He told him to please ask the Jewish people to borrow valuables from their Egyptian neighbors. The usage of the word “please” indicated to Chazal that there was some special purpose to this request. They explain that Hashem was concerned (so to speak), that that righteous one, meaning Avraham, will have complaints against Him. Hashem gave Avraham a prophecy that his children will be strangers in a strange land. They will be oppressed and enslaved. However, the consolation is they will leave Egypt supremely wealthy.
Continue reading “Bo 5779”
A very holy meal
אם-נא מצאתי חן בעיניך אל-נא תעבר מעל עבדך: יקח-נא מעט-מים ורחצו רגליכם והשענו תחת העץ: ואקחה פת-לחם וסעדו לבכם אחר תעברו כי-על-כן עברתם על-עבדכם וגו’
…If I have now found favor in your eyes, please don’t pass by your servant. Let there be some water taken [for you], and you’ll wash your feet, and relax under the tree. I’ll take some loaves of bread and you’ll satiate your hearts, since you have passed by me. For this is the reason you passed by your servant
A prime example of Avraham’s hospitality is found in this week’s parsha. Three Angels, disguised as Arab nomads, passed by Avraham’s tent. Despite being in recovery from his recent circumcision, Avraham insisted on taking care of their needs. He wined and dined them, going beyond the call of duty. He slaughtered three calves in order to feed each of them their own cow tongue. He had his wife bake bread special just for them. Avraham clearly didn’t realize that they were Angels. Not wanting to be rude and go against societal norms, the Angels pretended to eat, despite their lack of physical needs. Little did Avraham know that his alacritous hospitality would have a tremendous impact on the destiny of his future descendants.
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Creating love towards another
ואתה קח לך מכל מאכל אשר יאכל ואספת אליך והיה לך ולהם לאכלה
You shall take for yourself from all the food that will be eaten, and gather it to you, and it will be for you and for them for consumption
As part of Noach’s preparations for the impending flood, Hashem commanded him to gather all the necessary provisions for his family’s yearlong stay in the ark. They would not only themselves need to eat, there was also a need for food for all the animals that were with them in the ark. Some suggest that the seemingly extraneous word לך, “for yourself”, is really meant to be understood as “from yourself”. That is, all the food gathered must be Noach’s own expense. All the food had to be his. This command was so Noach wouldn’t think that he could take food away from other people. He may have thought it was permissible, as they were anyways going to die in the flood. It had to be specifically his own. However, there are many problems with this interpretation.
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Armed with good deeds
…וחמשים עלו בני-ישראל מארץ מצרים
…and the Jews left from the land of Egypt “chamushim”
Shortly after the Jews had begun their Exodus from Egypt, the Torah uses an unusual word to describe them. It says the Jews left חמושים, “chamushim“. The commentators explain that the simple meaning of this word means “armed”. They were going to encounter many battles in the future, and they had to bring the proper provisions. However, the Targum Yerushalmi explains the word “armed” metaphorically. It says that they were armed with “good deeds”. In a completely different manner, Targum “Yonasan” explains that the verse is telling us that each the 600,000 Jewish men between twenty and sixty had with them five children. This is based on the fact that the root of the word חמושים is חמש (five). However, both of these explanations have many difficulties.
Continue reading “Beshalach 5778”