Bamidbar/Shavuos 5784


Hashem’s students; Hashem’s children[1]

אלה תולדות אהרן ומשה ביום דבר יקוק את משה בהר סיני
These are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe on the day that Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai[2]

Rashi notes[3] that our verse purports to introduce the offspring of Aharon and Moshe, but only mentions the offspring of Aharon. We learn from here that since Moshe taught Aharon’s children Torah, they are considered by the Torah to be his children as well. Anyone who teaches another Torah, it’s as if they birthed them. Now, the verse ends by mentioning the day that Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai. If we connect this idea to the end of the verse, then it means they became considered like Moshe’s children on the day that Hashem first spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai.

However, this requires investigation. We don’t have any indication that on the day that Hashem started speaking to Moshe, he had already taught Aharon’s children. Why then would they be considered his children, already on that day? Even if we suppose he did teach them, the verse is stressing the reason they were considered his children was because it was the day that Hashem started speaking to Moshe. It doesn’t mention because he started teaching them that day.

Our Sages teach us[4] that the prophet Shmuel was quite an intelligent child. Already at the age of two[5], he ruled on a matter of Jewish law. His teacher Eli, the Kohen Gadol, was present at the time. This was considered a violation of the principle of not ruling in front of one’s teacher. However, Tosafos ask[6] that this was the day that he first came to Eli. He hadn’t yet learned from him. Why then was this considered ruling in front of one’s teacher?

Tosafos answer that nevertheless, Eli was the greatest scholar of the generation, and Shmuel came before him to learn. Some understand[7] this to be really two answers. It’s enough for Eli to be the greatest of the generation for this principle to apply, despite not having yet learned from him. Or, since Shmuel came before Eli to learn from him, he was already considered his teacher. This is despite not yet having learned anything from him.

Now we can understand the children of Aharon. The day that Moshe went to Mount Sinai to accept the Torah, the children of Aharon were already designated to receive it directly from Moshe. Therefore, from that day on they were considered his students, and thus his children.

Before the Torah was given, the Jews famously declared, “We will do and we will listen”[8]. Since they preceded doing to listening, showing their unconditional devotion to Hashem, our Sages say[9] that they were called the firstborn children of Hashem[10]. According to the above principle, it sounds like the reason they were considered Hashem’s children was because Hashem had taught them Torah. But this was before they were taught the Torah! Based on what we already said, there’s no contradiction. Since they came before Hashem to receive the Torah, they were already considered His students, and thus His children[11].

Now, Rashi comments[12] that they were called Hashem’s firstborn because it was known before Him that they would eventually say, “We will do and we will listen”. Rashi was bothered that the verse which calls the Jews Hashem’s firstborn was said while the Jews were still slaves in Egypt. Whereas, they said, “We will do and we will listen” at Mount Sinai. To this, Rashi explains that it was known before Hashem that they would say this, even before the Exodus. As already explained, when a student comes before the teacher, they are already considered their child. Since Hashem knew they would stand before Him at Mount Sinai, even in Egypt they were considered His students, and thus His children.

We can say further that the whole purpose of the Exodus from Egypt was so the Jews could serve Hashem on Mount Sinai[13]. It comes out then that the Exodus was on the condition to accept the Torah. This is similar to what Tosafos wrote, that once a person goes to learn Torah, they are already considered a student. So too, the Jews were called Hashem’s children immediately when they left Egypt[14].

Good Shabbos and Chag Sameach

[1] Based on MiShulchan Rav Eliyahu Baruch to Numbers 3:1

[2] Numbers loc. cit.

[3] Ad. loc.

[4] Berachos 31b

[5] Maharsha ad. loc.; Moshav Zekeinim to Genesis 38:7. Note that the Chasam Sofer’s Toras Moshe parshas Nitzavim Drush L’Chaf Zayin Elul 5597 s.v. ויגמל quotes the Maharsha as saying he was seven years old. This is seemingly a typo. The correct quotation is in Derashos Chasam Sofer II p. 369 col. 1. In Derashos Chasam Sofer Hashalem ad. loc. note 1 they write that the derasha in Toras Moshe was clearly written by a student, based on an oral tradition

[6] Berachos loc. cit.

[7] Terumas HaDeshen 1:138, cited by Gilyon HaShas ad. loc. Tosafos Rabbeinu Peretz ad. loc. also implies its two answers. This is not like the Maharik § 169, who understands both reasons together are necessary

[8] Exodus 24:7

[9] Shabbos 89b

[10] Exodus 4:22

[11] See Sha’arei Teshuva 2:10

[12] Shabbos loc. cit.

