Lech Lecha 5781


Considering proper thoughts[1]

ואברכה מברכיך ומקללך אאר ונברכו בך כל משפחת האדמה
I will bless those that bless you, and he[2] that curses you I will curse, and all the families of the land will be blessed through you[3]

The parsha begins with Hashem commanding Avraham to leave his homeland and to travel to an unknown destination. We know that Hashem intended to take Avraham to the land of Canaan, a prosperous and beautiful land promised to be given to his descendants. However, Avraham didn’t yet know his destination. As a means of an introduction to what was in store for Avraham and his descendants, Hashem promised him tremendous blessings. Wealth, prosperity and fame were to await him. Hashem told Avraham that those that bless him will themselves be blessed, and those that curse him will themselves be cursed. However, the verse is presented with an anomaly. Regarding blessings, Hashem first said what He will do, and then said the subject of His action. He will bless those that bless Avraham. However, regarding curses, Hashem preceded the subject to the verb. Those that curse Avraham will be cursed. Why did Hashem speak this way and change the order[4]?

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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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Pinchas 5778

A lasting festival[1]

ביום השמיני עצרת תהיה לכם
The eighth day will be an atzeres for you[2]

The end of this week’s parsha lists[3] the offerings that are brought on the various festivals throughout the year. The holiday on the eighth day of Sukkos is called Shemini Atzeres, based on the verse describing the holiday as an “atzeres”. What does this term mean? Rashi says[4] that it means to refrain, indicating that we should refrain from creative work on this festival. The verse is teaching a positive commandment[5]. However, we see elsewhere that the word shabbason is used[6] as a positive injunction to refrain from creative activity. If so, why does the Torah change the word it normally uses, and describes this mitzvah as atzeres? Also, if atzeres merely means to refrain from creative activity, this description would also fit the first day of Sukkos, not only the last. It too prohibits these activities. We also see the last day of Pesach is called atzeres[7], but not the first. Why is this so[8]?

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Bo 5778

The difference between a request and a command[1]

אל תאכלו ממנו נא וכו’ ולא תותירו ממנו עד בוקר
Al (Don’t) eat from [the Pesach offering] insufficiently roasted[2]VeLo (and don’t) leave over any of it until morning[3]

Many times, the Torah uses the word לא, lo (don’t), when it wants to express a negative statement. However, other times it uses the word אל, al (don’t). An example[4] of both is in this week’s parsha, in two adjacent verses. The Torah introduces the mitzvah of the korban Pesach, the Passover offering, with a list of several instructions for its preparation and consumption. All of these instructions constitute individual mitzvos. There’s a mitzvah[5] not to eat a korbon Pesach which wasn’t roasted properly over a fire[6]. Regarding this mitzvah, the Torah uses the word al, when it says not to eat from it insufficiently roasted. There’s another mitzvah[7] not to leave any of the korbon Pesach over until morning[8]. It must be entirely consumed. With this mitzvah, the Torah uses the word lo, when it says don’t leave any of it over. What’s the difference between these two words? Why does the Torah sometimes choose one over the other?

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