Lech Lecha 5783

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The trusting servant[1]

ויהי רעב בארץ וירד אברם מצרימה לגור שם כי-כבד הרעב בארץ
There was a famine in the land, and Avram descended to Egypt to settle there, for the famine was very severe in the land[2]

Right after Avraham was told to go to the land of Israel, a place where he would prosper, a major famine hit the country. Rashi tells[3] us that it was that land alone which was struck by famine. Our Sages tell us[4] that Hashem tested Avraham ten times. This was one of the tests[5]. Will Avraham question Hashem? He was just told that he would prosper in the land of Israel, and soon after arriving, he is forced to leave. Isn’t this a bit strange? Avraham triumphed, and had full faith in Hashem. He went to Egypt without any complaints. Soon afterwards, the famine ended, and he was able to return.

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Shelach 5782

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The benefits of a righteous wife[1]

ועבדי כלב עקב היתה רוח אחרת עמו וימלא אחרי והביאתיו אל-הארץ אשר-בא שמה וזרעו יורשנה
My servant Kalev, since he had a different spirit with him, and he was completely after Me, I will bring him to the land to which he is coming, and his offspring will inherit it[2]

Parshas Shelach tells of the tragic failure of the ten spies, and the people’s acceptance of their slanderous report. They were sent to scout out the land of Israel, and their assessment was that it was not conquerable, nor worthwhile. Yehoshua and Kalev were the only spies to defend the land, and insisted on following Hashem’s command to conquer it. Hashem responded by punishing the ten spies, and rewarding Yehoshua and Kalev. Hashem stresses that Kalev “had a different spirit with him”. What is this referring to? Furthermore, how was it that Yehoshua and Kalev maintained their faith? How did they not succumb to peer pressure? The spies had a point; the enemy occupying the land of Israel was fierce and mighty. Why wasn’t this a concern for Yehoshua and Kalev? True, we are told that Moshe prayed that Yehoshua not be influenced by the spies[3]. However, Kalev got no such prayer. What made Kalev special, such that he didn’t need a prayer and was nevertheless successful?

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Toldos 5782

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Two perspectives on Yitzchak[1]

‏…והיה כאשר תריד ופרקת עולו מעל צוארך
…It shall be, that when the Jews don’t keep the Torah[2], you shall remove his yoke from upon your neck[3]

There’s an interesting verse in the book of Isaiah. It says[4]: “You (Hashem) are our Father, since Avraham didn’t know us, and Yisrael didn’t recognize us.  Forever Your name is Hashem, our Father, our Redeemer.” What’s interesting about this verse is Yitzchak is strangely absent. We also find two different explanations from our Sages to this verse. At first glance, they appear to be total contradictions, one saying the exact opposite of the other. However, if we delve into their proper meaning, it will become clear that they are actually saying the same idea, just from different vantage points.

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Nasso 5780

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The value of shalom[1]

וכתב את-האלת האלה הכהן בספר ומחה אל-מי המרים
The Kohen shall write these curses on parchment, and blot it out in the bitter waters[2]

The Torah describes what’s known as the Sotah ritual. If a married woman, due to her immoral behavior, becomes a presumed adulteress[3], her and her husband cannot live together until the matter is confirmed. If she indeed committed adultery, they have to divorce. If she is in fact innocent, they can resume married life as normal. How can they clear up this scandal? The Torah provides a unique avenue for her to prove her innocence. The woman, now known as a Sotah, is taken to the Temple. Various rituals are performed, and offerings brought. This includes writing down on a piece of parchment a set of curses which are to fall on her if she is guilty. This parchment contains instances of the name of Hashem. It is then placed in a cup of bitter water, the writing dissolves, and she is to drink it. Miraculously, after the ceremony, it became clear to everyone if she is innocent or not.

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