[13] Exodus 3:12

[14] Although, Hashem called them His firstborn even before Moshe went to Egypt to free them

Bamidbar 5783


The greatness of the student. The greatness of the father[1]

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…[2]

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[3] 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.

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Toldos 5783


Suspicion acquisition[1]

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[2]

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[3] 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[4].

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Pinchas 5782


Beyond our assumptions[1]

אלה בני בנימין למשפחותם ופקודיהם חמשה וארבעים אלף ושש מאות: אלה בני דן למשפחותם וגו’ ארבעה וששים אלף וארבע מאות
These are the children of Binyomin according to their families: their count came to 45,600. These are the children of Dan according to their families…64,400[2]

Parshas Pinchas contains yet another census. No wonder this is called the book of Numbers[3]. If we analyze the counts of the individual tribes, we’ll notice some interesting patterns and observations. Something noteworthy is the adjacent counts of the tribes of Binyomin and Dan. The total number for the tribe of Binyomin was forty-five thousand, whereas the total number for the tribe of Dan was sixty-four thousand. Why is this significant?

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Mishpatim 5782


Eye trouble[1]

שלש פעמים בשנה יראה כל זכורך אל פני האדון יקוק
All of your males shall appear, three times a year, before The Lord, Hashem[2]

In conjunction with the three major Festivals, Pesach, Shavuos, and Sukkos, there is a mitzvah to “appear” in the Temple, before G-d. That is, all males should make the effort to personally bring a special offering in the Temple, in honor of the Festival. The gemarra makes an in interesting derivation[3]. The Torah uses the word יראה, which could be read “shall be seen”, and also read “shall see”. As such, we derive that just like we “shall be seen” so-to-speak by Hashem with “two eyes”, so too we “shall see” with two eyes. Namely, someone who is blind in one eye is exempt from this mitzvah, for whatever reason[4].

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Noach 5780


Children of good deeds[1]

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 [2]

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[3] are his children’s names mentioned. Why did the Torah introduce these praises by saying “These are the offspring of Noach”? Rashi explains[4] that “the main offspring of the righteous are their good deeds”. Rashi didn’t fully explain himself. Why indeed are good deeds called “offspring”?

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Vayeilech 5780


Childish matters[1]

הקהל את-העם ואנשים והנשים והטף וגרך אשר בשעריך למען ישמעו ולמען ילמדו ויראו את-יקוק אלקיכם ושמרו את-כל-דברי הורה הזאת: ובניהם אשר לא-ידעו ישמעו ולמדו ליראה את-יקוק אלקיכם כל-הימים אשר אתה חיים על-האדמה וגו’‏
Gather the nation, the men, the women, the taf, and the stranger in your gates. [This is] in order that you listen and in order that you learn and fear Hashem your G-d, and that you observe all the words of this Torah. And your children that don’t understand, they will hear and learn to fear Hashem your G-d, all the days that you are alive on the earth…[2]

One of the last mitzvos described in the Torah is the mitzvah known as Hakhel[3]. On the Sukkos following the Shemittah year[4], all Jews are commanded to come to the Temple[5] and hear the King read from the book of Deuteronomy[6]. The Torah says that this is so the people will learn to fear Hashem, and follow His commandments. The Torah stresses that all Jews are meant to be there, men, women, and children. The second verse clearly mentions children, and says they’re of an age where they don’t understand. The first verse, after mentioning men and women, says the “taf” are also meant to come. Who is this referring to?

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Vayikra 5778

In the merit of the children[1]

ויקרא אל-משה וידבר יקוק אליו מאהל מועד לאמר

[Hashem] called to out to Moshe; Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying[2]

The first verse in the book of Leviticus tells us that Hashem called out to Moshe from the Tent of meeting. He was going to teach him the laws of the Temple offerings. Hashem’s voice emanated from between the Keruvim, the Angel-like statues on top of the Aron HaKodesh, the Holy Ark[3]. Only Moshe could hear the voice of Hashem, and only until the entrance of the Tent of Meeting[4]. The verse which introduces this idea is written unusually: the א of ויקרא is written small, making it look like the word ויקר. This implies Hashem happened upon Moshe; it indicates a lack of intent. There are many suggestions given as to why the Torah wrote this word this way[5]. The following is a unique approach.

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